Five Articles on American Jewry


The Secrets of Jewish Genius

It’s about thinking different.


By Bret Stephens

Opinion Columnist  



Editors’ Note:

An earlier version of this Bret Stephens column quoted statistics from a 2005 paper that advanced a genetic hypothesis for the basis of intelligence among Ashkenazi Jews. After publication Mr. Stephens and his editors learned that one of the paper’s authors, who died in 2016, promoted racist views. Mr. Stephens was not endorsing the study or its authors’ views, but it was a mistake to cite it uncritically. The effect was to leave an impression with many readers that Mr. Stephens was arguing that Jews are genetically superior. That was not his intent. He went on instead to argue that culture and history are crucial factors in Jewish achievements and that, as he put it, “At its best, the West can honor the principle of racial, religious and ethnic pluralism not as a grudging accommodation to strangers but as an affirmation of its own diverse identity. In that sense, what makes Jews special is that they aren’t. They are representational.” We have removed reference to the study from the column.


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Bret- Stephens

An eminent Lithuanian rabbi is annoyed that his yeshiva students devote their lunch breaks to playing soccer instead of discussing Torah. The students, intent on convincing their rav of the game’s beauty, invite him to watch a professional match. At halftime, they ask what he thinks.


“I have solved your problem,” the rabbi says.


“How?”


“Give one ball to each side, and they will have nothing to fight over.”


I have this (apocryphal) anecdote from Norman Lebrecht’s new book, “Genius & Anxiety,” an erudite and delightful study of the intellectual achievements and nerve-wracked lives of Jewish thinkers, artists, and entrepreneurs between 1847 and 1947.  Sarah Bernhardt and Franz Kafka; Albert Einstein and Rosalind Franklin; Benjamin Disraeli and (sigh) Karl Marx — how is it that a people who never amounted even to one-third of 1 percent of the world’s population contributed so seminally to so many of its most pathbreaking ideas and innovations?


The common answer is that Jews are, or tend to be, smart. But the “Jews are smart” explanation obscures more than it illuminates. Aside from perennial nature-or-nurture questions, there is the more difficult question of why that intelligence was so often matched by such bracing originality and high-minded purpose. One can apply a prodigious intellect in the service of prosaic things — formulating a war plan, for instance, or constructing a ship. One can also apply brilliance in the service of a mistake or a crime, like managing a planned economy or robbing a bank.


But as the story of the Lithuanian rabbi suggests, Jewish genius operates differently. It is prone to question the premise and rethink the concept; to ask why (or why not?) as often as how; to see the absurd in the mundane and the sublime in the absurd. Where Jews’ advantage more often lies is in thinking different.


Where do these habits of mind come from?


There is a religious tradition that, unlike some others, asks the believer not only to observe and obey but also to discuss and disagree. There is the never-quite-comfortable status of Jews in places where they are the minority — intimately familiar with the customs of the country while maintaining a critical distance from them. There is a moral belief, “incarnate in the Jewish people” according to Einstein, that “the life of the individual only has value [insofar] as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful.”


And there is the understanding, born of repeated exile, that everything that seems solid and valuable is ultimately perishable, while everything that is intangible — knowledge most of all — is potentially everlasting.


“We had been well off, but that was all we got out,” the late financier Felix Rohatyn recalled of his narrow escape, with a few hidden gold coins, from the Nazis as a child in World War II. “Ever since, I’ve had the feeling that the only permanent wealth is what you carry around in your head.” If the greatest Jewish minds seem to have no walls, it may be because, for Jews, the walls have so often come tumbling down.


These explanations for Jewish brilliance aren’t necessarily definitive. Nor are they exclusive to the Jews.


At its best, the American university can still be a place of relentless intellectual challenge rather than ideological conformity and social groupthink. At its best, the United States can still be the country that respects, and sometimes rewards, all manner of heresies that outrage polite society and contradict established belief. At its best, the West can honor the principle of racial, religious and ethnic pluralism not as a grudging accommodation to strangers but as an affirmation of its own diverse identity. In that sense, what makes Jews special is that they aren’t. They are representational.


The West, however, is not at its best. It’s no surprise that Jew hatred has made a comeback, albeit under new guises. Anti-Zionism has taken the place of anti-Semitism as a political program directed against Jews. Globalists have taken the place of rootless cosmopolitans as the shadowy agents of economic iniquity. Jews have been murdered by white nationalists and black “Hebrews.” Hate crimes against Orthodox Jews have become an almost daily fact of life in New York City.


