The Assimilation of Israel
And Hainan said unto King Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s law.— ESTHER, III, 8.
THE revival of anti-Semitism in Europe since the close of the war, and its curious repercussion even in the United States, are phenomena that can no longer be ignored. The Jews, we are warned, are a secret organization, with branches in every land, whose aim is nothing less than world-domination. To attain their bold ends, they plan, on the one hand, to undermine society by sapping its foundations with revolutionary and anti-religious propaganda, and on the other, to crush it from above by attaining control of the great banking and industrial system on which the material power of present-day civilization immediately reposes. Taking advantage of the economic and political confusion following five years of war, they are even now, it is asserted, engaged in realizing this ambitious programme, at which, indeed, they have been quietly working for a century or more. As evidence of this alarming thesis, it is pointed out that there are already Jews among the leading financiers in every country; that there are Jews among the leading international revolutionaries; and, finally, that all Jews have a tendency to solidarity.
Of course, this ingenious fantasy will not bear analysis. The Jewish agitation is as much a menace to the Jewish capitalist as to the Gentile; the Jewish employer is no less a burden of authority upon Jewish workmen than upon Christians; and from a vague feeling of solidarity to the contrivance of a vast and definite conspiracy is a far cry. Moreover, it is just at the two extremes of wealth and poverty that the racial apostasy of the emancipated Jew is most common.
But the fact that his theories fall to pieces under scrutiny is of no consequence to the true anti-Semite.
In Germany, the anti-Jewish agitation is so vigorous that the Inter-Allied High Commission in the Rhineland recently felt obliged to order the troops of occupation to seize all copies discovered of a book called From the Reign of the Hohenzollerns to the Reign of the Jews.
In England, a writer in the sober Blackwood’s protests that, if the Jews were to be given no part, either open or surreptitious, in the imperial government, the danger of revolution would be greatly diminished. Saint-Loe Strachey, writing in the Spectator, accuses the English Jews of being Jews first and English afterward. ‘Of all the governments which have accepted the power in Great Britain,’ declared Sir Lionel Rothschild, in a recent speech, ‘none has shown so much sympathy for the projects and ideals of the Jews as the present government.’ And the declaration is taken by Lloyd George’s enemies to mean that Lloyd George is ‘pro-Jewish.’ Has he not appointed Sir Herbert Samuel to rule over Palestine? Did he not send Sir Stuart Samuel to ‘investigate’ the alleged pogroms in Poland? Is not Sir Eric Drummond, General Secretary of the League of Nations, Hebraic by origin? Are not Lord Reading and Lord Montagu, respectively Viceroy of India and Secretary of State for India, both of Jewish descent? And when it comes to that, was it not Mayer Amschel, under the better known name of Rothschild, who ‘ founded the dynasty of the secret emperors of Israel’? The Poles, it appears, are so afraid of the power of the English Jews, that they have actually appointed a Polish Jew, Professor Szimon Askenazy, as Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. And in their effort to prove that even the British labor movement is under Jewish control, the British anti-Semites, nothing daunted, assert that Smillie is merely a tool of the Jew, Emanuel Shinwell, who promoted the strikes in the Clyde shipyards during the war; that Thomas is a catspaw of the Jew, Abraham; that Williams is actually married to a Jewess, and that all three are closely associated with the ‘Lansbury-Fels-Zangwill group.’
In France, the old anti-Dreyfusards of the Action Française have lately redoubled their ‘exposures’ of the ‘ Jewish peril.’ ‘Throughout Europe,’ writes Charles Maurras, ‘ the Jew is the traveling-man of the revolution.’ Yiddish is ‘the Esperanto of revolutionists.’ All Jews, we are assured, are anti-French and pro-German; they are Freemasons, and enemies of Roman Catholicism. Are not ninety-five per cent of the Soviet chieftains Jews? Is not Viennese Socialism Jewish and pro-German? Are not the Jews in Upper Silesia working exclusively for Germany? It was a telegram from the Jewish financiers of America, dated May 29, 1919, and signed by that ‘high priest of Israel,’ Jacob Schiff (born at Frankfort), which steeled Wilson to force concessions from France on five vital points, — the Saar Basin, Upper Silesia, Dantzig, Fiume, and reparations, — or, at least, so Maurras writes. This same Schiff, points out Roger Lambelin, founded the New York Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Semitic Museum at Harvard; and while he, in the interests of Kuhn, Loeb & Co., fostered proGerman sentiment during the war, his partner Otto Kahn (born at Mannheim) fostered pro-Ally sentiment; thus an iron was kept hot in both fires. As for ‘the pro-Jew, Woodrow Wilson,’ pursues Lambelin, instead of flaying the massacres instigated by Bela Kun, the threatened Russian invasion of Poland, and the eviction of innocent Moslems in Palestine, he contented himself, at the time of the Peace Conference, with writing a letter of sympathy for the Eastern European Jews to Rabbi Stephen Wise.
