In Lucem Gentium: Anecdotal Reflections on Growing Up and Out of the Jewish Ghetto, Part I

Jews and Gentiles…

Blood…

The Sins of the Fathers…

The Holocaust Industry…

*****

For what follows, I make no claim of universal validity. What I have written is just as the title suggests: an irreducibly personal reflection. Since they live in every region of the world, the children of Abraham have grown up in widely varying milieux, undergone different experiences, and arrived at different conclusions. Still, I am persuaded that the modern Jewish pre-dispositions I describe below are normative if not absolutely universal. To the degree that they derive from the archetypes embedded in the Jews’ scriptural hieros logos, this should hardly be surprising.

*****

 

I. To the Manor Born

In our politically correct culture, so completely hobbled as it is by tribalism and racial hypersensitivity, it is only the pure of blood who enjoy the privilege of lively moral accusation. Since the Fifties, Black–if I were racially sensitive I would say “African-American” –comedians have been cracking ruthless jokes about the multiple socio-pathologies that have all but destroyed contemporary urban Black society. Not even liberals can restrain their laughter at Eddie Murphy’s uproarious impersonations of the stock characters of the urban Black underclass: silk-suited pimps, baggy-panted, Nike-shod gangsta-rappers, spaced-out Rastafarians, and primping Cassanovas who are proud of siring a brood of children they have never met. But if you are not a member of the ancestral group, beware. Mention these peculiar anthropological types in any but admiring tones and you will be accused of racial stereotyping, or hauled up before one of Canada’s human rights tribunals for the crime of “hate speech”.

And so, I offer my own endogenous bona fides. I was born to Jewish parents and spent my childhood and adolescence in a conventional subdivision in the northern suburbs of what was then called Metropolitan Toronto. My mother and father were also born in Toronto, but to Polish immigrants who had fled Europe before the First War. Many of my grandparents’ numerous siblings had remained in the Old Country, with the consequence that a good number of my parents’ relations remained unknown to them, having perished in the camps.

The place in which I grew up was, and still is, known as “Bathurst Manor”. I prefer to think that in giving it such an incongruous upper-class English designation, the humour of the Manor’s developers was intentional. A few years after the last driveway had been poured and before the sod had taken root, streets with names such as “Acton”, “Hotspur”, “Hove”, “Brighton”, and “Waterloo” were inhabited almost exclusively by Jews who had emigrated from towns or villages with names like Lodz, Minsk, and Pinsk, or had been born to immigrant parents of the same humble eastern European origins. At about ninety-five percent Jewish, Bathurst Manor was the least “English” and least manorial place you could imagine. In truth, it was a modern treeless ghetto, not unlike the ghettos many of its denizens had fled, except that it was richer, freer, cleaner, safer, and a ghetto entirely of the inmates’ own making.

It was the ethnic homogeneity and suburban blandness – not to mention the architectural and natural turpitude of the place – that made me flee the Manor for a new country of my own. The Jews had told themselves that they had no choice but to live together in separate and ethnically monolithic enclaves. Indeed, they had been forced to do so by the anti-Semitic majority that conspired to exclude them. In Toronto, that meant WASPs, whose ancestors had come from such towns as Hove, Brighton, and Waterloo. Given the standing hostility of my relatives to WASP culture and values, I’ve sometimes wondered whether the Jewish onslaught upon and occupation of the Manor was a subliminal stroke of revenge against the Anglo-Saxon Establishment. Usurping the “lords of the manor” is, after all, very much a part of the Jewish historical narrative, beginning with the expulsion of the indigenous Canaanites and, one might say, continuing more recently with the re-occupation of Palestine.

The sense of being a people excluded was in any case an almost palpable component of Jewish psychology in my neighbourhood. Family lore, as retailed by my uncles, consisted mostly of stories about having been singled out for humiliation at school, of this or that successful Jewish businessman who had been denied admission to this or that club or organization. What’s more, the Gentiles weren’t content with merely banishing Jews to the socio-economic fringes; they habitually pursued them even to the gates of their exile. It was for these reasons, according to my elders, that “we” needed to huddle together in places like the Manor, to protect ourselves from the ever-present threat of racial discrimination and violence from the anti-Semitic hordes.

