Thursday, December 25, 2008

Chapter 4, Secular Antisemitism: From Enlightenment to Dreyfus

“Jack sold his egg to a rogue of a Jew,
Who cheated him out of half his due.”
A 19th century Mother Goose verse, from Grosser and Halperin, 1978, p. 209

The Enlightenment, perhaps better described by its alternate name, the Age of Reason, was an intellectual and social revolution which swept Europe beginning around 1700. It marked the transition from theological- to secular-based governance, the rise of the modern nation-state. Along with questioning religion as the basis for identity and behavior it promoted such values as Humanism and free will. The Jews, in particular, had reason to believe that their long history of persecution by Christianity and church might finally be at an end. But the Enlightenment represented a two-edged sword for the Jewish people. While it questioned religion-based discriminatory laws, and by reason dismissed Christian theological bias against the Jews, yet did it still, unconsciously, absorb seventeen hundred years of social and cultural history based on that religious bias. Reframing Jewish uniqueness in secular and “scientific” terms did not eliminate the bias, it made it worse. Under church-inspired religious persecution Jews were still redeemable upon conversion; reason and “science” opened a new and even more deadly threat to Jewish survival in a secular-Christian Diaspora. “for a time, during the first half of the century, it seemed that anti-Semitism would disappear as nations became more secular and the last vestiges of feudalism and privilege fell to political liberalism and scientific and economic progress. This optimism was mistaken. Hating the Jew was too much an integral art of western culture and tradition and was not to be exorcised,” (Grosser and Halperin, 1978, p. 207).

Voltaire, most famous of the circle of French thinkers known as the “Philosophes,” was a social reformer and inspiration to both the French and American Revolutions. A Catholic anti-Catholic his social conscience is typical of the reformist movement’s ambivalence towards the Jews. In his Dictionnaire philosophique (1764), Voltaire describes the Jews as, “the most imbecile people on the face of the earth, enemies of mankind, most obtuse, cruel absurd...” In a nod towards the medieval Blood Libel charge he wrote, “your priests have always sacrificed human victims with their sacred hands.” “In short,” he ends the Dictionary, “we find in them only an ignorant and barbarous people who have long united the most sordid avarice with the most detestable superstition and the most invincible hatred for every people by whom they are tolerated and enriched. Still, we ought not to burn them.”

American Jewish historian Arthur Hertzberg, in a letter to the New York Times dated September 30, 1990 commented regarding Voltaire’s antisemitism, “in his Letter of Memmius to Cicero (1771), Voltaire wrote: ''They (the Jews) are, all of them, born with raging fanaticism in their hearts, just as the Bretons and the Germans are born with blond hair. I would not be in the least bit surprised if these people would not some day become deadly to the human race…” The following year Voltaire wrote, again quoted in Hertzberg’s letter, ''You have surpassed all nations in impertinent fables, in bad conduct and in barbarism. You deserve to be punished, for this is your destiny.''

In particular, the French revolution represented a decisive break with the church, promoted equality and citizenship for all. And the victorious Napoleonic army spread the revolutionary ideals throughout Europe. All equal, all citizens, but at a price. But Napoleon, himself inheritor of Christian history and culture was not a philosemite, and his offer of equality carried within it the condition that Jews stop being Jews. “I do not intend to rescue that race, which seems to have been the only one excluded from redemption, from the curse with which it is smitten, but I would like to put it in a position where it is unable to propagate the evil,” (Poliakov, Leon, the History of Anti-Semitism, volume III, U of PA, 2003, p.226). The age of “scientific anthropology” had not yet dawned, and Napoleon, as did the church, saw “conversion,” admittedly a secular version, as a passport to social inclusion. Still, compared to their treatment by the church, conditions for the Jews were improved. Napoleon heralded the process called Emancipation, promoted laws governing the inclusion of Jews as relative equals and citizens. But freeing the Jews from centuries of serfdom was not without its opponents, and reversals. Even revolutionary France considered a radical solution to the problem of the Jews. According to Katz, “The possible expulsion of Jews from France had been mentioned the National Assembly debate… as the unreasonable and unthinkable alternative to the obvious solution, the radical integration of the Jews into the newly created body politic,” (Katz, Jacob, 1980, From Prejudice to Destruction, Anti-Semitism, 1700-1933, p. 109, Harvard University Press).

”Jewish success following their emancipation caused resentment on the part of many Christians… The scientific age and mindset gave anti-Semitism a new respectability. As religion lost ground to science, anti-Semitism became in part scientific. No longer based solely on religious belief, this new version of [Jew hatred] became respectable and acceptable to the modernist,” (Grosser and Halperin, 1978, pps. 208-9). The term “anti-Semitism,” first appeared in the 1870’s. It was coined by German journalist Wilhelm Marr to describe Jews based on “scientific” theories of race and history.

Two incidents of the 19th century are symbolic of past and future. The kidnapping of a Jewish child ordered by Pope Pius IX, the Mortara Affair, grew into an international incident which set the Vatican on a path of decreasing authority in its relations with Italy and other secular governments. Edgardo Mortara, 1851-1940, was an Italian Jewish child secretly baptized by a Catholic domestic servant. Learning of the baptism Pius IX ordered the boy taken from his parents and brought to the Vatican. The kidnapping was condemned worldwide, but the Vatican refused to return the boy. Raised Catholic, Edgardo would eventually join the priesthood.

Captain Alfred Dreyfus, an assimilated Jew, was accused of selling secrets to the Germans. Convicted of treason in 1894, Dreyfus was sentenced to life in prison on Devil’s Island. Two years after his conviction new evidence was found pointing to an officer in military intelligence as the source of the treason. But the evidence was ignored and a military court acquitted the real traitor. It later came to light that military counter-intelligence had even fabricated evidence exonerating the traitor and supportive of the conviction of Dreyfus.

