Beyond the Pale


Jon Reisman

The phrase “beyond the pale” means unacceptable or beyond the standards of decency. It stems from the Pale of Settlement, a vast and varying swath of the western Russian Empire from Lithuania to the Black Sea, where Jewish settlement was allowed. The Pale was established in the late 18th century and persisted until the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Residency was not allowed “beyond the pale” unless Jews converted or were university-educated professionals and gentry. Some cities like Kiev within the Pale also forbid Jewish residency. Pogroms were a common feature, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Russian Revolution ended pogroms until Hitler and the National Socialists (Nazis) revived them. After WWII, they largely disappeared until Al Sharpton revived them in the Crown Heights Brooklyn Riot of 1991, and now Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters in Gaza, Iran, academia, the Squad, Black Lives Matter, and the left have followed suit. The Obama and Biden administrations are also culpable for their persistent and insistent appeasement of Iran (Death to Israel) and hostility to Israel that a large portion of the Democratic Party has adopted (including the palpable fiction that Israel is an apartheid state and the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement)

In 1908, my paternal grandfather left his shtetl (village) in eastern Ukraine and went beyond the Pale, immigrating (legally) to the United States. He left the Russian empire to escape pogroms and conscription. His name was Americanized from Rachmann to Reisman at Ellis Island. He moved to western New York and started a career in insurance, interrupted by service in the US Army in World War I. His sons and grandchildren prospered, becoming doctors, lawyers, professors, and professionals, assimilating into American society. His sons had to deal with discrimination and quotas that limited Jewish admission to top colleges despite academic achievement and alleged meritocracy (like Asians today). My generation did not, and most Jewish Americans assumed anti-Semitism was essentially gone from America. The vast majority of American Jews voted Democratic and subscribed to progressive political views. When I came out as a Jewish Republican in the late 90’s, most of my family was shocked and embarrassed. It is less so and less lonely after October 7th.

In truth, the anti-Semitism has been visible on American college campuses and in the African-American community for a long time:

• Progressive advocacy for BDS policies against Israel and Jews;

• Nation of Islam leader and Black supremacist Louis Farrakhan’s open anti-Semitism and proud declaration of Judaism as a “gutter religion”

• President Obama’s and the media’s suppression of his meetings with Farrakhan, as well as the anti-Semitism of his pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

• Democratic progressive Presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson’s casual characterization of New York as “Hymietown”.

• The insistence of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion advocates on the intersectional division of society into oppressors and oppressed victims, and the classification of Jews as an oppressor group.

After Oct.7th, silence is beyond the pale.

Jon Reisman is an economist and policy analyst who retired from the University of Maine at Machias after 38 years. He resides on Cathance Lake in Cooper, where he is a Selectman and a Statler and Waldorf intern. Mr. Reisman’s views are his own and he welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].

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