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Diasporas and ExilesVarieties of Jewish Identity$
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Howard Wettstein

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780520228641

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520228641.001.0001

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The Ideology of Affliction: Reconsidering the Adversity Thesis

The Ideology of Affliction: Reconsidering the Adversity Thesis

(p.221) 9 The Ideology of Affliction: Reconsidering the Adversity Thesis
Diasporas and Exiles

Bernard Susser

University of California Press

This chapter is concerned with victimhood. The “adversity thesis” maintains that anti-Jewish prejudice and oppression have been the key to Jewish identity and survival over the last millennium, at least in the Ashkenazi world. But the Enlightenment, with its support for religious skepticism, and post-Shoah developments—specifically the character of Western, democratic, pluralist societies—have caused trouble for the adversity thesis and the marriage of theology and Jewish oppression. To begin with, once the theodicy loses its grip, oppression no longer has any clear or specific significance. Once we stop thinking of oppression as punishment for our waywardness from God or as purification on the way to messianic liberation, it can come to mean many different things. Perhaps it has no special significance at all. In any case, adversity no longer automatically yields group solidarity. Indeed, oppression may encourage assimilation, a “massive silent exit”.

Keywords:   Jewish identity, Enlightenment, oppression, adversity thesis, assimilation

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