In Eastern Europe, the sentiment of anti-Semitism is not, as in Western Europe, confined chiefly to conservatives and chauvinists, but impregnates even the masses. The Magyar peasants are bitter against the town-dwelling ’communist ’ Jews; and in spite of all the Budapest police can do, bands of infuriated Magyars make a grim pastime of beating an occasional son of Israel whom they catch in the street after nightfall. In Poland, the Ukraine, and, to a less extent, in Roumania, the mediæval legend of the ritual murder, for which the Jews are supposed to take the blood of a Christian babe at each Passover, has been revived; and all Eastern European Jews are suspected, by their Christian neighbors, of Communism. The Ukrainian Nationalist bands have apparently been guilty of serious and repeated pogroms. The Poles are unanimous in their ardent and patriotic hostility to the four or five million Jews included within their frontiers. All Jews, they firmly believe, are born Bolsheviki. In the Polish army, ghastly stories of Jew-Bolshevist atrocities are current. I was shown a photograph, found in Kief by the Poles, of a large room, on the floor of which lay the naked and mutilated bodies of some fifty Russians, who had been executed, it was said, by the Red troops, after the mutilations had been perpetrated, with ceremonial orgies, ’by a fanatical sect of young Jewesses’!
I repeat this welter of fantasy, stray fact, and superstition to indicate that anti-Semitism has, indeed, once more become a true movement of opinion, which, far from succumbing at the scoff of incredulity, is making converts almost daily, and demands from the student of social phenomena that careful analysis which alone can discover both its cause and its cure.
For there is a cause. There is really a Jewish problem, and it is as old as the dispersion of the Jews. Anti-Semitism is even older than the dispersion. It is as old as the captivities. Wherever the Jews have lived among other peoples, either perforce or of their own will, and whether before or after the Christian era, it has flourished. One may therefore well conclude, with that sincere and able Jewish scholar, Bernard Lazare, that an opinion of such enduring prevalence ‘could not be the result of fancy and of a perpetual caprice,’ but that ' there must be profound and serious reasons both for its beginning and its persistence.’ The truth is that the antiSemitism of Berlin and Paris is of one piece with the anti-Semitism of Antioch and Alexandria; the angry alarm of Henry Ford concords strangely with the grim fury of the Hetman Chmielnicki; and if the outward form assumed by popular sentiment against the Jews varies somewhat in accordance with differences of time and place, in its one essential cause it remains ever the same.
This cause is neither religious, as is often averred, nor economic, as many believe; it is political. It is based on the observation that the Jews, through innumerable transmutations of time and place, not only have kept their identity as a people, but have opposed a vigorous, if passive, resistance to most attempts at assimilation. The Jew, in short, is regarded as a foreigner, whose ‘ laws are diverse from all people ’; and as such, he is considered to be an enemy to the state.
The underlying reason for Jewish exclusiveness is, perhaps, the law of Moses. The sole object of life, according to the teachings of the rabbis, is the knowledge and the practice of the law, for ‘without the law, without Israel to practise it, the world would not be. God would resolve it into chaos. And the world will know happiness only when it submits to the universal empire of the law, that is to say, to the empire of the Jews. In consequence, the Jewish people is the people chosen by God as the depository of his will and his desires.’ This strong and narrow spirit, instead of diminishing with the lapse of time, seemed only to increase; until, with the victory of the rabbis over the more liberal Jewish schismatists, in the fourteenth century, the doctors of the synagogue, says Bernard Lazare, ‘had reached their end. They had cut off Israel from the community of peoples; they had made of it a being fierce and solitary, rebellious to all law, hostile to all fraternity, closed to all beautiful, noble or generous ideas; they had made of it a nation small and miserable, soured by isolation, stupefied by a narrow education, demoralized and corrupted by an unjustifiable pride.'