The Affair, clearly antisemitic in motive, was strongly supported and defended by the church. Pro- and anti-Dreyfussards clashed in the press and on the street, set church and other social conservatives against liberal secularists. The case was re-opened in 1898 due in large part to the efforts of Emile Zola and his open letter, j’Accuse, in which he charged the court with serious judicial errors and lack of evidence. The letter, and efforts by Bernard Lazare and others, resulted in having the case reopened in 1899. During that trial the original charges were found to be baseless and Dreyfus was acquitted. Although it took seven years for the army to relent, Dreyfus was reinstated in the army in 1906. For his efforts Zola was prosecuted and found guilty of libel.

The Dreyfus Affair was, in some respects, the opening shot by nationalist and political antisemitism opening a new chapter in Jewish existence in the Christian Diaspora. It represents the slowly opening door on the road towards lethal antisemitism, the radical solution to Christendom’s 2000 year long Jewish Problem.

Chapter Three, Christian Insecurity: the Heart of Darkness

Chapter Three, Christian Insecurity: the Heart of Darkness

Anti-Judaism is too deeply embedded in the foundations of Christianity to be rooted out entirely without destroying the whole structure,” (Reuther, 1974, p. 94)

It is commonly accepted by scholars of the period that a major contributor to early Christian anti-Judaism was the need for the new sect to distinguish itself from the parent religion while retaining Judaism as precedent. While the pagans generally viewed Judaism as atheistic for its invisible and single god, it was still respected for its long history. Nascent Christianity needed this history to compete with Judaism for converts. Among the many “Christian” sects to emerge from exilic Judaism, the one descendent directly from Paul’s mission both saw themselves as inheritor and fulfillment of Judaism, the “new” Israel. Marcion, for example, offered an alternative path, that Christianity represented a wholly new and separate religion from Judaism. According to Bishop Nichols, “Marcion’s views were extremely popular, gaining the allegiance of substantial proportions of Christians… If, like Marcion, the church had dispense[d] with the Jewish Scriptures, it would not have been necessary … to adopt a position so opposed to the Jewish people.” According to the bishop even today “voices are occasionally heard suggesting that [the Jewish Scriptures] should now be dropped altogether.”

But Jesus as a Jewish messiah presented several problems to Christianity’s claim as the “new” Israel. According to Jewish tradition a messiah is a person inspired by God to lead the people in times of crisis. Certainly the Roman occupation was a time of crisis for the Jews, and many longed for, hopelessly fought the Romans in order to bring about, perhaps to force God to provide a deliverer. But Jesus-as-messiah represented several problems. Within the pagan religions of the time it was not uncommon for gods to be born of women, but that definitely was not a Jewish concept. Another common pagan belief, also alien to Judaism, was that gods could die and resurrect. By importing the Jewish Scriptures as the “Old Testament,” Christianity imported also very significant problems in identity and credibility.

For example, how explain that Jesus, the son of God, was sent as savior by god the Father to the Jews, only to have His “gift” rejected? How explain that God, all-knowing, failed to appreciate and foresee that His people, the Jews, fighting for their lives, temple and independence would not recognize a salvational messiah, one who offered the consolation of victory of life after death, instead of victory over the Roman oppressors, of life on earth? Not only would such a “gift” be inappropriate and completely outside of expectation, under the circumstances it would have been mean-spirited and so unrecognizable.

Having adopted the Jewish Scriptures for historical and theological foundation, as the “new” Israel Christianity had then to explain the inconsistencies between the old and the new. If, for example, Jesus was a man born of woman, son of God spreading a revolutionary message, why is there no historical record of his mission, why no contemporary reference to the man? Certainly the Romans were meticulous record keepers and would have noted someone so visible as to he crucified as “king of the Jews.” Pontius Pilate was said to have sat in judgment of the man, yet not even this appears in contemporary historical record. (Are there Roman records of such trials?) The single non-theological reference to Jesus as Christ appears in Josephus, who was writing as historian in Rome after the fall of Jerusalem, forty years or more after the crucifixion. And even this reference is widely recognized as a much later insertion due to its lack of continuity to what precedes and follows the reference. Linguistically also it is not Josephus, and is assumed the product of a forth century monk tasked with transcribing the document (Eisenman, etc.).

In response to apparent doubts regarding Jesus as Christ, as the resurrected messiah, Paul writes, “Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?... And if Christ is not risen again then is our preaching in vain, and your faith also is in vain.” (Corinthians 15:12, 15:17).

Nor is it established that Jesus was an existing man who walked the earth; that there was a historical Jesus. According to Christianity Jesus lived and died and ascended to heaven. Considering his impact on events of the time he should appear somewhere in the historical record. Certainly the Romans kept meticulous records, were important historians. But no contemporary record exists. The earliest written documents are by Paul, are recorded in and the gospels. And Paul, the earlier source, only appeared decades after the fact. Both Paul and the gospels are recipients of an oral, not written tradition. How explain that the only written reference to the Jesus of Christian tradition appears in Josephus, a transparent insertion by a much later, likely a monk of the 4th century tasked with transcribing the document.

As with Paul three hundred years earlier, Augustine also had to respond to doubts among the believers. But Augustine senses that Christianity stands only on the insecure foundation of faith, absent materiality. And, as Paul sought to reassure the Galatians so Augustine sought to reassure the doubters within his flock.

