by the Jewish author Maurice Samuel
I The Question
“Wherever the Jew is found he is a problem, a source of unhappiness to himself and to those around him. Ever since he has been scattered in your midst he has had to maintain a continuous struggle for the conservation of his identity.” (p. 10).
“Years of observation and thought have given increasing strength to the belief that we Jews stand apart from you gentiles, that a primal duality breaks the humanity I know into two distinct parts; that this duality is a fundamental, and that all differences among you gentiles are trivialities compared with that which divided all of you from us.” (p. 12).
“You may even have Jews in your midst who did not learn their way of life from us, and did not inherit it from a Jewish forebear. We may have authentic gentiles in our midst: these single protests are of no account; they are extreme and irrelevant variations.” (p. 21).
“I do not believe that the primal difference between gentile and Jew is reconcilable. You and we may come to an understanding, never to a reconciliation. There will be irritation between us as long as we are in intimate contact. For nature and constitution and vision divide us from all of you forever – not a mere conviction, not a mere language, not a mere difference of national or religious allegiance.” (p. 23-24).
“You have your way of life, we ours. In your system of life we are essentially without ‘honor’. In our system of life you are essentially without morality. In your system of life we must forever appear graceless; to us you must forever appear godless.” (p. 34).
“We belong to the One mastering God: you belong to the republic of playful gods. ” (p. 36).
“These are two ways of life, each utterly alien to the other. Each has its place in the world – but they cannot flourish in the same soil, they cannot remain in contact without antagonism. Though to life itself each way is a perfect utterance, to each other they are enemies.” (p. 36-37)
“THE most amazing thing in your life, the most in contrast with ours, is its sport. By this I do not mean simply your fondness for physical exercise, your physical exuberance, but the psychological and social institutionalization of sport, its organization, its predominant rôle as the outlet and expression of your spiritual energies.” (p. 38)
“Your spirit is sport: particularly your young men, who are not yet absorbed in the struggle for existence, and whose emotions are therefore for the largest part free, must find in sport, in games, in contests, the most satisfactory expression of their instincts.” (p. 40)
“The contention of the majority of your educators, that the moral instinct is trained on the football and baseball field, in boxing, rowing, wrestling and other contests, is a true one, is truer, perhaps, than most of them realize. Your ideal morality is a sporting morality. The intense discipline of the game, the spirit of fair play, the qualities of endurance, of good humor, of conventionalized seriousness in effort, of loyalty, of struggle without malice or bitterness, of readiness to forget like a sport – all these are brought out in their sheerest and cleanest starkness in well-organized and closely regulated college sports. And on the experiences and lessons which these sports imply your entire spiritual life is inevitably founded.” (p. 42)
“Sport is for you a serious spiritual matter. It is the proper symbolization, the perfect ritual, wherein your spiritual forces, finding expression, also find exercise and sustenance.” (p. 43)
“Our Jewishness is not a creed, it is ourself, our totality. Indeed, it may be fairly said that the surest evidence of your lack of seriousness in religion is the fact that your religions are not national, that you are not compromised and dedicated, en masse, to the faith.” (p. 73).
“But in the Jew, nation and people and faculties and culture and God are all one. We do not say: ‘I am a Jew’, meaning, ‘I am a member of this nationality’: the feeling in the Jew, even in the free-thinking Jew like myself, is that to be one with his people is to be thereby admitted to the power of enjoying the infinite. I might say, of ourselves: ‘We and God grew up together’.” (p. 74).
“You have had patron or appropriated gods: we have a national God. In the heart of any pious Jew, God is a Jew. Is your God an Englishman or an American?
There is no real contradiction between this confessed anthropomorphism and my claim that we Jews alone understand and feel the universality of God. In anthropomorphism we merely symbolize God: we reduce the infinite, temporarily, to tangible proportions: we make it accessible to daily reference. ” (p. 75).