When I finally passed beyond the battlements of our ethnic fortress and emerged into the big bad Gentile world, I experienced a somewhat different reality from the one I had been schooled to expect. I encountered neither prejudice nor discrimination; indeed, knowing how naturally abrasive my personality could be, even I was a little surprised at the world’s benignity. The worst insult I was able to elicit from a member of the old Ontario guard was that I reminded him of Woody Allen. No doubt Allen himself would have deconstructed this as anti-Semitic “code”. But then Allen’s on-screen persona perfectly epitomizes the sort of racial defensiveness that discomposed so many in the suburban ghetto in which I grew up.

I have never doubted, of course, that anti-Semitism has been a virulent poison throughout history; as I said, there were significant lacunae in my family’s genealogy because of it. But as an anthropologically curious youth in the late Sixties and early Seventies, I could find no empirical evidence of anti-Semitism in anything like the toxic doses against which I had been regularly inoculated by the community elders. On the contrary, all the “Goyim” I met were bending over backwards to demonstrate that they were “not prejudiced”, in the politically correct parlance of the day. The entire world, it seemed, including a generation that hadn’t been born until after the War, was engaged in a solemn dromenon of self-flagellation over what had happened to the Jews in Europe.

 

Lest you think the fears of racial persecution I describe beset only the older generations of Jews, haunted as they were by memories of their own direct encounters with it, let me assure you that they persist to this day amongst my contemporaries. In 1970, when I finished high school, most of my friends from the Manor chose to go either to York University or University of Toronto’s New College, both of which had been founded shortly before. Amongst themselves, they referred to New College as “Jew College”; but then, as I said, no Gentile would have dared utter such a calumny or even remarked in passing upon the disproportionate number of Jews at this institution. The reason for such choices was earnestly explained to me by those who made them: a brand new school would as yet have no WASP patrician class to harass or discriminate against Jews.

There was no arguing with them, of course. Since the early Sixties, Jews had been wildly over-represented amongst the graduating classes in the humanities, in the departments of sociology and psychology, and of course, in the faculties of business, medicine, and law. But such statistical vagaries did not assuage my friends’ strangely consoling dread that they were about to be discriminated against. It is ironic that, today, Jews have once again become the targets of racial discrimination in the academy. In lowering objective admissions standards or abandoning them altogether so as to accommodate “people of colour”, “Native” peoples, the handicapped, homosexuals, and anyone else upon whom society has recently conferred fully-accredited victim status, university admissions officers have inevitably excluded better qualified Jewish applicants. The further irony is that Jews, overwhelmingly liberal in their political proclivities, have always been in the forefront of movements calling for such racial (i.e., racist) “remedies” –the very policies and programs that are currently working against them. But this is only one of many Jewish paradoxes I must return to later.

 

When I married and left the parental nest, I went south, to the big city. Meanwhile, all of my high school friends migrated in the opposite direction, to a place called Thornhill. There, in another suburban wasteland with a bucolic English name, they proceeded to re-establish the self-ghettoized existence they had known in the Manor. It was more than clear to me at this point that the old arguments about racial persecution and violence were ritual mantras that had nothing any longer to do with actual empirical realities. The Jewish instinct to remain “together and apart” was something that ran much deeper than any prudent historical adaptation to external events or circumstances; it was evidently an inner, psychic compulsion, which is to say, a mythological imperative.

 

Blood

It may seem far-fetched to some to say that this instinct is rooted in the historical mythos of the Old Testament, but then modern rationalists invariably underestimate the degree to which they can be possessed by these hoary archetypes. For ancient Israel, remaining a people apart was the supreme religious obligation. Yahweh makes it a binding condition of the covenant: “I am the Lord your God, who have separated you from other people…; you shall not defile your souls by…anything…which I have set apart for you to hold unclean.” Uncleanness beckoned to the Hebrews pre-eminently in the form of the temptation to “go whoring after foreign gods”, and Hezekiah’s was only the first in a series of religious reformations whose centerpiece was the tearing down of the high places and their conversion to a latrine. Circumcision was a proud stigma of membership in the tribe, and Hebrew dietary laws were likewise shibboleths meant to keep the Jews free of the pollutions of the unclean Gentiles.