Jews of the late 19th century would have been familiar with the hatreds. Jews of the early 21st century should recognize where they could lead. What’s not secret about Jewish genius is that it’s a terribly fragile flower.


By Sandy Goodman
HUFFPOST excerpt

American-Jewish accomplishments are well-known, frequently praised and often resented. They include curing polio, building the A- and H- bombs, and winning more than 15 percent of Nobel Prizes in science.

Jews are ten out of 100 U.S. senators, 37 members of congress, two of nine Supreme Court justices and the chair of the Federal Reserve and her two predecessors; a third of the Forbes 400’s richest Americans — and many leading philanthro-pists. Jews built great retail chains like Sears and Macy’s and computer companies like Oracle, Dell and Facebook.

Jews practically invented Hollywood and estab-lished the three biggest broadcast networks. Broadway wouldn’t be Broadway without Arthur Miller, Steven Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein. The New York Times and the Washington Post, were founded by Jews. And on and on.

90 percent say they’re proud to be Jewish, many only on the basis of ancestry, ethnicity or culture. More important, the percentage of these Jews of no religion / secular jews, has increased with each successive generation, rising eightfold from only seven percent of those born before 1927 to 54 percent of Jews born after 2000.

The effect of this ball-ooning number of secular Jews on the continuity of non-Orthodox Judaism is devastating. Two-thirds of secular Jewish don’t raise their children Jewish. Even more than younger Jews generally, they are less likely to join synagogues or other Jewish organizations, donate to Jewish charities, marry other Jews or raise Jewish children.


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The Future of the Jews

More of the Past?


By FRED REED



Fred Reed
It is strange: Jews have been disliked everywhere and in all times. The dislike appears in odd places. I was astonished to find that my Nepalese trekking guides were intensely hostile to Jews. They said that Jews (actually Israelis in most cases I think, but the Nepalese do not seem to make the distinction) were loud, demanding, and always trying to force down the guides’ fees. Historically the hostility has often been powerful and, not infrequently, murderous. Jews have been expelled from country after country, excluded from polite society, subjected to quotas, and required to live in certain regions. Why?


How much anti-Jewish hostility is there today in America? A lot? A little? Is it negligible? Potentially explosive? It is hard to tell because disliking Jews is often a firing offense, and a controlled press makes discussion impossible. A clue can perhaps be found in the comments sections of political websites where, protected by anonymity, commenters are often bitterly anti-Jewish. But then, these comments may, or may not, be the work of a few cranks.


Today there appear news stories about growing hostility on campuses, that Jews are fleeing Paris because of increased or more openly expressed dislike, or that the German Right, never fond of Jews, gains strength.


Since the dislike has existed for at least two thousand years, there must be some enduring reason or reasons. What?


One I think is the Space Alien Effect. It is human nature to dislike people different from oneself. This fact runs against today’s cult of diversity, which accounts for the disastrous reality of American life, but a glance around the world reveals that diversity causes most of the planet’s troubles: Sunni and Shia, Jew and Muslim, Tutsi and Hutu, black, white and brown in America, Tamil and Sinhalese; Turks and Kurds; Turks and Armenians; Thais and Muslims, Germans and Jews. Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, on and on for a very long list of religious, ethnic, and racial differences. Diversity is nobody’s strength.


Diversity often disappears through assimilation. Today people named O’Toole and Libertini may be proud of their ancestry, but they think of themselves as American, not as Irish and Italian. So do others. Thus hostility to them, once intense, has vanished.


Jews do not assimilate. Yes, they speak the same language, wear the same clothes, and peck at smartphones like everyone else. Yet they think of themselves as Jews. So, therefore, does everyone else. While there is no legal or moral reason why they should not so think of themselves, there are consequences: Human nature is what it is, regardless of whether we think it should be.


Specifically, Jews are always Them. We are Us. We are aware that Feinstein is Jewish as we are not aware that O’Malley is Irish–because he isn’t. Difference alone doesn’t cause antagonism. but makes it much more likely.


Worse–and this has caused millions of deaths–Jews are often successful. It doesn’t matter whether the success arises from superior intelligence, greater drive, collusion, or the will of Yahweh. It happens. Thus the pattern repeated over and over and over down the ages. Jews prosper, become rich, gain power sometimes abused, and become arrogant. If Christians did this–Bill Gates, or the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age–they would be resented as individuals perhaps, not as an ethnicity. But Jews are Them. The surrounding population feels colonized–by Them, by Space Aliens, by internal foreigners–and deeply resents it. As noted, the reaction may take the form of ostracism, enforced quotas, confinement to the Pale of Settlement, expulsion from the country, ghastly pogroms, or Auschwitz.


