The 'Jewish Question' Has Come to America

There has never been in America a Jewish Question, at least, not until now.

America was built on the idea of a universal identity and a tolerance of differences. From the evolution of a liberal Protestant theology to George Washington’s embrace of the Jewish community, America -- unlike Europe -- did not see the Jews as strangers in its midst, as a people apart, or as a group whose identity stood at variance with others.

In America, there was no compelling desire for society to define the Jew. In Europe, Karl Marx, himself born a Jew and later a convert to Christianity whose father converted before Marx's birth and had Marx baptized, wrote an anti-Semitic screed, On the Jewish Question. Later Thomas Mann, who might be called a Philo-Semite, authored a lengthy essay with a similar title because the subject haunted Germany and Jews needed a defender.

Europe was consumed, if not obsessed, with the Jew in its midst.

While America had no shortage of anti-Semitic customs and displays of bigotry, Jews were well integrated into American society from the founding of the Republic until the great waves of Eastern European immigration began crashing on America’s shores and brought a different kind of Jew to its attention.

Nonetheless, Jews defined themselves. There was bigotry, hatred, and gentlemen’s agreements, but American intellectuals did not feel compelled to define the place of the Jew in society. To do so would have been contrary to America’s primary values.

America might not have uniformly adhered to its primary values, but its aspiration to embrace those values led to Jewish acceptance that never occurred in Europe even to this day.

But that has now changed and is the biggest threat to Jewish existence since the Klan almost took over the Democratic Party in the early 1920s.

There is now in America a Jewish Question. It emerges graphically in two investigations of campus anti-Semitism, one at Stanford University and the other at Brooklyn College.

In both cases, Jews allegedly are not permitted to define themselves but to be placed into the so-called oppressor class of white supremacists.

Indeed, the issue of the Jewish Question should be expanded to ask how is it that white students -- or any group of students -- are to be defined by their skin color and be classified in the vilest terms for attitudes they do not possess and crimes they have not committed?

The answer resides within the rise of the diversity, inclusion, and equity bureaucracy, an insidious institution within an institution that must discover racists or establish pre-determined categories of racists to justify its otherwise meaningless and superfluous existence.

Its very presence is a tribute to white guilt and the incorporation of an us and them mentality that draws on critical race theory to see all explanations of the social order in terms of racism.

Success and failure of groups, especially in the comparison of blacks and whites, is interpreted as determined by racial privilege. The existence of this bureaucracy and its impact student admissions and faculty recruitment, promotion, and tenure is, ironically, itself determined by racial privilege. But that can neither be discussed nor acknowledged. To so much as raise the issue is to be called a racist.

The consequence of this ideology is that if some are underrepresented then others must be overrepresented. And who are overrepresented, why Jews and Asians of course? Jews are now defined as white, something they have not been in America, especially since the latter part of the 19th century, and Asians are defined as white-affinity types, whatever that means.

Given the ideology of the diversity, inclusion, and equity bureaucracy, Jews cannot define themselves but are to be defined by others. It would not be surprising to see a clumsily authored essay by a member of this bureaucracy titled, On the Jewish Question.

The investigation into the alleged anti-Semitism at Stanford University and Brooklyn College will at best reveal the tip of the iceberg because these problems permeate not just the diversity bureaucracy but also the minions of so-called campus progressives, who have found in anti-Zionism a cover for the left’s historic anti-Semitism.

American Jewish progressives have become obsessed with the anti-Semitism of the right. But it is not the right that walks the corridors of power in Washington. It is not the right that controls America’s institutions of higher education.

A group of tiki-torch-carrying white supremacists in Charlottesville is the image Jewish progressives like to hold dear, but the harm such people will do will have no bearing on America’s institutional structure. The real threat to the future of American Jews comes from those who have emulated the bigotry of Europe and raised the Jewish Question. They have been institutionalized in the higher education regime, and their removal will be nearly impossible.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.  Titles are for identification purposes only.

Image: Israeli Government Printing Office

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