Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to Destroy the Jewish Community

Today my Modern Jewish History students take their midterm exam. I wish them all best of luck. For an essay I have offered them the following question:

You have been hired by the new People's Democratic Multicultural Party of Tolerance government to construct a plan to destroy the Jewish community. As a civilized country we are only willing to engage in very moderate levels of violence and prefer that Jews simply assimilate out of their own free will. Based on what we have learned in class, what would you advise? Please give specific examples to your superiors who may not be as well versed in Jewish history as you are.

I throw open the question to member of classroom Izgad. How would you go about destroying Judaism?


Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Easy. Transplant the Jewish community to a place where there is no anti-Semitism. Allow for full and friendly interaction with the surrounding society. Allow no influx of religious Jews from the outside. Wait two to three generations for complete assimilation. Done.

For historical reference, see: China, Jewish community there.

Alternate answer: if said community is in Israel, convince surrounding Arab populations to be friendly with Jews after a comprehensive and well-kept peace agreement. Wait one generation for Jews to turn on each other and wipe one another out.

For historical reference: Oslo

Clarissa said...

Wow, it's great to see that some professors are unafraid to ask such strong, provocative questions. Good for you.

To answer the question, in spite of the China example from the prevoius commenter, I don't think the suggested strategy is going to work. Of course, we also need to establish what we mean by a complete assimilation. Then, we need to reach an agreement on what it means to be Jewish.

the only effective policy would be to abandon all kinds of collective identity building in the given society. And there is no society right now even remotely close to doing that.

Garnel Ironheart said...

I don't agree with that comment.

It seems to me that it doesn't matter what it means to be Jewish. The adjective today is essentially meaningless since anyone can claim it regardless of any authentic ties to the actual Nation of Israel. For example, in most demographic surveys there is a group called "cultural Jews" who out and out are not Jewish but feel an affinity with the Jewish people and therefore consider themselves Jewish. Then there are those who claim to be Jewish through patrilineal descent and the always thorny "Who is a convert" issue.

For me, here's the bottom line: if you surround any group of Jews with an attractive secular culture and remove the fear of anti-Semitism, then you will rapidly assimilate them into the mainstream culture. For unattached Jews it will happen immediately. Amongst the frummies, those who care will leave for a larger Jewish community and those who stay will take 2-3 generations to disappear but it will happen.

Yes, most of those who disappear will still tick off the "Jewish" box on statistic forms but practically speaking in daily life there will be nothing to distinguish them from the outside population.

Izgad said...


I recognize that the term “Jewish community” is wide open (Is it a nationality or a religion?) and is in many respects an artificial construction. Recently there has been a major controversy over Professor Sand arguing that the Jewish nation is a modern invention. All groups are artificial constructions, created in time. Some are more artificial than others. As a historian I have the out to simply look at how these manufactured concepts have been used at different times and can ignore issues of ultimate validity. Historical figures like Napoleon and Stalin talked about Jews and what to do about them. They meant something by this and it is my job to understand what they meant on their terms.

Miss S. said...

Well since your question is posed in a history class, I assume you wish to have your students point to an historical example in order to back up their approach. I am not a history buff, but the scenario that immediately came to mind is that of the Native Americans. Very swiftly they were overcome not only physically, but they were given the message that was very clear to say that their culture and people hood was inferior to that of their European invaders. Of course they were mostly exposed to Europeans who yielded much power; the average Native American had no knowledge of the festering existence of many European masses back in Europe.

If you successfully ingrain into the psyche of people that they are inherently inferior, then you will not need to work so hard to eradicate them. They will cease to fight for their own self-preservation.

amz said...

Your framing of the question -- with the enemy of the Jewish community clearly politically left -- is problematic. Unless you intended that. Which would be more problematic.

Izgad said...


I was playing off something my own high school teacher taught me. The more liberal sounding names an institution has the less liberal it probably is; for example the People’s Republic of China.

The sorts of societies that have been very effective at bringing about Jewish assimilation have been the “sort of but not exactly liberal” ones. The Enlightenment, particularly in Germany, was for more effective at sending Jews to the baptismal fonts than the medieval Church ever was.

Mikewind Dale (Michael Makovi) said...

Garnel Lionheart's approach is interesting. We could also adduce the Reformers as being a historical example.

And just for the record, the China example is incomplete: in Cochin, there was also a marked lack of anti-semitism, but the Jewish community lasted 2000 years without assimilation, because the Hindus saw Jewish religiosity and ritual observance as a mark of distinction and something to be respected. But I suppose that if the People's Democratic Multicultural Party of Tolerance wants to wipe out the Jewish community, we don't have to fear their respecting Jewish rituals as a mark of high culture.

My own, approach, however, would be a Soviet one: just ban all Torah study, and replace it with hardcore indoctrination in the schools. (Note also the wave of conversion to Christianity by young women in Cracow. No Torah + secular learning = conversion like crazy.) No violence, just a heavy-handed "Big Brother" approach. No Jewish books, nothing. But if the Jews want to emigrate, let them. If the goal is only to destroy the Jewish community, then the People's Democratic Multicultural Party of Tolerance won't mind if the Jewish community simply moves somewhere else. But if the goal is to actual destroy Judaism per se, then you'll have to limit emigration as well.