Hitler’s complaints against the Jews were along usual lines, that Jews controlled German culture, finance, academia, and the media. These are also things said in America today today on the internet against Jews . Whether these criticisms are true, fair, justified, or make sense does not matter. What matters is that people feel, or can easily be made to feel, controlled, by Them. Making a list of powerful Jews is sufficient and, with the internet, easy.


The dislike is profoundly visceral, not rational, tapping into deep wells of instinct that make little sense–which doesn’t matter. This can be seen in the wild disproportion between offense given and reaction. How do you get rationally in Germany from growlings in beer halls, “There are too damn many Jews in everything,” to “We should kill all the Jews”?


Them, not Us. It makes little obvious sense to say that Jews are not Americans. Bob Dylan isn’t an American? Lauren Bacall? Yet this is clearly how anti-Jewish commenters on the web see it. Them, not Us. It is a matter of limbic tribalism, which does not map well onto legal principles.


The hostility is often to Jews more as a metaphysical category than as actual people. Many who loathe Jews have little contact with them. Ask, “What have Jews actually done to you? Hacked your bank account? Gypped you out of your house? Shot your dog?” and the answer will likely be, “Nothing.” Rachel Cohen, the dentist next door in Peoria, is not easily envisioned as trying to destroy America, impose communism, or wreck the currency. Thus, “some of my best friends…but….” While the Jews one actually knows probably are not bad people, or at most annoying, The Jews collectively are a sort of ominous barely visible miasma. (For the record, no American Jew has ever harmed me, and many have helped me in what I humorously call “my career.” Coupla girlfriends, too.)


Importantly, Jewish presence is seen as Jewish conspiracy. Four Jews on the Supreme Court? From two percent of the population? My God, they must be up to something. A conspiracy, doubtless. But a conspiracy to do what? A candidate theory, correct as it happens, is that Jews as a people do anything and everything they can to advance the fortunes of Israel. But on the Supreme Court…how? Other suggestions are a desire to destroy the white race (including themselves?), to bring America down (why?), to wreck the international monetary system (why?), or to impose a Zionist world empire. Most of these make between little and no sense, which doesn’t matter. Jews don’t actually have to sacrifice Christian children to die for it. They just have to be thought to do so.


It is interesting that these usually nonexistent Jewish conspiracies get enduring attention while other, demonstrably real, conspiracies do not arouse similar ire. For example, the Koch brothers, who are not Jewish, have funded and led a massive and disguised campaign to subvert American politics for the benefit of big business. The arms industry bribes, suborns, and finagles to get the government to buy hugely expensive weapons. The FBI was recently caught trying to prevent the election of Donald Trump. The Clintons are crooked as kite string in a ceiling fan. So why do Jewish conspiracies, sometimes real but, more usually, imagined, get attention on the web?


The Space Alien Effect. Jews are Them. We are Us. Both know it.


The importance of this tribalism should not be underestimated. I once walked down Main Street in Farmville, Virginia, a small town in the Southside, with a friend. He said–I forget how the subject came up–with some bitterness, “The Jews own everything on Main Street. Just like they do everywhere.” He pointed to Rose’s, a perfectly ordinary department store. It did nothing wrong or even interesting. But it was Jewish. That was enough.


Them, not Us. The Presbyterian owners of a store actually engaged in gouging would have been resented as individuals, not as a tribe. The Jews.


Power and wealth are not necessary to engender slaughter. Mere difference, specifically not being Christian, has often been enough. History is littered with examples, of which Jews are well aware. When the First Crusade took Jerusalem in 1099, the Christian armies immediately burned the synagogue with the Jews inside. Why? The Jews had no part in the war, which was between Muslims and Christians.


This explains why Jews do not like Christianity, though the antipathy typically is (wisely) disguised as a principled adherence to the invented constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state. Note that while Americans think of the Holocaust as something the Germans did (I do) to Jews it can look like just another attack by a Christian country (Poland, Russia, England, the Baltics, and so on.) A Jewish friend once expressed the attitude as sometimes being, “Look what they have done to us. We can do anything we want to them.”


Here we encounter the unfortunate human tendency to blame entire groups for what a few members did. For example, the Jews killed Christ. “(Gosh, Rachel, you don’t look old enough.”) Or whites enslaved blacks. Actually, no one in the United States has been a slave, or owned one, for a century and a half. Most of liberal politics would wither to nothing if we accepted that people cannot be guilty of things they did not do.


