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Why the Jews?

The Reason for Antisemitism
By Dennis Prager

Reading Group Guide

    Reading Group Guide
    1. Early on, the authors state that they have rewritten this book "in order to counteract the dejudaization of Jew-hatred." How do they accomplish this? In what ways do they prove this "dejudaization," and how do they counteract it? Is this counteracting a matter of defining the problem, of offering solutions, or both?
    2. What were your thoughts about the roots and nature of antisemitism before reading the book? Did those thoughts change at all, and if so, how? Which arguments -- historic or current -- had the greatest impact on your understanding of the situation?
    3. Prager and Telushkin write: "Economic depressions do not explain gas chambers." Explain what they mean by this, in a larger sense. Do you agree entirely? How does the book generally deal with the relationship of cause and effect? In what other global conflicts have transparent rationalizations been offered for abhorrent behavior?
    4. Discuss the idea of "non-Jewish Jews." How are these Jews defined, and what is their role in the history of antisemitism? Do the authors believe non-Jewish Jews have helped to ease or exacerbate the effects of Jew-hatred? Why?
    5. Voltaire, Luther and Chaucer, among others, are shown to be antisemitic. How surprising is it that these figures -- celebrated through time for the achievements of their minds -- would harbor such deep feelings of intolerance? Or, as the authors put it, "How could the rational and tolerant Voltaire be so irrational and illiberal when it came to the Jews?" Was this question answered to your satisfaction? How do you personally reconcile the deep flaws of the many who have produced brilliant or moving works throughout history while also voicing such irrational hatreds?
    6. It's argued that Voltaire helped foster "the idea that the admission ticket for a Jew into Western society was his willingness to stop being a Jew." This is an obvious contradiction, and an impossible situation for a Jew. Is there any scenario in which you could justify renunciation of personal ideals for social comfort? How reasonable is the idea of Jewish assimilation as a solution to antisemitism?
    7. The authors write: "Most modern Jews, themselves secular, have believed that the demise of religion would lead to the end of antisemitism. Yet the twentieth century, the most secular century in history, has been the most antisemitic." Do you believe increased secularization of society actually increases antisemitism as a general rule? If so, why? If not, what specifically about the 20th century created that correlation?
    8. How did the book affect your understanding of the crisis in the Middle East as it stands today? Did your opinion of the troubles there change significantly, and in what way? What argument or evidence caused this shift in your thinking?
    9. How are the differences between Nazism and Christian antisemitism approached and defined by the authors? What application do these differences have in illuminating the larger picture?
    10. America is offered as an example of one of the only truly Judeo-Christian societies. Why have Jews been able to fit into American culture with relative ease, compared to other countries around the world -- even other democracies? How do the authors link the inspiration behind hatred of America and Israel in certain parts of the world, and are the reasons for this link convincing to you?
    11. The book contends that, "the further Left one goes" on the political spectrum, "the greater the antisemitism." Did this idea strike you as counter-intuitive, and how so? Do you believe it's true, based on the evidence offered?

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