Exploring issues related to Israel, Israeli society & global Jewry
In this article Prof. Ran Greenstein explores how Isaac Deutscher's concept of 'the non-Jewish Jew' can be used to help better understand the political orientation of Jewish South African & Israeli activists -- both historically & in the present.
"Liberal Zionists are Jews but not ‘non-Jewish’ as they proudly are part of the Jewish-Israeli mainstream. Anti-Zionists are ‘non-Jewish’ (in a political sense) but are not usually motivated by a specific Jewish sensibility."
In a speech delivered sixty years ago, writer and activist Isaac Deutscher coined the phrase ‘the non-Jewish Jew’. This term referred to a group of intellectuals of Jewish background – Baruch Spinoza, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, and Sigmund Freud – who, according to Deutscher, “found Jewry too narrow, too archaic, and too constricting. They all looked for ideals and fulfilment beyond it, and they represent the sum and substance of much that is greatest in modern thought.”
What was specifically Jewish about them? Deutscher argued that
… as Jews they dwelt on the borderlines of various civilizations, religions, and national cultures. They were born and brought up on the borderlines of various epochs ... They were each in society and yet not in it, of it and yet not of it. It was this that enabled them to rise in thought above their societies, above their nations, above their times and generations.