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In The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago, Larry Derfner wrote about how both of his friend’s sons are marrying children of Asian immigrants. Part elegy, part rant, the piece explores why “old-fashioned, secular unrich” Jews like his friend’s sons are coupling with Asian women rather than Jewish ones.
The American Jewish community is no longer the same as it was 40 years ago. For Derfner, that’s a shame.
But now, according to Derfner, it’s all shot to hell. American Jews are obsessed with wealth and display it ostentatiously. Humility, hard work, education? Forget it. Now the only Jews who retain these values en masse are the Orthodox. But for staunchly secular Jews like Derfner, religiosity is not an option.
Derfner’s argument certainly is provocative–who ever expected to read an anti-inmarriage essay from a secular (dove-ish) Zionist? But his provocation rests on the liberal use of stereotypes, some of which are nearly antisemitic. When he speaks of “these shallow, starry-eyed, spoiled, smug young American Jews,” is he not regurgitating a tired Jewish American Princess archtype, minus the politically incorrect gendered qualities? When he talks of Asians as “good, kind, hard-working, smart, modest and loyal,” is he not perpetuating a common, albeit positive, stereotype of Asians?
Ultimately, Derfner is less interested in the intermarriage debate than he is in the state of American Jewry. I don’t think he genuinely encourages Jews to marry Asians instead of Jews–his real target is the conspicuous consumption and declining educational and work expectations of American Jews. A fact-based essay that tackles those issues–that I’d like to see.
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