Philo-Semitism (also spelled philosemitism) or Judeophilia is an interest in, respect for and an appreciation of Jewish people, their history and the influence of Judaism, particularly on the part of a gentile.
Within the Jewish community, philo-Semitism includes an interest in Jewish culture and a love of things that are considered Jewish.
The concept of philo-Semitism is not new, and it was arguably avowed by such thinkers as the 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who described himself as an "anti-anti-Semite," though he also criticized the Jewish people (along with the Christians) for their historical role in forming modern morality. Enjoying a recent surge, it is characterized by an interest in Jewish culture and history and it is also manifested in increasing university enrollment by non-Jews in courses such as Judaism, Hebrew, and Jewish languages.
Philo-Semitism has been met with a mixed response from the Jewish community. Some warmly welcome it and argue that it must lead Jews to reconsider their identity. Others,[who?] citing the special status that it implicitly gives to Jews even as its apparent opposite anti-Semitism does, reject it as running contrary to the Zionist goal of making Jewry "a nation among nations."
Philo-Semitism is an expression of the larger phenomenon of allophilia, admiration for foreign cultures as embodied in the more widely known Anglophilia and Francophilia. The rise of philo-Semitism has also prompted some[who?] to reconsider Jewish history, and they argue that while anti-Semitism must be acknowledged, it is wrong to reduce the history of the Jewish people to one merely of suffering (as has been fostered by well-meaning gentile philo-Semites).
Even though a non-Jew is not required to convert to Judaism or may even be advised against doing so, Halakha (Jewish religious law) does require all non-Jews to abide by certain commandments. These are the Seven Laws of Noah, and gentiles who accept the Seven Laws in their traditional interpretation identify themselves as Noahides.
From history, one notable example of philo-Semitism is that of the Polish king Casimir III the Great. While the Jewish emancipation wouldn't begin in other countries until towards the end of the 1700s, in Poland Jews had been granted the freedom of worship, trade and travel in 1264 by Bolesław the Pious. In 1334 Jews persecuted across Europe were invited to Poland by Casimir the Great, who, in particular, vowed to protect them as "people of the king". By the 15th century more than half of all diaspora Jews were living in Poland, which kept its status as the main center of Ashkenazi Jewry until the Holocaust.
Very few Jews live in East Asian countries, but Jews are viewed in an especially positive light in some of them, partly owing to their shared wartime experiences during the Second World War. Examples include South Korea and China. In general, Jews are positively stereotyped as intelligent, business savvy and committed to family values and responsibility, while in the Western world, the first of the two aforementioned stereotypes more often have the negatively interpreted equivalents of guile and greed. In South Korean primary schools the Talmud is mandatory reading. During World War II, Japan made efforts to help Jews escape their demise at the hands of the Nazis, despite the fact that the country was then a member of the Axis alliance. The Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara facilitated the escape of more than 6,000 Jewish refugees to Japanese territory, risking his career and the lives of his family members; in 1985, he was honored by the State of Israel as Righteous Among the Nations. Annual surveys of a large number of countries conducted by the ADL have consistently shown very low levels of anti-Semitism in Southeast Asia, persisting only at permyriad levels (hundredths of a per cent, i.e. 0.02 per cent in 2014) in Laos. These surveys, others, and polling and analysis about Israel have shown that India has low levels of anti-Semitism and relatively strong support for Israel, at the 55-65 per cent level, now surpassing the United States in the last respect.
The American singer Madonna once called herself an "ambassador for Judaism"—during a meeting with Prime Minister of Israel Shimon Peres, where they exchanged gifts, Madonna giving him a volume of the Zohar inscribed "To Shimon Peres, the man I admire and love, Madonna". Although she herself does not practice Judaism, she has studied Kabbalah, given her son a bar mitzva celebration and taken a Hebrew name: Esther (אסתר).
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Probably about 70 percent of the world's European Jews, or Ashkenazim, can trace their ancestry back to Poland—thanks to a 14th-century king, Casimir III, the Great, who drew Jewish settlers from across Europe with his vow to protect them as "people of the king",
- Schoenberg, Shira. "Ashkenazim". Jewish Virtual Library. Archived from the original on 27 April 2006. Retrieved 24 May 2006.
- Alper, Tim. "Why South Koreans are in love with Judaism". The Jewish Chronicle. May 12, 2011. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
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- "Madonna Says She's an 'Ambassador for Judaism'". The New York Sun. Associated Press. September 17, 2007. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
- With Friends Like These Review of Philosemitism in History in the New Republic by Adam Karp
- 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
- Gertrude Himmelfarb. The People of the Book: Philosemitism in England, From Cromwell to Churchill. ISBN 1-59403-570-9