In this, Weisman resembles many contemporary American Jews, who have been able to comfortably coast to social acceptance and professional accomplishment by wearing their Judaism as lightly as they want, with ethnic pride, little sacrifice, occasional embarrassment and a heavy dose of political liberalism ... He resorts to broad criticism and unsupported assertions about American Jewish life that sidestep a more complex reality ... American Jews face an enormous challenge in overcoming our civic complacency and internal fractiousness, and Weisman’s searing study of the rise of the alt-right reminds us that our privileged role in this society can never be taken for granted. I only wish that his passionate call to arms was based on a deeper understanding of what actually is being done by Jews in the age of Trump, especially because there is still so much more left to do.
But this reduction of 'being Jewish' to a state of hair-tearing anxiety about the surge of anti-Semitism means Weisman never quite delivers on his subtitle’s promise. A richly researched and nuanced account of Jewish life in stressed-out, polarized America would be timely, but this isn’t it. Instead, Weisman takes a chapter to complain about what he considers the major distraction preventing American Jews from being fully alert to the perils of the time — but this, a little surprisingly, turns out to be 'Israel, Israel, Israel' ... The second malaise Weisman identifies as blunting Jewish alertness to the peril of the times is the hollowing out of a Jewish identity that is neither uncritically Zionist nor devoutly religious ... None of this is to make light of the sinister anti-Semitic strain in the ascendancy of alt-right ideology. There are plenty of signs that Jew-hatred is pushing through the soft walls of ultraright politics and poisoning its bloodstream. There is nothing wrong, as Weisman counsels, with Jews standing shoulder to shoulder with those most damaged and threatened by tribalist populism, as Jews like Abraham Joshua Heschel did in the heyday of the civil rights movement.
Not to minimize the threat of anti-Semitism — otherwise, why write this book? — but Weisman maintains that other minority and marginalized groups are facing far worse ... Weisman could have anticipated the criticism and been more balanced had he acknowledged such efforts and recognized that American Jews are far from monolithic in their views on Israel. Nor have many American Jews pulled their punches in joining with other groups in fighting bigotry in this country. He gives short shrift to activist groups such as Jews United for Justice and others. But Weisman seems less interested in Jewish activism in other spheres than he is concerned with Jewish mainstream myopia when it comes to Israel. There is no doubt, as he well documents, that vicious anti-Semitism from the Alt Right is on the rise and, through the unchecked channels of the Internet, has gone viral, literally infecting the political mainstream.