Jews and History


Some of us are born from Jewish parents, so our Jewish identity is a is “given” to us by our parents. We have to do absolutely nothing to receive it. Accepting, however, is a different story.


Accepting it involves internalizing what it means to be a Jew. It is to internalize the ethical dimensions of the Torah, it means to incorporate the historical experience of the Jewish people as our own. This is not new, since at every Passover Seder, when we tell the story of the four children, we consider the one who excludes himself from the story to be the “rasha” (the perverse one). In the Jewish experience, Jewish history is not something that happened to “others” but something that happened “to us” (as in the collective “us”).


In the book “Who will write our history” by Samuel Kassow, he quotes Emmanuel Ringenblum's opinion on Jewish History: “Jewish History is a misnomer. We Jews don't have history...we have memory”. The central role of History in the make up of Jewish identity cannot be ignored; it is just too central, and it is not only our collective memory but the very cultural DNA that defines us as a people.


As a people, we have repeated our History multiple times. Our historical experience tells us in multiple ways that doing something just so others will like us only led in the past to more anti Jewish prejudice. But whenever we chose to do something based on our own wellspring of cultural values, we helped change the world...


While George Santayana was definitely not Jewish, his reference to History could well be considered very Jewish: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”.


May we always remember our past, so we can look to the future...


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