Monday, June 01, 2009

Genuinely eminent ...

... Joseph Epstein on The story of George Eliot's 'Daniel Deronda'. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The role of the Jews, as George Eliot understood it, and as Himmelfarb underscores, was a combination of separation and communication. They were to remain, through their religion and sense of peoplehood, separate, but always a people with much to communicate to the rest of the world. In a brilliant passage toward the end of The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot, Himmelfarb writes that Daniel Deronda, published well before the Holocaust and the founding of Israel, before the Dreyfus Affair and the pogroms in Eastern Europe, "reminds us that Israel is not merely a refuge for desperate people, that the history of Judaism is more than the bitter annals of persecution and catastrophe, and that Jews are not only, certainly not essentially, victims, survivors, martyrs, or even an abused or disaffected people." George Eliot's great prescient point is that, as Himmelfarb notes, it was not anti-Semitism but "Judaism, the religion and the people, that created the Jew. And it was Judaism that created the Jewish state, the culmination of a proud and enduring faith that defined the Jewish 'nation,' uniting Jews even as they were, and as they remain, physically dispersed."

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