It is well to remember that, although the Jews of Western Europe and America have at present pretty well freed themselves from these heavy intellectual and spiritual shackles, the Jews of Eastern Europe still live, for the most part, in strict accordance with the letter of the Thorah and the Talmud.
The law of Moses being not only theological and moral, but agrarian, civil, and hygienic as well, no sooner did the Jews begin to live abroad than it became necessary for them, if they would avoid contamination, to draw together in intimate communities, and to beg from the authorities, in the name of their religion, certain exceptions and privileges, just as they are demanding them to-day, under the rubric of ‘minority rights,’ in Poland and Roumania. Thus, in Rome they could not be haled into court on a Saturday; in Alexandria they were not subject to the common municipal regulations, but had their own senate, courts, and mayors.
Antiquity was tolerant; but not so the Middle Ages. There came a time when, with the slow dissolution of feudalism, the various peoples of Europe, under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, began to cohere into nationalities. All over Europe the question of nationality was identified with the question of religion, as it still is in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. If you did not belong to the Church, you were necessarily an enemy of the State. Observing among them a people who dressed, spoke, and behaved differently from themselves, who claimed privileges and exemptions, and desired to live apart, the followers of the Church vindictively decreed that the Jews henceforth should be obliged to dress differently and to live apart; and instead of having privileges granted to them, they were placed under a régime of special restrictions. The Ghetto, which the Jews had formed of their own free will, was now imposed on them by force. From the eleventh to the sixteenth century, the Jews, like all heretical sects, were persecuted, tortured, burned, killed, expelled; and in their bitter misery, drawing together more closely than ever, they gradually forged that profound sense of solidarity which is still, perhaps, their greatest source of strength.
The Protestants of the Reformation, after trying vainly to convert the Jews, turned angrily against them, ' The Jews are brutes,’ cried Luther, in a passion. ‘Their synagogues are pig-styes; they must be burned, for Moses would do so if he came back to the world. They drag the divine word in the mud; they live by rapine and evil, they are wicked beasts who ought to be driven out like mad dogs.’
But the religious wars had now fairly begun, and in the heat of the struggle between Catholic and Protestant, the Jews, greatly to their good, were wellnigh forgotten. For them, the worst was over. In the seventeenth century, though a number of onerous restrictions were put back into effect by the Church, the return of the Jews within the Christian faith, so long desired, was confidently, though vainly, expected.
The eighteenth century, like antiquity, was tolerant. In Holland and England, no less than in Turkey itself, the Jews were happy and prosperous. In 1791, the French Constituent Assembly voted full rights of citizenship to the Jews. It was the first act of the emancipation, which was now to follow rapidly in Central as well as in Western Europe. Napoleon, at the head of his armies, freed the Jews of Italy and Germany. The Jewish cult was written into the French budget in 1830. The emancipation was completed in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Greece by the Revolution of 1848; it was completed in England in 1860, and in Hungary in 1867. The last Western European Ghetto was abolished in 1870, with the fall of the Pope’s temporal power.
But though many Western European Jews have been more or less assimilated during the last hundred years, there are still many others who, though emancipated so far as external restrictions are concerned, have not desired, or have been unable, to shake off the clannishness, the peculiar mentality, inbred by twenty or thirty centuries of almost unbroken tradition; they may not go to synagogue, or even to the reformed tabernacle, but they would be repelled at the idea of marrying outside the race, and they preserve a special and seemingly ineradicable tenderness for their fellow Israelites, of no matter what social stratum, or what geographical subdivision. Their inner emancipation, their emancipation from the history and customs of Israel, is still to be effected. There can be no true assimilation so long as there is not free intermarriage; and until there is evidence of a rapidly increasing assimilation, the Jewish question, with its attendant fervor of anti-Semitism, will continue to occupy men’s minds.
