Internalized Anti-Semitism: A Painful Consequence of Assimilation

My Personal Story of a Jewish Identity Lost and Found
  • John S. TamerinEmail author


External anti-Semitism (i.e., hostility, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews) has existed since ancient times and unfortunately persists today throughout the world. In its most virulent form, it resulted in the Holocaust. A far milder but insidious consequence of external anti-Semitism is “internal anti-Semitism,” also described by numerous authors as Jewish self-hatred or the turning of anti-Semitism against the self. My autobiography as a Jew represents a case in point. An unfortunate and painful consequence of my profound desire to assimilate was an internalization of anti-Semitism which resulted in disturbed identity formation, confused values, and diminished self-esteem. This paper is a personal narrative and psychiatric perspective of my life experience that resulted initially in ambivalence, shame, and rejection of my Jewish identity. However, it then describes my journey and a wide variety of life experiences over many years that gradually enabled me to discover the richness of my Jewish heritage and the enormous personal benefit I would derive as I proudly took ownership of my Jewish identity both privately and publicly.


Anti-Semitism Jewish self-hatred Jewish identity Assimilation Shame Jewish heritage Social acceptance Bipolar support groups Stigma Self-acceptance Personal transformation 

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Weill Cornell School of MedicineNew YorkUSA

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