It is not necessarily wise to be seen as trying to eliminate a majority religion.


Note that a people, though living always among others, can maintain characteristic over long periods. Recently I was reading Las Novelas Ejemplares of Cervantes, specifically La Gitnailla, which means very approximately The Little Gypsy Girl. It begins,


“Parece que los gitanos y gitanas solamente nacieron en el mundo para ser ladrones: nacen de padres ladrones, críanse con ladrones, estudian para ladrones y, finalmente, salen con ser ladrones corrientes.”


“It appears that gypsies are born only to be thieves. They are born as thieves, raised among thieves, study to be thieves, and finally end by being common thieves.”


Cervantes died in 1616, which makes the story over 400 years old. Yet this description of gypsies is their reputation today, very much supported by police files. They haven’t assimilated, and they haven’t changed. Jews of course have never been associated with burglary or picking pockets, but the passage makes clear that peoples can maintain characteristics over centuries.


Jews with remarkable consistency have been described for centuries as smart, greedy, combative, clannish, “pushy,” exploitative, and arrogant. This is how I hear them described in Mexico, where I live. (I think of these as Middle Eastern traits, but never mind.) Then there is chutzpah. which in practice seems to mean “brashly walking over other people.” It can leave others feeling bulldozed, defeated, used. This bruising of the ego, of self-respect, arouses a hostility all out of proportion to actual damage done. It is, or so I think, a major cause of dislike for Jews. Such descriptions are dismissed today as stereotypes. A stereotype is just the aggregate observation of many people over time.


Of course the evidence does not always support a particular explanation for avisible effect. A Jewish friend says, “We’re no more greedy than anyone else. We’re just good businessmen so we make money.” Those with money are usually described as greedy. I don’t think I have ever met a greedy Jew, though I have met many who were very careful with money. It doesn’t matter whether you really are greedy only that people think you are.


Chutzpah: When I was seven we lived in Arlington, Virginia, next to the Furmans, recently someone said, of Hell’s Kitchen, which I didn’t know what was. The Furmans were by no means bad people. One day Mrs. Furman came over and gave my mother a hard time because my little brother, five was playing with a kid across the street instead of little Andrew Furman. Mom had done nothing to influence my brother’s choice of friends. She, a quietly genteel woman from the Southside of Virginia, was horrified by the aggressiveness. She told me of this decades later, so it clearly made a bad impression. Thereafter, Them were not our kind of people. Small things can produce lifelong dislike.


In sum, Jews seem alien, smarter than others and far more aggressive than Christians, whom they seem to trample. Christians feel that they cannot compete, that they are outsmarted at every turn, or at least pushed around, and made victims. This bruising of the ego sets off irrational, serious hostility. It is the attitude of blacks toward whites, for the same reasons.


Finally there is Israel, the albatross around the Jewish neck, making it impossible for Jews quietly to be more or less normal Americans. To Jews Israel is of immense and understandable importance, but this enthusiasm brings up charges of dual loyalty or, often, loyalty exclusively to Israel. The truth of this doesn’t matter. It looks true, which is enough. Does Rachel the Jewish dentist in Peoria back Israel? To what extent? What does she think of Israeli behavior? We don’t know. We know that Jewish lobbies like AIPAC and the Neocons back Israel one hundred percent. And they control American Mid-Eastern policy. This is much noted on the Web.


Jewish backing for Israel requires emotional contortions since Israel is everything liberals, to include Jews, profess to hate, being racist–just now it is expelling blacks–religiously exclusive, an apartheid state, militaristic, and brutal in its treatment of Arabs. This I suspect bothers some Jews, but assuredly is a grave PR problem for the country. But then, as a small coastal enclave in a part of the world intensely hostile to it, a sort of second Crusader Kingdom, it is hard to see what choices it has. If it becomes democratic or allows extensive intermarriage, for example, it will quickly cease to be a Jewish state, and there is no way to rule nicely over a sea of people who want to kill you.


Is there a possibility of active anti-semitism in America? Yes. Why is America immune to a dislike that has influenced all of history?


