Here’s a little something to choke on: America loves Jews.
WTF? you say. No way – Everyone hates us; always have and always will. Purim. Passover. Chanukah. Read the Torah, shmendrick. The only people who don’t are just trying to bring on Armageddon.
But here’s the Yenta to tell you it’s not true! Even if we don’t count the titanic rise (and plateau?) of Jewish hipsterism, there’s still some weird things going on the world that your bubbe wouldn’t believe:
We’ve already discussed China’s recent (and wildly misinformed) fascination with all things Jewish. The Jews of France have stopped leaving in droves since their kinda-maybe Jewish president took office (also known as “The Sarkozy Effect.”) Even POLAND – the the very capital of modern Jew-hating – is having an enormous revival of Jewish culture in spite of the fact that hardly any Jews live there (we don’t need to go into why that is, do we?)
Here’s the real kicker: In a 2006 Gallup poll, a sample of folks in the U.S. were asked to rate how they perceived various religious groups, ranging from positive to negative. Not only did 58% feel positively about Jews, but 37% were neutral! Imagine that – 37% had absolutely no opinion whatsoever about Jews! This is in the era of Madonna, airstrikes and Borat and still we’re rated above Methodists? (In case you’re curious, Scientology was viewed most negatively, and this was before Tom Cruise’s creepy video hit the interwebs.)
The poll was published as part of World Jewish Digest article called “Taking ‘Yes’ For an Answer” by Mark Penn and Kinney Zalesne, authors of the MICROTRENDS: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes, and apparently, “Pro-Semitism” is a damn strong microtrend, one that might actually bring disenfranchised Jews back into the fold:
The idea that non-Jews are drawn to Jewish living, independent of outreach efforts on anyone’s part, suggests that there may be yet another way that Judaism can be successfully impressed upon Jews. Such an approach goes beyond exposure to Judaism as a “birthright,” in which young people are exposed to the joys of Jewish belonging. And it goes beyond its opposite – call it “birth responsibility” – in which young people are instructed about their obligations to the community. Instead, the premise is that regardless of your background, Judaism is a system of living and learning so rich that once you engage it, you will want to dive in deeper and deeper.
Hmm, so ultimately, this acceptance in the world at large means we might have to accept ourselves – and be accountable to heritage, history and the ethics of our ancestors. Giving up our victimhood means we’ll have to work harder at being Jewish – especially since non-Jews are getter better at it than we are.
But don’t worry, it’ll take China ages to catch up.
*Yarmulke tip to Reb Belzer, who reminds us that co-author Kinney Zalesne, the sister of a Mickve Israel member, will be one of the speakers during the congregation’s fabulous 275th anniversary celebrations July 11-13 in Savannah. I can’t wait!