A sharp distinction must be drawn at the present time between this question as it presents itself in Western Europe and the United States, where the Jews are externally emancipated, and as it presents itself in Eastern Europe, where the Jews still live mediævally to themselves, and where there is a tendency on the part of the prevailing governments to restrict them in various ways. The cleavage is somewhat blurred by the fact that hordes of Eastern European Jews are still pouring annually into Western Europe; nevertheless, generally speaking, the distinction can be maintained. As the arguments which are brought against the Jews in the East include and elaborate those adduced in the West, it wall simplify matters if the latter be considered first.
Of the serious arguments of Western anti-Semitism, two are political, and one — the least important, but perhaps the commonest — is economic. Briefly stated, the economic argument is that the Jew is congenitally a non-producer, a parasite, living only in the cities, trading and lending money, swelling the army of profit-devouring middlemen. Historically, this contention cannot be sustained. The tribesmen of Israel were, originally, not traders, but farmers and shepherds. As speculators and traders, they were far surpassed in antiquity, first by the Phœnicians and Carthaginians, and later by the Greeks and Romans. It was only after the dispersion that their mercantile propensities began to develop. The sudden cessation of all their former activities as husbandmen was due in the beginning to their religion, which, on the one hand, forced them to gather in communities so as to be able to escape the contamination of foreign ways and peoples, and, on the other, taught them that they must keep themselves pure for the eventual return to Jerusalem, and that in ploughing any soil save that of Palestine, a Jew would defile himself. All exiled Jews were thus constrained to become city-dwellers, and city-dwellers or town-dwellers they have since remained, until they have indeed, at last, become almost total strangers to the life of the fields.
As city-dwellers, they were naturally forced into commerce, in order to live. At a time when other peoples were less well organized, the Jewish communities established in every considerable town of the Mediterranean countries, and in constant communication and sympathy, provided an unparalleled system of commercial agencies to the Jewish traders, who, in consequence, soon began to prosper greatly. It was only in the Middle Ages that the Jews began to specialize in money-lending and the gold traffic.1 This, again, was forced upon them rather than of their own seeking; but as in periods of recurrent wars, bad crops, and famine the need for loans and credit was very great, it was generally agreed that the necessary banking business should be turned over to the Jews. Not infrequently, the Jewish money-lender was merely the agent of some Christian merchant or noble, who did not dare lend money in person, for fear of excommunication. At the same time, the growing power of the guilds, each with its patron saint, began, on religious grounds, to force the exclusion of the Jews from most of the principal branches of trade and commerce. The second-hand trade and the banking business were about all that remained. The latter, moreover, was congenial to the Jews; for in that day of persecution and expulsion they were very glad to be able to keep their wealth in a compact, easily hidden, and easily transportable form.
If, therefore, in modern times, the Jews appear to be a people of towndwellers, practising, at the bottom of the social scale, peddling, petty-retailing, pawn brokerage, the poorer trades, and, at the top of the scale, banking and corporate commerce, the cause, evidently, is less innate than historic. Even the remarkable success of individual Jews in modern finance can perhaps be attributed less to any special racial litness than to a business tradition, to a freedom from local prejudice, and to the spirit of coöperation clearly visible between scattered Jewish individuals and communities — a coöperation which other peoples have not as yet been able to attain in anything like the same degree. I myself am inclined to subordinate economic anti-Semitism to political anti-Semitism; for, if the latter were unsustained, the former, I feel sure, would soon cease to exist.
The political argument against the Jews is that they are an ’international nation,’ more attached to the Jewish cause, in whatever part of the world, than to the ideals and interests of the country in which they live, and from which they claim the privileges of protection without according in return their political allegiance. To this is now frequently added, as a corollary, that the Jew is a ‘born revolutionist.’ We are here, as I have already indicated, at the very heart of the Jewish question; for there is no state, there is no people, so good-natured and so confident of its own strength, that it will unprotestingly tolerate in its midst a body persistently and willfully foreign, especially when this body at the same time aspires to take a leading part in the national economic or political life. That the Jews, after their dispersion, were originally such a tenaciously foreign body, in every community where they settled, is beyond dispute. That they remained so, partly of their own will, partly under compulsion, up to the time of the emancipation, fifty or a hundred years ago, is equally incontestable. The point that remains to be determined is, to what extent, since the emancipation, a true assimilation of the Jews has been effected in the United States and in the various countries of Western Europe. To this point I shall have occasion to return presently. Meanwhile, the corollary, that the Jew is a ‘born revolutionist,’ is worthy of careful consideration.
