ON Anti-semitism

Who’s to blame? What a stupid word, blame. Which Jew do you hold to account, and for what? It seems that everywhere you look, there have been some lapsed Jewish folk doing something you might disapprove of. Even today, there are Jews in government who do things. They would be horrified, many of them, to be identified primarily as Jews, or to be blamed for their actions as part of a Jewish conspiracy. I’m thinking of Karl Marx in the past. And in the present, our current Secretary of State, Mr. Blinken. People forget that you could look around at good things that have happened and also find Jews. Lots of them.

Conspiracy-minded folks blame Jews, even today, for every evil thing that happens, even where they can’t find a single Jew directly connected. I wonder where are the conspiracy-minded folks are who will credit Jews for the inspiration for the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and will credit the later Puritans with conversations with rabbis about kabbalah for their significant discussions about how our country is to be governed? For the very idea of laws that apply to everyone equally?

Nobody goes around blaming the English for bad things (or good things) they did and do in a similar manner–or rather, not so many people do that. And when they do, generally they get down to specifics and don’t rest simply on vague allegations. With the exception of folks who blame both “the Jews” and the British royals for everything bad in the world. Who blames the Chinese for paper, and printing? And gunpowder? Do conspiracy-minded folks blame them? Rarely, although lots of folks of a peculiar mindset think the US is going to be invaded by them, or the Russians.

But rarely for all these other blamers does their thought become a historical imponderable about other people who are barely known to them, such as this mythical thing called “the Jews.” Which Jew, and when, is “the Jews?” Because we have been a thread woven into the history of the world for thousands of years. There are people either of Jewish origin or allegiance all over the place, who did all sort of things. So we should apologize for breathing! Do we blame “the Greeks,” for philosophy or “the Egyptians” for medicine, magic and superstition? No. Their thread has been in some sense cut.

So, really, there’s only one group whose thread continues from ancient times until today, and if you want to blame things on someone (whom you barely know anything about) it’s pretty easy to say “the Jews.” Intellectually lazy, but when has that ever stopped anyone? How about the Jews who were at the forefront of scientific discovery? Or the great musicians, poets and artists? Why not “blame” them for enriching our lives, since many of them were Jews? Or, one of my favorite things to “blame” Jews for, the vast number of great comedians?

Who’s to blame for the bad things that happen in the world? I think the conspiracy folks and antisemites are too lazy to come up with a real answer. I’m minded of an English Roman Catholic writer of the 19th century who answered that question when it was posed by a newspaper looking for column inches of answers from famous people. He gave them two words: “I am.” Absurd, perhaps, and profound also. People. As St. Augustine and Satchel Paige both said (each in his own way)”People just ain’t no damn good.” In fact, if you want to blame Judaism and Jews for anything, how about blaming them for the idea of taking personal responsibility for your actions, and trying to make the world a better place?  Who should be blamed, then: the one who tries to make the world around them better (and often fails) or the one who never does anything at all?

February-March-April 2024 Newsletter

February-March-April 2024 Newsletter

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