The Secularization of Relations between Jews and Non-Jews: An Introduction


their White Paper policy , extremely limiting Jewish immigration . In the United States , an immigrant country on which the Jews had pinned their hopes since the last quarter of the nineteenth century , isolationist tendencies and economic difficulties increased in the interwar period , and helped create an anti-Semitic atmosphere that hindered any attempt to change the rigid immigration laws in effect at the time . The result was that the gates remained shut to Jews . The problem worsened after the Anschluss , the annexation of Austria to Germany , and with the increasing pressure on Jews to leave the territory of the Third Reich . The saga of the St . Louis , the ship which the Germans loaded in May 1939 with close to a thousand Jews , claiming that they were assured entry to Cuba , came to symbolize the worst dilemma of these days . After the Cuban government refused to permit the passengers to debark , the ship sailed from place to place in an attempt to avoid returning to the port of Hamburg . Finally , and only after the combined efforts of Jewish organizations and the payment of hefty sums , were the refugees received in Belgium , the Netherlands , France , and England . At that time the British allowed a limited number of children , and men released from concentration camps , to enter the country ; at the same time , however , control over the transit of Jews into Switzerland was tightened , and the situation of those seeking refuge became more and more grave . During the war itself , when the Germans no longer permitted the exit of Jews from the Reich , an additional barrier was erected between Jews and non-Jews . The Allies devoted all their efforts to the war , and related to the destruction of the Jews by the Nazis with disbelief or indifference . It is assumed that legitimate strategic considerations were joined by a not inconsiderable degree of anti-Semitism in the upper bureaucratic echelons , for example in Great Britain , which resulted in inaction concerning this issue . The question of the possibility of the bombing of Auschwitz and the railroad tracks leading to it is still the subject of disagreement among historians . At any rate , the fact that nothing was done in this respect strengthened the postwar sense of isolation among Jews . Many felt that the optimistic promise of the Age of Emancipation had ended in catastrophe , and whoever did not join the murderers of the Jews did not do enough to defend them . Once the war ended and the Allied forces reached the extermination camps , they could see with their own eyes the dimensions of the catastrophe . Some of the survivors wanted to return to their homes and were often greeted with hostility by their neighbors , who had taken advantage of their “ absence ” in various ways . Displaced Persons camps were established in the Allied occupation zones in Germany , and an effort was made to resettle the Jews , either within or beyond a European continent that was licking its wounds . In 1948 , upon the establishment of the State of Israel , the gates were opened for aliyah . A new map of the distribution of the Jews in the world soon came into being , and their standing in their homelands changed again . Over the course of time , the two basic concepts that we used to describe relations between Jews and non-Jews lost their centrality . Instead of the “ Diaspora , ” three main Jewish centers emerged now : Israel , the United States , and Russia . Only small communities exist elsewhere . Additionally , the Jews are no longer always a minority . The sovereign State of Israel , that defines itself as Jewish and democratic , now had to regularize the standing of religious and national minorities within its borders and determine its attitude , both formal and informal , to them . At the same time , the state - whose citizens are an unmistakable small minority within the surrounding Arab expanse – is now in a protracted conflict with the non-Jews within and outside the country . In the United States , too , a new Jewish identity has taken shape , based , at least partially , on attitudes to Israel and on the gradual formation of a new “ hyphenated identity ” for American-Jews , in parallel to other such hyphenated groups in that country . To a great extent , here , too , the concept of “ minority”

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