“We are not free to choose and to reject, to play, to construct, to refine. We are a dedicated and enslaved people, predestined to an unchangeable relationship. Freedom at large was not and is not a Jewish ideal. Service, love consecration, these are ideals with us. Freedom means nothing to us: freedom to do what?” (p. 88)
“For us the end is ecstatic unity, the identification of man with God. Your ideal is eternal youth, ours lifts toward an unchanging climax of adult perfection. You would like to play with your gods forever: we will return to God, to the universe. Yours is a sunlit afternoon, with the combatants swaying forever in a joyous struggle. Ours is a whole world, with the spirit of God poured through all things.
Your Ideal is Plato’s Republic: ours is God’s kingdom.” (p. 89-90)
“For your system of morality is no less a need to you than ours to us. And the incompatibility of the two systems is not passive. You might say: ‘Well, let us exist side by side and tolerate each other. We will not attack your morality, nor you ours.’ But the misfortune is that the two are not merely different. They are opposed in mortal, though tacit, enmity. No man can accept both, or, accepting either, do otherwise than despise the other.” (p. 95-96)
“In the colleges, in the street, in the army, we betray ourselves. Indeed, your very breaches of discipline differ from ours by a certain conscious rebelliousness which is partly homage: our breaches of discipline are off-hand, unconscious, insolent.” (p. 110)
“The fact is, of course, that in true discipline, en effectiveness, we are by no means your inferiors. No one would dream of asserting that our religion is not more effective than yours in compelling obedience, or in perpetuating itself. The mere fact that we have persisted for eighty generations in maintaining a racial and spiritual identity in the face of so much persecution (and, more significant, of so much infiltration of blood) bespeaks essential discipline of amazing rigor and power. [...] Yet I have no doubt that when Germany and England and America will long have lost their present identity or purpose, we shall still be strong in ours.” (p. 111).
“I say, therefore, that in the conflict between us you have fought us physically, while our attack on your world has been in the spiritual field. It is the nature of the gentile to fight for his honor, in the nature of the Jew to suffer for this. [...] And so, since we have lived among you, you have instinctively appealed to brute force in combating our influence.” (p. 128)
“We are a disturbing influence in your life not through our own fault. First: we are not in your midst by our own will, but through your action; and second (which is more to the point): we do not attack you deliberately. We are unwelcome to you because we are what we are. It is our own positive way of life which clashes with yours. Our attack on you is only incidental to the expression of our way of life. You too have this field open to you. As surely as we are a spiritual discomfort to you, you are a spiritual discomfort to us: as surely as we attack you peacefully, so you waste us peacefully and weaken our numbers.” (p. 129-130)
“I have already said, anticipating this objection, that there is the same difference between the Jewish atheist and the gentile atheist as between the orthodox Jew and the believing gentile: I have said or implied that the religion itself is but practical expression of the difference between us, not the cause of it. It is true that the expression of a view serves to strengthen it, as the exercise of a faculty serves to develop it. But expression does not create a view nor exercise a faculty. Even conscious adherence to the Jewish people is but partial expression of our Jewishness: it was not the conscious desire to remain a people which gave us the will to endure: it was our unavoidable commonalty of feeling which made us and continued us a people.” (p. 136-137)
“Repudiation of the Jewish religion or even of Jewish racial affiliation does not alter the Jew. Some of us Jews may delude ourselves as some of you gentiles do. But in effect modernization seems to have done nothing to decrease the friction between us. The dislike continues: and though your masses may not know why they dislike us, there must be a sufficient reason: it is Germany, the mother of the modernized Jew, that gave birth, with him, to modern anti-Semitism. Where the old ostensible reasons for disliking the Jew collapsed, new ones, more self-conscious, were substituted. When modernization removed the old, superstitious form of expression, the professor replaced the priest, science religion. We are disliked on ‘scientific’ grounds, as we were disliked on ‘religious’ reasons were rationalizations. The true reasons underlay these analyses.” (p. 137-138)
“We fail to be gentiles.” (p. 140)
“Our best work has been the old, true work of our people – fundamental and serious examination of the problems of man’s relation to God and humanity. In the arts we have been second-rate, third-rate. While in the moral effort we have exceeded any living race and have produced an overwhelming number of revolutionaries and socialists and iconoclasts of the true prophetic type, we have, in science, belles-lettres and the plastic arts been a thoroughly minor people.” (p. 141)
