An issue that comes up when talking about Jewish influence, especially, say, in the early twentieth century, is how to interpret the calls of some Jewish intellectuals for Jews to assimilate. Assimilation can mean many things. We can all agree that Orthodox and Hasidic Jews tucked away in self-created ghettos and eschewing secular education are not assimilated; such groups were more mainstream in the Jewish community in the early twentieth century in America, since the vast majority of Jewish immigrants to the U.S. came from Eastern Europe where they lived quite apart from the surrounding society and often did not speak the language of the country they were living in.
But what about Jews who rejected the ghettos and toned down their religious observance to Reform Judaism or rejected religion altogether? Does speaking English and being a baseball fan mean that one is assimilated to America and its culture? Is Bill Kristol assimilated? What about pro-Israel fanatic and Hollywood mogul Haim Saban (Democrat funder), a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel who once said of himself: “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.” The late casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson (Republican donor) who also wanted to nuke Iran? Jonathan Greenblatt?
They would all say that they are assimilated despite their intense support for Israel as a Jewish state—which (obviously) may not have the same interests as the United States, as Mearsheimer and Walt and many others have stressed.
The problem is that Jews who have advocated assimilation rarely spell out what they mean, and therein lies the problem. Are they saying Judaism should disappear into the general European-derived gene pool of the U.S. or perhaps into the U.S. population as a whole, so that after a few generations, Judaism would be a distant, historically interesting memory of no current political or cultural relevance in the U.S.? Or are they saying that Judaism should continue to exist along with Jewish activist organizations like AIPAC, the ADL, and organizations such as Birthright Israel that advance Jewish interests or identity but while also being immersed those aspects of American culture that don’t conflict with Jewish interests—such as professional sports, appreciating non-Jewish writers (even White male non-Jewish writers), or even listening to country music. If the latter, one can certainly argue that Jewish assimilation is at best partial and at worst a façade masking commitment to Jewish interests that may be incompatible with the interests of the society as a whole and with the interests of other important components of the society. Support for Israel is the most obvious example—such as the current trend toward equating anti-Zionist and pro-Palestine attitudes and boycotts with anti-Semitism.
Kevin MacDonald Archive
Subscribe To The EarthNewspaper.com Newsletter
Support Honest, Independent, And Ad-Free News