Yet at the moment, no. No overt expression will soon occur, and perhaps never will. But the classic preliminary conditions exist and grow. The appearance of Jewish power is strong. Four of nine justices of the Supreme Court, a majority of Ivy presidents, CEOs of television networks. Zuckerberg of Facebook, Sergei Brin co-founder of Google. the New York Times, Time-Warner, Disney, much of Hollywood, huge parts of retail, most of the big publishing houses in New York. Anyone who has worked in Washington knows that Jewish control of Congress and the media is near absolute. The list could go on for pages. Things like this create a propagandist’s paradise..If America’s tight control over expression ever slipped, a would-be Adolf with Google searches could come up with a shocking list.


A rational person might ask, “So what?” Do the Supreme Court’s Jewish justices make Jewish decisions–whatever that might mean? Or do they vote like any four NPR listeners chosen at random? Did Mark Zuckerberg initially do anything underhanded? Or was he just a bright Jewish kid who had an idea and the strength of character to push it into existence? Does Schultz of Starbucks do something evil, or does he, like, you know, sell reasonably good coffee at a reasonable price?


It doesn’t matter. They are there, so they must be conspiring. And their influence is becoming more obvious, as with Trump’s subservience (as seen by much of the world) to Israel in planning to move the embassy.


People who think they are defending Jews will point to Jewish contributions to nearly everything–science, music, math, technology, literature, charity, medicine, support for symphonies. These contributions are real and immense. With respect to anti-Jewish politics, they are also irrelevant or worse. Since the hostility to Jews rests largely on their excessive presence (again, in the eyes of the anti-Jewish) pointing to their intellectual contributions just increases the dislike. It emphasizes both the Jewish presence and apparent superiority.


Happy, prosperous societies seldom form lynch mobs. When things break down, when hope wanes, expectations fall, and near-desperation sets in, explosions come. Today the United States quite arguably heads into a Weimar-like future of chaos and social violence. This may sound crazy…but is it? Nobody thought such a highly civilized country as Germany capable of Treblinka.


America is not really stable. Political animosity runs high, racial hostility is growing since Obama, standards of living fall, offshoring and automation leave the young with nowhere for their lives to go. Wealth goes rapidly from the many to the few and what was the working class falls into drugs and anomie. The wars never end. Infrastructure ages and falls behind that of more advanced nations. Anger grows. As the pie shrinks, someone will have to get less pie.


It is hard to see how this can continue forever. My guess is that the fighting–”unrest” is the polite term–will break out first between white and black. Whites are quiescent now, but see their lives worsening and their world deteriorating. The kneelers in the NFL, the rioters in Ferguson, Minneapolis and Portland are much more visible than Jews.


But if unrest starts, someone will say “Wall Street!” and that will mean “the Jews,” and all the rest will follow. Whether any of it makes sense will not matter in the least.


Let us hope I am crazy. But it is not, I think, the way to bet.

 

The Great American Jew

We don’t make ’em like we used to


By PETER SAVODNIK



Peter Savosniks Parents
When he was 15, my father built a telescope out of cardboard tubing and porthole glass, lugged it to the roof of his apartment building in Forest Hills, and spent most of the night staring at Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and the Milky Way. This was in 1956. For decades, the telescope went wherever he did—to Syracuse for medical school; to Boston for his psychiatric residency; to our garage in Southern California, where I was born and where the telescope resided, squeezed between dusty suitcases and bookshelves and 10-speed bicycles. Until a few years ago, when it disappeared.

My father was unique in many ways, but in this way—his curiosity, his capacious appetites—he was very much of a type: New York, postwar, Jewish, energetic, brimming with confidence (in himself, in the future), but tempered by an ageless wisdom that could be traced from the shtetl to Queens Boulevard, a fundamental awareness of inescapable darkness and violence that came from growing up in the echo of disaster. There was the disaster of the recent past—the Depression, the war, the Shoah. And there was the possibility of disaster right now: a job loss, a heart attack.

This type was central to the Jewish American experience, and it stretched across the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st. It had its many foibles—it could be short-tempered and brusque, and, like all types, its apprehension of other peoples and places was colored by its own limited interaction with the world. It was hardly the only type, it had no female analogue—blame that on misogyny—and it was a generalization, all of which are imprecise. But it was part of who we were, and what the Jews (and America) had achieved. The Jewish doctor, Ed Koch, A.M. Rosenthal, Alan Arkin, Chuck Schumer, Michael Bloomberg, Ted Kramer, Moses Herzog, and Nathan Zuckerman are, or were, all shades of this character. Buoyant, irritable, smart, perspicacious, pushy. It was an archetype that Jews knew and admired and blew up at and resented and loved. The great American Jew.


