An article with this title was previously posted by mistake. I wanted to emphasize that Jewish ethnocentrism increases dramatically when there is perceived danger to Jews, and to Israel first and foremost, but also in the diaspora in the West because of all the pro-Palestinian protests and even attacks on Jews during the protests and on college campuses. Ethnocentrism is what evolutionary psychologists term a “facultative adaptation,” that is, an adaptation that is triggered or exacerbated by particular environmental events, and in the case of ethnocentrism, perceived threat against the group. (Similarly, the fear system can trigger fight or flight in response to an imminent threat, such as an impending criminal assault or a snake.) In fact, given all the theorizing that Israel must have known about the Hamas plan in advance, it is even possible that one motive was to unite Jews in Israel and around the world and make them more conscious of being Jewish, especially in the context of increasing division within the Jewish community both in Israel and the diaspora over Netanyahu’s explicitly racist government and its attempt to have the Knesset be able to override Supreme Court decisions. There can be little doubt that the Israel-Hamas war has served to unify Jews around the world.
As expected, there has been a huge uptick in donations to pro-Israel causes since the October 7 war began. The main point of my intended post was to emphasize the article excerpted below from The Spectator because it corroborates my previous blog post “The Israel-Gaza War and Jewish Identity.” But I begin with a quote from my previous blog post:
The war in Israel-Gaza is likely to increase Jewish identification and commitment. In my battles with Nathan Cofnas he claims American Jews are not particularly ethnocentric based on intermarriage statistics. This is wrong for a number of reasons, but at times like this, Jewish consciousness and identity will surely rise. From the revision of CofC:
Jewish identity may emerge among Jews without a conscious Jewish identity as a result of a perceived threat to Jews, as during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war or the rise of National Socialism. Jewish identification is a complex area where surface declarations may be deceptive. Jews may not consciously know how strongly they identify with Judaism. Silberman (1985, 184), for example, notes that around the time of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, many Jews could identify with the statement of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel that “I had not known how Jewish I was” (in Silberman 1985, 184; italics in text). Silberman comments: “This was the response, not of some newcomer to Judaism or casual devotee but of the man whom many, myself included, consider the greatest Jewish spiritual leader of our time.” Many others made the same surprising discovery about themselves: Arthur Hertzberg (1979, 210) wrote, “The immediate reaction of American Jewry to the crisis was far more intense and widespread than anyone could have foreseen. Many Jews would never have believed that grave danger to Israel could dominate their thoughts and emotions to the exclusion of everything else.”
The point is that the Jewish identity of even a highly assimilated Jew, and even one who has subjectively rejected a Jewish identity, may surface at times of crisis to the group or when Jewish identification conflicts with any other identity that a Jew might have, including identification as a political radical.
As a result, assertions regarding Jewish identification that fail to take account of perceived threats to Judaism may seriously underestimate the extent of Jewish commitment. Surface declarations of a lack of Jewish identity may be highly misleading. Consider the following comment on Heinrich Heine, who was baptized but remained strongly identified as a Jew: “Whenever Jews were threatened—whether in Hamburg during the Hep-Hep riots [in 1819 in Germany] or in Damascus at the time of the ritual murder accusation  —Heine at once felt solidarity with his people” (Prawer 1983, 762).
This recent article reinforces the point:
Our lives have changed forever. We have had to change not just the way we think of Israel but how we think of Britain. The past month has exposed an ugly underside. We once thought we lived in a tolerant society. Now we are asking: ‘Can we safely share our Jewishness here?’, and ‘do we belong?’
As Jews we are familiar with tragedy, threat and betrayal. ‘Always make sure you have your passport in date’, my mother used to tell me. Fortunately, today we are still very far from escape. But the recent rise in anti-Semitism makes us feel like we have moved another step closer.
In the darkest times, however, is when the embers of the Jewish spirit burn brightest. Amidst the tragic loss of life and bloodshed, there are revolutions starting. There is a revolution of Jewish identity and unity.
Although security threats are at their highest, the synagogues have never been fuller. ‘We’ve not seen our synagogue this full since the Pittsburg shooting’, noticed a friend, with a sad laugh. Charities distribute thousands of shabbat candles every Friday, WhatsApp groups encourage psalms to be recited around the clock and hundreds of women gather each week to bake ceremonial challa bread and pray. One local barber, for the first time ever, vowed to close his shop on Shabbat as a sign of solidarity. Members of the community vow to support his business in return.
‘I have never felt my Jewishness the way I do right now’, said a lady, at the kosher butcher, buying chicken soup: ‘Ironically just when we’re under attack.’ Another ex-colleague reached out to me. She had never embraced her Jewish heritage before but now she feels she has to ‘pick a side’. She feels the pain of being vilified and misunderstood but feels that it is worth it. …
Pressure builds daily as Israel loses global sympathy and the bloody conflict unfolds. Friends in Israel feel supported there and weirdly they feel safer, even when they run into their bomb shelters. Their sense of connection makes them feel alive. The Jewish community’s unity now feels even stronger in contrast to the splintered in-fighting about Israel’s judicial reform that was rampant prior to the attack. This month, these differences have been put on hold. Faith and togetherness are our community’s protection against threat and we have to cling to them with all our might.
 Chana Hughes, “Britain’s Synagogues Have Never Been Fuller,” The Spectator (November 11 2023). https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/britains-synagogues-have-never-been-fuller/