Hating Hebrews: Mysteries
Expect to get a couple of monographs in your email soon, one, grappling with a question arising from the last issue, “Mighty Cosmic Forces” (about the cosmic import of anti-Semitism): Why Have the Jews Been So Hated ? Two, the product of a visit with members of a congregation of Judaizing No’achides, who call themselves Jews, in Indiana: The Kokomo Congregation.
In the meantime, this issue explores one of the weirder characteristics of anti-Semitism.
Every American of a certain age remembers President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. No one knew, at first, who the killer was. One thing that struck many young American Jews very strongly: our elders praying an obviously futile prayer, begging God to correct, if necessary, something that had already happened, with “Please, God, don’t let the killer be Jewish.”
I saw something like that on 9/11, in 2003. Visiting an Arab client’s home after attending to some business for him that morning, his big screen television was on and it was showing, again and again, the second plane smashing into the World Trade Center. My client, and friend, sucking desperately on his hookah, was praying, while he watched, “Please, God, don’t let it be Arabs.”
Oddly, the horrible conduct of the Arab terrorists in that matter did diminish the reputation of Arabs in America. But, when Jews act horribly, or – on the other hand – beautifully, it hardly changes people’s attitudes towards Jews at all.
Today Jews worldwide feel shame because of Jeffrey Epstein. Yesterday it was Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo villains and serial harasser. Before that it was Bernie Madoff, of Ponzi scheme infamy. And before that it was the “Son of Sam” murderer, a lunatic, David Berkowitz. There’s always someone. Yet the bad behavior of such specimens usually weighs not at all in the “hate-Jews”/“love-Jews” balance.
Speaking, obviously, only very generally, No’achides or non-Jews give little to no credit to the Jews as a people for the good things, for personal help received nor for the contributions of the Einsteins, Freuds or Bob Dylans, say. On the other hand, neither do they blame the Jewish People generally for the Bernie Madoffs or the Berkowitzs.
Most people are not idiots. Every adult can understand that these kinds of crimes and sins aren’t committed by Jews alone. Indeed, if anything, these kinds of awful things tend to humanize the Jews for them.
Henry Ford, an extreme anti-Semite, would put the Czarist anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the glove compartments of the new Model A’s and Model T’s he sold. Yet he employed Jewish factory managers – one, at least, from my own family – and worked closely with Albert Kahn and the Kahn construction company to invent modern industrial architecture. Ford called Kahn, at his death, “one of the finest men I’ve ever known.” So too, Ford was close to his neighbor, Rabbi Dr. Leo Franklin, who dismayed him when, because of Ford’s vicious anti-Semitism, he refused Ford’s usual yearly gift to him of a new car. Ford anxiously called him, saying (according to Franklin), “Dr. Franklin! Is something wrong? Has something come between us?”
Incidentally, The Protocols, a copy of which can still be found in dresser drawers in Saudi Arabian hotels (like the Gideon Bible in the U.S.), is a seriously crazy work that claims, among other lunacies, that “the Jews” encourage the building of subway systems in cities worldwide in furtherance of their plan to, one day, blow them all up. Yet, crazy or not, it motivated Ford, and the Nazis – who honored him for his anti-Jewish efforts with the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest medal Germany could bestow on a foreigner – and generations of Jew-haters since, even to our own day.
Léon Blum was a three term Prime Minister of France between the world wars. French anti-Semites fiercely hated Blum, naturally, but they didn’t hate Jews much or any more because of Blum. While the French who started out not hating Jews didn’t hate Jews more or love Jews more, because of Blum, either. Or take New York City’s popular mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, from roughly the same era. The public hardly even noticed that he was Jewish, and didn’t hate Jews any more, or less, due to him.
Stalin once denounced anti-Semitism as “a vestige of cannibalism.” Both of his children married Jews, and he had Russian-Jewish lovers. He saw Trotsky – aka Lev Bronstein – create the Red Army and use it to defeat the “Whites,” the pro-Czarist counter-revolutionaries. He considered himself a devout follower of the teachings of a Jew named Marx. His favorite writer during the War was a Jew named Grossman, whom he knew to be a Jew; he knew about Einstein, and Freud; and lots of his associates, Red Army generals, and countless decorated heroes of the Great Fatherland War were Jewish - along with most of Russia’s leading chess players, physicists, and rocket scientists. Did any of those things affect his thinking at all? To him, speaking to America’s Franklin Delanor Roosevelt at Yalta in 1945, the Jews were nothing but “middlemen, profiteers and parasites.”
Centuries before Stalin, Germany’s Martin Luther denounced the Catholic Church for its extreme anti-Semitism, but later published the most vicious tracts, against Germany’s peasants, generally – his popular tract, “Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants,” is ghastly (his feeling? Peasants should know their place: on the bottom) – and then against the Jews. “On the Jews and Their Lies” is a book, not a mere tract, in which Luther demands that the Jews should be treated pretty much like the Nazis did later.
People speculate about the reason for that. It seems pretty clear to us. Luther had a fascist mindset and loved hierarchy and good order – like Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, he believed that every person should be a round peg in a round hole or a square peg in a square hole, regardless of anything that anyone might personally deserve or aspire to. So he found the New Testament’s approach to the proper organization of society congenial:
“Slaves! Submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.” - 1 Peter 2:18.
“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s - Matthew 22:21.
As opposed to the Torah that the Jews are Divinely obligated to study, do, apply, teach, spread, etc. God Himself, in the books that Christians call the Old Testament, the no-longer particularly vital covenant, is the Protector of the poor, the stranger, the widow, the weak, and the orphan.
To Luther and every defenders of hierarchy, patriarchy, and all the precious “old ways,” including trials by ordeal and the Divine rights of kings, it’s an extremely, radically upsetting, dangerously egalitarian, liberating Teaching. And the really terrible thing about the Jews is that, regardless of their faith, or rejection of the Christian faith, they are uniformly obligated to embody and incarnate, disseminate and spread all of this terrifying radicalism in the world.
Nothing that any Jew could do or say could possibly take away that taint – to Luther – of rebellion, revolution, and danger.
The bottom line? Anyone biting her or his nails over the shanda fer di goyim, “the same before the nations,” of the Jeffrey Epsteins and the Harvey Weinsteins can relax. It really doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, neither do the great achievements of the great architects, engineers, writers, doctors and scientists, the Einsteins, etc. People normally just don’t think in those terms.
If they did, we could really get somewhere….
By Michael Dallen
Please check out our monographs when they come.
Instill in our hearts to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform and fulfill all the words of your Torah's teaching with love.
- Siddur (Prayerbook), pre-Shema prayer