St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was a relative “moderate” in the struggle to define and protect Christianity from the parent religion. While Christianity was the true inheritor of Judaism, the “new Israel,” he argued that the Jews should be preserved as witnesses to the true faith. The conversion of the Jews, according to the evolving theology, those for whom it was God’s mission to save, was a necessary precondition to the second coming.

Augustine argued that God allowed the Jews to survive, debased and in dispersion, as a warning to Christians: they “bear the guilt for the death of the Savior, for through their fathers they have killed Christ.” (St. Augustine) 20. “The Jews who slew Him, and would not believe in Him,” were punished by God, their temple destroyed, Jerusalem leveled. “By their own Scriptures [Jewish survival is] a testimony to us that we have not forged the prophecies about Christ.” Augustine’s use of the word “forged” is interesting. It throws a bright light on what was and remains a serious problem, Christian insecurity regarding its interpretation of Jewish Scriptures in light of the rejection by the Jews, by whom his mission is defined, of Jesus as messiah. But the problem of legitimacy goes even deeper, questioning whether the figure around whom the religion grew ever took human form.

The only evidence for Jesus ever having a physical existence rests on interpretation of prophesy adduced by the faithful from the Jewish bible as described above. Nobody, including Paul writing only thirty years after the presumed crucifixion, could provide first-hand experience of the person who was sent to save the Jews, Jesus the Messiah. Seventeen hundred years after Augustine, even with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the gospels and other documents from Nag Hamadi, with but a single questionable reference to Jesus Christ in Josephus, nowhere is contemporary reference to the man to be found. And this, was and remains a source of doubt, of insecurity for Christianity, the heart of the two-hundred year long search for the Historical Jesus. And the question of existence throw into doubt also the “truth” and “promises” of Christianity. Christianity’s insistence that Jesus the Jew was the messiah sent by God to save the Jews; that their interpretation of Jewish Scripture as prophesying Jesus as messiah; Christianity’s insistence on being the “new Israel” requires Jewish acceptance The failure of Judaism to accept the Christian interpretation of Jewish Scripture acceptance and conversion in order to validate the claims. Minus this Christian claims are in doubt, and the Jews are the cause of Christian insecurity, the major source for Christian anti-Judaism.

For Augustine the Jews, despite their “crimes,” must be preserved as witness to Christianity’s truth. With the secularization of Europe steeped in and recipient of two thousand years of religious anti-Judaism, the need to preserve the Jews, a source of Christianity’s millennia-long Jewish Problem, lost its meaning. This opened a whole new era of persecution for the Jews. Now merely outsiders, Other, by nationality or race, Christendom could now arrive at its final solution to its Jewish Problem.

“Where the man “Jesus” is concerned-as opposed to the redeemer figure “Christ”….we have mainly the remains of Hellenistic romance and mythologizing. The brother relationship (James) may turn out to be one of the early confirmations that there ever was a historical Jesus. (Eisenman, Robert, in James, the Brother of Jesus, 1999, p. xxiii)

Reuther, Rosemary Radford, Faith and Fratricide, The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism, 1974, The Seabury Press, New York
“The anti-Judaic tradition in Christianity grew as a negative and alienated expression of a need… to legitimate its [interpretation] of Jewish Scriptures... As long as “the Jews” continue to reject this interpretation, the validity of the Christian view is in question,” (Reuther, 1974, p. 94)

“Until Jewish religious tradition itself accepts this [Christian interpretation of Jewish Scriptures] as the ‘real meaning’ of its own Scriptures, ‘the Jews’ must be kept in the status of the ‘enemies of God,’ in order to ward off that unthinkable alternative, suppressed at the very beginning, by the decision of faith upon which Christianity was founded[interpretation] of Jewish Scriptures,” (Reuther, 1974, p. 95)

“The most fundamental affirmation of Christian faith is the belief that Jesus is the Christ. He is that Messiah whom the prophets “foretold” and the Jews ‘awaited.’ On this affirmation, everything else in Christian theology is built. To ask about this affirmation is to ask about the keystone of Christian faith. For Judaism, however, there is no possibility of talking about the Messiah having already come, much less having come two thousand years ago, with all the evil history that has reigned from that time to this (much of it having been done in Christ’s name!), When the Reign of God has not come. For Israel, the coming of the Messiah and the coming of the Messianic Age are inseparable. They are, in fact, one and the same thing,” (Reuther, 1974, p. 247)

“Anti-Judaism was originally more than social polemic. It was an expression of Christian self-affirmation,” (Reuther, 1974, p. 228)

“…we must analyze the psychopathology represented by Christian anti-Judaism,” (Reuther, 1974, p. 245)

“The Jews represent that which Christianity must repress in itself, namely the recognition of history and Christian existence as unredeamed,” (Reuther, 1974, p. 245)

“…Christian anti-Judaism is the suppression of the unredeemed side of itself,” (Reuther, 1974, p. 245)

*William Nicholls wrote in his book Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate:

"...the very presence of the Jewish people in the world, continuing to believe in the faithfulness of God to the original covenant ... puts a great question against Christian belief in a new covenant made through Christ. The presence of this question, often buried deep in the Christian mind, could not fail to cause profound and gnawing anxiety. Anxiety usually leads to hostility."[1]

Friday, December 19, 2008

081218 - Chapter Two, Protestant anti-Judaism

Chapter Two, Protestant anti-Judaism, Martin Luther and the Reformation

Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) challenged the church and revolutionized Christianity. The impact of his challenge on Europe’s Jews was further persecution by the Catholic south who saw the Jews as allies of the rebellious north while, in the north, some easing of physical persecution. Luther’s attitude underwent a dramatic change over time, from tolerance when he assumed that the Jews would, no longer threatened, voluntarily convert, to radical anti-Judaism when this failed to occur. It is his later writings, and particularly his final work, On the Jews and Their Lies, 1543 which, as had the writings of Paul, the gospels and the church fathers, to have a profound impact on the conditions of Jewish existence and survival within the Christian Diaspora. Four hundred years after his death, at their trial in Nuremburg, the leaders of the Third Reich referred to Luther as inspiration and justification for 20th century Christendom’s Final Solution to its Jewish Problem.

