Tuesday, August 09, 2016

This Sounds Familiar

Although written over a century ago in October 1901, this imagined dialogue rings quite familiar, no?

As Naomi Cohen writes in her book on the Americanization of Zionism:

"Dr. Max Nordau, Theodor Herzl’s closest disciple and counselor, set forth the problem in the first issue of the Maccabaean. He said that since Zionism required leaders of substance and stature, the culture of the Westerners and their experience with freedom made them ideal candidates. But, he added, it was impossible to reach the Occidental Jew by the use of reason. He imagined a dialogue between the Zionist (Z) and the Westerner (W) that in part went like this:

Z: Zionism is the only means for preserving Judaism.
W: That is the very fault we find with it. We do not want Judaism to be preserved; we want it to disappear.
Z: Zionism guarantees the Jewish race a future and dignity as a nation.
W: Nonsense. There is no Jewish nation; there is only a Jewish religion, and with that we don’t concern ourselves. Our Jewish past and present is enough of an annoyance to us; what should we want with a Jewish future? No, thanks! National dignity? Is the old clothes trade to become an ideal occupation? Is the Jewish singsong to reach the aristocratic distinction of the military snarl? Are the splay foot and the hooked nose to be the models of manly beauty? We don’t believe in such a shifting about of values, and we don’t want to do it. . . .
Z: Zionism makes freemen and citizens of the [Jews].
W: Legally that’s what we already are; and that’s what we shall be socially, as well, when we have completely sloughed our Judaism, or hidden it so skillfully that even the antisemites cannot scent it out.


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