The Thin Line Separating “Anti-Racism” from Anti-Semitism

Oct. 28 2020

In 1920, the Hungarian parliament introduced quotas to restrict the number of Jews in universities—later imitated by Poland, Latvia, Germany, and other countries—based on the rationale that the proportion of Jews in student bodies should reflect the ethnoreligious makeup of the country as a whole. Last year, Ibram X. Kendi published his highly influential book How to Be an Antiracist, which argues that if the distribution of wealth, prestige, particular jobs, and so forth among racial groups doesn’t reflect the distribution of racial groups in the country as a whole, that is evidence of racism. Or as Kendi puts it, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.” Daniel Friedman contends that such a worldview of necessity not only ignores anti-Semitism, but is inclined to get dangerously close to it:

Jews came to America, often as refugees fleeing persecution, and were able to flourish here precisely because opportunities weren’t closed off to them on the basis of identity. The story of minority immigrant success is inconsistent with the progressive narrative of the United States as a country founded upon and organized around racism, [as Kendi and likeminded writers claim]. So progressives have become hostile to successful minorities, and have begun speaking about them in ways that echo the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the far right.

The far right believes that the mechanisms of power have been seized by a sinister Jewish cabal, while the far left believes that institutions are jealously guarded by white heterosexual males. . . . Jews only comprise about 2 percent of the U.S. population. However, of the nine Supreme Court Justices, three were Jewish prior to the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. When Barack Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the court in 2010, the paleoconservative writer and former politician Pat Buchanan complained that if Kagan were confirmed, Jews would hold “33 percent of the Supreme Court seats. Is this the Democrats’ idea of diversity?”

[I]t is true that there are a lot of very successful Jews. What is false is the insidious implication that Jewish success is some kind of problem or grounds for suspicion. The racist right has long been obsessed with this topic, and copious postings can be found on far-right websites and forums discussing the perceived problem of disproportionate Jewish success and power.

Read more at Quillette

More about: American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, New York Times, Political correctness, Racism

On Thanksgiving, Remember the Exodus from Egypt

Nov. 27 2020

When asked to design a Great Seal of the United States, Benjamin Franklin proposed a depiction of Moses at the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, while Thomas Jefferson suggested the children of Israel in the wilderness after departing Egypt. These proposals, writes Ed Simon, tapped into a venerable American tradition:

The Puritans from whom Franklin descended had been comparing their own arrival in the New World with the story of Exodus for more than a century. They were inheritors of a profoundly Judaic vision, melding the stories of the Hebrew scripture with their own narratives and experiences. . . .

For the Puritans, Exodus was arguably a model for understanding their own lives and history in a manner more all-encompassing and totalizing than for any other historical religious group, with the obvious exception of the Jews. . . . American Puritans and pilgrims like John Mather, John Winthrop, John Cotton, . . . and many others placed the Exodus at the center of their vision, seeing their own fleeing from an oppressive England and a Europe wracked by the Thirty Years’ War to an American “Errand Into the Wilderness” as a modern version of the Israelites’ escape into Canaan. . . . [Thus the] Exodus . . . has become indispensable in comprehending the wider American experience. Through the Puritans, the story of Exodus became a motivating script for all manner of American stories. . . .

We read its significance and prophetic power in accounts of slaves who escaped the cruelty of antebellum plantation servitude, and who crossed the Ohio River as if it were the Sea of Reeds. . . . We see it in photographs of the oppressed escaping pogroms and persecution in the Old World, and in the stories of later generations of refugees. Exodus is an indispensably Jewish story, but what more appropriate day than Thanksgiving, this most American and Puritan (and “Jewish”?) of holidays, to consider the role that that particular biblical narrative has had in defining America’s civil religion?

Read more at Tablet

More about: American founding, American Religion, Exodus, History & Ideas, Thanksgiving, Thomas Jefferson