Abstractly, there is certainly something in this assertion — something profound, which reaches to the very centre of the ancient Hebraic religious conception. The sturdy monotheism of Israel, teaching that man shall obey Jehovah alone, carries by implication the idea that all merely human authority is unjustified and therefore negligible. This independence of conscience and reason is probably developed further in Judaism than in any other religion, for it is considered as binding even on Jehovah himself. The Talmud relates how, in a dispute between rabbis over a point of doctrine, the voice of Jehovah intervened from the void; but no sooner was this divine voice heard to pronounce in favor of Rabbi Eliezir, than Rabbi Josua protested, saying: ‘It is not mysterious voices, it is the majority of the sages, who should henceforth decide questions of doctrine. Reason is no longer hidden away in heaven, the Law is no longer in heaven; it has been given to the earth, and it is for human reason to understand and explain it.'
Moreover, implicit in Judaism, is a sentiment, quite different from the resignation of Christianity and of Mohammedanism, that the joy and satisfaction which are the birthright of every man who keeps the Law should be forthcoming, not in some future existence, but here on earth. Even after they have forsworn their religion completely, a tendency has been remarked among the Jews to cling to the idea, not only that all men are entitled to be happy even in this life, but that all men are equal before God, and that none can be held responsible save to his own mind and conscience. A poor man, imbued with this spirit, and looking about him upon the present world, is inevitably exposed to the temptation of becoming a malcontent, or even an agitator. More important, however, than this vague traditional predilection for revolutionary doctrines is the fact that the Jewish people, for more than twenty centuries, has been cosmopolitan, bound to no country and to no lasting patriotism save that of Israel. It is no more than natural that the emancipation should have left a large number of them internationalists, in the literal sense of the word. If it were not for this cosmopolitan character of the people as a whole, the revolutionary proclivities of a few individuals would perhaps have passed almost unnoticed. Once more, we are brought face to face with the conclusion that the Jewish problem is, above all, a problem of assimilation.
The belief that the Jews are involved in a definite conspiracy for world-revolution arose at the time of the French Revolution, simultaneously with the emancipation of the French Jews by the Constituent Assembly. An intimate relation between the Kabbala and Freemasonry had long been suspected; and now the Catholic Royalists were able to remark that not a few Jews seemed to be active members of the various lodges— Masons, Illuminists, Rosicrucians, Martinists—in whose secret conclaves the revolution was supposed to have been planned. The influence of Jewish agitators was again remarked in the uprisings of 1830 and 1848.
But the great reproach that European conservatives hold against the sons of Israel is that Karl Marx and Ferdinand Lassalle, the founders of modern Socialism, were both of Jewish origin. ‘This descendant of a line of rabbis and doctors,’ writes Lazare, of Marx, ‘inherited all the force of logic of his ancestors; he was a clear-headed and lucid Talmudist . . . a Talmudist who went in for sociology, and who applied his native qualities of exegesis to a critique of political economy. He was animated by the old Hebraic materialism, which dreamed perpetually of an earthly paradise ... he was also a rebel, an agitator, a bitter polemist, and he got his gift of sarcasm and invective from the same Jewish sources as Heine.’
The famous Manifesto of 1847 was drawn up jointly by Marx and Engels. The meeting of 1864, which founded the Internationale, was inspired by Marx; and in the general council, Karl Marx was secretary for Germany and Russia, and James Cohen was secretary for Denmark.
The work of Jewish agitators in the Paris Commune was the subject of much comment. Among the leaders of modern Socialism were not only Marx and Lassalle in Germany, but the Jews Adler and Libermann in Austria, and Dobrojanu Gherea in Roumania; while the rôle of the Russian Jews in the recent Russian Revolution is known to everyone. All these facts have tended to keep alive the old yarn of a Jewish ' world-conspiracy.'
