(JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

December 7, 2023   6 mins

What can we Jews not accomplish? There were three years between the ovens of Auschwitz and the foundation of the Jewish State. And then the Israelis transformed the wasteland between the River and the Sea into an agricultural phenomenon, supplying much of Europe’s produce. Jews even wrote the world’s greatest Christmas songs: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” by Mendelssohn, a converted Jew (a “Jew”), and “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin.

One of Berlin’s first hits was the 1911 “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, whose lyrics were rewritten during the Vietnam War. “You can hear a bugle call like you never heard before / So natural that you’ll want to go to war.”During the Vietnam War, Berlin rewrote the lyric: “So natural you’ll want to hear some more.”

I recall, similarly, how the lyrics of the old Ashkenazi melody about Hanukkah — “One [candle] for each night, they remind us of fights” — were updated for delicate baby-boomer ears: “One for each night, they shed a sweet light”. Hanukkah, however, is a commemoration of the Jewish martial victory, in 168 BCE, over the Syrian armies of Antiochus Epiphanes, who desecrated the Temple.

In 1883, the Hebrew Union College, the first Reform Seminary in America, graduated its first class of Reform Rabbis. The ceremonies concluded with a banquet of lobster, shrimp and pork: the famous Trefa Banquet. What were the Rabbis celebrating? A commencement, we know, means the beginning of a new thing. The new thing here was not the commencement of a life of service to the Jews — but of freedom from Judaism’s constraints.

The Reform Movement began in 19th-century Germany among those members of the despised race who were honoured by their admittance, and intent on maintaining the exemption. What is it that Jews cannot do? We can’t stop passing for white. Instructive here is Nella Larsen’s masterpiece, Passing (1929), which tells the story of several light-skinned black women facing the conundrum of racial identity and solidarity versus wider opportunity. The women’s dilemma is not only practical, but social, as, however they may pass among white people, they cannot escape their content in being black among black people. They meet in white society, recognise each other, and exchange advice and sympathy. But everyone in the black community, sympathetic or not, knows they are black. The novel’s women neither think they are, nor desire to become, white. Their blackness is not a curse, but an ineluctable identity.

Among us Jews, however, it is quite different. Like the new lyrics of the Hanukkah song and the emergence of the Hanukkah Bush, Reform Judaism itself and its dedication to an antisemitic Democratic Party are attempts at self-delusion.

In “Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)”, a hit Christmas song from 1959, the little heroine wants only red ribbons for Christmas. Nothing else will do, so the mother prays hard enough for the unnamed power to relent and supply them on Christmas morning. The assimilative urge of Jews is the prayer for Scarlet Ribbons. First, they ain’t a-coming. Second, if they did, we would tire of them instantly. And lastly, who, then, would “believe”, let alone feel awe, for a deity which concerned itself with our prayers for ribbons?

Since the readmittance of Jews into Germany, and our success there, we have been praying to be spared the weight of Judaism. The impulse dates from our Exodus from slavery. We were free, Moses went up the mountain to receive the Law from God, and we, at the foot of the mountain, began our preemptive counterstrike: the creation and worship of an inanimate object. We feared the Word we knew Moses was bringing us, rioted, and called our panic Reason. Just as we do today.

The assimilated Jewish worship of Good Works and Right Thinking has been requited, for 2,000 years, by our slaughter. Implicit in our murderers’ worldview was the belief that “you can fool yourselves, but you can’t fool us”. For the Jew Haters were and are neither interested in our “accomplishments” nor outraged by our supposed misdeeds — but only interested in killing us.

The assimilative urge is thus a delusion: since we can’t actually fool ourselves, how in the world might we fool our enemies? This delusion can only persist through a universalism that holds our murderers actually aren’t our enemies, but are misunderstood, or abused, or legitimately angry — and, thus, finally, not subject to the same laws and expectations as the rest of humanity. Further, as we see in today’s “pro-Palestinian” demonstrations, the aggressors are understood as incapable of sin. What being is capable of violence but incapable of sin? Only an animal. This is how the anti-Jewish Left understands Hamas’s murderers — as animals untainted by conscience.

