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April 10, 1991

Anti-Semitism: A Disease of the Mind

Author Affiliations

Dallas, Tex

Dallas, Tex

JAMA. 1991;265(14):1881. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460140109038

Theodore Rubin, MD, a psychoanalyst, states in the preface to his fine work that he is "deeply concerned with the eradication of bigotry wherever it exists."

To understand this phenomenon, he uses a disease concept with psychodynamic constructs. He proposes "symbol sickness" as the "major underlying and contributing psychological disablement making anti-Semitism and most other illnesses of this kind possible." Prominent aspects of symbol sickness include four primary characteristics: the symbol gap, ie, "the removal of the symbol from the object it initially is there to represent"; symbol autonomy, ie, "the symbol not only is removed from the subject but at least in part from the central thinking process of the host"; fragmentation, in which the emotionally laden symbol eventually eludes the control of the host's logical system and has the capacity to spread; and distortion, in which "the symbol is free to take on any and all grotesqueries however