The ancient practices of circumcising new-borns and keeping kosher are both still widely observed today, notably, even amongst Jews who are otherwise unobservant. And, of course, the most solemn Jewish commandment next to the worship of the One True God is the prohibition against intermarriage. For a “good Jewish boy” to contemplate marriage to a “Shiksa” is always the occasion of parental dread and anguish, both in Borscht-Belt comedy and real life. Marrying outside the clan is an unforgivable apostasy. The argument is that Jewish numbers are so precarious that widespread intermarriage threatens the utter extinction of a four-thousand-year-old tradition. But once again, tradition is here defined in terms of blood. There is no impediment against a Gentile wife’s converting. (Indeed, in the “mixed marriages” with which I am familiar, this is the case more often than not.) In fact, the conversion of every “Shiksa” would only add another Jewish soul to the census rolls. But that is to understand Judaism as a religion, not a tribe. A converted Gentile is not a “real” Jew, in the eyes of the elders—not of the blood. It is for this reason, amongst others, that the Jewish clergy place no great emphasis on proselytism.

The Old Testament prohibition against miscegenation originated in a totemic stage of social history, when the tribesman’s first obligation was to maintain the purity of the ethnic group. Otherwise, the ancestral spirits might abandon him in his hour of need. Similarly, Jewish separatism is anthropologically articulated with the fear and suspicion of anyone outside the tribe’s ethnic temenos. We throw around charges of xenophobia loosely enough these days. Yet the Jews are apparently exempt. Perhaps because they have been conspicuous victims of racism, they are presumptively incapable of it. (But the subject of Jewish racism is also one I’ll have to come back to.) Let me simply close this part of the discussion by pointing out the eerie similarities between Jewish anxieties about racial purity and the “Aryan” fantasies of the Nazis. The respected leadership of the Jewish community (the Canadian Jewish Congress, the B’nai Brith, et al.) will immediately dismiss this as an “odious comparison”. But odious comparisons are usually things that people prefer not to think about.

Here’s another in the same vein, since I’m on a roll. I’ve said before, to the shock and horror of my auditors, that the confrontation between Judaism and Nazism was probably historically pre-ordained. Oh, I know: providence and pre-ordination are superstitions, no less atavistic than the Jewish beliefs and practices I am currently decrying. But I don’t mean pre-ordination in a theological sense. There are unknown currents, as Jung has argued, that clash and mingle beneath the surface of historical events: unconscious psychological affinities and repulsions that arrange things in ways we are unaware of. We all accept that they operate in the personal realm, of course. We say that so-and-so’s failure is the result of his negative attitude, or that so-and-so’s sunny disposition creates his own good luck. I see no reason why there should not be unconscious psychic forces that operate at the collective level of culture and history in the same way.

In the thirties, the Nazi movement notoriously saw itself as the long-awaited historical epiphany of mankind’s master race. Such inflations are common enough. The ancient Greeks sneered at the barbaroi (i.e., everyone who wasn’t a Hellene) as too intellectually and morally backward to appreciate the Greek gifts of reason and liberty. The Romans thought that only they knew how to govern, and so they magnanimously Romanized the world. Arguably, the illusion of racial superiority has at one time or other ensnared every nation throughout history, with the difference that the Nazis projected it with monstrous literalism. But who does not think his own people are “uniquely” special? Try to send back an order in any restaurant in France and you’ll find out, as I did, that the French are the world’s absolute masters of the culinary arts, so vastly superior to all of the other nations in this metier that the mere suggestion that a meal isn’t up to snuff will reasonably and justly expose one to the threat of physical violence.

 

The “Nations”

That the Jews are remarkably gifted, and have been the objects of envy and distrust on account of their gifts, goes without saying. In any number of fields—science, business, the law, medicine, academic scholarship, the media, literature, the arts—the Jews have achieved a degree of success and prominence out of all proportion to their numbers. And everybody knows it, especially the Jews.

All Jews of my acquaintance are understandably proud of their collective accomplishments; to their credit, in fact, they don’t speak of them overmuch. But the awareness is ever present, the more so for remaining unstated. It manifests itself in subtle ways. Whenever someone does something splendid in the news and it turns out that he or she is Jewish, there is a mute gesture of acknowledgment. If it’s someone in an occupation in which Jews are normally undistinguished–Sandy Koufax in baseball, or Steve Yzerman in hockey, for example–, there is an audible kvell of pride.

