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Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since 1991. He is the spiritual leader for the mainstream British Orthodox[…]

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

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

rnLord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:  Because we’re paranoid. That's really why I wrote the book "Future Tense." We have rndefined ourselves as the people that dwells alone.  We are nature’s rnvictims.  Everyone hates us.  We always find ourselves alone.  When pushrn comes to shove, our friends desert us.  Now, that is the negative rnself-image of Jewish life that has developed since the Holocaust, since rn9/11 with the isolation of Israel, the return of anti-Semitism to rnEurope.  And I wrote this book because I believed that is the worst rnpossible self-definition… it will be… first of all it isn’t true.  rnSecond of all, it’s thoroughly miserable and self-pitying.  And thirdly,rn it has an enormous risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If yourn think you’re alone, you’ll probably find yourself alone.   And I see rnthe Jewish world pursuing these policies and they are disastrous.
Why has being Jewish become a burden?

rnLord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:  That is the residue of rnanti-Semitism.  There’s an anti-Semitism out there but if you’re rnsubjected to it for long enough, it begins an anti-Semitism in here.  Inrn its very extreme form, self-hatred, but it can take all sorts of other rnforms.  I mention in the book that wonderful remark of the late Shlomo rnCarlebach, who went around university campuses all his life, loving rneveryone and he used to say, I ask people, what are you and I know when rnsomebody says I’m a Catholic, I know that’s a Catholic.  Somebody says, rnI’m a Protestant, I know that’s a Protestant.  Somebody says, I’m just arn human being, I know that’s a Jew.
rnNow, you know, let’s move beyond that and so I have defined in the book arn Judaism that we can share with the world.  I define Judaism as the rnvoice of hope in the conversation of humankind.  And that’s why I reallyrn share my Judaism with the British public, that is 99.5 percent not rnJewish.  I do so, broadcasting to them, be they Christian, Hindu, Sikh, rnMuslin or secular, and we try and share our wisdom and, you know, the rnresult is I’m probably better known by the non-Jewish public than even rnby the Jewish public and people like that.  There’s nothing really rnthreatening about Judaism because we don’t try and convert anyone.  So rnwe say, look, guys, this is how we say things.  If it makes sense to rnyou, please have it and if it doesn’t, that’s okay.

Recorded on May 24, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman