Letter to the Editor 2/13/14

It´s been brought to my attention that Professor Joshua Schreier, in the Jan. 22 article “Office of the President Opposes Israel Boycott,” refers to Jews as a race. Comparing Israel to the apartheid era South Africa, he states that “it is hard to deny that both counties [sic] maintain hierarchies based on race or, in Israel, what is often called ‘nationality.’”

The suggestion that Judaism is a race is extremely disturbing. Such a “theory” has justified persecution of Jews as far back as the Spanish Inquisition, when it was claimed that Jews did not have the pure blood of Christians (i.e. the limpieza de sangre theory.) During the 19th century, Wilhelm Marr promoted the “theory” that Jews were a domineering “race.” Widespread belief in this noxious ideology grew throughout the world, but most especially in Europe during the 20th Century with well known, disastrous consequences. Yet, that same prejudice survived World War II. Charles de Gaulle similarly claimed that Jews are an “elite people, domineering and sure of themselves” who show “burning and conquering ambition.” It may appear, on reading The Miscellany News, that the prejudice still exists, even at an elite, American college. I personally never thought I´d hear such utterances at Vassar!

Jews are—to my knowledge—among the most ancient groups to understand and define themselves as a people—what we today would refer to as a nation. Judaism was and remains an important part of belonging to the Jewish people. But since it has always been possible to convert to Judaism and thus to join the Jewish people, referring to Jews as a “race” is simply wrong. Given its history of promoting persecution, it is both surprising and hurtful that such misinformation now is given space in The Miscellany News, People who hate Jews have tried to turn Jews into a race. Sadly, the rhetoric of such bigoted organizations as the BDS seems to have permeated the campus dialogue, making many Vassar alumnae/i strongly concerned.

—Ase Margrethe Hansen ’77

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