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From Prophets to Loss: Woke Activism and America’s Jews

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18.08.2021

Since the late eighteenth century, Ashkenazi Jews have aspired to full acceptance by and integration into their surrounding host societies. This came during the Age of Enlightenment, when ghetto walls were taken down and Jews granted national citizenships. The lengths to which some Jews went in an effort to achieve this acceptance, especially in the Germanic states, stand as an ignoble chapter of modern Jewish history, echoes of which continue to this day. Conversion to Christianity, for social reasons, was the most extreme act. It was the path take by four of Moses Mendelsohn’s six children, the parents of Karl Marx, and the poet Heinrich Heine. The founding of Reform Judaism during this era and its adaptation of Christian worship practices was, more than anything else, part of a strategy for achieving wholesale social acceptance.

Acceptance and integration among gentiles, it seemed self-evident, would guarantee safety and security, a blessed change from centuries of persecution; perhaps at a later stage Jews might enjoy a level of comfort few had ever known. But this would be dependent upon living in an open, democratic society that prioritized the values of brotherhood and social justice, one in which Jews were treated no differently than any other group.

Unlike countries in which Jews throughout their long diaspora were required to dwell separately, the United States, divorced from so many of the cultural mores and traditions of the Old World, appeared mostly free of Europe’s endemic, deeply rooted antisemitism. This was the first time that Jews were promised full equality under the law of the land. If there was any country where Jews might finally find acceptance, integration and the peace of mind they sought, it was in America.

The American public square in the ninetheeth century was unabashedly Protestant Christian in character even though the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….” The United States retained its Christian spirit well into the twentieth century. Christian America carried on an ambivalent relationship with the growing number of Jewish immigrants. Many Christian Americans harbored resentment towards Jews for their difference and it may not be said that anti-Semitism was unknown. At the same time American Christians were also intimately familiar with and venerated the books of the Hebrew prophets.........

© American Thinker


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