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The Schlemiel Goes To War

Nextbook author speaks to Jewish West Point grads

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Professor Ruth Wisse.(Harvard)

Ruth Wisse—a professor of Yiddish at Harvard and the author of Nextbook Press’s Jews and Power—gave a special commencement address last week to the 13 Jewish cadets who graduated this year from West Point. It’s well worth your time.

Speaking to the college grads, she recalled her own doctoral dissertation, titled, “The Schlemiel as Modern Hero.” The schlemiel—the quintessential bumbling Yiddish everyman (who, as Marissa Brostoff observed, continues to find new incarnations)—is, Wisse notes, “a man so naïve that he doesn’t understand the premise of the fight into which he has been conscripted.”

Hence the following joke: During World War I, an officer announces to his troops, “The moment has come! We’re going to charge the enemy. It’ll be man against man in hand-to-hand combat.”

A Jewish solider responds: “Please, sir. Show me my man! Maybe I can come to an understanding with him.”

“We now know,” Wisse continues,

what happened to the people who created those jokes. They were slaughtered in the millions. What we call the Holocaust targeted precisely the population that created schlemiel comedy. We learned from that episode that sweetness was no laughing matter and that joking—which momentarily releases tension—offered no defense against real belligerents. The schlemiel who initially made us laugh also taught us to raise our guard.

Her point? “In this season of convocation, we your relatives, friends, and well-wishers honor you who have trained for the armed forces, acting on the knowledge that radical innocence is no match for radical evil.”

War Is No Joke [The Weekly Standard]
Related: Jews and Power [Nextbook Press]
Look Out! [Tablet Magazine]

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This woman is a giant.

manny says:

Jeremy ben Ami
Norman Finkelstein
all the morons you can wish for.
Those whose time will only come when the head falls into the basket.



Beth says:

I think the schlemiel was a lot smarter than all those soldiers who went into combat just because the officer told them to.

The schlemiel’s only mistake was letting himself be “conscripted”.

The fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down,
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning ’round.

It is such an oversimplification of war to consider it “a war against radical evil.” These honorable Jewish men and women have chosen to serve a country where our people have flourished and prospered but they are not entering into a service of high morality.

The Right will tell us that Rome fell due to barbarian raids on its Empire and that is why we must crush the barbarianism of Islam. History dooms us to repetition, but Professor Wisse already knows this.

Wisse should stick to literature and avoid history.

She is covering up violence

1. that had taken root and was growing in the ethnic Ashkenazi community throughout the 19th century and

2. that included massive financial crimes, sabotage, targeted assassinations (Alexander II, Stolypin, Nicholas II to name three important victims as well as the forgotten victims of Zionist special night squads in Palestine), attempted coups (Bavaria, Hungary, and Rumania), successful revolution (against the Czarist Empire), mass murder, ethnic cleansing, and genocide throughout the Soviet Union and Palestine.

Wisse is not much of a scholar, and her understanding of Yiddish is severely flawed as I have pointed out on my blog.

The schlemiel was an act or a pose that developed in Poland to convince the szlachta (the gentry) that Jews were harmless despite the economic power accumulated by the Jewish upper class during the 15th and 16th century.

The shtick is still with us, and now academic poseurs like Wisse try to teach the lie as scholarly truth.

David says:

Wisse’s message to Jewish cadets is another trite invocation of the Holocaust and a defense of a martial mentality. It hasn’t worked in the US, and it’s not working in Israel either. It’s the wrong message for a time which could really use a bit of the Yiddishe seele (Jewish soul) that Wisse makes a joke of.


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The Schlemiel Goes To War

Nextbook author speaks to Jewish West Point grads

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