Inseparable from this is the notion that something must have inspired this hatred. What, the assimilated Jew thinks, could this be? And then he answers: other Jews. These, the trouble-provoking Bad Jews, were anathema to the assimilated. Their outlandish old-world practices drew notice to all Jews, and, thus, endangered the tenuous-as-factitious emotional security of the assimilated.

“Look,” the Reform Western Jew traditionally held, “I deserve consideration for my sacrifices. I have sacrificed my ‘Jewish’ name, my practice of prayer, of Kashrut, of endogamy, of religious instruction of the young: what more could anyone want?”

The answer, of course, is: “Your lives.”

Which brings us back to the basic question: why? Christians often ask me why the Jews are so hated. The traditional Western Jewish answers are, however, a finessed attempt at exculpation. They describe various antisemitisms as the result, however misguided, of our enemies’ human reason and aspiration. But the true, horrific, Biblical answer is that they are the work of the Devil.

We are told, in the Torah, that Amalek — the ineradicable force of Evil — is with us in every generation. But how can this be, and how can a modern man actually state it in a world we know is based upon human reason? I can state it, because I observe it; and I do not observe the rule of reason most anywhere — neither about me, nor in history. We human beings are cursed with the capacity for thought, which means for self-delusion. (For how little else is it ever employed?)

Western Jews have traditionally voted for liberalism, which is to say for inclusion in some imaginary coalition of the right-thinking. We support the United Nations, a Potemkin village of remittance men hired to denounce Israel, and we elect politicians who kowtow to murderous antisemites. We send our children to elite universities, which teach antisemitism and support anti-Jewish demonstrations, and then advise them to “stay safe”. Can you name another group which behaves similarly?

After the liberation of Dachau, citizens of Munich were marched through the camp and forced to look. The 45-minute Hamas-filmed montage of bestiality should be aired continuously on all media, so that no one can say: “I didn’t realise.” Shelby Steele said that his beloved fellow black citizens have been confused by 400 years of slavery. As have my fellow Jews, since the eradication of the Temple, by life on sufferance.

Slavery creates a slave mentality — to survive or die. Black Americans survived the Middle Passage, chattel slavery and segregation through reliance on the family and religion; the Diaspora Jews had our cultural contiguity and The Torah. But that necessary and inescapable cohesion was shattered by the bright promises of acceptance; and our reference to religion as a guide broken by the Enlightenment (the Haskalah) in the 19th century.

Afterwards, the re-establishment of the Jewish State in the Levant offered a home to the tortured remnant of European Jewry, but their return exacerbated the antisemitism of the Arab world, and did nothing to expunge the seed of slave-thinking in the diaspora. The seed also flourished in a largely secular Israeli Jewish Left, still concerned with a curious inversion of reason called “fairness”. The utter fatuity of this view was seen on October 7.

Mike Tyson remarked that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the nose. Diaspora Leftist Jews have tried to escape punishment by staying out of the ring — and acknowledging our enemies’ right to an opinion, and our responsibility as Jews to defend that right at whatever cost to our interests. The American Civil Liberties Union stands up for the right of protestors to demonstrate — that is, to “act out” — in favour of genocide, much as their co-religionary Aaron explained to Moses: “What could I do? They took the gold and threw it in the pot and this calf came out, and we worshipped it.”

Jews were not instructed to worship fairness (a human concept, incapable of absolute determination), but to worship God and keep his ordinances. Indeed, a devotion to God and the Word of God is the sole protection we poor weak humans have against doing evil. Our devotion will not protect us from the evil others do, however — and that’s why we have armies.

© 2023, D. Mamet

David Mamet is an American playwright, film director, screenwriter and author. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Glengarry Glen Ross.