Exact statistics are, of course, unavailable; but there are supposed to be in the world, at the present time, from twelve to fourteen million Jews, of whom about a fourth are in the United States, a fourth scattered in various countries, east, west, north, and south, while the remaining half are concentrated in Eastern Europe, or, more specifically, in Poland, Bessarabia, and the Ukraine. Poland alone is believed to have four or five million Jews, and thus becomes by far the greatest Jewish state of the day. It is precisely in Eastern Europe, moreover, that the Jewish nationality is to be observed in its purest form, for here there is scarcely so much as the beginning of even a political assimilation; though indigenous for centuries, the children of Israel still form a large and entirely distinct foreign minority. The fact that, in Eastern Europe, religion and nationality — as in mediæval times throughout the whole of Europe — are still regarded as practically inseparable, is not a sufficient explanation of this phenomenon. The restrictive measures of the prevailing governments have merely served to accentuate a distinction ardently desired by the Jews themselves, whose devotion to both the civil and religious aspects of the Jewish Law is here as fervent as it is complete. The net result is that the typical Polish Jew, like the Lithuanian, Bessarabian, and Ukrainian Jew, is a being absolutely apart from his Christian neighbors. The reader should peruse, in this connection, the remarkably intimate and sympathetic studies of Jewish life recently published in Paris by Jean and Jérôme Tharaud, which will unveil to his occidental vision a world undreamed of. When to these vivid distinctions are added the economic and racial differences, which have already been described in discussing the more or less assimilated Western European Jews, it is difficult to find a single remaining trait wherein the Eastern Jews may be said to resemble the Christian Pole, Lithuanian, Russian, or Roumanian. Those who have not seen this community cleavage for themselves can scarcely imagine how thorough it is, or what profound antipathy it instinctively engenders.
So much having been said, a specific explanation of the present revival of anti-Semitism is almost superfluous. In Russia the majority of Jews, for obvious reasons, have rallied to the Soviet government, thus exciting against themselves the always latent hatred of the anti-Bolshevist parties. The Jews of Poland and Roumania, being regarded, not altogether without reason, as foreigners inclining to sympathize with the enemy (Soviet Russia), are subjected to all the consequences that a similar situation provoked in America, during the war, between Americans and Germans. As for the half-assimilated Jews of Hungary, they earned the lasting enmity of the peasants and the administrative caste by flocking in far too considerable numbers to the disastrous red banner of Bela Kun, in the spring of 1919, In Czechoslovakia, the Jews are subjected to the hatred of the otherwise fairly liberal Czechs, because they are suspected of being pro-German and, in general, anti-Slav.
Coming now to the more prosperous and more completely assimilated Jews of Western Europe and America, one easily perceives that the feeling against the poor ones is an outgrowth of the fear of Bolshevism, while the feeling against the rich ones is a part of the general post-war clamor against profiteers — the feeling in both cases being greatly intensified by the popular nationalistic suspicion that the Jews are willfully resisting assimilation.
We are thus, in the end, brought squarely back again to the surmise from which we started, namely, that the Jewish question is, above all, political, and may indeed be reduced to this one inquiry: Is it, or is it not, possible to assimilate the Jews? If it is, time, and liberal measures, will suffice; if it is not, then, so long as nations continue to be nations, and to abhor the presence within themselves of indigestible foreign bodies, there is seemingly no solution.