Now, this old type is being eclipsed by another type—less capacious, stripped of any youthful enthusiasms. This new type intuits that the edifice upon which postwar America once resided has frayed, that the old assurances are not so durable. He thinks less about the infinite possibilities of a vast and knowable universe and more about the smallness of life. He is cynical. He does whatever he thinks necessary to protect his turf or acquire a little more. He is scared and unsure of who he should be, and his fears and insecurities are projected onto, wrapped up in, his thoughts about the Jewish state. It is the Jewish state’s unavoidable Jewishness, its flagrant disregard for the unpopularity of the Jew qua Jew—and the awkwardness that an uninhibited Jewishness can impose on non-Jews—that so rattles this new Jewish type.


The right-wing iteration of this new figure embraces the Jewish state. He derives from it a sense of purpose, a direction, a vision. He feels like a battalion commander in his very own, imaginary IDF. Alas, he wants from Israel something Israel cannot deliver: the strength to be his own man. The strength to be a Jew in a non-Jewish world, just as Israel is a Jewish country in a world of non-Jewish countries. In Hebrew school, he was the dumb one. The bruiser. With thick digits. He wasn’t actually dumb, but he wasn’t bookish. He identified bookishness with feebleness, and he always admired Israel, because Israel wasn’t feeble. The promise of the Jewish state was not the return of the Jews to their ancestral homeland. It was about sticking it to the Cossacks, Klansmen, Nazis, Arabs. The squad. It was about being tough, which meant being brutish, gruff. What of it? Israelis were gruff. So was Trump.


He is right, sort of. It was impossible to imagine any of Trump’s predecessors pulling off, say, the Abraham Accords. They were too blind or arrogant, too sensitive to popular opinion. They lacked the slipperiness of the bookie, the would-be Don Corleone. They didn’t know how to get it done. They cared about things like Netflix deals and the Nobel Peace Prize. So spare me all your yammering about Marjorie Taylor Greene and the quote-unquote insurrection. Cause DJT. Got. It. Done.


His left-wing counterpart, meanwhile, hates Israel with an unslakable bloodlust. He says he hates Israel because Israel is an apartheid regime, a colonizer of brown people, a pariah state guilty of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Genocide. He says Israel is an embarrassment to the Jewish people. Really, he means: Israel embarrasses me. We sometimes call these people self-hating or secular or cultural Jews (as if eating the occasional bagel or sprinkling Yiddishisms into the conversation can sustain a religious identity). These are the Jews who think it’s OK for a Jew to get tattooed and who live in trendy neighborhoods in New York and Los Angeles and who are tired of being freighted with the yoke of otherness. (One feels for them.) These are the man-bunned, critical-theory Jews, the BDS and #BLM Jews, the Jews, like Lev Bronstein, aka Leon Trotsky, who have complicated relationships with their fathers, the Jews who have internalized two millennia of antisemitism. Just as the early Zionist believed that if he embraced socialism while pretending he wasn’t Jewish, everyone would forget he was a Jew, this new Jew envelops himself in the lingo of intersectionality while eschewing Zionism with the hope that everyone would forget—wait!—that he’s still a Jew. Alas, he hasn’t read his Malamud. One cannot shed one’s Jewishness. Any attempt to do so is among the most Jewish things one can do.


These two characters—the lionizer and vilifier of Israel—are just two sides of the same type: the alienated Jew.


The alienated Jew is not actually a new type. He is a very old type who has resurfaced after a long slumber, weaving this way through the Archimedean spiral of Jewish history. He is the Jew who has been dislodged from his tradition, the ritual, the scripture, the rhythms and wailings and wisdoms of his people. A type but never the type. The type, the dominant persona, was thoughtful, acerbic, wandering, full of hope. What else could one be?


He’d already found his home. The great American Jew was the Jew who, for a time, had transcended his nomadic past. He was as patriotic an American as there ever was.


This dominant type assumed many looks and tongues and permutations. He was scattered across ancient deserts and forests and farmlands and cobblestoned cities and teeming bazaars and the Pale and the ghetto and the steamships ferrying the penniless past Fort Tompkins toward the New Jerusalem. He was the predecessor of the great, postwar, New York Jew—the Jew I always knew and loved and feared, the Jew who found his place in the universe in the canyons of the city: Manhattan, the Island, Jones Beach, the Catskills. He loved Israel. Visited it. Believed in it. Defended it passionately. (The first time my father landed at Ben-Gurion, he welled up.) But he wasn’t of Israel. He would say that his fate was bound up with it, but it wasn’t exactly. He’d already found his home. The great American Jew was the Jew who, for a time, had transcended his nomadic past. He was as patriotic an American as there ever was.


