Off the Pulpit

Loving the Gifted One

In the wake of a rising of anti-Semitism, one strategy is to emphasize the Jewish contribution to the world. The hope is that recognizing the many blessings Jews have brought to humanity will ameliorate some of the hatred. The list of benefits created by Jews, from the polio vaccine to the writings of Kafka, are sometimes triumphantly listed as though the mind of the hater can be changed by the qualities of the hated. Yet resentment of achievement is as likely as admiration of it.
A virus which is not spread by reason cannot be cured by reason. A rainfall of facts will not put this fire out. In his journal the poet Delmore Schwartz wrote the following inspired by the story of Joseph:
The gift is loved but not the gifted one
The coat of many colors is much admired
By everyone, but he who wears the coat
Is not made warm.
We should still insist on facts and achievements and the reality of Jewish existence. But hatred does not begin in the behavior of the Jew but rather in the derangement of the anti-Semite. Our job is to create a world where those who offer gifts too are kept warm.