by Akim Reinhardt
My Jewish maternal grandparents came to America just ahead of WWII. Nearly all of my grandmother’s extended family were wiped out in the Holocaust. Much of my grandfather’s extended family had previously emigrated to Palestine.
My maternal family history illustrates why many modern American Jews continue to view Israel as their ultimate safety net. After two millennia of vicious anti-Judaism, many Jews believe they can eventually be run out of any country, even Untied States. American Jews’ sometimes uncritical support for Israel is underpinned by a wistful glance and a knowing nod; if it does happen here, we can escape to there.
Even though I am only half-Jewish, my familial immigration history is more recent than most American Jews. Their ancestors typically arrived here a full generation or two earlier than mine, and most of them did not lose a slew of close family members in the Holocaust like my grandmother did.
But unlike most American Jews, I can counter the fear of “It can happen here” with a sense of American belonging that stems from deeply rooted Southern WASP family history. Depending on which of my paternal branches you follow, we’ve been here upwards of about three centuries.
Or so they tell me.
Exactly how long ago the Reinhardts, Lowrances, Younts, Dunkles, and Hollers I’m descended from first arrived here is besides the point. In fact, not having an exact date actually helps; it was long enough ago that no one really knows. And that feeds into the one common thread binding deeply-rooted white Protestant Americans, despite their many differences in class, education, geographic region, and religious denomination. It’s the unassailable sense that you belong here because you’re from here. That you’re not really the sons and daughters of immigrants. Rather, you’re descended from the people who took this land from Native Americans, and who fought to gain independence from the British. That you’re part of the group who really “earned” it. America’s your inheritance. You own it.
This is also the core of Trumpism: believing you have a better claim to being here than other people do. Read more »