From synagogue shootings, to attacks on Jews on the streets, to the gathering strength and viciousness of anti-Zionism, especially in the corridors of political power, American Jewry has ample reason for concern about its safety and wellbeing. But, surveying both the present situation and the deep roots of what has made America a welcoming home to Jews with “no analogue in the 2,000 years after the destruction of the Temple,” Josef Joffe argues that the U.S. remains exceptional. The bad news, however, is still bad:
Jews are rightly troubled. Among the most patriotic ethnicities in the Union, their emotional and political support for their Israeli kin now comes with a rising price. . . . In the past, love of America and Israel were the same.
One of the most powerful men in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is a sort of bellwether who shows how the winds are changing. Schumer was the member in Congress with the largest population of Jewish constituents in the country, but these days you hear no ringing pro-Israel oratory from him or his landsman colleague, Representative Jerry Nadler, in a party trickling into the anti-Israel camp. To the ancient charge of dual loyalty and misbegotten riches, add in our day Jewish “whiteness” in a party dominated by the “woke” who depict Israel as a stronghold of colonialism and racism. What an irony! Historically tainted as an alien race, Jews are now fingered as members of the Supremacy.
And so Jews must choose. Not so long ago, they did not have to, resting comfortably in a land where they could be both social-justice warriors and keepers of their ancient intellectual traditions. They could celebrate real diversity and defy prepackaged thinking. They could root for both America and the Jewish state.
The . . . pillars of Jew-friendly American exceptionalism, [however], were not built on sand, and they hold up the larger American creed across all faiths. . . . Jews also flourished in the Kaiser’s Germany and continued to thrive in the doomed Weimar Republic. One-third of Germany’s Nobel Prizes went to Jews. But it ended in the Shoah. Meanwhile, America remained the “Golden Land” it had been in the Jewish imagination on the far side of the Atlantic. This is no fluke of history; it is integral to the American experience.