Over the last three weeks we have been considering books that shed light on the Holocaust. One book we've noted, at once deeply insightful and curiously obtuse, is Peter Novick's The Holocaust in American Life (1999). Novick is scathing about what he regards as unseemly and foolish attempts to maintain the uniqueness of the Holocaust among the episodes of genocide that modern history recognizes. The claim is "fatuous," Novick says; obviously every act of genocide is unique, and also bears resemblance to others.
But here, as with his willful blindness to the theological dimension of the Shoah, Novick just doesn't get it. The Jews are different, and the Holocaust is unique, and to say so, far from being fatuous, is to acknowledge one of the great mysteries of history.
"That the Jews are God's chosen people," Richard John Neuhaus writes, "should be beyond dispute for Christians," and even those who are neither Christians nor Jews (nor Jewish Christians) must acknowledge the ultimately mysterious "chosenness" of the Jewish people, both for good and for ill. Neuhaus's words come from his introduction to The Chosen People in an Almost Chosen Nation: Jews and Judaism in America, just published by Eerdmans, a superb collection of essays originally published in First Things, the journal which has done more than any other to forward dialogue between believing Christians and Jews. (See also Neuhaus's commentary, "Whatever You Do, Don't Mention the Jews," leading off "The Public Square" in the May issue of First Things.)
One sign of that chosenness—melancholy, bizarre, and yet somehow representative in its very idiosyncrasy—is the tale of Jews in the Japanese Mind: The History and Uses of a Cultural Stereotype, as related by David Goodman ...1
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