Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Dershowitz Has ‘Tsuris’

A theory of Jewish survival

Print Email
Alan Dershowitz.(info.mishkenot/Flickr)

In Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, in the course of reviewing Touré’s new book on “post-black” identity, Orlando Patterson wrote, “This sounds remarkably like a black version of what Alan Dersho­witz calls ‘the Tsuris Theory of Jewish Survival,’ in which assimilated American Jews desperately need external troubles and imagined enemies to maintain their identity.”

The Tsuris Theory of Jewish Survival!

I had to know more. Quick Googling shows this got prominent airing in 1997’s The Vanishing American Jew. “Under this theory, the Jews need external troubles to stay Jewish,” Dershowitz wrote. “Many Jewish leaders, both religious and secular, have argued that Jews need enemies—that without anti-Semitism, Judaism cannot survive.” He convincingly cites Theodor Herzl, the Lubavitcher rebbe, and Albert Einstein on this score.

“But there is more—much more—to Jewish identity than collective self-defense,” he insists, continuing:

If Jewish life cannot thrive in an open environment of opportunity, choice, freethinking, affluence, success, and first-class status—if we really do need tsuris, czars, pogroms, poverty, insularity, closed minds, and anti-Semitism to keep us Jewish—then Jewish life as we know it will not, and should not, survive the first half of the twenty-first century. We have been persecuted long enough. The time has come to welcome the end of our victimization without fear that it will mean the end of our existence as a people.

I will leave it to others to determine whether Dershowitz has practiced what he has so eloquently and thoughtfully preached. And I will refer you to this essay by Leon Wieseltier for further elaboration.

Related: Hitler Is Dead [TNR/Beliefnet]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

i can never read that wieseltier piece too many times. amazing stuff.

Bottom Line:
I am age 73. It is my view that the
Holocaust happened to “us”. My
children view the holocaust as something
that happened to “them”. Need I say
more???? Gil

Jules says:

Alan Dershowitz is a disgusting disgrace to any rational person with a real and genuine living, breathing, thinking conscience. He has become Von Bulow.

Hello! I simply wish to create a huge thumbs up for that fantastic advice you have here on this article. I’ll be returning to your site for additional shortly.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Dershowitz Has ‘Tsuris’

A theory of Jewish survival

More on Tablet:

11 Non-Jewish Celebrities—and 2 Jewish Ones—Show Off Their Hebrew Tattoos

By Marjorie Ingall — You don’t have to be Jewish to sport Hebrew ink. But some of these stars should have thought twice before going under the needle.