Had Jews always remained a self-governing people in their land, there would have been no Crusader wars over Jerusalem, no Spanish Inquisition and no Holocaust. Karl Marx would not have concluded that “the bill of exchange is the Jew’s actual god” and Stalin would not have mounted a lethal campaign against Jewish “rootless cosmopolitans.” Host nations would not have wreaked upon Jews some of the most terrible evils in the history of humankind. The Jewish contribution to the welfare of the world would have been all the greater had the Jews managed to secure for themselves their aboriginal land.
In her new book, ‘Jews and Power’ (Schocken/Nextbook), Harvard Yiddish scholar Ruth Wisse discusses Jewish political adaptability through the ages. In the excerpt below, she shows how this flexibility showed itself most immediately via language.