Luther's public attitude towards the Jews changed over time. During his more "tolerant" early phase, following his break with the church, he assumed that the Jews would, free from Catholic prejudice and oppression, accept Jesus as Christ and convert to his reformed Christianity. When this failed to materialize he accused them of being stubborn, grew increasingly violent in his attitude towards the Jews. What follows are excerpts from On the Jews and Their Lies, his last work written shortly before his death.

“Know Christians that next to the devil thou hast no enemy more cruel, more venomous and violent than a true Jew.

“What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? I shall give you my sincere advice:

“First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians...

“Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed…

“Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them…

“Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb...

“Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let they stay at home...

“Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God's blessing in a good and worthy cause.

“Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen 3[:19]}. For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.


“I wish and I ask that our rulers who have Jewish subjects exercise a sharp mercy toward these wretched people… (As) suggested above, to see whether this might not help (though it is doubtful). They must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in, proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance. Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying three thousand lest the whole people perish. They surely do not know what they are doing; moreover, as people possessed, they do not wish to know it, hear it, or learn it. There it would be wrong to be merciful and confirm them in their conduct. If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy and all their other vices and thus merit God's wrath and be damned with them. I have done my duty. Now let everyone see to his. I am exonerated.”


“My essay, I hope, will furnish a Christian (who in any case has no desire to become a Jew) with enough material not only to defend himself against the blind, venomous Jews, but also to become the foe of the Jews' malice, lying, and cursing, and to understand not only that their belief is false but that they are surely possessed by all devils. May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life. Amen.”

The Protestant reformation was started by Martin Luther in 1517. One of the principles of the Protestant Church was to bring Christianity back to its Jewish sources rather than the Hellenistic interpretation. Initially many Protestants approached Judaism, expecting Jews to finally accept the new faith when it was lovingly presented and stressing its Jewish components. But again, when this expectation proved false, the reaction was Judeophobic. Luther’s last book was “On the Jews and Their Lies” (1543) in which he called the Jews the anti-Christ. “It is harder to convert them than Satan himself.”

Luther called for the violent expulsion of Jews from all Germany. He addressed European noblemen: “Let me give you my honest advice. First, their synagogues should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn up should be covered or spread over with dirt... And this ought to be done for the honor of God and of Christianity in order that God may see that we are Christians, and that we have not willingly tolerated or approved of such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of His Son and His Christians... Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed. For they perpetrate the same things that they do in their synagogues. For this reason they ought to be put under one roof or in a stable... Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayerbooks and Talmuds in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught. Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more... God’s rage is so great against them that they only become worse and worse... To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one so that you and we may all be free of this insufferable devilish burden - the Jews.” This was the theologian and founder of the new trend (one of the most brutal Nazi Judeophobes, Julius Streicher, argued in his defense at the Nuremberg trials that he had merely repeated what Luther had said about the Jews).

So far we have seen the development of Judeophobic mythology pass through three stages: Antiquity (Jews are lepers and ass-worshipers, misogynists and lazy), Early Middle Ages (the Jewish people is deicidal and, through its suffering, a witness of Christian truth) and Late Middle Ages (Jews drink Christian blood, poison wells, and are partners with Satan). The main difference between pagan and Christian myths is that the former were mainly cultural, whereas and the latter were mostly theological: “God hates them” became a common belief.

But what do I see on the horizon? It looks like the salvation of the Jews from the accumulated myths, discrimination and disdain, the lies and legends. It is 18th century Europe: rationalism and Encyclopedism are in the air, free-thinkers scorn superstitions and plan the religion of reason in a world of brotherhood. Surely the Enlightenment will put an end to the discrimination and violence caused by gratuitous hatred!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

081217 - Chapter One, Catholic anti-Judaism

Chapter One: Catholic anti-Judaism (2434)

Anti-Judaism, parent to its secular daughter antisemitism, has a 2,000 year long well-documented history. In pre-Christian times the Hellenistic states, pagan by religion and mutually tolerant to each other’s gods, looked upon the Jews as oddities, atheistic for positing a universal and invisible god. Within the Roman Empire it was common for major cities to have a polyglot of ethnic population centers mostly with the exception of the Jews, pagan. But diversity encouraged tolerance and this extended to the Jews. Roman law also protected the practice of the Jewish religion, exempting Jews from, for example, emperor worship and working on the Sabbath.

Paul and the Kingdom of God

Christianity emerged as a messianic sect within Judaism during the First Century. A period of occupation by imperial Rome, Jews were in almost continuous guerilla warfare against their pagan occupier. Thousands were crucified as rebels by Rome and Jews, believing that fighting against the overwhelming might of the pagans from the land God assigned them would god’s intervention, that a God- inspire a leader, a messiah, would appear to lead the Jews to victory and bring on the Kingdom of God.

With the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, with the dispersal of the Jews as slaves throughout the empire, some sought consolation in a non-traditional spiritual rather than material messiah, one who would deliver them not from their earthly enemies, but would provide consolation in the life beyond. Yeshuah (Jesus), roughly translated as “savior,” was a fairly popular name during this period of national stress and social upheaval.

