Identity, Politics

Hillel Leaders: It's Not About Anti-Semitism

The Chronicle reports that some Hillel leaders aren’t so interested in bitching about anti-Semitism:

“The troubling question for me,” said Chaim Seidler-Feller, executive director of the Hillel chapter at the University of California at Los Angeles, is, “‘Why can’t we hear the good news? Why are many Jews hysterical?’ We seem to be junkies for anti-Semitism.”
“Our Jewish knowledge is quite meager,” he continued. “Our positive experiences are so rare that we rely on anti-Semitism to sustain our Jewishness.”
He acknowledged that anti-Semitism does exist on campuses but reminded the 40 or so people who attended this session in a hotel conference room here that campuses are experiencing a “golden age” of Jewishness, with a significant number of Hillel chapters, university presidents and professors who are not only Jewish but identify themselves as such, and a plethora of Jewish periodicals and books published by university presses. Jewish intellectual activity, he said, is “celebrated and embraced.”

More.

6 thoughts on “Hillel Leaders: It's Not About Anti-Semitism

  1. Anti-Semitism sells. Diaspora Jews are only Jewish due to antisemitism. Diaspora Jews would happily assimiliate more except for antisemitism. Hence they don’t want kosher food or spirited davening or Jewish philosophy or whatever. They want to be secular Diaspora people with an affinity for bagels. However, anti-Semites remind them that they are Jewish and its the only way for these people to hold on to their weak ethnic identity.
    That said I agree with C. S-F.

  2. “Diaspora Jews would happily assimiliate more except for antisemitism…However, anti-Semites remind them that they are Jewish and its the only way for these people to hold on to their weak ethnic identity.”
    How would you explain the 19th century Jewish radical socialist immigrant milieu in the U.S.? These Jews did not daven but they organized unions and other organizations as Jews, wrote articles in Yiddish in radical Jewish newspapers as Jews, and developed their forms of socialism and anarchism as Jews. Anti-Semitism alone doesn’t account for their attachment to Jewish ethnic identity nor does it explain their high level of creativity.
    I also suggest having a look at some old issues of the “Menorah Journal” which, while not explicitly radical, did promote a diverse and inclusive notion of Jewish identity. There is a lot of discussion of Jewish ethnicity, and the concept of ethnicity in general, in those old journals that is fascinating.
    Andrea Pappas writes:
    “[T]he magazine dedicated itself to the pursuit of a modern Jewish identity and consequently went beyond a narrowly religious definition for Jewishness. This was one way for the magazine to respond to the spectrum of observance (or non-observance) among its audience. Similarly, images of Jewish neighborhoods and supposedly “Jewish looking” individuals—Manè-Katz’s Hassidic Portraits are a good example—published in Menorah Journal shaped Jewishness more broadly: as a form of ethnicity, moving away from “race” and all that it entailed.”
    Although the politics of the two magazines are very different, the “Menorah Journal” paved the way for “Commentary.” Elliot E. Cohen, the first editor of “Commentary” started as an associate editor with the “Journal” in the 1920s.

  3. “Anti-Semitism sells. Diaspora Jews are only Jewish due to antisemitism…However, anti-Semites remind them that they are Jewish and its the only way for these people to hold on to their weak ethnic identity.”
    How can this perspective explain the radical Jewish immigrant milieu in the nineteenth century U.S.? These Jews did not daven but they formed unions and created organizations as Jews, wrote articles in Jewish radical newspapers as Jews, and forged radical critiques of capitalism as Jews. Anti-Semitism alone can’t account for this level of ethnic identity and creativity.

  4. All parts of the Jewish people have a role. For some, this is an overt self aware mission; for others, they are so undercover they deny it themselves. Secular Jews who need anti-Semitism to stay Jewish don’t really need anti-Semitism. They need connection and a sense of identity. And there are better ways to go about it that focusing on the negatives.
    Go Chaim!

  5. Hey Amechad how about you piss off all the religious Jews living in the Diaspora with your crap about how all we want is to completely secularize. I keep Kosher, and I certainly daven spiritedly. So you don’t like us why? Because we eat bagels instead of Falafel? Maybe I should eat Lobster? or maybe a nice ham and cheese sandwich, i might get a funny look with a kippah but whatever, the funny looks are the only reason Im jewish anyway. Weak ethnic identity… perhaps ours is stronger to live every day next door to christians and still identify with Judaism, you keep the muslims at arms length, and you still eat Shawarma, which is Arab is it not? At least Jews invented bagels, and by the way, the word is Yiddish.
    So how bout you lay off the diaspora bashing, we do a lot for you over there, the least you could do is not trash on us.
    Sorry… you hit my pet peeve. All that said I love Israel, and support it whole-heartedly. read my other posts. And I agree with CSF too, you merely crossed the line by not leaving room for anyone that doesn’t fit your perceived norm.

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