Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Jews-Psychology, Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)-Psychological aspects, Anxiety-Religious aspects-Judaism, Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939, Klein, Melanie, Psychoanalytic interpretation, Theoretical, Jews, Jewish, Annihilation anxiety, Cultural assimilation, Collective trauma, Holocaust trauma, Inherited trauma, Psychoanalytic, Broad City (Television program), Women in Gold (Motion picture)


This paper presents and discusses the existence of Jewish annihilation anxiety, using both psychoanalytic theory and thinking from critical whiteness studies to do so. First drawing from early psychoanalytic thinking by both Sigmund Freud (1916, 1926, 1933) and Melanie Klein (1935) on the most basic dangers and fundamental anxieties, and then from later psychoanalytic thinking on the role of inherited trauma in creating enduring anxieties across generations, this paper presents the concept of annihilation anxiety as both an internally experienced psychic state and a trauma-induced one. Using the work of Eric Goldstein (2006) on the process and experience of Jewish cultural assimilation in the United States from the nineteenth century until the present, this paper argues that the experiences of both diasporic travel and cultural assimilation work in conjunction with a history of threat and a narrative of persecution to create a phenomenon described here as Jewish annihilation anxiety. This paper argues that Jewish annihilation anxiety, in which an ongoing threat of death and danger is incorporated into the most fundamental aspects of the self and identity, is a relevant concept when conceptualizing the experiences and pathologies of Jewish clients, patients, and clinicians. As such, understanding and further developing this phenomenon might lead to more effective therapeutic work with Jewish clients and patients, as well as more refined and integrated work on the behalf of Jewish clinicians. Relatedly, this paper argues that Jewish annihilation anxiety plays a role in American Jewish understandings of the state of Israel and as such, an understanding of Jewish annihilation anxiety has potentially far-reaching implications for people doing politically-oriented social work both in the United States and in Israel and Palestine.




iii, 91 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 90-91)