The salvational messianic sect of Judaism had little success in attracting Jews within Israel. It fared better in the Diaspora, again not so much among active Jews but among those known as God-fearers, pagans attracted to Judaism, attending services and celebrating the holidays, but not willing to commit to all of the demands of full conversion, particularly circumcision among the men. Paul of Tarsus was the self-appointed emissary of the salvational sect to the gentiles. During his conversion activities Paul became the first theologian and father of what was to become Christianity in all its forms. Since most Jews, most importantly the Palestinian leadership of the sect, disagreed with Paul about his mission and his claims regarding Jesus as “Son of God,” over time he grew estranged from Jerusalem. His letters reflect his increasing identification with and protection of his gentile converts, his growing distance from the Jerusalem leadership who insisted that his God-fearing converts fully convert first to Judaism, become Jews. The two positions were irreconcilable, and the rift between the two communities grew increasingly, their competition for converts another irritant.

Paul’s letters to his communities of converts, guides to problems facing the new religious communities, were to become the cornerstone of what would eventually become the “new” testament. In several of his letters he attacks the Jews as blind to the messiah he believed God had sent them, at times referring to their rejection of Jesus as serving Satan. Whether his letters reflect a device to make his mission more acceptable to his pagan converts, or reflect real frustration and anger at “the Jews” for failing to accept his understanding of Jesus as Christ, barely two centuries later his letters would provide the theological foundation for Christian suprematism, that Christianity has replaced Judaism in God’s favor; that Christians are the “new” Israel, having replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people.

According to the new theology the Jewish scriptures are outdated and replaced, background to the New Testament. According to the emerging theology the only reason for the continuing existence of Jews was to suffer God’s punishment for their crimes, and to bear witness to the truth of Christ.

But Paul also was the first to place blame for the crucifixion on the Jews, “who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets (that is, those whom God previously sent to lead them along the right path),” I Thessalonians 2:14-15, a charge repeated in the gospels.

Had Paul’s description of the Jews as “blind,” even charging them with unwittingly doing the work of Satan, had that been the limit of condemnation then Christianity and Judaism might have had a continuing disagreement over which religion was truly chosen of God, but the argument would unlikely have inspired and laid the foundation for Shoah. The rationale for a lethal solution for Christianity’s Jewish problem required the gospel charge of deicide, that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. In Matthew, for example, “the Jews” are portrayed as not only demanding his conviction and crucifixion, but accepting blame for the crucifixion not only for themselves, but for all generations to follow: Matthew 27.25-66, “Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ So he (Pilate) released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.” A people portrayed as not merely rejecting, but choosing to murder God are not merely unwitting agents of Satan, but themselves diabolical and worthy of eternal punishment, of death. And to participate in their punishment, even in their murder, can be understood to be serving as God’s agent in their just punishment.

The Church Fathers

The next step in the evolution of the theological justification for anti-Judaism is represented in the fourth-century tradition known as adversus Judeaeos. Two famous and influential representatives of the tradition are Bishop John Chrysostum, and the author of City of God, St. Augustine.

Judaism continued an attractive competitor among early Christians as the following quote by Saint John Chrysostom, (c. 344-407) demonstrates, "But before I draw up my battle line against the Jews, I will be glad to talk to those who are members of our own body, those who seem to belong to our ranks although they observe the Jewish rites and make every effort to defend them. He then went on to attack the older religion and the Jewish people. In Orations Against The Jews he wrote, "The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance..." and later, “the Synagogue is a brothel, a den of scoundrels." While not originating with Chrysostom (the charge of deicide, hinted at in Paul (see above) and appears openly in the gospels, Chrysostom's language is both more eloquent and more violent. Propagandists and Nazi sympathizers quoted Chrysostom as historical justification in the persecution of the Jews.

St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was a relative “moderate” in the struggle to define and insulate Christianity from the parent religion. While Christianity was the true inheritor of Judaism, the “new Israel,” he argued that the Jews should be preserved as witnesses to the true faith. Augustine argued that God allowed the Jews to survive, debased and in dispersion, as a warning to Christians: they “bear the guilt for the death of the Savior, for through their fathers they have killed Christ.” (St. Augustine) 20. “The Jews who slew Him, and would not believe in Him,” were punished by God, their temple destroyed, Jerusalem leveled. “By their own Scriptures [Jewish survival is] a testimony to us that we have not forged the prophecies about Christ.” According to Augustine, Judaism and the Jews have no purpose in continuing to exist except as a negative adjunct to the true faith. But his use of the word “forged” is interesting. It throws a bright light on what was and remains a serious problem, validating its existence absent credible evidence for the existence of Jesus the Man (see chapter two).

For Augustine, as for Paul three hundred years earlier, Christianity stands only on the insecure foundation of faith absent materiality. As Paul sought to reassure the Galatians, so Augustine faced the same problem. The only evidence for Jesus ever having a physical existence rests on prophesy adduced by the faithful from the Jewish bible. Nobody, including Paul writing only thirty years after the presumed cricifixion, could provide first-hand experience of the person who was sent to save the Jews, Jesus the Messiah. 1600 years later, even with the documentary discoveries at Qumran across the Dead Sea and Nag Hamadi, with a single questionable reference to the person in Josephus nowhere is reference to the man to be found. And this, I suggest, was and remains a source of doubt and insecurity for Christianity, the heart of the two-hundred year long search for the Historical Jesus; a major source for Christian anti-Judaism, and inspiration for secular antisemitism, inspiration for two-thousand years of persecution, expulsion and murder leading up to the twentieth century effort to, once and for all time, solve Christendom’s Jewish Problem, the Holocaust.

