Susan Neiman, an American moral philosopher, is the director of the Einstein Forum in Berlin, Germany. Her books include Why Grow Up?: Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age (2015), Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists (2008), Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy (2002), and Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin (1992). She studied philosophy at Harvard and the Free University of Berlin, and before her present post was a professor of philosophy at Yale and Tel Aviv Universities. (August 2019)
I began my life as a white girl in the segregated South, and I’m likely to end it as a Jewish woman in Berlin. “There’s an old saying,” Reverend Wheeler Parker, who was Emmett Till’s cousin, told me. “If I was Catholic and I lived in the South, I’d be worried. If I was Jewish, I’d be packing up. If I was black, I’d be gone.” If the South never felt quite like home, five years in Tel Aviv, decades later, failed to make me Israeli. Perhaps that’s why I feel so easy in today’s Berlin, which has become a haven for many who feel at home nowhere else.