Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al
2017-01-11 02:10 pm (UTC)
I feel like some of our difference may be an America/England thing.
The history of assimilatory pressure for New York Jews is such a complicated thing, and I think a lot of people don't realize just how much the pressure was coming from other American Jews. You know the meme about how all of the classic American Christmas songs were written by Jews like Irving Berlin and Mel Torme and so on? A lot of Jews, myself sometimes included, take an ironic pride in that today, but the ur-reason for it is that in the early 20th century a lot of Jews observed Christmas. Not because they had Christian family members or Christian friends, but because observing Christmas was "what Americans did" and the new Eastern European immigrants were being pushed as hard as possible by people who often had coercive power over them (aid workers, English teachers, political machine officials) to become Americans as quickly as possible. (And to be fair, I can't totally fault the coercers, especially the Jewish coercers, because I think they recognized the powderkeg they were sitting on, as hundreds of thousands of impoverished members of their own despised race flooded into America and forced the anti-semitic and nativist establishment to respond to their existence.)
I see the December Dilemma as being the ambivalent response to the rise of identity politics and the rejection of this old melting pot definition of Americanism. Jews today generally recognize that observing Christmas as Jews in order to be American is a basically inauthentic practice, in a culture where 'authenticity' is so important to personal identity, and where concern about 1920s anti-semitism has dissipated. But at the same time, they are living immersed in it and a lot of the coercive pressure to observe it still exists in the cultural ether, particularly passed down generationally: if you're a Jew whose parents had a Christmas tree (or stated more strong, whose parents felt obligated to have a Christmas tree), you may have conflicted feelings between the sense of inauthenticity and the sense of it as an acceptable, normalized practice. The strings behind the coercion are less present now that American Jewry is more self-sufficient, so it's sort of the ghost of that coercion that still lives.
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