Why the Jewish Voice Isn’t More Self-Confident

Question: Why isn’t the Jewish voice more self-confident?
\r\n

\r\nLord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:  Because we’re paranoid. That's really why I wrote the book "Future Tense." We have \r\ndefined ourselves as the people that dwells alone.  We are nature’s \r\nvictims.  Everyone hates us.  We always find ourselves alone.  When push\r\n comes to shove, our friends desert us.  Now, that is the negative \r\nself-image of Jewish life that has developed since the Holocaust, since \r\n9/11 with the isolation of Israel, the return of anti-Semitism to \r\nEurope.  And I wrote this book because I believed that is the worst \r\npossible self-definition… it will be… first of all it isn’t true.  \r\nSecond of all, it’s thoroughly miserable and self-pitying.  And thirdly,\r\n it has an enormous risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you\r\n think you’re alone, you’ll probably find yourself alone.   And I see \r\nthe Jewish world pursuing these policies and they are disastrous.
\r\n
\r\nQuestion:
Why has being Jewish become a burden?
\r\n

\r\nLord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:  That is the residue of \r\nanti-Semitism.  There’s an anti-Semitism out there but if you’re \r\nsubjected to it for long enough, it begins an anti-Semitism in here.  In\r\n its very extreme form, self-hatred, but it can take all sorts of other \r\nforms.  I mention in the book that wonderful remark of the late Shlomo \r\nCarlebach, who went around university campuses all his life, loving \r\neveryone and he used to say, I ask people, what are you and I know when \r\nsomebody says I’m a Catholic, I know that’s a Catholic.  Somebody says, \r\nI’m a Protestant, I know that’s a Protestant.  Somebody says, I’m just a\r\n human being, I know that’s a Jew.
\r\n
\r\nNow, you know, let’s move beyond that and so I have defined in the book a\r\n Judaism that we can share with the world.  I define Judaism as the \r\nvoice of hope in the conversation of humankind.  And that’s why I really\r\n share my Judaism with the British public, that is 99.5 percent not \r\nJewish.  I do so, broadcasting to them, be they Christian, Hindu, Sikh, \r\nMuslin or secular, and we try and share our wisdom and, you know, the \r\nresult is I’m probably better known by the non-Jewish public than even \r\nby the Jewish public and people like that.  There’s nothing really \r\nthreatening about Judaism because we don’t try and convert anyone.  So \r\nwe say, look, guys, this is how we say things.  If it makes sense to \r\nyou, please have it and if it doesn’t, that’s okay.

Recorded on May 24, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

Jews have developed a negative self-image in the wake of the Holocaust, defining themselves as a people apart, nature’s victims.

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