The Social Disability of the Jew

"You cannot do the Jews and the community at large a greater service than by excluding the undesirable members of their race."

It is traditional to account for anti-Jewish feeling on the score of religion. But this should seem rather out of date. We are not arguing with the ignorant and stupid demi-Christians, who have never learned that Christianity, by reviling Judaism, strikes its parent. We are not arguing with the Christian who forgets that Christ was a Jew and spoke the language of the Jew. We are not arguing with the Christian who, had Christ been born nineteen centuries later, might have been so blinded by race prejudice as not to recognize in him the Saviour. We shall not argue with the Christians who are a house divided against itself, and whose religious history is soaked in Christian blood for the greater glory of God. The conversion of "Christians" to Christianity is still an unfinished task, and will keep our friends busy for generations to come. "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me."

The opprobrium of covetousness and craftiness which history has heaped upon the reputation of the Jew still clings. The usual philo-Semitic defense is, that these traits are the direct result of the Jews' debarment through long centuries from all pursuits other than the commercial. This defense merely explains, cannot condone, laxity in commercial honor. No race has a monopoly of honesty, and it would be difficult to prove that the Jew is either worse or better than his neighbor. We should say that the commercial standard of the Jew is governed by the community in which he lives; or, in the words of the German statesman, every country has the Jews it deserves. If the American Jew has been outstripped by the predatory ruthlessness of the Christian American financier, his inferiority must be charged less to a lack of business acumen than to the absence of that magnificent criminality which an awe-struck community witnesses, and sometimes admires, in the American plutocrat. The abject panic into which our President's attempted enforcement of the eighth commandment is throwing a certain class of emasculated Americans should serve to check the finger which points to the mote in the eye of the Jew. Moreover, the dishonest Jew is never a leader of his people; nor do the brethren of his race conceal their intimate contempt. The conscience of Israel is never cold. We denounce the hypocrisy of praise at the grave of a man who has not lived an upright life. Our church gives cold refuge to men who would cover misdeeds by piousness. We honor above all men the scholar and the man of consistent good deeds.

The causes of feeling against the Jews, then, may be said to be not primarily religious or commercial. What are they?

First and most powerful among them is the instinct of race hatred, to which the Jew is constantly and acutely exposed, because of his expatriation and his intimate mingling with other races. In the intermingling of races in America, the differentiation between the Frenchman, the American, the German, the Italian, assumes the character of a good-natured incoalescence, whereas the sentiment against the Jew usually crystallizes into active rebuff.

The physical causes for this animosity reside largely in the Jewish type. Though the various separate characteristics which repel the "Aryan" from the Jew can easily be pointed out in other races (Aryan included), a cumulative burden of idiosyncrasies weighs on our unfortunate people. It goes without saying that the Jewish type is not uniform, nor do we wish to concede that the caricaturist is always true to nature, but it must be acknowledged that the typical Jewish figure is not pleasing to the eye. The great masters in painting and sculpture have almost always modified or falsified the Jewish type in deference to aesthetic demands. This unfavorable physical impression is heightened by certain mannerisms, such as exaggerated gestures, by the peculiar voice inflection which grates on the ear, and by the distortion of the English language of which so many of our "prominent" Jews are guilty. Although these physical attributes are shared by other Oriental and also by the Latin races, they reach a climax in the Jewish type, which in its culmination is unsympathetic to the Anglo-Saxon, the Oriental, or the Latin people. It is not agreeable to touch on this phase of our inquiry; but the importance of physical repulsion can hardly be overestimated.

A visitor from Altruria might wonder why a race of people of intelligence, cleanly, moral, law-abiding, sober, industrious, prosperous, should be socially undesirable in a democracy. The following incident may offer an answer.

Several years ago the writer, on a vacation voyage, met a judge of one of our higher courts. He was a thoughtful man, refined in manner, moderate in speech, and a close observer of human affairs. Our conversation happened to drift to the subject of the education of the American Indian and to that of college fraternities. The question whether an Indian might be eligible for a college fraternity was, rightly or wrongly, answered in the affirmative. We then asked why Jews were personae non gratae in fraternities. Our friend answered very quietly, and without the slightest suggestion of harshness, "Because the Indians have better manners." There then ensued a gap of silence which became rather oppressive. But it struck the writer very forcibly that the probe had touched the sore. The remark has rankled ever since, and is responsible for this contribution to the Atlantic Monthly. Society will condone any fault more readily than offenses against good taste. Does not the social disability of the Jew in the United States hinge on this point?

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