Some years ago I attended a gala benefit dinner in Manhattan for prominent celebrities in the arts and journalism. Halfway through the ceremonies, a middle-aged man leaned across the table and glared at me: “Are you Tony Judt? You really must stop writing these terrible things about Israel!” Primed for such interrogations, I asked him what was so terrible about what I had written. “I don’t know. You may be right—I’ve never been to Israel. But we Jews must stick together: we may need Israel one day.” The return of eliminationist anti-Semitism was just a matter of time: New York might become unlivable.
Unlike my table companion, I don’t expect Hitler to return. And I refuse to remember his crimes as an occasion to close off conversation: to repackage Jewishness as a defensive indifference to doubt or self-criticism and a retreat into self-pity. I choose to invoke a Jewish past that is impervious to orthodoxy: that opens conversations rather than closes them. Judaism for me is a sensibility of collective self-questioning and uncomfortable truth-telling: the dafka-like quality of awkwardness and dissent for which we were once known. It is not enough to stand at a tangent to other peoples’ conventions; we should also be the most unforgiving critics of our own. I feel a debt of responsibility to this past. It is why I am Jewish.
Read the whole thing - it's a good argument, well expressed.