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Jews for Every ...ism
December 22, 2013
One of the most powerful inherent traits of “the Jewish personality,” which can be traced all the way back to Abraham 3,800 years ago, is the drive to fix the world – Tikun Olam. From Abraham onward, the national historic mission of the Jews has been to reconnect humanity with G-d and to teach the world about the values that we learn from the Creator: the values of life, equal justice, peace, social responsibility etc. – in the words of British historian Paul Johnson – “the basic moral furniture of the human mind.”
The Jewish people have always believed that the way to do this has been not through conversion of conquest but rather by example – to be a “Light to Nations” as the prophet Isaiah so beautifully put it in the Bible – to create a nation that acts as a model for other nations.
The sad reality today is that the vast majority of the Jewish people are largely disconnected from Judaism and sadly ignorant of its beauty and depth and the tremendous impact Judaism has had on the world both directly and indirectly. (This is the subject of my first book: “WorldPerfect: The Jewish Impact on Civilization”). The drive, however, continues to exist as a raw force within every Jew, pushing him or her to impact the world.
This innate drive to make a positive difference in the world is the explanation for the disproportionate impact the Jewish people have always had on it. It is this innate drive that explains why Jews, who are 1.7% of the US population, make up 10% of the professionals. It is also this drive that explains why Jews, who are just .2% of the world’s population, are 23% of the Nobel Prize recipients since 1900.
One of the most fascinating ways that we see this innate drive in action today is if we look at various causes. Take any cause, any “ism”, to make the world a better place in the last one hundred or more years, and you will see that if it wasn't founded by a Jew, it was overwhelmingly and disproportionately run by Jews: socialism, communism, the civil rights movement, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the labor movement, feminism, woman’s rights, children’s rights, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, NAACP ...even Christian charities like the Red Cross or The Salvation Army (founded by William Booth, whose mother was a Jewess form Nottingham, England). It seems that nothing gets a Jew more excited than trying to fix the world.
While I have nothing against most causes, the problem with a cause is that it tries to put a band-aid on symptoms of deeper problems rather that deal with the actual source of the problems. The real issue that the world needs to deal with is the fundamental values of society. Only by changing people’s values can we truly make the world a better place. An excellent example is the call for more strict control on firearms. The first question we should address, before we even think about new legislation, is what is wrong with the values in our society that would cause someone to walk into an elementary school and slaughter innocent children?
Teaching the world values has been the great national, historical mission of the Jewish people. But you can’t teach something you don’t know yourself. You can’t represent the Jewish people until you understand what the Jewish people actually represent. Ignorance, and not anti-Semitism, has now become the greatest threat to the Jewish people and the Jewish people’s mission. Ignorance combined with the Jewish people’s other Achilles Heel – disunity.
Rather than working together and focusing their incredible drive on the Jewish national mission ofTikun Olam (Hebrew for 'repairing the world'), we now have millions of Jews scattering their energy and often working against each other. What a tragic waste of awesome potential. Jews for every ism ...except Judaism!
The Jewish people must wake up and recognize that Jewish unity and strong Jewish identity are fundamental prerequisites for Jewish survival and Jewish success. The first priority of the Jewish people must be Judaism. This “Jews for Judaism” agenda isn’t rooted in tribalism or selfishness but rather comes from an understanding that Jews for Judaism make better people for humanity. Jews without a strong sense of Jewish identity and pride will not only dissipate their tremendous drive by scattering it in every direction, they will decimate their numbers through assimilation, which has in recent decades proven to be far more destructive to the Jewish people than the greatest anti-Semites in history.
The disunity, ignorance and disappearance of the Jews are far more than a tragedy for the Jewish people – they are a tragedy for the world. For the sake of the future of humanity, the Jewish people cannot let this happen.