Jewish Perceptions of Antisemitism

By Gary A. Tobin; Sharon L. Sassler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
DENIAL, WARINESS, AND FEAR
WHAT JEWS SEE

Living in two worlds produces a complicated set of feelings about antisemitism. Looking through American eyes, signs of economic, social, and political success indicate very low levels of discrimination against Jews. Such an assessment might lead some to deny that antisemitism exists at all. However, looking through Jewish eyes may produce feelings of fear. Signs of antisemitism in the United States, both behavioral and attitudinal, continue to be present in one form or another. For most Jews, this results in wariness, the large middle ground between denial and fear.

Sometimes the interpretation of what is seen through American and Jewish lenses is reversed. The bitter history of antisemitism, viewed through Jewish eyes, causes some Jews to deny the continued presence of prejudice, hostility, or violence. Coping is facilitated by denying the problem. Yet American Jews, as Americans, have an almost obsessive concern with individual rights and freedoms, and abhor potential infringements upon those rights. Such an obsession may produce fear, and this fear may in turn result in obsession, mutually reinforcing one another. American Jewish responses to antisemitism are clearly a combination of their hyphenated identity. But neither response, whether it be fear or denial, is the sole product of identity as either Americans or Jews.

The wariness response is the most common blending

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