Did the Holocaust’s shadow give Progressive Jews such a fear of dying that they cling to a political ideology promising (but not delivering) peaceful death?
A theory that popped into my mind yesterday that may help explain the mystery of the Progressive Jew, a person who clings desperately to the Democrat party despite the party’s escalating hostility to Jews and Israel. I wonder if it’s all tied into the way in which the Holocaust weighs on Jews of my generation.
I got started on this line of thinking because an old, although not terribly close, friend of mine died yesterday. When I say “old,” I don’t mean chronologically old. He was my age — mid-50s — which I consider to be on the slightly younger side of middle-age. (Perhaps that’s wishful thinking.) His death was also not entirely unexpected, because it was a recurrence of a problem he’d had before and was fighting for years.
My friend is not the first of the increasingly frequent brushes with mortality that are intertwining with my life. The older generation — parents, relatives, colleagues, all in their 80s and 90s — are passing away with relentless frequency. That’s to be expected. What’s more disturbing for me is the number of people, such as my deceased friend, who are my age and succumbing to cancer, heart disease, the effects of substance abuse, and other ills that start chasing us as we age.
What I’ve noticed is that my religious friends face death differently than my non-religious friends. They’re not resigned, which indicates a lack of hope, but they’re philosophical and that philosophy melds with the hope, allowing them to focus on the treatment process without too much fear. They see themselves as part of a greater plan, with God as their partner. If this plan denies them recovery, Christians look to the promise of Heaven; Jews put their faith in the final resurrection.
In contrast, my atheist friends have nothing to hang on to. The Grim Reaper is threatening them without rhyme or reason and then, at the end, there’s nothing.
I think, though, that there’s an added twist for many contemporary secular Jews when they consider death. By the way, when I say “secular,” I’m including non-Orthodox Jews who follow the outward form of worship in reform and “lite” conservative synagogues. They belong to a Temple, they attend on the High Holy days, and they probably send their kids to Sunday school . . . but they don’t believe in God. For them, these are rituals that tie them to their childhood communities, that fulfill a long for tradition, and that are a strong part of their Jewish identity.
More importantly for many, these “religious” observances are a strong part of their political identity. They pay lip service to the Torah, but they believe in the Democrat Party platform.
So far, you’re probably wondering what separates the Jews I’ve described from those Progressive Christians who distinguish themselves by obsessing whether Jesus — described as “the Son of God” — was in fact a racist. For example, this minister concludes that Jesus was a racist — just like his fellow Jews — but could be swayed by others’ faith. (Here’s another example of Jesus’s purported racism.) These are vaguely antisemitic interpretations but, more than that, they advance a “Jesus is just one of us” interpretation that seems to conflict with a deep belief in his divinity. But that’s just my reading.
The difference between Progressive Jews and Christians is one grounded in the real world, not in the spiritual realm: My generation of Jews grew up in the Holocaust’s shadow.
Is there a Jew born between 1920 and 1970 or so who doesn’t have a perpetual reel of the Holocaust playing in the recesses of his or her mind? I suspect it’s always there: the horrible, excruciatingly painful, lonely, humiliating methods of dying that the Nazis inflicted on the Jews. (They inflicted these on others, but Jews, of course, are unique in being a racial group singled out for the worst treatment.)
My fellow Jews and I grew up hearing about the round-ups, the freezing or boiling cattle cars in which hundreds of people were packed without food, water, or bathing facilities, the pregnant women whose legs were tied together during labor, the gas chambers, the sadistic guards, the “scientific” experiments, the death pits at Baba Yar, and the whole panoply of nightmarish slaughter that the Nazis meted out with special venom to the Jews.
What that mental backdrop instilled in me is a terrible fear, not of death, but of dying. In the Jewish faith, once you’re dead, your consciousness is over until the glorious moment of the ultimate resurrection. If you are fundamentally an atheist, and do not believe that you are part of God’s plan, the process of death, rather than death itself, becomes the ultimate horror. And as is true for all ultimate horrors living in the human consciousness, you obsess about it and may well be incapable of looking around or beyond it.
I can’t help but feel that this existential fear that afflicts America’s Progressive Jews plays out in their politics. At some lizard-brain level, they don’t envision themselves dying peacefully in their beds; instead, they know deep in their bones that dying will be terrible. This thought permeates their existence. It is, in a word, existential.
Just as, to a hammer, everything is a nail, to Jews, all issues lead to a peaceful death or another pogrom or Holocaust. This is not just a rhetorical device as in “Trump’s executive order means a Holocaust for people kicked off Obamacare.” Or “Trump’s executive freeing religious people from the tyranny of being forced to pay for abortions means a Holocaust for women.” Or “Trump’s racist efforts to stop illegal immigration from Latin America means a Holocaust for [fill in the blank].
Instead, for Jews, these fears are viscerally real. They, more than others, fear guns, because the media has assured them that, just as the Nazis killed Jews with guns, other people are using guns to kill. In their minds, with the Nazis gone, the next thing to do is to get rid of the gun. This attitude leaves them incapable of imagining people who’s lives have been saved because they used guns defensively. Instead, the equation is simple: “Violation Holocaust deaths = guns; Non-violent death = no guns.”
Jews, probably more than most, are absolutely hysterical about alleged anthropogenic climate change. It’s not just their blind faith in some God named “Science.” We are seeing their apocalyptic vision of Jews dying in a furnace.
Unlike Shadrach, Mishag, and Abednego, Progressives Jews don’t believe, deep down, that God will walk into the furnace with them. Instead, there will just be the horror of melting flesh in the Holocaust’s crematoria. To avoid that end, they will do anything to prevent climate change no matter how destructive. They cannot risk that the God named “Science” might be wrong.
Progressive American Jews are also the ultimate peaceniks, even when the enemy is closing in on them. They know that, for better or worse, men die horribly in battle. Sometimes it’s Holocaust horrible. With that in mind (and it’s always in mind) any fate is worse than death in battle. Jews phrase it as being humane to the enemy, but the lizard brain knows the truth: It’s better to be a slave to Islam or communism than to replay the Jewish ordeal during WWII.
I know that the majority of Progressives in America come from Christian backgrounds, but that’s just because there are more Christians than Jews. The majority of Jews, however, are Progressives, which does not hold true for Christians. A majority Christians believe that they walk with God at their side, allowing a good number to embrace non-Progressive ideas, while most American Jews know that they live in the Holocaust’s shadow, and have to follow the political party that promises to ward of violent death.
That’s my little theory. It may be no better than this theory. What do you think?
[For those interested, I’m currently not in the fire zone. I’m not being complacent, though, because this is a one heck of a fire. Last night, when I went to sleep, the fire was on a hill, and had burned about 200 acres. That changed. This is the latest report:
County supervisors and emergency officials said three fires were burning in Napa County. The largest is the 35,000-acre Tubbs Fire near Calistoga, which broke out at 9:20 p.m. Sunday. There is zero containment on all of the fires, which also include the Atlas Peak Fire in Napa that has burned 25,000 to 30,000 acres and the 2,000-acre Partrick Fire in the Carneros area of Napa.
“All three of these are a threat at this point,” said David Shew, a Cal Fire spokesman. “We don’t have control of any of them.”
We’re keeping an eye on things, but our home seems safe for now.]