“Jewishness is, in the twentieth century, a club from which there can be no resignations.” George Steiner’s pronunciamento sounds compelling, but Jews are a discordant clan, prophets against kings, reform against orthodox, Zionists against assimilationists. Garrulous antagonism is their habitual style, anti-Semitism not unknown: Karl Marx called a rival socialist a “yid.” The philosopher Berel Lang finds it offensive when people speak of the Jews, as if they formed a single, sinister bundle. The frequent use by broadcasters of “the Jewish community” is a form of abstract ghettoization. Who speaks in that style of other citizens in an essentially secular society?

Greeks and Jews have in common that their divisions are part of their strength. There were Greeks, as there...

 
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