“Self-Deleting Jews”

(Feel free to skip if you’re not hot for ethnoapologetics.)

THERE’S AN UGLY MEME IN the Jewish community that may or may not have analogs among other minority groups: the so-called “self-hating Jew.”

This term, most often used in online Jewish fora (the Forward, Tablet, Jewschool, et al) when someone Jewish posts a critically outre comment about Israel, is more generally used to describe one who turns his or her back on “the tribe” and spends some significant time publicly railing thereupon. (Peter Beinart and Adrienne Rich come most prominently to this writer’s mind, but someone once used it to describe me when I naively asked in one forum, “Is there such a thing as ‘too Jewish?'” I don’t think so, but some apparently do.)

The self-absorption of my tribe notwithstanding (tribal politics arise from the idea that the most interesting thing in the world is what the other fellow’s doing, and usually that he’s doing it wrong), there are some Jews who just don’t like other Jews (or maybe even “being” Jews themselves). But I’ve always felt uncomfortable about the “self-hating” part of the descriptor. It’s too presumptive, and inaccurate — those tarred with such a brush don’t really seem to hate themselves. But they do seem to have it in for Judaism, or at least their fellow Jews.

Thus, I’d like to propose a new and better meme: the “self-deleting Jew,” one whose watchword is simply, if stridently, “I’m not with those guys.”

The learned Philologos has already discoursed on this topic, groping for his or her own metaphor; I’m just trying to float a new meme of my own. (Don’t worry about attribution, although it would be nice.) Some Jews’ only use for their heritage is to bash it with something. Alas! the poor souls are but self-deleting Jews. They deserve compassion rather than censure; it’s a fine line, however, between compassion and patronization.

“Self-deleting Jew.” Pass it on. Or better yet … don’t.

6 comments for ““Self-Deleting Jews”

  1. 2011.08.16 at 1809

    I prefer to use ‘self-hating Jew’ in the way that Larry David does: As an affirmation of one’s willingness to be critical of anything and everything, who will stick by their opinions no matter how many Jews think otherwise.

  2. 2011.08.16 at 2140

    I really love this neologism. First is the rhyme with “self-defeating.” Then there is the idea of deletion. Deletion from the community. Deletion from history. It is sad.

  3. Juliet Milkens
    2011.08.17 at 0743

    – I thought that Peter Beinart’s article in the NYRB on why young people are not attracted to the Jewish way of life/Israel was a fair appraisal – certainly based on my children and their friends. I don’t get how he comes to be characterized as self-hating or self deleting. Please explain.

    • 2011.08.17 at 0910

      That’s a characterization I’ve seen more than once, more often by commenters than writers. I can’t judge Mr. Beinart’s NYRB article (haven’t read it), but in his other writings he seems to me to have the same relationship with Israel as Richard Dawkins has to God.

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