The High Middle Ages, from about the year 1,000, was a period of radical change and turmoil in Europe. There was great expectation surrounding the anticipated return of Christ, great letdown with the failure to occur. Europe entered a long period of social stress and superstition heightened by a series of catastrophes from hurricane to Black Plague. Satan was believed to be behind the catastrophes and the Jews, with a tradition of association with the devil going back to the church fathers and Paul, were believed in league with the anti-Christ.

This was also a period of a political change and increasing local autonomy. Kingdoms emerged, cities expanded, and Europe’s population grew. With economic development came the need for capital. But Church doctrine forbade Christians to lend money. So, with few possibilities for livelihood, Jews were encouraged to take on the tasks of collecting rents and taxes for church and landlords. Jews also became the lenders of capital needed to feed the expansion. As tax collectors Jews became the focus of resentment, targets of rage by the general populace. As “usurers” they were subject to expulsion as a form of debt forgiveness.

This was also a period in which the church expanded its influence within and to evict Islam from Europe.

The Crusades, 1096-1272. On their way to Jerusalem the crusaders left a path of death and destruction behind in Jewish communities along the Rhine and Danube. Why, one is recorded as asking, "should we attack the unbelievers in the Holy Land, and leave the infidels in our midst undisturbed?" On May 25, 1096, about 800 Jews were murdered in Wurms, Germany while many others chose suicide rather than subject their families to torture, rape and murder. In Regensburg Jews were thrown the Danube, "baptized," according to another chronicler of the time. In Mainz, Cologne, Prague and many other cities, thousands were killed and their possessions plundered. During the nine crusades spanning nearly 200 years tens of thousands of Jews were massacred, their property destroyed or stolen. Thus began the long period of persecution, expulsion and murder which only began to ease, if temporarily, with the gradual secularization of Europe beginning in the 17th century.

The Crusades mark a shift in anti-Jewish persecution. For centuries previously anti-Judaism had been encouraged by the elites; with the eleventh century the “the atrocities committed against the Jews sprang from the people.” (The Causes and Effects of Anti-Semitism, 1978, p.120)

The Black Death devastated Europe in the mid-14th century, annihilating between a third and half of the population, Christians and Jews. Although Jews also suffered, rumors accused the Jews of poisoning Christian wells in order to spread the disease. Hundreds of Jewish communities were destroyed throughout Europe. In Strasbourg, a city not yet touched by the plague, 900 Jews were burned alive. Although on several occasions popes condemned the violence, Clement VI, for example, driven by fear and superstition the mobs were uncontrollable.

A rumor developed out of the plague that continues to haunt the Jews today. A cabal of rabbis were believed engaged in an international conspiracy to exterminate the Christians. According to the myth Jewish communities throughout Europe were instructed to poison Christian wells. Five hundred years later the myth would reappear in the form of The Protocols of Elders of Zion.

Blood libels accused Jews of drinking of blood of Christian children, or murdering them to use their blood in the making of matsot. The accusation held that the victim, usually a pre-pubescent boy, would be tied or nailed to a cross in mockery of the Christian Eucharist. Simon of Trent, who was supposedly murdered in 1475, was canonized by Pope Sixtus V in 1588. A cult developed around Simon that continued until 1965 when disbanded by Pope Paul VI.

Blood libel accusations continue to excite the imagination of some Christian communities. The most celebrated modern case involved a Russian Jew, Menahem Beilis, arrested on July 21, 1911 for the murder and mutilation of a Ukrainian youth. Acquitted after spending two years in jail, the peasant making the charge confessed that his accusation followed tutoring by the police. And one year after the liberation of Auschwitz, of the more than 24,000 Jewish residents of pre-war Kielce, Poland, 200 survivors returned only to be faced with a pogrom inspired by a blood libel. Thirty-five Jews were murdered, and another two who happened to be on a train passing through the city also lost their lives.

The Spanish Inquisition

The Inquisition was created through a papal bull at the end of the 12th century, intended to root out heresies. The Spanish Inquisition was created to unify Spain and consolidate power under the monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella following the defeat and expulsion of the Moors. The Jews were given the choice of expulsion or conversion. That the conversions were not fully voluntary raised doubts in the church regarding the sincerity of the conversions. In the early years the inquisition was most concerned with establishing the credibility of the conversions. As the years went by suspicion remained and even, and particularly those conversos who rose in the church hierarchy came under suspicion, insulating the church from Jewish influence became the priority. The inquisitors tortured suspect converts to confession, then would burn them at the stake for confessing their sin. Estimates vary regarding the actual number who died at the hands of the inquisitors. Based on, statistics drawn from the records of Autos de fe, the low estimate is around 2,000. But some estimate the number to be closer to 8,000.

In addition to ridding the church of what were determined to be insincere converts, the Inquisition also arrived at a new and novel definition of who is a Jew. Limpieza de sangre, or purity of blood. “Now Jewishness is… a permanent inborn characteristic that even baptism does not remove, (Nichols, 1993, P. xxi). “Those who wished to hold public office had to present a certificate … showing that they were free of… mala sangre, bad blood (i.e., Jewish descent), (Nichols, pps. xx-xxi). Conversion and assimilation “were no longer a guarantee against prejudice and persecution. The Jewish taint survived and contaminated. In this sense the Inquisition (was) the intellectual and historical precursor of the racial anti-Semitism of the 19th and 20th centuries epitomized by Nazism,” (ibid, Grosser and Halperin, p. 154). Four centuries later the principle of Limpieza de sangre would enter German law, would become the determining factor regarding who would live or die.

