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 has been conceded in this essay that a heavy burden of responsibility for the intolerance against the Jews rests on the Jew himself. The most intelligent among our Jewish friends consider the situation hopeless. They reason that you cannot alter the Jew and cannot alter the Gentile. We beg to differ most emphatically.

A ceaseless process of adaptation is gradually modifying the Jewish type. Climate, environment, unconscious and conscious adoption of customs and manners, cannot fail to exercise their cogent influence. The French Jew is easily distinguishable from the German Jew, the German from the Russian. The Jew who, by establishing himself in a country town, dissociates himself from his own flock and comes into closer contact with his Christian neighbors, frequently exhibits refinement of manners considerably beyond that of his city cousin. The physical type of many Jews all over the civilized world has been so modified through adaptation (not by any means to their disadvantage), that they have become unrecognizable to their own race.

But the most potent of evolutionary influences is intermarriage. Whatever of Chauvinism exists in the Jewish people is quickly aroused by the suggestion of miscegenation; for the Jewish heart, whether hidden under gabardine or broadcloth, is proud,—proud of a lineage with its colossal Mosaic tradition, which has moulded the western world. To the uncompromising orthodox Jew, intermarriage signifies nothing short of apostasy, and by the liberal Jew mixed marriages are at least mildly deprecated. When a liberal Jew is questioned as to the cause of his misgivings, he will usually reply that miscegenation evidences disloyalty to the Jewish religion and would jeopardize the preservation of the race. When pressed for a definition of the Jewish religion, the liberal Jew, if a man of education, will almost invariably confess to that form of agnosticism which is born of reverence for the unknown and unknowable. You will find that he does not disavow the applicability of reason to questions of faith. You will find him rather skeptical as to the efficacy of prayer; his conception of the Divinity is far from dogmatic; and while the imagery of the immortality of the soul is quite flattering to his ego, he would not be willing to subscribe to the certainty of an hereafter. The argument will usually simmer down to the compromise that Judaism stands for ethics, and that the history of the Jewish race is sublime.

And we shall not quarrel with him on either point. Our understanding will usually terminate in the agreement that the principles of ethics and righteousness have sufficient power of locomotion without the aid of the theologic crutch. To the liberal Jew, the church is not essentially a house of worship. In communities where the Sabbath has been transferred to Sunday, he seeks intellectual diversion, ethical support, and a release from the rote of everyday life in the pleasant gregariousness of the synagogue. If loyalty has not stifled his candor, if allegiance to tottering dogma has not blinded his vision, he must confess that the reformed synagogue is but a way-station on the road to free-thinking.

Assuming these observations to be correct, the Jewish compunctions anent mixed marriages are racial, not religious, and must be modified in compliance with that point of view.

It would be well to remind our Jewish race-purists of some facts in history. Do they remember that the question of mixed marriages caused much confusion in Jerusalem after the return of the Jews from captivity? Do they remember the conversion of Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans to the Jewish faith? Do they remember that the Jews of Gaul and Spain received through various channels and at different periods an infusion of native blood? Do they know that the number of converted Jews during the past fifteen centuries is computed by millions? It is as certain that alien blood, pagan and Christian, flows in Jewish veins, as it is that the Christian nations have a liberal admixture of Jewish blood. The forefather of many a Jew went clad in Roman toga or Athenian pallium. And we would feel constrained to confess ourselves poor diagnosticians if George Bernard Shaw, the enfant terrible of nimble wit in contemporaneous literature, succeeded in disproving the existence in himself of the same strain of blood as coursed in the veins of Heinrich Heine. Israel is much less the offspring of a race than the work of history.  Opposition against the intermingling of Jewish blood with that of other races is as untenable in theory as in practice; first, because no race has shown a greater adaptability to “Aryan" civilization than the Jew (being, in fact, the parent of civilization through the Mosaic law); and second, because the hyphenation of modern races is actually finding a corollary in a constantly increasing Jewish-Gentile sanguinity. As the alien traits of the Jew fade into softer outline, the elements of attraction will outweigh those of repulsion, and national, racial, and religious bigotry will be submerged in an irresistible confluence.

We do not underestimate the power of ecclesiastic resistance on the Christian side. The church has made many concessions to intelligence, and it will make more. An institution so jealous of its power as the church may be expected to fight hard against natural tendencies. But the interchange of pulpits between Jew and Christian is a sign of the times, and evidence that Christian vision has become sufficiently acute to recognize its parent in religion. And in the Ethical Culture movement the effacement is complete. A growing intelligence will do the rest.

If our investigations have been accurate, then, the vexed question of the social disability of the Jew in the United States must find its solution primarily in the self-elevation of the Jewish race; in a modification of the racial type, which is, nolens volens, in constant progression; in better physical development; in the best possible efforts of education, extending particularly to the younger generation of Jewish merchants; in the most earnest nurture of good breeding and culture; in judicious intermarriage; in ethical living.

So far as the Jew is able to understand Christianity, its points of contact with paganism, such as the faith in miracles and the adoration of images, are merely fortuitous. Nor does the pomp of the church seem a true reflection of the simplicity of Jesus. As we understand the Scriptures, Jesus preached essentially a conduct of life. When Jesus comes into his own, there will be no problem of race hatred.

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