What Is “the Jews”?

Joshua Abramson Cohen in the Boston Review:

I have never in my life ‘loved’ any people or collective,” Hannah Arendt famously wrote in a 1963 letter to Gersom Scholem, embracing Scholem’s accusation that she was a daughter of the Jews who failed to love the Jewish family as a whole. Besides the circularity and the meanness entailed in such self-love, Arendt made clear, the love of an abstraction made no sense to her: “I indeed love ‘only’ my friends and the only kind of love I know of and believe in is the love of persons.” Daniel Boyarin’s latest book, The No-State Solution: A Jewish Manifesto, can be read as the reply that Scholem, who stopped talking to Arendt, never sent—an attempt to describe a Jewish love of the Jewish people that somehow turns on the love of persons.

“Putting it somewhat crassly,” Boyarin explains, “I am interested here in ‘real Jews,’ Jews who live and breathe, eat and make love and get pregnant (or don’t), get sick and die, and on the way, behave in various ways: singing, dancing, writing books, reading books, speaking quaint languages, and arguing constantly.” “Real Jews” might be crass, but it is a term of art in Jewish Studies, usually used to cordon off living, breathing Jews from the Jew of non-Jewish imaginations. In The No-State Solution, though, Boyarin is interested in the Jew of Jewish imaginations—and in giving that figure flesh and bones. Above all, his manifesto sets itself against the mode of self-attention that Boyarin calls “Jewish pride.”

More here.