Monday, August 27, 2007

Members of a Different Tribe

Over the past some time I've come to realize a growing appreciation for the stories of the Native Americans, their respective cultures and their resilience in the historical face of institutional prejudice and persecution. The Indian identities are focused around the tribe. They each have their sacred, ancestral lands, their respective religious beliefs and their own languages. And their greatest concerns in modern times are how to maintain the traditions of their ancestors in order to perpetuate their tribal identities. If we then understand that the Jew is essentially a tribal creature then it becomes clear that we fit right along that kind of social structure. Not perfectly though, since the vagaries of history have warped our tribal order, but it is still easily recognizable.

In many ways their stories remind me of our stories, as Jews have been likewise persecuted down the ages - and often for similar reasons. Sadly, in the typical American history education, the many injustices against the Indians are glossed over. But they had been repeatedly lied to through treaty violations, exiled far from their homes, been at the mercy of government sponsored massacres and were the objects of forced institutional assimilation. So think outside the box for a moment, doesn't the Trail of Tears and the Long Walk remind you of certain episodes in Jewish history? Were the originally tiny reservations so different from the European ghettos? Are the massacres really no different from a pogrom?

It's a little strange to think about, but from the Cherokee's perspective Andrew Jackson could be their Nebuchadnezzar.

Keep in mind too that I do not intend on equating these events. This is not a contest for who suffered the most, but an attempt to show some mirrors of history which promote a greater understanding and appreciation for the histories of others as well as our own.

A few friends (all modern to right-wing Orthodox) and I visited Phoenix a couple of weeks ago and we went to the apparently world renown Heard Museum which displays Native American culture, art and history. (They didn’t appreciate it as much as I did, but there isn’t much to do in Phoenix anyway.) One of the exhibits presented the story of the Indian Schools which had been first set up in the late nineteenth century as a means to forcibly assimilate the Indians into normative American life.

These children were pulled from their homes and were forbidden to practice their traditional culture, wear their traditional clothing and had to cut their hair. They were forced to give up their Indian names and were given English ones. They could not speak their native languages, even privately, for fear of punishment. They were forced to attend Church services and were expected to convert to Christianity as their native religious practices were prohibited.

Seeing that, I said to my friends, that’s not much different from Antiochus, now is it? One of them mocked the grievance that they had to cut their hair. So I responded that while I didn’t know the specific meaningfulness of their hair (though I found out later that it does hold cultural or spiritual importance to many tribes) try to put it in perspective - what if you were mocking the idea of forcibly cutting off payes?

Some conversation ensued and soon one of them spontaneously remarked that a huge flaw in the typical yeshivah education is the lack of historical perspective that is given to Jewish history. He said that no attempt is made to try and understand the motives or goals of the people involved. Antiochus was simply evil and all of history is black and white. Indeed. I replied saying that he should read through Tanach and see how Shmuel and Melachim are chock full of unapologetic political intrigue.

Jewish history is real history in the normal world of men and you don’t need mystical or supernatural inducement to explain the diachronic plight of the Jewish people as an unpopular minority. If one understands our past as a singularity, bound by different, special rules and incomparable to anything else, then one cannot engage with it to learn from the lessons of the past. To learn from our history requires us to understand that it is history and has reflections in the histories of other peoples.

49 comments:

Skeptodox said...

Very interesting until your last sentence. What exactly do you mean by "to learn from our history requires us to understand that it is history and has reflections in the histories of other peoples."?

How do you propose doing so?

Orthoprax said...

What do you mean? If you learn the histories of other peoples as well as your own then you see how they are similar or dissimilar. Together you get a richer and more worthwhile understanding of history.

Miri said...

I think that's kind of what they mean when they say "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it;" i.e, the actions and reactions of man tend to follow certain patterns, and if you look at history in general, you'll see those patterns repeating themselves over and over again. Which speaks more about the nature of man than anything else, really.

The only real way Jewish history is different from any other history of a people is that we have sources relating to it that go back to the beginning of recorded history (and no, I don't just mean the Tanach.) Essentially, we just know more about Jews because we have more sources.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Of course, many groups of people have suffered persecution for all kinds of reasons, some cultural, some political and some religious.

What is unique about Jewish history is the framework through which we attempt to understand it -God's plan for humanity unfolding before our eyes, and the power of human choice as a driving factor in the direction that plan takes. This element of Jewish historical consciousness - the link between the experiences of our ancestors and our sense of destiny or transcendent mission - is what distinguishes us, and not the particulars of what occurred (although it does seem that we were singled out by more countries, religions and ethnicities for persecution than any other group, having been exiled from nearly every country in Europe, and that our rejection by the host cultures occurred precisely when we were contributing the most to that culture, not at a point where we were perceived as "standing in the way" of progress as the Native Americans were seen.)

alex said...

A rhetorical question:
I wonder if any other culture has a teaching like this one, dealing with their sufferings (from Deut 28:37): "And you will become an astonishment, a proverb and a byword among all nations..."

Orthoprax said...

RJM,

"This element of Jewish historical consciousness - the link between the experiences of our ancestors and our sense of destiny or transcendent mission - is what distinguishes us, and not the particulars of what occurred"

Well, in part. I would say that the greatest unique feature of classical Judaism is the meaningfulness which it invests in history. The very thesis of the historical aspects of Tanach is that bad things happen to the Jews when they do not diligently adhere to the covenant. It is this revolutionary concept - that God works through history - which made it possible for Judaism to survive in the post-Exile period.

In that sense, perhaps, lies the silver lining for the loss of the Ten Tribes. That loss was the impetus for the development of such doctrines since the decimation of God's chosen required an explanation.

Other ideas of eschatology and mission come later.

"although it does seem that we were singled out by more countries..."

We've been down this road before. The point is that, although unique in some ways, Jewish history does not require abnormal historical processes to explain itself. It's a pretty steep effort to try to prove that God plays a special role manipulating our history.

Miri said...

RJM-
"What is unique about Jewish history is the framework through which we attempt to understand it -God's plan for humanity unfolding before our eyes,"

But why is that unique to Jewish history when similar stories have occured to multiples of other nations over time? It happened to the Jews more often because we're one of the only groups of people to retain a national identity for 3,000 or so years. And because we like to write, so we kept some records of it, whereas other nations didn't necessarily.

"and that our rejection by the host cultures occurred precisely when we were contributing the most to that culture, not at a point where we were perceived as "standing in the way" of progress as the Native Americans were seen.)"

I'm not sure; are you defining rejection specifically by expulsion? Because there were centuries of general persecution and killing while the host countries kept us around; also, incidentally, I'm not sure there was a higher rate of expulsions from countries where Jews were assimilated into the culture and contributing to society. Spain happened to be a huge Jewish center, containing probably the majority of the Jewish population in the world at the time. Other than that though, expulsions were pretty much an everyday occurrence pretty much everywhere, regardless of how much or little the Jews were actually contributing. Especially considering the fact that a large part of Jewish persecution tended to be barring Jews from almost every profession, not to mention educational institutions which would by definition limit Jewish contribution to a given society.

Baal Habos said...

Orthoprax, nice post. It is eye opening to look at Jewish history from an external perspective. I used to tend to think in terms of Egypt was out to get us, Rome was out to get us, the Christians were out to get us, etc. Looking at history afresh. Egypt was out out to get everyone, so was Rome, so was Islam, etc. etc. (the one excception may be the holocaust in which we Jews really seemed to be the brunt and focus of the effort. But even with the Holocaust, who knows hat would have happenned had the Nazi empire not fallen, they would have turned their sights onto other targets with a vengeance).


RJM,

>What is unique about Jewish history is the framework through which we attempt to understand it -God's plan for humanity unfolding before our eyes, and the power of human choice as a driving factor in the direction that plan takes.

Is that really so unique? Does not Islam attribute their relatively low status as being due to their not being good enough Muslims? How about Christianity? Are Jews the only ones whose literature attributes history to divine oversight?

jewish philosopher said...

How do explain the survival of Judaism in contrast to the rapid disappearance of Native American religions?

Orthoprax said...

JP,

Well, the first point is that they haven't disappeared but I get your gist. The answer is simple. Judaism was a much stronger and well-developed belief system than the respective pagan religions of the Indians and it therefore maintained a significantly higher degree of loyalty.

Kylopod said...

"The answer is simple."

No, it isn't. It's a question that many thinkers have grappled with through the ages, and have not reached a firm conclusion about.

Group loyalty is one factor among many.

You can offer your perspective without making it sound like it's self-evident.

jewish philosopher said...

Monsey, NY, near where I live, is named after the Muncie tribe of Indians. I believe that today, 400 after first contact with Europeans, there are a few, living somewhere in Canada, who still speak their language. Their original religion has long been forgotten.

Contrast that with the ultra-Orthodox Jews now living in Monsey. All can still read Hebrew, the language of Iron Age Palestine. All still observe the ancient Hebrew Sabbath, holidays, dietary laws, etc.

Interesting contrast, no? Is it because Torah is truth and there will always be some honest people who believe in it? Or is Judaism just so exciting people can't stop doing it?

Orthoprax said...

Kylopod,

"You can offer your perspective without making it sound like it's self-evident."

The point of Jewish survival in general is a complex topic but Jewish continuity compared to the relative failures of some Native Americans tribes is a much simpler comparison to understand.

It's just as easy to understand why Christianity so easily overwhelmed the pagan belief systems of Europe and why Islam did the same to the paganism in the Arabian penninsula.


JP,

What happened to the ten tribes who were exiled before the Deuteronomist historical period? They, like the Muncie tribe apparently, were lost through the onslaught of more attractive belief systems.

Perhaps the tribes who have been less negatively affected by the cultural invasion, like the Navajo and Lakota, etc, will maintain themselves far into the future.

Kylopod said...

"The point of Jewish survival in general is a complex topic but Jewish continuity compared to the relative failures of some Native Americans tribes is a much simpler comparison to understand."

Got it.

"Perhaps the tribes who have been less negatively affected by the cultural invasion, like the Navajo and Lakota, etc, will maintain themselves far into the future."

I think you're getting a bit fuzzy about the word "tribe." Amer-Indians are not one people.

Orthoprax said...

"I think you're getting a bit fuzzy about the word "tribe." Amer-Indians are not one people."

Huh? I've been using the term consistently. What gives you the idea that I even suggested that they are all one people?

avrum68 said...

Having worked with Native groups in Vancouver, I can attest to the horror story these folks have gone through. I often left my job wondering: "Why did we survive...hell thrive...while this group did so poorly?".

Perhaps, because their culture/customs etc., are so tied to land, gaming, etc, the slow eradication of such led to the collapse of their culture.

Judaism on the other hand, be it the will of God and/or the incredible creativity and logic of our ancestors, enabled us to transport our beliefs/customs to farms, cities, etc.

In the end, I find it hard to ignore the fact that not only have we thrived, but provided the impetus for Monotheism to spread throughout the world.

In quieter non-blogging moments, the idea of "choseness" and God come to mind.

Orthoprax said...

Oh, I see. I did not mean to make it seem like I was equating the Israelite tribes and the Native American tribes in that way.

jewish philosopher said...

"What happened to the ten tribes who were exiled before the Deuteronomist historical period?"

What's happening to Frum skeptics who are dropping out this minute?

However for everyone who leaves, there is probably a gentile who joins. There will always be some honest people in the world. There will not always be someone worshiping Navajo gods.

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

"In the end, I find it hard to ignore the fact that not only have we thrived, but provided the impetus for Monotheism to spread throughout the world."

The point is that those two things are not unrelated. Monotheism is a powerful idea and no doubt plays a significant role in how we have survived over the centuries.

Though, ironically, those fellow monotheists of ours tended not to be our closest friends.

Orthoprax said...

JP, aka Grinder of the One Ax,

Way to miss the point.

avrum68 said...

"Monotheism is a powerful idea and no doubt plays a significant role in how we have survived over the centuries."

I listened to a wonderful podcast with Francis Collins last night (CBC Tapestry). The interviewer asked him about Sam Harris' contention that ideas such as altruism, have little to do with "God", and are easily explained as a result of evolutionary biology.

Francis Collins, the gentleman that he is, acknowledged Sam Harris' point, but claims it falls short of a satisfactory answer (he provided a number of reasons why this is so).

So perhaps, after all the deconstructing is complete, we're left with the possibility that the social, political, legal, communal aspects of Judaism are small sparks of divinity at work.


"Though, ironically, those fellow monotheists of ours tended not to be our closest friends."

C'mon, so long as we exist, we're a constant reminder that THEY MAY BE WRONG. This must be very unsettling.

avrum68 said...

"JP, aka Grinder of the One Ax,"

That's actually very funny.

Anonymous said...

How do you explain the fact that people expect more from Jews? People don't have a problem when gentilesd make money. Only Jews. The whole world is bashing Israel over the poor Palestinians when there are micu worxe atrocities happening. No one is talking about sefl determination for the Native Americans.

Anonymous said...

If altruism is the result of a Darwinian process, then why do some people, motivated by altruism, feel the need to reush into a vrunign building to save a child, or jump into a rvier to save someone from drowing. Why do soldiers jump on live grenades to save their comrades. Why do people donate kidneys to save a stranger? Darwinsm would allow any of this.

avrum68 said...

"If altruism is the result of a Darwinian process, then why do some people..."

Francis Collins agrees with you. He elaborates on this very point here:
http://www.cbc.ca/tapestry/archives/2007/082607.html

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

"So perhaps, after all the deconstructing is complete, we're left with the possibility that the social, political, legal, communal aspects of Judaism are small sparks of divinity at work."

Personally I'm not that uncomfortable with that kind of conclusion. The distinction I often make, however, is that the sparks of divine wisdom are those which humanity discovered - rather than which God personally handed over.

Though, if God is the source of all things, then that distinction may be one with no difference and is only commentary on how God goes about His business.


Anon,

"How do you explain the fact that people expect more from Jews? People don't have a problem when gentilesd make money. Only Jews."

That's antisemitism. I have several posts on the subject elsewhere on my blog. The point, again, is that the spread of antisemitic sentiments follows normal historical processes and does not require any special divine control to come about.


"If altruism is the result of a Darwinian process, then why do some people, motivated by altruism, feel the need to reush into a vrunign building to save a child, or jump into a rvier to save someone from drowing. Why do soldiers jump on live grenades to save their comrades. Why do people donate kidneys to save a stranger? Darwinsm would allow any of this."

Dawkins would say that it's due to a misdirection of a more prototypical process of kin selection - analogous to Darwinian urges for reproduction being misdirected by adopting parents.

However, I am not fully convinced of this. I typically contend that socialization and personal history (and perhaps even individual autonomy) play a more significant role in moral practice than do fundamental biological phenomena.

Kylopod said...

I'm not sure what you mean by "normal historical processes." What would constitute an abnormal historical process?

Miri said...

Orthoprax-
"he point, again, is that the spread of antisemitic sentiments follows normal historical processes and does not require any special divine control to come about."

I'm not sure I agree with that. Antisemitism hasn't been the same animal from beginning to end, its gone through many many changes over time...whether that's only the case with the Jews, or whether we only see it with Jews because we've been around longest and we haven't had time to see it develop that way with other ethnic groups is debatable, however it's not quite as simple as "normal historical processes..."

Orthoprax said...

Kylopod,

"What would constitute an abnormal historical process?"

Miracles, inexplicable events. Singularities that do not follow from previous events. Basically things that just don't add up.


Miri,

"I'm not sure I agree with that. Antisemitism hasn't been the same animal from beginning to end, its gone through many many changes over time"

And? While the reasons for not liking Jews changed in different places and times there was always some rational historical means by which it came to be. It makes sense that Antiochus would be against the Jews, just as it makes sense why the Romans would be and the Christians and modern Muslims, etc.

avrum68 said...

"The distinction I often make, however, is that the sparks of divine wisdom are those which humanity discovered - rather than which God personally handed over."

Y'know, I never understood what Freud was treating when he was trying to cure "hysteria". I thought: "Is he refering to my crazy Auntie Goldstein?". Alas, I read a wonderful description of what hysteria was in an intro book to Self Psychology. Hysteria disappeared as Vicotrian culture faded away, and as sexual mores became more liberal.

Perhaps the conditions were right, or ripe, by God's standards (whatever that means) to be more direct, more obvious to Abraham than to Avrum i.e. me. And perhaps, like hysteria, as the times changed, God's literalness did as well.

Regardless, we agree on this matter. All we have is sparks.

alex said...

"These children were pulled from their homes and were forbidden to practice their traditional culture, wear their traditional clothing and had to cut their hair."

I'm wondering if the Indians ever did this to each other. CF: the Tehran Children.

Anonymous said...

If normal historical procesess are the explanation for antisemitism, then why do I would expect eh European countrie sto say something about the atrocities in Darfur commited by Moslims, the same people who are bombing buses in London, and airporst in Scotland. That isn't happening. the British are bashing Israel for defending itself. Why the double standard?

Anonymous said...

The adoptation of an orphan that you mentioned is not exactly the same as a soldier jumping on a hand grenade. In the case of a cowbird or a cuckoe, the invader lays an egg iin the host's nest. The host thinks it is taking care of its own young. A soldier throws himself on a hand grenade knowing it will explode and kill him, and remove his genes from the gene pool. If it is the result of socialization, how did this socailization get started in the first place?

Miri said...

orthoprax-
"
And? While the reasons for not liking Jews changed in different places and times there was always some rational historical means by which it came to be."

What about the whole biological strain of antisemitism that arose in post-enlightenment Europe? Why were the intellectual, social, and ecenomical elite of Europe so frightened of us that they had to come up with another reason to hate us after religion didn't mean anything to them anymore?

Anonymous said...

Why is it that the Moslims hate Jews as well, even more than they hate other groups? That can't be the result of Christian theology?
And why the double standard? Moslims can kill Christians in Darfur, and nobody not even Christians care?

Why such an extreme double standard?

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"If normal historical procesess are the explanation for antisemitism, then why do I would expect eh European countrie sto say something about the atrocities in Darfur commited by Moslims, the same people who are bombing buses in London, and airporst in Scotland. That isn't happening. the British are bashing Israel for defending itself. Why the double standard?"

What are you talking about? European countries say plenty about the atrocities in Darfur. But Israel has been a hot issue there for a lot longer.


Anon,

"The adoptation of an orphan that you mentioned is not exactly the same as a soldier jumping on a hand grenade."

I know...it was an anology of process, not of kind.

" soldier throws himself on a hand grenade knowing it will explode and kill him, and remove his genes from the gene pool. If it is the result of socialization, how did this socailization get started in the first place?"

People used to live in small groups where everyone was related and ensuring one another's safety was good for the shared genes' continued survival - even at the expense of individuals. That would be the biological basis for kin selection.

Dawkins would say that modern day society is a confusion of that basic social structure as your neighbors are no longer likely to be related to you but you still have drives to help them.


Miri,

"What about the whole biological strain of antisemitism that arose in post-enlightenment Europe? Why were the intellectual, social, and ecenomical elite of Europe so frightened of us that they had to come up with another reason to hate us after religion didn't mean anything to them anymore?"

Hate sticks around even after the former reasons for the hate no longer apply. Indeed, the feeling was so prevalent that intellectuals had to find some new justification for their antisemitic convictions.

The rise of nationalism and ideals of national purity brought forth new disfavor for the stateless, non-assimilating peoples who lived among them. Most obviously - that would be the Jews.


Anon,

"Why is it that the Moslims hate Jews as well, even more than they hate other groups? That can't be the result of Christian theology?"

Yes and no. Modern Moslim antisemitism is based around Israel, but it collected most of its material from the ample supply of antisemitic lore from Europe - which was mostly religious in origin.

Anonymous said...

Dear Orthoprax:

The Europeans seem to be practising a very real Doube standard aganist Israel. They might talk about Darfur, but they are calling for boycotts and economic sanctions against Israel.
Again, a doubel standard.

If altruism is the result of some development out of kin selection then why do people sometimes help total strangers, people they know trhey are not related to.

Moreover, if altruims has a biological basis, then why are so many people not altruistic? If it is gentically based, why are some people missing the altruism gene? Or why is it less devloped in some people tah in others?

avrum68 said...

"Moreover, if altruism has a biological basis, then why are so many people not altruistic?"

Damn, that's a good question.

Again, I recommend the Collins' interview (CBC Tapestry) for a perspective on why you need as much faith to buy into Sam Harris/Richard Dawkins evolutionary argument as you do the religious one re: altruism.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"The Europeans seem to be practising a very real Doube standard aganist Israel. They might talk about Darfur, but they are calling for boycotts and economic sanctions against Israel.
Again, a doubel standard."

Ok. And therefore what? Obviously I don't agree with their perspective, but I do understand the historical means by which they came to be.

"If altruism is the result of some development out of kin selection then why do people sometimes help total strangers, people they know trhey are not related to."

The argument would be, like I said several times already, that it's a misfiring of an engaged behavior. Similar to how parents will adopt children who share no genetic familiality. We have deep urges that we cannot generally overcome.

"Moreover, if altruims has a biological basis, then why are so many people not altruistic? If it is gentically based, why are some people missing the altruism gene? Or why is it less devloped in some people tah in others?"

The argument would simply be that society does not require everyone to be equally altruistic in order to function. Darwinism works on the lowest common denominator - not the ideal. Some people are just more altruistic like some people are more prone to anger. It's natural variation.

I would like to make it clear, however, that I think evolutionary psychology is a deep well that you can fit lots of stuff into - including stuff that really shouldn't be there. Although I know the arguments that Dawkins, for example, might give - I do not think that every aspect of human behavior can be understood from a strictly biological or evolutionary perspective.

Tobie said...

Orthoprax-
"Hate sticks around even after the former reasons for the hate no longer apply. Indeed, the feeling was so prevalent that intellectuals had to find some new justification for their antisemitic convictions. "

Yes, I know. But my point is, I think that that was the first time in recorded history that racism took that particular form. I don't think there was a historical precedent for intellectuals to say that other fellow intellectuals, who look more or less like everyone else (similar coloring etc) were genetically inferior and should be expelled or exterminated. For being genetically inferior,I mean. All other instances for accusation of racial inferiority generally occured in situations where the supposed inferior race was socially segregated from the superior, and usually also were drastically different looking. At least as far as I know. So then what...this is a mutation of a prior historical occurence? I could see that, I guess...

Orthoprax said...

Tobie,

Hitler hated Slavs too and also identified them as an inferior race even though they look awfully similar to me. European Jews, as a general rule, are identifiable as distinct from your average German. But the physical differences weren't the real issue.

The concept of racial hygiene did not start with Hitler, but has roots in Germany (and all over the Western world, really) from before the start of the century. The concept of a nation as a distinct cultural group with a common heredity, the Volk in Germany, meant that non-assimilating peoples were a potential fifth column. And Jews, being the largest and most identifiable of those groups in Europe, were targetted as an especially large threat.

Add onto that the scientific concept of genetics and you almost naturally come upon the idea of eugenics where your nation is genetically distinct and intermarriage ruins its purity.

These same concepts were being thrown around all over Europe but it was only in Germany where it came to such a huge political victory when Hitler came to power.


You should also learn more from history. The British considered the Irish as an inferior race. The Japanese and Chinese have each considered the other an inferior race. Can you tell a Serb from a Croat from a Bosnian just by looking? I can't. And indeed, just like Jews, the Roma (aka Gypsies) were victimized all over Europe.

Kylopod said...

"What would constitute an abnormal historical process?" [Kylopod]

"Miracles, inexplicable events. Singularities that do not follow from previous events. Basically things that just don't add up." [Orthoprax]

It's the patterns, not the particulars, that call for an explanation.

Miri said...

ok, first of all, "Tobie" was actually me, I forgot to sign out of her account before posting. sorry.

second, I wasn't talking about Hitler. I was talking mostly about the late nineteenth century scentists, philosophers, and sociologists like Darwin and Nietzsche, not to mention the writers and artists of the time; all of whom preceded Hitler and his movements. True, Nazi ideolgy was based on their work, but I wasn't actually talking about the Nazis. As you said, all that stuff goes back way earlier.

Third; your typically assimilated, educated, cultured, secular German Jew didn't look particularly different from your average German. I know the Chassidim were distinctive. I'm talking about everyone else.

Fourth, I'm not sure exactly if the examples you bring are quite the same thing; people always tried to genocide their political enemies because that's how you wage war. The Jews were not a political enemy, like the Japanese-Chinese and British-Irish conflicts that you mention; and as to the Croats and the Serbs, all those things were post WWII, so you couldn't exactly cite them as a historical precedent for what hapened to the Jews in Europe. I don't know. I'm not really sure that my example was different enough to really warrant this argument, I just think it might not quite have been the same thing.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"second, I wasn't talking about Hitler. I was talking mostly about the late nineteenth century scentists, philosophers, and sociologists like Darwin and Nietzsche, not to mention the writers and artists of the time; all of whom preceded Hitler and his movements."

Ok, so like I said - you mix a rising sense of nationalism with genetics and you'll almost naturally come to the conclusion that some groups living among you are racially inferior and should not be permitted to mix with the national race.

The fact that this inferior sense was pinned on Jews _not_ because of their looks really has little to do with it. But even with that being the case, I do still stand by the fact that there is a "Jewish look" (at least among some sub-populations) that has nothing to do with the classical garb or beard.

All major ethnic groups in Europe have an identifiable look to them if you are sensitive enough to note them. I can tell a Brit from a Russian just by looking - even though they are both entirely white.

"The Jews were not a political enemy..."

Obviously that is a matter of opinion (Hitler would disagree). Check this out: http://history1900s.about.com/library/holocaust/aa022100a.htm

My point with the other groups was that people who apparently look very much alike still deemed the other as racially inferior. It's not always about the looks.

The Jews only seem so unique in this case because our history is indeed unusual. Do you have many other examples of a people living in other lands for so long a time and, while being of significant number, not assimilating with the rest of the population either culturally, religiously or even biologically?

Miri said...

Yeah but we did assimilate, culturally, religously, and some of us biologically! whatever; the fact of the matter is, I was never sure my point was strong enough to really be argued and now I've lost track of it completely, so I'm giving this one up. I would like to mention several things however.

1)while, yes, there is a distinctive Jewish look, there are some blond-haired blue-eyed people out there who are just as Jewish as you and me. Which is to say, that just because someone doesn't look Jewish doesn't mean he isn't and just because someone does look Jewish doesn't mean he is (could just be the father.)

2)This goes for Russians and British people as well. I have a friend that you'd swear was Russian, but there isn't even a hint of it in her ancestry.
Also, being able to tell people's national origin based on appearance has a lot more to do with the wardrobe then you'd think.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"Yeah but we did assimilate, culturally, religously, and some of us biologically!"

I'm talking about over the course of centuries, not in the brief period after emancipation but before the Holocaust.

"while, yes, there is a distinctive Jewish look, there are some blond-haired blue-eyed people out there who are just as Jewish as you and me. Which is to say, that just because someone doesn't look Jewish doesn't mean he isn't and just because someone does look Jewish doesn't mean he is (could just be the father.)"

Of course.

Kylopod said...

"while, yes, there is a distinctive Jewish look"

There isn't just one Jewish look, there are several.

"there are some blond-haired blue-eyed people out there who are just as Jewish as you and me."

It isn't just a matter of whether they're blond or dark. There are blond Jews who look distinctively Jewish, and brunette Jews who could easily pass for goyim.

It's interesting that O. mentions Russians, because in my experience many of the Jews from Russia look distinctly Russian.

There has been some mixing between Jews and members of the host countries over the centuries, whether through intermarriage, conversion, rape, or other factors. How substantial it has been is still the subject of debate among geneticists, although the recent evidence suggests that the mixing rate has generally been quite low.

And Russian is just one example of an ethnic group with a very distinct appearance. Most European ethnicities are not easy to tell apart. You can usually tell a Northern European from a Southern European, but it gets very hazy when you break it down to nations. That's not to suggest that there isn't, say, an Italian look, but these things tend to break down with individuals. I bet if we ran a test, where we showed photographs of various people and you had to guess their ethnic origin, you would guess wrong a substantial amount of the time.

I actually do know of such a test, though it concerns Asian ethnicities, which most Westerners are not as familiar with, and it's an attempt to address the belief that Asians all look alike. Here is the URL:

http://www.alllooksame.com/

Woodrow said...

Attempts to compare Jewish survival to American Indian religions' survival are flawed, because:

1. a lot more Jews have survived than Indians, thanks to smallpox wiping out lots of tribes;

2. Because each tribe was not very big in the first place, and each (I am guessing) had a slightly different religion, Indian tribal religions probably had so few followers that they never developed the kind of critical mass necessary to survive decimation;

3. Low levels of literacy reduce the chances of a religion surviving- no holy book, no intergenerational transmission.

Orthoprax said...

Woodrow,

I'm not sure what your point is. Obviously different factors in the respective histories lead to different attrition rates and therefore attemping an equation between them is fallacious, but neverthless to find commonalities is perfectly alright.