In her book When Light Pierced The Darkness, Polish born University of Connecticut Professor Emerita of Sociology Nechama Tec, offers a chilling portrait of one root of the insidious evil known as antisemitism.

Tec quotes two antisemitic Polish writers who blame the Jews themselves for the antisemtism to which Jewish people have so often been subjected:

Catholic writer Marek Dunski – There were tremendous differences between Jews and Poles and these differences created resentment. It was the Jews who refused to assimilate. Maybe they thought that it was better for them to be separate from the rest of the Poles. In large measure acceptance depended on the Jews themselves. Poles accepted those who wanted to assimilate.

Writer and rescuer Roman Sadowski – Wherever there are Jews there is anti-Semitism. People resent those who differ from them. The Jews did not blend into their environment and it was their strangeness that created anti-Semitism. In this respect, people are not different from animals. Take for example a group of ordinary mice; if you place a white one among them they will devour it. It is the same with Jews. (Tec, Nechama. When Light Pierced The Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland. NY: Oxford University Press, 1986, 60)

To “assmiliate” as used by Dunski means “to bring into conformity with the customs, attitudes, etc., of a group, nation, or the like; adapt or adjust.” Assimilation is the end of difference, the loss of diversity, the end of distinctiveness.

Healthy ecosystems depend upon diversity. For the well-being of physical landscapes it is essential to protect biodiversity. The environment is diminished by the loss of any species.

When the human community banishes difference demanding homogeneity, culture is impoverished. Of course human societies can only survive when members of that society agree to abide by the rule of law that seeks to diminish harm and offer protection to the vulnerable. But when we say, “If you want to live here, you must be like us,” we are creating a culture of violence in which, sooner or later, no one is safe.

“Strangeness” does not create antisemitism. Antisemitism is created by fear of that which is different; it derives from insecurity, never from real strength. Real strength is not threatened by difference. It is not frightened by the unfamiliar or by practices that appear odd and incomprehensible.

Real strength has the security to embrace difference and rejoice in diversity. It does not need a world that is perfectly tidy and homogeneous.

 

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