In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

118 SHOFAR Anti-Semitism, A Disease of the Mind: A Psychiatrist Explores the Psychodynamics of a Symbol Sickness, by Theodore Isaac Rubin. New York: Continuum ,199O. 146 pp. $14.95. This book, an addition to the extensive literature on the nature and origin of antisemitism, is a compilation of brief essays in which the author offers an explanation of his hypothesis that antisemitism is a contagious, non-organic disease of the mind. Dr. Rubin fashions the diagnostic label "symbol sickness" for the inner workings of bigoted psyches, using antisemitic sentiments as the paradigm par excellence for this aberrant mental condition. The major element of "symbol sickness" is the removal of the symbol from the original object representation. Once achieved, the afflicted person uses the symbol, for example, the term "Jew" or the code name for any group of the symbolically dehumanized, to serve unconscious emotional needs and unfulfilled strivings. The psychiatrist-author utilizes psychodynamic terms and formulations of envy, self-doubt, externalization of internal conflicts, scapegoating, and identity confusion, among many other questionable coping strategies and poorly resolved developmental crises, to elaborate the emergence of "symbol sickness." Although he alludes to historical, economic, religious, and sociologic expositions of antisemitism, he considers the psychological basis in the individual as a necessary if not primary factor for the contagion effect of antisemitism . The illness, which can vary from mild to malignant, is recognized as difficult to treat. In true Talmudic fashion, Rubin falls back on dialectic questioning as to the ways cultural changes and education ought to be considered for an amelioration of antisemitism, if not for its eradication. He perceives the Western world's emphasis on competitive and hierarchical striving as being in need of revamping in favor of greater cooperativeness. Indeed, his view of Jewish survival rests on the notion of mutual support and shared values over historical time. These suggestions for humanizing mankind (an inherently contradictory pursuit?) are well intentioned and idealistic, but more in the context of sermons rather than for practical application. Moreover, the style of writing is more polemic than scientific. A few quotes and references are dispersed throughout the body of the work, but the book lacks a listing of sources or a bibliography which the non-psychiatrically minded reader could turn to for help with understanding technical terms. Although the author employs the "symbol sickness" concept to describe the connection between the individual's psychodynamics and cultural influences , the supporting evidence is mostly anecdotal and literary. However, the hypothesis presented in this book makes room for further investigative stud- Volume 9, No.1 Fall1990 119 ies to elaborate on the idea that bigotry is a mental illness and not just a normal aberration. Werner Israel Halpern, Psychiatrist Rochester, New York The Social Politics of Anglo-Jewry 1880-1920, by Eugene C. Black. Cambridge , MA: Basil Blackwell, 1988. 325 pp. $27.95. The contribution of American scholars to the study of Anglo-Jewish history has been impressive. In particular the pioneer studies of Lloyd Gartner on East European immigrants in England and Todd Endelman's work on Anglo-Jewish social and intellectual development since readmission in 1656 have transformed their subject matter from ones of only antiquarian concern to the mainstream of modern Jewish and British history. Bernard Gainer's study of anti-alienism and a whole host of unpublished American doctoral theses have added further to our knowledge and understanding of Britain's Jewish minority. Eugene Black's major study of the Jewish elite at the time of mass ostjuden immigration is thus the latest product in what is now thirty years of American interest in Anglo-Jewish history, reflecting the advanced state of Jewish studies in the United States compared to the United Kingdom. Vital though this research has been in invigorating the historical study of the Jews in Britain, it has not been without its problems. Limited access to resources has resulted in a concentration on London to the exclusion of the provinces. Moreover the domination of a consensus model and concern about ethnic solidarity from American scholars has led to the downgrading or ignoring of class conflict in the Anglo-Jewish community. In response a more radical group of British historians...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 118-119
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.