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Mark Twain's Short Essay "Concerning the Jews" is Published, 1899

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

On This Day in Jewish History: September 3rd, 1899

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#onthisday, 1899, the short essay, “Concerning the Jews" was published by iconic American writer, Mark Twain.

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Twain had lived in Austria in 1896, and opined that the Habsburg Empire used Jews as scapegoats to maintain unity in their immensely diverse country.

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In 1898, he published the article "Stirring Times in Austria" where he discussed the matter.

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Twain's account generated several letters, and one in particular from an American Jewish lawyer who asked Twain: "Tell me, therefore, from your vantage-point of cold view, what in your mind is the cause. Can American Jews do anything to correct it either in America or abroad? Will it ever come to an end? Will a Jew be permitted to live honestly, decently, and peaceably like the rest of mankind? What has become of the golden rule?”

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In response, Twain penned "Concerning the Jews," #onthisday in 1899. Twain argued that prejudice against Jews derived neither from their public conduct nor their religion, but from envy that non-Jews felt toward Jewish economic achievements.

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He cited the speech of a German lawyer who wanted the Jews driven from Berlin because, according to the lawyer, "eighty-five percent of the successful lawyers of Berlin were Jews." Twain observed that envy "is a much more hate-inspiring thing than is any detail connected with religion."

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Famously, Twain wrote here: "The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"

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Text Source: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/mark-twain-and-the-jews

✍: @_tikvah

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#onthisday#judaism#jewish#history#jewishhistory#marktwain#concerningthejews#icon#literature#otdjh

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