Many Germans have earnestly sought to overcome the Nazi past by publicizing its depredations, by seeking restitution of stolen property, by acknowledging wrongdoing, and by maintaining a respectful, open stance toward Jews in general and Israel in particular.  Still, such is the burden of the Holocaust that another approach may prove attractive to certain Germans.  It involves Yiddish.

While Yiddish contains elements of Hebrew and Slavic languages, it is mainly an old dialect of German.  A German speaker can understand most of it, and in fact Yiddish forms part of the study of German linguistics and literature, correctly understood.  This means that a simple initiative could help bring Germans and Jews closer. Continue reading »

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History contains two outstanding wrongs committed against groups of Americans:  the killing, displacement, and mistreatment of Native Americans and the subjection of African Americans to slavery and ongoing discrimination.  Various thinkers have suggested kinds of reparations for these acts; but views differ sharply on whether reparations are justified, who should pay them, who should receive them, and what form they should take.  Instead of serving to heal our country, reparations have become one more divisive issue.

Yet reparations offer an alluring vision:  via a concrete but also symbolic national gesture, we could take a major step toward healing wounds, overcoming the past, and moving together into the future.  They could counteract the negativity of partisan politics and lead to a happier multiethnic and multiracial society.  So we need to think through how to bring Americans to comprehend and support a plan for reparations that will help us flourish as a united people.

Fortunately, a related issue affords us a precious opportunity Continue reading »

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