Nicholls, William, Christian Antisemitism, A History of Hate, 1193, Jason Aronson Inc. Northvale, New Jersey

Grosser, Paul E. & Halperin, Edwin G., The Causes and Effects of Anti-Semitism, the Dimensions of a Prejudice, 1978, Philosophical Library, Inc., New York

Sunday, December 14, 2008

081216 - Introduction

081216 - Introduction (995)

Holocaust denial, the assertion that Shoah never occurred, or that the number of Jews murdered by Europe was greatly exaggerated, is more than traditional antisemitism. It is also a defense of Christianity as historical precedent, inspiration and participation in the crime. Not just that Pius XII stood silently by, fully informed by church representatives in all locations of the unfolding slaughter; not only that the murders were otherwise “good Christians.” The Holocaust was, as referred to then and now, the Final Solution to Christendom’s Jewish Problem. What that “problem” is will occupy much of what follows. Nor is the effort to solve the “problem” a modern invention. While the Jews in European Diaspora were not always under collective and lethal threat, the Middle Ages marked a turning point for Christian-Jewish relations.

The Crusades, beginning in 1096 and lasting 200 years, massacred entire Jewish communities en route to liberate the Holy Land. With increasing superstition in Europe Jews came to be identified with Satan and witchcraft, were blamed for poisoning Christian wells, with murdering Christian children and other fantastic crimes. Entire Jewish communities died at the hands of their neighbors. With the Spanish Inquisition in the 1490’s, Jews were forced to choose between conversion or expulsion. Those converted were viewed by the inquisition with suspicion and thousands were tortured to confession, burned at the stake for confessing. The Inquisition also introduced a new concept in defining Jews: “limpieza de sangre,” or purity of blood, meant that Jews were no longer just members of a religious heritage, but by blood lineage.

Far from exceptional, the Holocaust is not a unique or aberrant event in Jewish-Christian history. It may be that the only truly distinguishing departure of Shoah, that which made the Final Solution nearly the final solution it was intended to be was 20th century technology. Primitive IBM computers made defining and detecting Jews easier; Ford’s assembly-line made the manufacture and disposal of mass death highly efficient. And bureaucracy made the entire operation impersonal and clean, with no participant, from clerks identifying victims to train crews transporting them to the killing centers personally guilty. And upon arrival the machinery of death and disposition of remains was assigned kapos, Jewish inmates. And, weakened by poor diet and overwork, they were dispatched from life by a fresh generation of kapos.

This volume is not anti-Christian. While the Holocaust was perpetrated or supported, actively or passively, by the vast majority still, many Christians of principle and conscience spoke out, protected and saved Jewish lives even at threat and cost of their own. But Christianity in all its diverse forms has much to change, to atone for 2,000 years of anti-Jewish persecution without which a Shoah would not have been possible. Nor will simple apologies, such as Nostre Aetate, suffice. Apology serves mostly to absolve the guilty, not change behavior. And unless Christianity finds the courage to reform itself, to remove its theology of hate towards Judaism, to resolve its internal conflict of “religion of love and forgiveness” with the reality of Holocaust then the next Shoah will likely find Christianity without a single Jew to whom to apologize.

Zionism was born of a 19th – early 20th century realization by mostly Eastern European Jews that the promise of secular and national emancipation from discrimination and persecution would not be realized, that although religious anti-Judaism would lose its energy, that a new and potentially even more dangerous form of discrimination and persecution might arrive with secular Christendom. Of course early Zionism could never anticipate Shoah but pogroms, Dreyfus and lynchings of Jews, even in the United States sent a clear message. It took the murder of 6,000,000 Jews for Zionism to achieve its most obvious first goal, a piece of territory to serve as refuge for Jews in need. Israel, both with the state and in the Diaspora, is commonly viewed as the fulfillment of Zionism. As if Shoah marked the end of anti-Judaism/antisemitism, and not the beginning of a new and more dangerous Diaspora, as if, having jointly faced the abyss Christianity could never spawn such a future event; that surviving Jewry is more secure today for the experience, that Never Again! is more than a mere cry of pain and outrage, an intention to overcome and survive, in Diaspora.

German Jewry, resident in that land for more than 2,000 years, thought of, and defended Germany as “exceptional.” Whatever befell Jews in other countries, such could not occur in their fatherland. The warning is clear that, the present is a moment in time determined by a complex of ever-changing social and economic factors. Today’s quiet is not guarantee for tomorrow. And if history, and particular the recent Shoah has proven anything it is that Jews, as past and continuing outsiders, are at risk in the Christian Diaspora.

Anti-Judaism and its secular offspring antisemitism refers to behaviors and actions ranging from discrimination to persecution, from forced conversion to mass murder by members of the Christian religious traditions or by the secular society which evolved from the Christian tradition. Its background and evolution can be described over two-thousand years of history, but that only traces the outward appearance of explanation. What provides the motive energy for 2,000 years of persecution, the result of which is that Jewry today constitutes fewer than fifteen million persons, as compared to the number the Sassoon Institute of Hebrew University estimates would have equaled the population of the British Isles had they not be the objects of that animus?