“Is he/she Jewish?” is the perennial question. “He/she is Jewish, you know”, is the perennial affirmation. Some may find this innocent enough; to me it was a mark of morbid self-absorption. I felt as though I were living in a Judeo-centric universe, from which there was no escape.

Indeed, for the Jews in my neighbourhood, just as for the ancient Greeks, the world consisted of only two groups of inhabitants: Jews and Gentiles. It never occurred to those who thought in such binary terms that the Jews represented a tiny minority of the global population, and to conceive of God’s creatures as consisting of “us” and “them” (as though the two were poised in some sort of balance of power) was profoundly self-aggrandizing. It also didn’t seem to matter that the “them” – the Gentiles – comprised a thousand different peoples. The term served to assimilate non-Jews in a homogenous lump, which is just how my friends and relatives thought of them.

Of course, “Gentiles” is a WASP prettification. The Yiddish word, the word used in the Manor, was Goyim. Goyim is, plain and simple, a racial calumny–if it’s possible to say so about a word as ethnologically diffuse as Goyim. On the lips of every Jew I have ever met, it has an unmistakably derogatory connotation. Goyim are morally and intellectually defective in every way that “we” are not. Jews are smart; Goyim have, well, a “goyishe kopf”. Jews are responsible family folks; Goyim are rakish and dissolute. Jews are sober and self-disciplined; Goyim drink too much.

 

Just in case you thought that, having been the victims of Shylockean stereotyping, Jews would never be guilty of the same, consider the widespread Jewish myth that Gentiles (i.e., the world’s entire non-Jewish population) have a congenital problem with alcohol. On this theme, I must recur to another personal anecdote – one, however, that is all too representative of my manorial experience.

When my parents’ estate was being settled a few years ago, my brother made an appointment with an accountant who had been a boyhood friend in the Manor. His office was – naturally – in Thornhill. Both of them, as it happens, had just returned from holidays in the Maritimes and were singing the praises of the Caeli’s they had attended. The consensus was that Maritimers really knew how to throw a party. Apparently, none of the locals left before he was falling-down, pickled-to-the-gills, two-sheets-to-the-wind, insensibly, roaring drunk. “Well”, said my brother’s accountant friend, “they’re Goyim”. Remember, I had just been introduced to this self-righteous prig. All he knew about me was that I was the brother of his friend, and therefore (at least biologically, which is all that counts) Jewish. So commonplace is his opinion within the tribe, that he naturally assumed that I wouldn’t be offended in the least by his arrogant moronism.

I’m aware that for the CJC, B’nai Brith, and so on, merely asking the question is proof that the questioner is an anti-Semite. But I’ll ask it anyway. Are Jews racists? Not in the conventional sense, of course; although some of the comments I heard about “Shvartzes” when I was growing up were world-class racial slurs. (But then Jesse Jackson, Louis Farakkhan, and other self-appointed leaders of the Black community have since returned the favour.) Most racists, however, look down upon particular groups (Blacks; Pakistanis; the Irish; Catholics; Jews). The Jews are equal opportunity condescenders; they look down upon everyone.

Preserving, into the twenty-first century, the sort of parochial hubris that regards “the nations” of the world as barbaroi is, in the least, a spectacular feat of anachronism. The great idol before which we all currently genuflect is cultural relativism: the creed according to which all creeds are equal. But, amongst the Jews, I see no realization that the Old Testament mythologem of the “chosen people” is an atavistic enormity that needs to be forcefully and unambiguously renounced. On the contrary, Jewish history and psychology, from the beginning to the present, seem to me to represent the steady, unreflective reification of the Old Testament myth.

 

The Sins of the Fathers

The Old Testament mythos, as I will argue more fully below, has much to do with many of the poisonous and geo-politically suicidal attitudes of contemporary Jews. The most poisonous of all concerns the “German question”, which seems the appropriate designation for a corrosive obsession that has been gnawing at the heart of Jewry for over sixty years.

