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Not Quite

Dean Esmay talks about how Jews see Christians in this post. He encapsulates it fairly accurately, but the part I have a problem with is here:

On Shabbat after 9/11 (the evening of Friday, September 14th 2001, and the morning of Saturday September 15 2001), in synagogues all across America–Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox–while there was much weeping and praying for the dead, praying for justice, praying for mercy and forgiveness, there was something else:

In synagogues all across America, quietly it was spoken by the rabbis and the other synagogue leaders: “The Christians, they may come for us.”

They did. More than that, they also said:

“They may blame us for this, as they have blamed us for so many things in the past. We should not hate them for it–but we should be ready, and we should prepare for the worst.”

Everywhere in America, the Jews prayed and wept for their countrymen–and clutched their children and readied themselves.

Well, I’m a Jew. My family is Jewish. I have Jewish friends. And I’ll say straight out that my corner of Judaism wasn’t particularly worried that the Christians would come for us (again) after 9/11. The first thought many of us had was, “It finally happened here.” And, to be perfectly honest, this thought could be shortened to, “Goddamn Arabs.” Sounds mean, sounds racist, but you can’t argue with recent history: until that day, suicide attacks had been perpetrated chiefly on Jews by men from Arab countries. Now, America had finally been pulled into the battle in a way that couldn’t be argued away or distanced as something that happened in another country.

To live as a Jew is to live with eyes narrowed, harboring just a slight suspicion that each person you meet may dislike you for the simple fact that you are a Jew. Despite that, I don’t think there’s any serious concern that America, a country that has been a haven for us for decades, would throw us out for any reason, not even after 9/11.

4 comments to Not Quite

  • This makes me wonder how old Dean is, actually. I, too, am Jeiwsh, and I was more suprised than anyone when members of my parents’ generation actually did express fear of rampant anti-semitism in America as backlash for the losses on 9/11. It had never occurred to me until it was brought up, and nothing I said could dissuade these people that it was not likely. Luckily, time proved me right.

  • I’m almost 40.

    No matter: My story is merely anecdotal, and my friend is orthodox. I’m certain that some of the more liberal and modern jews didn’t really think that way. But a lot of them did worry, and did wonder.

  • The fact that these stories are anecdotal proves, well, what actually? The picture painted here is, presumably, a lot of old-fashioned, less-liberal Jews quaking in fear at an anti-semitic backlash after 9/11. How many is “a lot?”

    I didn’t see that, and I know plenty of Jews belonging to the orthodox sect, as well as conservative, reform, and reconstructionist.

  • Joshua

    The thought that there would be a backlash against Jews never entered my head. I imagine Orthodox Jews would feel this way more than any other Jewish denomination. Orthodox Jews are very visible and hence can be easily identified and defined as outsiders in a Christian dominated society. It’s possible that, in the confusion of 9/11′s immediate aftermath, these outsiders felt threatened. It’s theoretically possible that such visible groups would be identified by the religiously and politically ignorant as the causes of American-Islamic Fundamentalist conflict, and in the ensuing confusion would take any precaution necessary and available, including that of saying to the congregation “hey, watch your back out there.” Other denominations can more easily blend into the population, so probably they have less of a persecuted feeling. All of this is 9/11 confusion, and a lot of groups didn’t know what to do with themselves in the immediate aftermath.