“We have joined your capitalistic world in deliberate emulation and rivalry: yet Jewish socialism and Jewish socialists are the banner bearers of the world’s ‘armies of liberation’.” (p. 142)
”We modern Jews of the Western world are in this fundamentally different from you. The occasional in you (revolution against the Game) is the dominant in us. Your instinct is truer than you know. The dislike of your modern world for the modern Jews is as relevant as the dislike of your for the orthodox Jew.” (p. 142-143)
“IF anything, you must learn (and are learning) to dislike the modern and ‘assimilated’ Jew, for he is more dangerous to you. At least the old Jew kept apart from you, was easily recognizable as an individual, as the bearer of the dreaded Jewish world-idea: you were afraid of him and loathed him. But to a large extent he was insulated. But as the Jew assimilates, acquires your languages, cultivates a certain intimacy, penetrates into your life, begins to handle your instruments, you are aware that his nature, once confined safely to his own life, now threatens yours. You are aware of a new and more than disconcerting character at work in the world you have built and are building up, a character which crosses your intentions and thwarts your personality.” (p. 144-145)
“The Jew, whose lack of contact with your world had made him ineffective, becomes effective. The vial is uncorked, the genius is out. His enmity to your way of life was tacit before. To-day it is manifest and active. He cannot help himself: he cannot be different from himself: no more can you. It is futile to tell him: ‘Hands off!’ He is not his own master, but the servant of his lifewill.” (p.145)
“For when he [the Jew] brings into your world his passionately earnest, sinisterly earnest righteousness, absolute righteousness, and, speaking in your languages and through your institutions, scatters distrust of yourselves through the most sensitive of you, he is working against your spirit.” (p. 145)
“I do not believe that we Jews are powerful enough to threaten your way of life seriously. We are only powerful enough to irritate, to disturb your conscience, and to break here and there the rhythmic rush of your ideas. We irritate you as a sardonic and humorless adult irritates young people by laughing at their play. For the real irritation lies in the fact that to our queries regarding your life there is no answer on our level: as to yours regarding our life there is no answer on yours.” (p. 146)
“We Jews are accused of being destroyers: whatever you put up, we tear down. It is true only in a relative sense. We are not iconoclasts deliberately: we are not enemies of your institutions simply because of the dislike between us. We are a homeless mass seeking satisfaction for our constructive instincts. And in your institutions we cannot find satisfaction; they are the play institutions of the splendid children of man – and not of man himself. We try to adapt your institutions to our needs, because while we live we must have expression; and trying to rebuild them for our needs, we unbuild them for yours.” (p. 146-147)
“Because your chief institution is the social structure itself, it is in this that we are most manifestly destroyers.” (p. 147)
“Dislike of the Jew in business springs from the feeling that we regard all your play-conventions with amusement – or even with contempt. Our abominable seriousness breaks jarringly into your life-mood. But you feel our disruptive difference most keenly, most resentfully, in our deliberate efforts to change your social system. We dream of a world of utter justice and God-spirit, a whole world which would be barren for you, devoid of all nourishment, bleak, unfriendly, unsympathetic. You do not want such a world: you are unapt for it. Seen in the dazzling lights of your desires and needs our ideal is repellently morose.” (p. 148-149)
“We do wrong to thrust these ideals upon you, who are not for justice or peace, but for play-living. But we cannot help ourselves: any more than you can help resenting our interference. While we live we must give utterance to our spirit. The most insistent effort on our part will fail to change our nature.” (p. 149)
“He [the Jew] is a citizen of the world; he is a son of humanity; the progress of all humankind, and not of only of any single group of it, is in his particular care.” (p. 150)
“The unbelieving and radical Jew is as different from the radical gentile as the orthodox Jew from the reactionary gentile. The cosmopolitanism of the radical Jew springs from his feeling (shared by the orthodox Jew) that there is no difference between gentile and gentile. You are all pretty much alike: then why this fussing and fretting and fighting? The Jew is not a cosmopolitan in your sense.” (p. 150)
“He is not one who feels keenly the difference between national and nation, and overrides it. For him, as for the orthodox Jew, a single temper runs through all of you, whatever your national divisions. The radical Jew (like the orthodox Jew) is a cosmopolitan in a sense which must be irritating to you: for he does not even understand why you make such a fuss about that most obvious of facts – that you are all alike. The Jew is altogether too much of a cosmopolitan – even for your internationalists.” (p. 151)
