As a part of “Xenophilia: A Symposium on Xenophobia’s Contrary” in Common Knowledge, this essay examines the interest in, affection for, friendship with, and romanticization of Native Americans by Jews in the United States since the 1960s. The affinity is frequent among Jews with “progressive” or “countercultural” inclinations, especially those with strong environmental concerns and those interested in new forms of community and spirituality. For such Jews, Native Americans serve as mirror, prod, role model, projection, and fictive kin. They are regarded as having a holistic and integrated culture and religiosity, an unbroken connection to premodern attitudes and practices, an intimate relationship with the earth and with nonhuman creatures, along with positive feelings toward their own traditions and a simple, honest, and direct way of living. All of these presumed characteristics offer to progressive Jews parallels and contrasts to contemporary Jewishness and Judaism. For some, Native America has become a path back to a reconstructed Jewishness and Judaism; for others, a path away. Each path is assessed in this article with respect to questions of authenticity, psychobiography, family history, theology, and theopolitics.

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