The Cool Kids, by Dara Horn
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
We must read history. In history we find lessons applicable to our own days. The history of the Jews is filled with persecution against us because we just wouldn't fit in with the majority. We've always had that stiff-necked insistence on doing things in our own way.
There were exceptions. There have always been Jews who gave up and tried to integrate into the society at-large, who tried to escape Judaism and join "the cool kids."
Of course, Judaism has always been uncool, going back to its origins as the planet’s only monotheism, featuring a bossy and unsexy invisible God. Uncoolness is pretty much Judaism’s brand, which is why cool people find it so threatening—and why Jews who are willing to become cool are absolutely necessary to Hanukkah-style anti-Semitism’s success. In the days of Antiochus, this type of anti-Semitism needed those boys who voluntarily underwent painful genital surgery to prove that Jews weren’t the problem—just the barbarity of Jewish law. During the Soviet era, it needed proud internationalists to prove that Jews weren’t the problem, just the repulsive chauvinism of Jewish national identity—including what we now call Zionism.
The Soviets actually went one better. In 1918, they created an entire branch of their government solely for cool Jews, whose paid job was to persecute the uncool ones. This was called the Yevsektsiya, or the Jewish Sections of the Communist Party, and in their brief and bloody lifespan, one finds the origins of today’s supposedly novel concept: Jews who are of course not anti-Semitic (how could they be? they’re Jews!), but simply anti-Zionist. In the course of not being anti-Semitic and being simply anti-Zionist, the Yevsektsiya managed to persecute, imprison, torture, and murder thousands of Jews, until their leaders were themselves purged.
Yevsektsiya-style anti-Semitism, or Hannukah-style anti-Semitism, always promises Jews a kind of nobility, offering them the opportunity to cleanse themselves of whatever the people around them happen to find revolting. The Jewish traits designated as repulsive vary by country and time period, but they invariably contradict the specific values that the surrounding culture has embraced as “universal.”
The reason for this is clear: There is actually nothing “universal” about those particular values, except the insecurity of the societies hoping to enforce them. Not everyone feels it is critical to a well-lived life to play sports in the nude; not everyone believes that Jesus is the son of God; not everyone agrees that authoritarian central planning is the solution to the world’s ills; not everyone thinks that denouncing one’s ties to an ancestral homeland is a sign of virtue. Jewish particularity exposes the arrogance of a society’s self-righteous leaders along with their profound insecurity, their deep fear of any suggestion that there are other ways to be. Those insecure leaders then enlist the help of Jews by promising them a merit badge of universal righteousness. Thanks to Judaism’s inherent uncoolness, there will never be a shortage of Jews willing to comply.
Yes, read it all. It's worth your time.