“Nor in the handful of you who, against the desires and instincts of the mass of you, proclaim social justice as the life aim, is the Jew any more truly at home, at one with his milieu, than the old-time Jew in his world. Our [Jews’] very radicalism is of a different temper. Our spur is a natural instinct. We do not have to uproot something in ourselves to become ‘radicals’, dreamers of social justice. We are this by instinct: we do not see it as something revolutionary at all. It is tacit with us. But with you it is an effort and a wrench. Your very ancestry cries out against it in your blood... And you become silly and enthusiastic about it, with flag-waving, and shouting, and battle-hymns, and all the regular game-psychology proper to your world and way of life. Even of this you make a play.” (p. 151-152)
“But such as these radical and international movements are, the modern Jew (the best and most thoughtful modern Jew, that is) is nearer to them than to anything else in your world. He is the only true socialist and cosmopolitan – but in such a true and tacit sense that he is completely distinguished from all of you. It is one of many vital paradoxes – a thing illogical and yet true to life. It is our very cosmopolitanism that gives us our national character. Because we are the only ones who are cosmopolitan by instinct rather than by argument we remain forever ourselves.” (p. 152)
“In everything we are destroyers – even in the instruments of destruction to which we turn for relief. The very socialism and internationalism through which our choked spirit seeks utterance, which seem to threaten your way of life, are alien to our spirit’s demands and needs. Your socialists and internationalists are not serious. The charm of these movements, the attraction, such as it is, which they exercise, is only in their struggle: it is the fight which draws your gentile radicals. And indeed, it is only as long as there is an element of adventure in being a radical that the radical movement retains any individuality. And it is only in the fierce period of early combat that you welcome us Jews – as allies. You are deluded in this – so are we. You go into the movement boldly, adventurously; we darkly, tacitly. You make it a game; we do it because we cannot help ourselves. And sure enough, in the end, the split comes again. The liberal and the radical are as apt to dislike the Jew as the reactionaries are. The liberal and the radical do not use the weapons of the reactionaries: but the dislike is there, finds expression in anti-Semitic socialist and workers’ movements and in the almost involuntary contempt which springs to the lips of countless intellectuals.” (p. 152-154)
“Philosophies do not remold natures. What your radicals want is another form of the Game, with other rules. Their discontent joins hands with Jewish discontent. But it is not the same kind of discontent. A little distance down the road the ways part for ever. The Jewish radical will turn from your social movement: he will discover his mistake he will discover that nothing can bridge the gulf between you and us. He will discover that the spiritual satisfaction which he thought he would find in social revolution is not to be purchased from you. I believe the movement has already started, the gradual secession of the Jewish radicals, their realization that your radicalism is of the same essential stuff as your conservatism. The disillusionment has set in.” (p. 154)
“A century of partial tolerance gave us Jews access to your world. In that period the great attempt was made, by advance guards of reconciliation, to bring our two worlds together. It was a century of failure. Our Jewish radicals are beginning to understand it dimly.”(p. 154-155)
“We Jews, we, the destroyers, will remain the destroyers for ever. Nothing that you do will meet our needs and demands. We will for ever destroy because we need a world of our own, a God-world, which it is not in your nature to build. Beyond all temporary alliances with this or that faction lies the ultimate split in nature and destiny, the enmity between the Game and God. But those of us who fail to understand that truth will always be found in alliance with your rebellious factions, until disillusionment comes. The wretched fate which scattered us through your midst has thrust this unwelcome rôle upon us.” (p. 155)
“The nature of things cannot be solved because we partake of that nature. We can never get round ourselves: we can only turn round. Your world spins in a joyous illusion of progress; we, untouched by that illusion, destructive of your mood, stand aside, static, serious. We will be satisfied with nothing but the absolute.” (p. 186-187)
“Does the situation which I have described constitute a problem? Or is it merely one of the insoluble difficulties of life which, being insoluble, should be understood as such and suffered tacitly? Death is not a problem, being inevitable. Is this struggle between our two worlds as inevitable? Shall we resign ourselves to the struggle and do what we can to mitigate its worst effects, or shall we continue the search for a complete solution?