But now everything is fluid. The previous order, the norms and institutions that defined the postwar era and stretched into the post-Cold War denouement, is crumbling. We feel as if we are at sea—lurching for something just out of reach. The GOP base hankers for some prelapsarian America that never was. Our president—kindly, avuncular, not especially deep—wants only to rewind to early November 2016. Most of us are vaguely aware that something has been wrong with the country for a long time, but we tend to blame our queasiness on proximate disruptions: Trump, COVID-19, the lockdown, racial strife, social media. All that is more effect than cause. It doesn’t tell us how we got here. We got here because of big, historical forces that stretch back several decades or more: shifting geopolitics, globalization, the emergence of a new political consciousness. For a long time, we have felt the plates coming unhinged. Now, they are, and everything feels uncertain, including America’s compact with its Jews.


This uncertainty bears down on us from the right and left, both of which have been co-opted by their respective, repugnant identitarians. No—of course, it’s not Badenheim 1939. But the old magnanimity has been eclipsed by a strange wobbliness, and we can feel the walls around us buckling. Just so. We can imagine both major parties dispensing with their Jews—the Trumpkins succumbing to their darkest conspiracy theories; the wokeists succumbing to theirs. We can imagine, for the first time, the e pluribus unum dissolving into a thousand warring ethnic-racial-religious factions, and we know that, when it does, the Jews will suffer, and it won’t matter how many moguls, senators, Supreme Court justices, movie producers or university presidents are in our corner. We know it will be wise to avoid being too Jewish.


The alienated Jew knows this better than anyone else. He who is adept at cozying up, camouflaging, parroting. He who has a dim view of himself and his faith. He who has an even darker view of the American experiment, who thinks that America is a vessel, temporary lodging, that it is run by oligarchs and manipulators of currency and opinion. He who plays along or guffaws at the mention of American exceptionalism. The alienated Jew glances with disdain at the old type—dying or dead, hopeless, a relic. He imagines the great American Jew naive, weak, febrile, racist, cis, patriarchal, white ... The Alienated Jew thinks, Your moment is over. He imagines himself ascending, and he is, in a way, but really, he’s crouching. Eyes darting. Looking for predators. His world must be soldiered through. His world is microscopic.


A few months before the end, I went looking for my father’s telescope in my parents’ garage but couldn’t find it. I couldn’t believe they’d lost it. Had they given it away? My mother didn’t recall. At night, I fell asleep wondering: Where was the telescope right now? Had it been stored somewhere? Or lost? Melted down or crushed or left on a sidewalk or in an attic or the back of a U-Haul? Was someone peering through it at this very moment? The night before my father died, I remembered looking at him in his gray, metal hospital bed and wondering who was staring at Jupiter right now with the telescope he had built 65 years before, in Queens, in his bedroom. I wondered if the disappearance of the scope, which I had never cared about that much but now seemed to me to be infused with magical powers, was a metaphor.


The night before my father died, the three of us gathered around his hospital bed and told stories, and for a few hours we lulled ourselves into forgetting what was about to happen. The hospital bed was in the corner of my parents’ bedroom, in the house, in Manhattan Beach. By then, we were giving him morphine on the hour, and his eyes were closed, and the period between each breath seemed to expand as the night unfolded, as each inhalation and exhalation became a little less perceptible. He pushed on. Once or twice I thought, When will this be over? and then, When this is over, you’ll feel guilty for having wondered when it will be over. The bedroom was littered with the detritus of the nearly dead: an oxygen tank, oxygen tubes, syringes, bottles of medication, instructions from the hospice nurse that had been Scotch taped to the rolling end table. My mother held my father’s hand. My sister made tea. I sat on the upholstered bench at the base of my mother’s bed and stared at the photographs of my parents on my mother’s dresser—at my sister’s graduation, at someone’s bar mitzvah, in front of a wall of books in the basement of my parents’ second home, in Edgartown. My father always looked the same: beaming, suntanned, cleanshaven, with a blue blazer on. A little after 2, I said to my mother, “Do you have any idea where the telescope went?”


