Leaving the Golden Age behind

Leaving the Golden Age behind

If we want to make lemonades out of lemons, and want to find the most niche way of doing it, we could say that one good thing to come out of the new rise of antisemitism is the brilliant Jewish journalism that’s showing up in the Atlantic.

The Atlantic’s been good for years, and it’s not a Jewish magazine — recently it’s included great work by Tim Alberta on Christian fundamentalism and McKay Coppins on Mitt Romney. It has good writing by Jewish journalists on general subjects — David Frum, say, on politics.

But this week Franklin Foer has a story about antisemitism in this horrifying new world in the magazine. “The Golden Age of American Jews is ending” is a terrifying but also edifying story; long, detailed, relentless, clear-eyed, and true. It follows last month’s piece by Dara Horn, “Why the most educated people in America fall for antisemitic lies,” a personal, focused, brilliant, and again terrifying piece. And staff writer Yair Rosenberg has been coming out with stories about what’s going on in Israel that are written with clarity, incision, and insight.

That’s the good news, and it pretty much ends there.

As Foer shows, although we American Jews still, on the whole, are safe and prosperous, the culture is turning on us, pincering in from both sides. It’s coming from the left, as is obvious in the rhetoric, either inane or insane, that comes from the progressive world. And it’s coming from the right, where antisemites often are less guarded in their drivel and spite. But the ancient hatred against us is capable of extraordinary shape-shifting.

Foer thinks that this most recent rise in antisemitism was loosened by September 11, when wild conspiracy theories often featured Jews; the rise of Donald Trump unloosed the sewer covers on the right, and long-festering hatred of Israel was transmogrified by Israel’s war in Gaza on the left, while Hamas’s butchery left Jew-haters quiet at best, enraptured at worst.

David Rocker, whom we write about in this week’s cover story, loaned me a copy of Life magazine’s special edition commemorating, as the cover headline tells us, “Israel’s Swift Victory.” It’s from 1967, about the Six-Day War, and features spectacular photography, emotional writing, and near hagiography as it celebrates Israel and Israelis.

It is a wonderful object, and it could never be published today. It’s from the time that Franklin Foer identified as the peak of the Golden Age.

Maybe we’ll go through yet another cycle, and a golden age will come again. When you’re 2,000 years old, life cycles — but sometimes it takes a very long time.

Until then, we’ll have to be strong and take care of each other.


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