The one solution which is generally offered as complete and satisfactory, is quite apart from its feasibility, not a solution at all: only a dissolution. The disappearance of the Jewish people by complete submergence in the surrounding world would not, in reality, solve the problem; any more than one solves a chess problem by burning chess-board and figures. But it would seem to do the next best thing: it would apparently destroy the situation which creates the problem. The problem, without having been solved, would at any rate cease to exist.” (p. 188-189)
“And by the dissolution of the Jewish people can be meant only one thing – the disappearance of Jewish identity in individuals or amasses, the complete obliteration of Jewish self-consciousness, down to the very name and recollection. When it will be impossible for any man to say of himself, ‘I am a Jew’, or ‘My father or grandfather was a Jew’ this consummation will have been achieved.
There is only one instrument to this end: free and unrestrained intermarriage. This act or fact alone will count. The mere changing of names, the substitution of religious forms, the so-called ‘liberalization’ and ‘modernization’ of Judaism is ineffective: it is a matter of common observation that there is no inverse ratio between the Westernization of the Jew and anti-Semitism. And this very fact will have to be considered again in its relation to the feasibility of this proposal. If we talk of the submergence of the Jew we must not play with words: words alone cannot submerge the Jew. If there is anything in what I have said you cannot make a gentile of a Jew by arguing with him any more than by lynching him. You can make his children half gentile, his grandchildren only a quarter Jewish – and so on till the balance is perfect.” (p. 189-190)
“Will the ‘dissolution of Jewish identity’ by free and prolonged intermarriage resolve the struggle of the two types? Or will the struggle continue in another form, less obvious but equally uncomfortable? Will the struggle center round isolated individuals, recurrent types? Or will the final product be homogeneous and, in relation to this particular struggle, static?”
Both the negative and affirmative answers to this question are unsatisfactory. Suppose, on the one hand, the struggle continues? Suppose the Jewish character persists in strains, breaks out in individual atavisms, long after the Jewish name has perished? The problem will be the same: your world will be confronted with recurrent instances of alien and destructive types, all the more dangerous because they are not isolated in recognized, repudiated group. Their power of destruction will be the greater because they will work from within. The ‘Jewish’ problem will have disappeared, but the gentile problem would remain as bitter as ever.” (p. 193-194)
“Let us examine the negative answer. Suppose there are no ‘reversions of type’. Suppose the Jew is so completely absorbed as to be lost beyond possibility of detection in the surrounding world. Such a consummation, if possible, calls for one inevitable condition; that is, the proportionate Judaization of your world. It is unthinkable that so vivid an element as the Jewish people should be absorbed into your world without producing an appreciable alteration in its constitution. A world that has absorbed the Jews will to that extent be a Jewish world.
And this is precisely the condition which you refuse to admit. You want no tampering with your identity; you want to remain what you are. You have no intention of meeting us at the point of balance. You do not want a world tinged with Jewish blood. You want us to be absorbed in you without leaving a trace. And with the best intentions in the world we cannot oblige. We can, in that sense, no more destroy ourselves than we can destroy a single particle of matter.” (p. 194-195)
“Among yourselves assimilation is problem enough. The birth and death of nations is attended by wars, pains, humiliations. But what you have done a dozen times over in the last four thousand years we have not done once.” (p. 208-209)
“We cannot assimilate: it is so humiliating to us that we become contemptible in submitting to the process: It is so exasperating to you that, even if we were willing to submit, it would avail us nothing.” (p. 209)