A couple of years ago my oldest friend from high school abruptly terminated the relationship. My sins had been to question the original justice of the founding of the state of Israel, and to cast doubt upon the moral sanity of continuing to abominate all things German. Edmund (as I’ll call him) liked fast cars, and had just taken delivery of his latest when I asked if he’d ever test-driven a BMW. The reply was delivered in a familiar tone of disdain: “I don’t buy things made by German bastards”.

I’d heard the same anti-German vitriol throughout my childhood and adolescence in the Manor, and I always found it repugnant. To indict an entire nation – a nation with a two-thousand-year history – for the crimes of the Nazis struck me as outrageous. The Jews above all should be loath to condemn others on the basis of the group to which they belong by accident of birth. Surely my friends and relatives knew that in the thirties not all the German people happily subscribed to the Nazi program. Surely they knew that if a substantial segment of the German population were complicit, it was in the way that the inmates of totalitarian prisons have always been complicit. It’s easy enough for those of us who have never had to worry about a nocturnal knock at the door from the KGB or the Gestapo to be very brave and wonder why the German people did so little to oppose Hitler.

As I said to Edmund, the current shareholders of BMW must inevitably include investors from all around the world, and of the Germans amongst them, few were old enough to have lived during the Holocaust. To condemn the sons for the sins of the fathers is the most primitive sort of racism – the Neolithic sort that assumes that guilt is passed down through the blood. Come to think of it, that is just what the Old Testament God Yahweh apparently thought, when He fulminated that, in punishment for the sins of the fathers, He would pursue the sons to the nth generation.

I am aware, of course, that the same atavistic mentality is behind the current ubiquitous political sacrament of affirmative action and “reparations”. But such morally preposterous “remedies” compensate those who have suffered no injuries by punishing those who have committed no sins. Guilt has merely trickled down through the centuries and generations until it settles upon some convenient scapegoat lurking in the thicket.

It is for the same reasons that the conventional moral raison d’etre for the creation of the modern state of Israel has always struck me as questionable. Suffering from their own bad consciences over the historical treatment of the Jews, the Allied victors assumed the burden of guilt for the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the War. But the ancient Arab inhabitants of Palestine were not responsible for the Holocaust. One can hardly atone for the dispossession of a people by dispossessing a mutually agreed upon third party. As Arthur Koestler, a self-described Zionist, described it, the Balfour Doctrine amounted to “one nation solemnly promising a second nation the country of a third.” This, it seems to me, is the irreducible cause of the bitterness that has persisted through the decades in the Middle East.

 

The corrosive anti-Germanism that has survived through a second and third post-war generation of Jews has by now taken on the quality of a blood-feud. One can be forgiven (pun intended) for noting that Judaism has never repudiated the lex talionis that is the core of the Old Law. There is in Jewish tradition no glorious myth of the supersession of the Erinyes by the Eumenides, and the Christian proclamation of an epochal transition from the aera sub lege to the aera sub gratia has, of course, been emphatically rejected.

The yearning for vengeance for such monstrous crimes as the Jews suffered during the War is understandable and human; but sixty years on, it has become psychologically destabilizing. For many of my friends and relatives, it seems, it is still 1946. More than six decades later, the Holocaust Industry (as it’s been aptly called) has never been in fuller swing. Every year or so there is a new Holocaust movie or television documentary; there are Holocaust museums, travelling Holocaust exhibitions, Holocaust symposia, Centres for the Study of the Holocaust on practically every campus, and tour companies that specialize in “holiday” packages to Auschwitz and Belsen. In response to its more or less constant coverage, an American journalist once quipped that the New York Times should have changed its name to Holocaust Update. (Predictably, he was accused of anti-Semitism.)

It is for the Jews to judge the toxic psychological and spiritual consequences of continuing to rehearse and re-live the pain and anger conjured up with these memories. But the injunction to “Never Forget” is not merely directed by Jews to their own descendants; it is a standing accusation aimed at the Gentile world. Whether intended or not, the effect of nurturing a permanent Holocaust consciousness is to place the Germans in a perennial state of supplication for forgiveness. But since, as I have said, the majority of living Germans have nothing for which to apologize, they can hardly be expected to respond with anything but indignation and resentment. If Germans are as congenitally anti-Semitic as many Jews claim, then it is only a matter of time before that resentment metastasizes into something far more ominous.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *