The 'Jewish Problem' defined

Two articles recently appeared on the Jerusalem Post''s on-line addition addressing aspects of the continuing "Jewish Problem." One describes the increasing threat to European Jewry today, the second advocated Israel turn inward and withdraw from responsibility to that ever-present Diaspora danger.

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, describes the situation of European Jewry today as filled with daily danger. "Jews are afraid to walk the streets in Europe with Jewish signs (i.e. a yarmulke). Synagogues, Jewish schools and kindergartens require barbed-wire fences and security and Jewish men, women and children are beaten up in broad daylight." Two months ago, a Tel Aviv University report on the state of Jewish security in the world concluded that 2009 was the worst since the Holocaust for anti-Semitic incidents.
As if in response, Hebrew University law professor Ruth Gavison proposes a post-Zionist policy regarding Jewish Olim. "Citizenship," she writes, "would best be granted not automatically to every Oleh, but... as is practiced in the case of other candidates for citizenship." And, as if putting limitations on the Law of Return regarding Israel''s fundamental responsibilities for the Diaspora was not enough, she would also gut the Law''s Grandparent Clause. The clause is Israel''s response to the 1930''s German law, which defined a Jew - and fit for murder - as anybody with a single Jewish grandparent.
We use the term "Jewish problem" as if its meaning and implications were obvious. Why is a backlash against Diaspora Jews the result of the actions of Israel? Irish citizens of other countries were not targeted due to the actions of the Irish Republican Army. Why the Jews? How can we explain the knee-jerk, anti-Jewish reaction among many of our neighbors and otherwise friends in the Christian west?
The West''s "Jewish Problem" is theological in origin. It may most simply be described as the result of the continuing existence of Jewry and Judaism within the unfolding history of the Christian world.
From its very beginnings, Christianity defined itself as the successor to Judaism. With the arrival of Jesus, Judaism was - according to Christian theology - superseded ,and should have vanished. How can they reconcile that the Jews, the object of Jesus'' messianic mission, failed to even recognize him and his mission? What does that mean for Christianity as inheritor of Jewish history and tradition?
In the fourth century, Augustine rationalized that Jewish survival "in misery and homeless" was their "punishment" for rejecting Jesus. He explained that their survival, according to God''s plan, was to serve as "witness" to the Truth of Christianity. "But the Jews who slew Him... are thus by their own Scriptures a testimony to us that we have not forged the prophecies about Christ."
Augustine''s description of Jewish survival as punishment and witness both explained their continuing existence, and provided for their continued, if limited, survival. But it also points to an implicit doubt at the very heart of that religion. What else might the need for Jewish validation, "that we have not forged the prophecies about Christ," mean except doubt regarding those prophecies?
According to the gospels, "the Jews" are guilty of deicide in the death of Jesus. Matthew goes further in having those supposedly guilty accept responsibility not only for themselves, but for all future generations. "Then the people as a whole answered, ''His blood be on us and on our children,''"(Matthew 27.25). The combination of Augustine''s existential doubt, and Matthew''s highly charged description of the trial and death of Jesus meant centuries of blame, persecution and death for the Jews. The result of this volatile combination - doubt and deicide - is that the potential for violence towards Jews is always present, even if not openly expressed.
With the 17th century Enlightenment, the theological "Jewish Problem" morphed into a secular "Jewish question", and anti-Judaism gradually transformed into its secular variant, anti-Semitism. An important result of the secularization of the problem was that even the limited "protection" provided by Augustine''s justification for Jewish survival no longer applied. The Jews, particularly following their 19th century emancipation, were now a nation like any other - but were considered strangers, outsiders and "others" to the West: a nation apart.
Emancipation gave rise to political and social resistance. As non-Christians, it was rationalized, Jews were not really members of the western national community (nation, people, volk), and thus did not qualify for equal rights and citizenship. Opposition grew into political movements encompassing the broad social spectrum, religious and secular, conservative, liberal and socialist. As described by Dr. Kantor above, Jews were the victims of increasingly frequent assault, and a few highly publicized incidents, such as the Mortara Affair in Italy, Dreyfus in France, Beilis in Russia and the lynching of Leo Frank in the United States. However, even these failed to hint at what would result from the contribution of science to the definition of "What is a Jew."
American eugenics aspired to improve the American population by selective breeding. Long before National Socialism in Germany, American eugenicists promoted selecting out the "unworthy" by immigration restriction, sterilization and euthanasia. Restrictive immigration slammed shut America''s gates and condemned Europe''s Jews to Auschwitz. While sterilization was still in used as a means of population "betterment"  in the United States well into the 1970''s, euthanasia was left to the Germans.
German race science owed much to American eugenics and the active assistance and support of major American eugenicists. They admired and supported Hitler, envied Germany''s ability to fully apply eugenic principles to entire populations. After the war they intervened to save the lives and reputations German academics active in the Holocaust (for an excellent source on American eugenics, see Edwin Black''s "War Against the Weak").
Hitler''s science and religion combined to address the "Jewish Problem." Typically dismissed as a neo-pagan anti-Semite, he was both a product of western history of prejudice and persecution as well as a self-described, life-long tithe paying Catholic. In Mein Kamp he wrote: "Defending myself against the Jew is fighting for the work of the Lord!"
The Final Solution of the "Jewish Problem" was, therefore, both an act of racial hygiene - cleansing the human race of the Jewish virus - and a religious duty to solve once and for ever Christendom''s centuries-long "Problem."
As individuals and as a people, we Jews are strong believers in the power of education to promote social harmony and religious tolerance. The European Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League represent this belief, and are our post-Holocaust shlichim to the nations. Before and during the years of the Shoah, German-Jewish philosopher Martin Buber was education''s most prominent advocate. However, statistical studies are ambiguous regarding its success, even in ordinary times of relative social quiet and international peace. Yet,  the point of this discussion is not the "ordinary," but the ever-present risk of the extraordinary.
Post WWI global depression, German resentment at having lost a war which they were convinced they should have won except for the Jews "stab in the back," who could have foreseen that the result of those events could have been the cataclysm of the Holocaust?
We Jews live an uncertain existence in our Diaspora. We live in the hope that education will eventually eradicate anti-Semitism; that Christianity can and will reform, accept us, accept Judaism as a separate legitimate religion and not the fossil remains of that which they believe they replaced.
However, education has not succeeded to date. One need only read Catholic theologian Rosemary Radford Reuther''s warning regarding the possibility of reform to appreciate the unlikelihood of future success:
    Anti-Judaism is too deeply embedded in the foundations of Christianity to be rooted out entirely without destroying the whole structure."
At what point in societal frustration does the background hum of benign anti-Semitism reemerge as lethal anti-Semitism, and give rise to another charismatic leader intent on once and for all solving the "Jewish Problem" by eradicating Jewish life entirely from the Diaspora? There is no statistical model to provide warning. We can only use history as guide to the future. Nearly two thousand years of experience has, according to some estimates, so far resulted in one out of every two Jews born during that period being murdered by our hosts.
We can accept - reluctantly or willingly - that the extraordinary circumstance of severe economic collapse following the First World War pried open the floodgates to the West''s unconscious demons regarding the Jews. We are compelled to recognize that, with the technological advances in computers and instruments of mass destruction developed since the Holocaust, that a future effort to solve the West''s "Jewish Problem", to define who is a Jew "back to a single grandparent," will certainly be far more successful than that nearly successful effort of the twentieth century.
Israel is the creation of the Diaspora, refuge in time of need. The Law of Return is not open to revision by our current beneficiaries of Zionism''s refuge for the Diaspora.
Is another Holocaust assured? No. Is it likely? What does History suggest?