Monday, October 29, 2018

What I Learned as a U.S. Jew After the Pittsburgh Attack

It's John Podhoretz, at the New York Post:

On this day of all days it needs to be said: America has been a blessing for the Jewish people unlike any other blessing given any other people in the history of the world.

One crime — or 29 separate crimes, committed at the same time by a monster in human form — cannot be allowed to overshadow this extraordinary fact.

My own gratitude to America is actually greater today than it was yesterday because of the outpouring of grief and rage and common humanity we have witnessed in the response to the horror in Pittsburgh.

The philo-Semitic response to this unspeakable act of anti-Semitism reveals how American Jews are anchored in America in a way that Jews who live anywhere else outside of Israel are not anchored to the lands in which they reside or have ever resided.

We are Americans. And we are Jews. And there is no contradiction between the two. When people talk freely and foolishly and noxiously about America as having been built on racism, there is one simple answer to their libel: George Washington’s letter to a synagogue in Newport, written in August 1790.

“The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship,” Washington wrote. “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

That final phrase, taken from the prophet Micah, was violated in the most obscene way on Saturday. But the story of America is a story of a country that has indeed served as vine and fig tree for the world’s most beleaguered peoples.

America has allowed us to sit in safety. America has allowed us to flourish due to its “enlarged and liberal policy” that assumes all human beings have inalienable rights.

From the time of the Jewish expulsion from the Holy Land in the first century after the death of Christ, Jews lived all over the world, but none of those places constituted a home. Even when we were treated relatively well, we were other. We were apart.

Because nothing is unmixed, because good can come out of bad, it has to be said that this forced separation is one of the reasons the Jewish people survived when thousands of ancient Middle Eastern tribes died out.

We believed what the Bible told us — that we had a special role, a special mission, a special place in the destiny of humankind. And that kept us alive.

America took us in, by the many millions, and the founding doctrine to which George Washington alluded in his letter made this country something vastly greater than just another dot on the millennia-old map of the diaspora.

The only true threat to the Jewish people from the American experiment comes not from hate but from love. The problem for American Jews, the late Irving Kristol used to say, isn’t that they want to kill us, but that they want to marry us. Our difficulty is maintaining the separateness necessary to the continuation of the Jews as a people — because America has so taken us to its bosom.

This is a tragically low moment, a day when the words we speak on Passover really came home: “In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us.” But this time it was not “they” who “rose up against us to destroy us.” And that makes all the difference.

It was not the Nazi regime. It was not the Spanish Inquisition. It was not Crusaders. It was not Russian or Polish soldiers. It was not an organized effort to extirpate.

It was the work of a lone villain poisoned by the ancient temptation that has guided the hands of Jew-haters from the days of Amalek — the temptation to believe that whatever ails you can be cured by the extirpation of Jews. Any Jews. All Jews...