Monday, August 17, 2015

Can't Win From Losing

Tablet has an interesting profile up on Delphine Horvilleur, a prominent French Rabbi (promiennt both for her own sake as powerful voice for liberal Judaism, and because she is among a very small group of female Rabbis in France). One passage that struck me, though, was her anxieties about how Jews are perceived as a "community" in a France whose model of equality is marked by an extreme hostility to any sort of differentiation:
Still, despite herself, her Jewishness has lately come to the fore. After the January attack at a kosher market, she no longer brings her children grocery shopping; she has caught herself remarking to friends that men with peyos are “courageous” to ride the Métro in Paris. As much as she detests the “competition for victim-status” in which the French tend to engage, jockeying for recognition from the entitlement state—this is “the great French malady,” she said—she finds herself reassured by the soldiers who have been assigned since the killings to guard synagogues and other Jewish sites throughout the country. And yet she worries that protection will be viewed by some non-Jews as yet another symbol of Jewish privilege, reinforcing notions of a “Jewish community.” “It’s normal that the state protect us,” Horvilleur said, using the first-person-plural in what seemed an unconscious confirmation of her fears. “But at the same time, the more they protect us, the more they weaken us.”
This last part, wherein Rabbi Horvilleur frets that enhanced security for Jewish institutions will be seen as proof of "Jewish privilege", really resonates with some points I tried to make in my own Tablet piece (and the director's cut). There, I noted the strong belief amongst many that Jews are anti-discrimination "winners" -- that though we might have faced discrimination in the past, now we receive the full panoply of legal and social protections such that we've been fully integrated into society as equals. At best, this is inaccurate but presented as a model to aspire to. At worst, it is viewed as an injustice of its own -- lucky Jews, greedily hording private sympathies and public rights to themselves while the "real" victims continue to suffer. And it is opinions like this that cause Jews to have to worry that being in a situation where armed guards have to be posted outside their buildings will be taken as proof of how privileged Jews really are.

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