THE FATAL EMBRACE by Benjamin Ginsberg


Jews and the State
Email this review


 A forceful study of the relationship between Jews and the state. Ginsberg (The Captive Public, 1986) contends that Jews have frequently sought the protection of the state as a response to the hostile attitudes and actions of their neighbors--but that when Jews achieve power within the state, they often become the victims of new animosities. Moreover, sometimes ``the embrace of the state proved to be fatal.'' With the exception of an opening look at Jews and the state in Europe and the Middle East, Ginsberg focuses here on American history, showing how Jewish groups have used both the federal and state governments to end discrimination and to provide themselves with access to educational and employment opportunities. Though Jews constitute only 3% of the nation's population, they comprise, by the author's measure, more than 25% of its elite journalists and publishers, more than 17% of its heads of major voluntary and public-interest organizations, and more than 15% of its top-ranking civil servants. The importance of Jews in these fields, Ginsberg says, have made them easy targets of anti-Semitism from both the left and right. Particularly intriguing is the author's analysis of the current conflict between Jews and blacks-- a conflict that's unavoidable, he believes, because both groups are dependent upon the public economy for opportunity and status. Ginsberg feels that the anti-Semitic rhetoric adopted by some members of the African-American community ``sometimes serves as a weapon through which blacks can intimidate their Jewish rivals and supplant them in public positions and as the beneficiaries of public funds.'' Although Ginsberg's arguments--well-documented in statistics and footnotes--are compelling, they don't always convince: e.g., that Jewish activists were at the forefront of the anti-Vietnam movement because they didn't want domestic funds that benefited them to be diverted abroad. Provocative and intriguing--but not without flaws.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-226-29665-2
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993