Thursday, April 28, 2022

A Jewish ethics professor in 1893 blamed Jews for American antisemitism

Dr. Felix Adler (1851-1933) was a well-known chair of political and social ethics at Columbia University who was also the rector for the Ethical Culture School. The son of a popular Reform rabbi, he believed that the world needs a universal religion does away with God and concentrates on ethical teachings.

He was a social justice warrior before its time, supporting the popular social causes of the day. 

He was quite opposed to antisemitism. He lectured about it at Carnegie Hall in 1897, saying that it was "un-Christian," and emphasizing the evils of stereotyping people.

But in 1893, speaking at a Jewish venue in New York, he pretty much blamed American antisemitism on its victims - doing what he would later decry himself by characterizing Jews as unrefined, loud and obnoxious. 

He said that German antisemitism at the time was the result of nationalism gone amok, but American antisemitism came from social factors - and if American antisemites hated Jews, it must be at least partially the Jews' fault.
In this country the opposition to the Jew is not on account of his race or religion, as there is no country on the face of God's earth where the freedom to worship according to the dictates of conscience is so respected. Jews are opposed here principally from social reasons, and in keeping with that unrest which is tending to the improvement of the world in everything. It cannot be denied that Jews are despised and condemned in this country, and there must be a reason for it.

When I am injured, what should do? Should I return like for like? No. That is the reasoning of the ancients. |I should inquire if there is not a cause in me that led to the injury. As Jews we are bound to ask ourselves what it is that makes the anti-Semitic feeling in the United States.

A few ignorant persons may find fault with thé Jew because of his religion, but the great evil is that Jews have made themselves unpopular because of their habits. They lack reserve,  modesty of behavior, talk loudly in public places, grab for the best of everything among others, by the lack of good manners do not consider the rights of others and render themselves obnoxious in other ways. Jews have many admirable qualities: They are temperate, domestic, virtuous aad law abiding, but the evil that they do makes the greatest impression. It is the 'loudness' of Jews that makes them disliked, and there's  often good ground for the complaint.

It is said that Jews are a menace to American institutions, There will be a reform movement to take politics out of the hands of politicians and turn the city's affairs over to those who do not make a living of it, who will give the city what is needed in the way  of improvements. Now, if the Russian Jews, who will join the reform party, cast 20,000 votes for good government, they will show that they are good citizens and prove that they are in favor of the republic.

Jews must cultivate self-respect, not pride, by the study of Jewish literature and history and show that they are proud of the title of gentleman. Then they will be welcomed everywhere as worthy members of society.
This philosophy echoes today among the intelligentsia, who say that only if Israel acts the way they say is refined and moral, the world will accept it and embrace it. It isn't up to Jews to decide how to act.

Other minorities must be allowed to act however they want because it is prejudiced to demand that they change their ways. Other groups cannot be judged according to the standards of others. Hate for other groups is irrational and terrible. But Jews must act as their critics say they should act,  otherwise those who hate them are justified.

The bigotry is the same as it ever was. It is just dressed up in nice language.

(New York Recorder, reproduced in the Selma [Alabama] Times, June 18, 1893)

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