My newest review is up at the Forward:
What do we talk about when we talk about Jewish self-hatred? That’s the question Paul Reitter tackles in his new book, “On the Origins of Jewish Self-Hatred.” After tracing the first appearances of the term “Jewish self-hatred” in interwar Germany, and filtering out contemporary polemics, he looks for what remains. The precipitate, achieved through a painstaking literary decanting of both primary texts and secondary scholarship, is odd as well as remarkable.
“Jewish self-hatred,” according to Reitter, originally meant something positive. It was not simply internalized prejudice, nor was it a club with which to beat your political opponents. Rather, it was a distinctive, ironic and redemptive way of being: “the capacity through which the Jews could teach the world how to heal itself.”
If this seems counter-intuitive or bizarre, just read on.