The night after he passed away, I had a dream about a conversation we had 22 years ago. I was in my apartment, in Hyde Park, in Chicago. He was at home, in Los Angeles. He mentioned a paper he’d written, on the philosophy of symbolic forms, after his mother died. She’d died a few days after John F. Kennedy. In the dream, I imagined floating across this cosmic axis of space and time, from 1956 to 1963 to the late ’90s to right now, and back again. I remembered my father laughing at something I said, and I remembered him saying my name. It had been four years since he’d last said my name. He was exceedingly good at explaining complicated ideas, and his tendency was to connect things, to see the beautiful webs that bound everything together. It was possible, in those moments, to make out the faraway borders of the known universe, to understand how all the ideas and deliberations and outbursts of artistic genius fit together inside the sprawling, undulating tapestry, and it was exhilarating, and it could make you feel a little inebriated. But now his voice was receding, and I was staring at an amorphous dark, and everything seemed to sprawl, unwind, bleed, devolve into a terrible kaleidoscope of galaxies and conundrums that resided outside his knowledge. In the quiet of the early morning, in the dreary, purplish in between, I tried to imagine what came next, and I imagined my father, always undeterred, saying, That’s it. Keep going. Keep going.



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My Turn

by Will Wainwright



Will Wainwright

To begin, I have no argument with Bret Stephens. I would however like to substitute his use of the word smart to, aspiring or enterprising and even determined. And from my world of numbers I would like to add one number to Mr. Stephens hypothesis, 6%, thats the number of Jews in the country. Some might be saying that is too high. Depending on where you live, say NY or Hollywood, you’d think a magnitude higher.


I’ll overlook the old cliché, “Some of my best friends” etc etc. Instead, I’d like to profess my fondness for a few Jewish media hosts; Dennis Prager, Mark Levin and especially the late Charles Krauthammer.


Since my comments on Jewish Genius will be political in nature I’ll over looked other favorite Jewish gentlemen I love and respect such as Neils Bohr and Albert Einstein, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin to name a few. Politically, it would have to be Benjamin Netanyahu. As for todays contemporary Jewish comedians and actors, I’d have to put them on a lesser plain. 


Yes, I concur Jews do excel in all pursuits. Some would say where money is to be made like finance, law and medicine. I would counter, what about physicists?  Not a hell of a lot of money there, even with a Nobel prize.


But there is one area in particular where Jews excel that is out of proportion to their 6% numbers. That is in the print and electronic media. The bulk are politically “Progressive” and bordering on Communist. Just take a look at the columnists names in the New York Times. 6%? Herds of them are woven throughout our government’s bureaucracy too, as witnessed by the numerous attacks on Trump during his administration. 


Unfortunately this is an area where their zest for achievement has a way to destroy goodness. As a favorite Jewish commentator of mine likes to say, “The Left ruins ever thing it touches from the Boy Scouts to literature and the arts”. Most of the destruction comes at the hands of organizations such as the ACLU and SPLC whose Jewish members far far exceed 6%. Do you remember William Kunstler the disheveled hippy’s lawyer. That is the era our country started to go down hill starting with  two Supreme court decisions back in the sixties. The Miranda decision and Engel v. Vitale forbidding (even a generic) prayer in Schools. These cases were brought by the largely progressively Jewish, ACLU. Do you remember Jerry Rubin & Abbie Hoffman, Gloria Steinem & Betty Friedan? 


In prewar politics you find Jewish excellence going back to Carl Marx, and “the Jews that Dreamed of Utopia". In the aforementioned Times article it says “Most Jews, of course, were not revolutionaries. But Jews did make up a disproportionate percentage of leftist utopians…. In the early days of the Soviet Union, Jews not only held top political positions but also occupied central positions in the artistic avant-garde.”   Sound familiar? 


Take Herbert Marcuse. What you never heard of him? He’s a Jew who brought us to the “Identity Socialism”of today.  That is  Identity Politics, Cancel Culture, Wokeness and PC  of today all  in one. It is  best explained in this short video. 


Today in their quest for excellence, whatever they do, secular Jews do Socialism best. In Government, in the Press, in Hollywood. I’ve separated todays modern secular Jew from the conservative and orthodox sects of Jewry who still read their bible which is part of mine and they still teach and try to maintain the morality taught within. They more likely than not, send their children to Yeshiva too. 


Karl Marx, the descendant of rabbis who would call religion the “opiate of the masses.” — “Comrade. Jew. We Only Wanted Paradise on Earth” — sets the tone for an extensive overview of the dreams and nightmares of communism and international socialism, as seen through the lives and work of Jewish politicians, philosophers and artists: not just Marx, but also Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, El Lissitzky, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Morton Sobell, David Greenglass, Oscar Seborer, Jonathan Pollard, Saul Alinsky and many others including todays politicians.