Some anti-Semites have gone so far as to assert that, the Jews being essentially a race apart, assimilation is neither possible nor desirable. From this view, I differ completely. In the first place, the Jews are not essentially a race apart. Ethnology has long since established that there is no such thing as a ‘ pure race.’ Leaving aside the pertinent inquiry as to whether or not the twelve tribes were themselves racially pure, it is clear that, from the time of the dispersion down to about the sixteenth century, the Jews were exceedingly active in proselytizing, and made many converts in Europe and the Near East. There are at present white Jews in India, black Jews in Cochin-China, and yellow Jews in China proper, to say nothing of the two great disparate branches of the European Jewish family, — the Sephardic and the Ashkenazic, — the one speaking Spanish, the other Yiddish; the one black-haired, ihe other predominantly sandy; the one said to be dolichocephalic, the other brachycephalic. And if, on the one hand, the modern Jew is indubitably of conglomerate origin, on the other, he has sown his blood profoundly through other races, notably in Spain, where the conversions of Jews to Christianity were so numerous, that there is now said to be scarcely a family free from the Jewish strain. The assimilation of the Jews by intermarriage has made noticeable progress also in France, England, Germany, America, and even Hungary.
Obviously, therefore the possibility of assimilating at least some of the Jews is beyond challenge. Indeed, there is no reason to suppose that a mixture of the so-called Aryan and Semitic races gives a result which is other than excellent in any respect. If the Jews have not heretofore been absorbed more rapidly, the causes are rather religious, social, and political than racial.
How can it reasonably be said, moreover, that this mixture is not desirable? The Jews are one of the most remarkably gifted peoples of all time. They have, it is true, the defects of their qualities, but in this they are by no means unique. The Jews are, in fact, generally speaking, sober, adaptable, industrious, and intelligent. For centuries cut off from most forms of handicraft and manual labor, they have been exercising their minds in study and trade. Their achievements in art, letters, and particularly in science and philosophy, if not preëminent, are at least notable. Why any nation should scorn to absorb an element so endowed is difficult to understand.
There is a class of Western Jews, however, who, while approving the theory of assimilation in the abstract, give to the word a meaning quite different from that generally accepted. In the minds of these Jews, it would be a calamity if Israel, by intermarrying with other nationalities, should lose its distinctive character. They assert, therefore, that it is entirely possible for the Jews to remain Jews in every sense of the word, and at the same time become good Germans or Britons, or Frenchmen, or Americans, as the case may be. Roman Catholics, they argue, are forbidden to intermarry with Protestants; why must the Jews be expected to intermarry with peoples of other religions?
But there is in this otherwise fairseeming comparison a slight misconception. If Israel were merely a religion, then, when a Jew ceased to observe the forms of this religion, he would cease to be a Jew. But Israel is not merely a religion, but a nationality as well. The problem of assimilation is not a religious but a political problem; and to shift it arbitrarily to the religious ground is to distort it from its true relations. If the reply be made that the orthodox Jews are absolutely forbidden to marry outside of Israel, I would rejoin merely that this fails to explain why so many unorthodox Jews also hold in horror the idea of marrying Gentiles.
In the present day of intense nationalism, when the forces of interior cohesion are engaged in a silent and bitter struggle with the forces of international dissolution, the Jews, who by their history have become a cosmopolitan race in everything except their devotion to Israel, must make a choice. They cannot give political allegiance to two banners, even though this double allegiance be defended in the name of religion. The official anti-Semitism of some Eastern European countries of course makes assimilation impossible; but in Western states, where the Jews enjoy the same privileges with everyone else, they must expect to give in return the same undivided loyalty.
This is particularly true in America, who is now being asked to accord her hospitality to thousands upon thousands of Israelites, whose emigration from Eastern Europe is being encouraged by every possible means. Overburdened already with German-Americans whose hearts are in Germany, with Irish-Americans whose hearts are in Ireland, and with numerous other varieties of half-digested foreigners, she would like to be able to count at least on the full allegiance of her Jewish citizens, whose record in the war was excellent, and to feel that, however much they may be drawn by a fellow sentiment with distant coreligionists, their hearts, nevertheless, have been definitely surrendered to the land of their election, even to the point — when no imperious religious reasons intervene — of accepting the idea of marriage with non-Jewish fellow citizens.
I myself have great faith in the loyalty of the vast majority of American Jews. To those few who sincerely scruple to give to America, or to any other Gentile state, their single allegiance, a more generous welcome would doubtless be extended in the ports of Palestine, under the flag of Israel itself, than in the gateways of the war-worn Western world.
- Their first real specialty was that of slavedealers, in which they were greatly encouraged both by Charlemagne and by the Caliphs.— THE AUTHOR.↩