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Philo-Semitism, Philosemitism, or Judeophilia is an interest in, respect for, and appreciation of the Jewish people, their historical significance and the positive impacts of Judaism in the history of the western world, in particular, generally on the part of a gentile. Within the Jewish community it also includes the significance of Jewish culture and the love of everything Jewish. The concept is not new, but it has recently (ca. 2000) become a significantly growing phenomenon in the modern world. It is characterized (among other things) by an interest in Jewish culture and history, as well as increasing university enrollment by non-Jews in courses relating to Judaism (including Judaism, Hebrew and Jewish languages). A Philosemite or Judeophile is a gentile who substantially subscribes to, or practices, any of the above.
Philo-Semitism has been the subject of a series of books and journal articles (see partial listing below). The rise of philo-Semitism has been met by a mixed response among world Jewry. Some warmly welcome it and argue that it must lead Jews to reconsider their identity, a viewpoint expressed by a leading liberal Jewish publication.
Others[who?] reject philo-Semitism, as they feel it (like its apparent opposite anti-Semitism) implicitly gives a special status to Jews. This contradicts the traditional goal of Zionism to make Jewry "a nation among nations." It should be noted, though, that Philo-Semitism is not a unique phenomenon, and it is part of the larger phenomenon of Allophilia, admiration of foreign cultures (like anglophilia, francophilia, etc.). Daniel Goldhagen, Harvard scholar and author of the controversial Hitler's Willing Executioners, argues that philo-Semites are often closet anti-Semites. His detractor Norman Finkelstein agrees. The thesis is that Jew haters feel a need to talk about Jews, and with anti-Semitism no longer being socially acceptable they must instead make exaggerated positive statements.
But in modern transcultural contexts, where the terminologies used to describe people are more clearly seen, the issue of the terminology is perhaps more important than the term itself. In this case, a Jew does not think of his non-Jewish friends as automatically "philo-semitic" (ethnicity having little or nothing to do with friendship). Similarly, there may be certain people whom he or she finds disfavorable, on grounds that are completely unrelated to Judaism. Thus philo-Semitism, and similarly anti-Semitism, are rather new perceptual terms used by Jews to describe their perceptual relationship to the views of non-Jews (both in their common society and abroad).
The rise of philo-Semitism has also prompted some to reconsider Jewish history. While the significance of anti-Semitism must be acknowledged, they claim, it would be wrong to reduce the history of the Jewish people to one of suffering. In many cases, this was helped by philo-Semitism among surrounding Gentiles. While the existence of so-called "righteous Gentiles" during Jewry's darkest hour, the Holocaust, has long been recognized, they were by no means a new phenomenon at the time. Many would argue that in the West, the contemporary United States not only professes, but suffers from, a unique form of philo-Semitism.
- Alan Edelstein. An Unacknowledged Harmony: Philo-Semitism and the Survival of European Jewry. (Contributions in Ethnic Studies). ISBN 0-313-22754-3
- David S. Katz. Philo-Semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England, 1603-1655. ISBN 0-19-821885-0
- Hilary L. Rubinstein & William D. Rubinstein. Philosemitism: Admiration and Support in the English-Speaking World for Jews, 1840-1939. (Studies in Modern History). ISBN 0-312-22205-X
- Frank Stern. The Whitewashing of the Yellow Badge: Antisemitism and Philosemitism in Postwar Germany. (Studies in Antisemitism) ISBN 0-08-040653-X
- Marion Mushkat. Philo-Semitic and Anti-Jewish Attitudes in Post-Holocaust Poland. (Symposium Series, Vol 33). ISBN 0-7734-9176-7
- Frank Stern. Im Anfang war Auschwitz : Antisemitismus und Philosemitismus im deutschen Nachkrieg. ISBN 3-88350-459-9
- Washington Post, January 8, 2006; Page A01.
- , "On Philo-Semitism," by Jacques Berlinerblau, Georgetown University's Program for Jewish Civilization.