The Conversion of the Jews

by Philip Roth

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"The Conversion of the Jews," written by Philip Roth, refers to the American narrative. Can you give an example to it through Ozzie and his friend Itzie? How do they relate to it?

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In "The Conversion of the Jews," the young boy Ozzie mentions the Declaration of Independence and its central idea that all men are created equal. To him, this seems to contradict the characterization of the Jewish people as God's chosen ones.

Ozzie is questioning not only religious doctrine, but also the prevalence of ethnocentric thinking. To some degree, Americans in general are all faced with the same perplexing issue. Why, if we are all Americans and are all equal, should we bond with, or consider especially significant, the ethnic group or the faith into which we are born? Why should these things be of such importance to us?

On the surface, Ozzie's "rebellion" in the story is rooted in his resentment of what he regards as the arbitrary authority figures of the rabbi and his mother. However, the implicit point Roth is making can be seen as the contradiction between "Americanism" and the older ways of thinking that have continued to separate people into distinct groups, based on inherited beliefs in religion and ethnic background. Though the rabbi makes a valid point about the difference between political equality and cultural unity, this does not satisfy the young boy. What Ozzie sees as arbitrary and inexplicable is a mode of thinking to which all of us are subject, regardless of which nationality or religion we belong to.

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