Chapter one discusses the historical and theological development of Christian animus towards Judaism and Jews. Chapter two will suggest that underlying the theology of hate expressed as anti-Judaism is a profound existential self-doubt. The remaining chapters will continue this discussion as it applies to the period of antisemitism, from Enlightenment’s secularization of Christendom to Shoah. The discussion will conclude with a survey of the history of antisemitism in the United States, and the question, Is the American Diaspora Exceptional?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Preface to the book

Preface to the book

For me being a Jew has always been a source of pride, and burden. As a young child living in the Bronx during the years of the Holocaust most of my extended family lived within blocks of our tenement apartment. By my pre-teens, increasing affluence allowed my parents to move from slum to an apartment complex in Queens. Physically the distance from relatives went from blocks to miles; socially we went from Galitsiana Jewish to Italian Catholic. There were few Jewish families in Glen Oaks. An outsider, I was a lone Jew in an Italian neighborhood. Until Joe Parisi and I began hanging together. With Joe I could relax, just a kid among kids. Until the evening we went to his church gym to play and the priest said that Jews were not welcome.

I joined the army on my seventeenth birthday. It was 1956 and beyond proving myself a man, I also felt the need to assert myself an American first, Jew second. So rather than use my enlistment to go to photography school I opted instead to join the infantry in Germany. The Holocaust was a decade past, an event I intended to relegate to history. Except that my instant discomfort in standing on German soil remained with me for my entire 18-months tour. Perhaps for other Americans the war was over, but I was haunted by the fact that Germany had recently murdered my people. And despite my best efforts at reason and denial I could never overcome fact: I am, I accepted, a Jew and could never fully assimilate into Christian society.
The year is now, 2008, the Holocaust sixty-three years in our fast-receding past. Why these memories today, when all immediate evidence protests that lethal antisemitism is history, that we American Jews are confidently at peace and quietly determined to achieve that which I could not fifty years ago, to disappear into the American melting pot? Why write today on antisemitism?

My reasons are neither mysterious nor complicated. With the birth of my first child I decided that my family would be raised in Israel. When reality intruded and we wound up living in the United States my priority shifted to instill in my children a strong sense of Jewish identity. From pre-school to middle school they attended yeshivot. But mere identity and pride as Jews are insufficient preparation for life in Diaspora. It was also important for them to understand and appreciate their place as Jews in Christian history, in Diaspora, in a country loudly and proudly proclaiming itself Christian. I was only too aware that generations of Germans in the years leading up to Shoah proudly raised their children German, loyal to their fatherland, described their homeland as "exceptional." But German Jewry did not have the benefit of historical experience of Shoah to draw upon, to learn from. They were Shoah.

As did our German relatives we in America also describe our country as "exceptional." For us the Holocaust is today a point in history, a distant and receding memory. When the subject does arise we find ourselves in agreement with Elie Wiesel that Shoah is a "mystery," a unique confluence of chance events: Germany’s lost war, hyper inflation, economic chaos; and yes, that charismatic madman who seduced the German people. Yes, we reassure ourselves, a mystery. How else understand that this most cultured country in Europe, indeed in the entire Christian west, could so casually, coldly and systematically turn on a tiny minority, their Jewish neighbors, their intermarried relatives; how else explain that even such a country, the one in which Jews were most assimilated, where Jews were more intermarried than at any other time or place, including American Jewry today; how understand that the country where Jews had resided for more than two thousand years; how could “exceptional” Germany conclude that Jewry is a mortal threat to themselves, Europe and the world, a threat warranting extermination? Clearly an aberration, a mystery.

But the Holocaust is not so easily set aside.If religious anti-Judaism is a basic pillar of Christian theology (the Gospel of Matthew condemns all Jews and forever for the assumed murder of Jesus), with the arrival of the Age of Reason in the 17th century Jews believed their long persecution as religious outsiders would end. But the Enlightenment, still a product of Christian history and culture, inherited also its Christianity’s prejudices. Jews, since not Christians like everyone else, were at first seen as a foreign nation. By the 19th century, as the tools of the scientific method were applied to the Jews, we were now classified as race. The "science" of eugenics, born in England, developed in the United States and exported to Germany, decided that Jews are of inferior human stock, a different bloodline than our Nordic citizen-neighbors. Then, in the mid-1930’s, German law sealed our fate: a “Jew” was defined as anybody with a single Jewish grandparent (whether that grandparent was a Christian convert or not). So Jews were now legally a breed apart, soon to be defined as not even fully human. Where the Church considered Jews to be children of Satan, Germany defined us as vermin deserving, no demanding for the health of nation and humanity, to be excised once and for all.

No, Shoah is not a "mystery" but rather an event with a 2,ooo-year, well-documented history. Does Shoah differ from the Inquisition or the Crusades? Certainly. But in technology, not motive. The 20th century merely provided the computer for locating the victims, Ford’s assembly line for efficient mass murder and waste disposal. And modern bureaucracy made it all so impersonal. Nobody was personally responsible.

Nor is what we today label "the Holocaust" the final chapter. Germany established many social and ethical precedents, one being that mass murder is not only feasible but, under the right circumstance, a socially acceptable act of racial hygiene. Far from being merely a historical event, a thing of the past, Christendom’s Jewish Problem remains yet unresolved. For Jews this means that the choice of life in the Christian Diaspora is, and will always remain, a calculated risk. Jewish leaders often assert that the key to ending antisemitism is education. Was that not already tried in Germany, in France and Belgium, Holland and, yes, the United States (antisemitism was as strong here as in Europe before, during and following Shoah)? When a tactic is tried and fails it loses credibility and demands explanation as to why this time it should succeed. I suggest the explanation is denial.

And how convince ourselves that, as individuals or collectively, orthodox or atheist, that we can escape our fate through assimilation? As the German legal precedent clearly established, when the next event arrives, it will take but a single Jew in that future Christian family tree to condemn the entire present generation to death.

This book represents a commitment made twenty-eight years ago. It is dedicated to my children, the two whom I personally fathered, and to their generation, and to those that follow. Out of concern, and with love.