Surviving the times ahead
Christopher Buckley, the American author and political satirist once said: “Reading any collection of a man’s quotations is like eating the ingredients that go into a stew instead of cooking them together in the pot. You eat all the carrots, then all the potatoes, then the meat. You won’t go away hungry, but it’s not quite satisfying.”
For diaspora Jews living in countries where there are a high percentage of individuals harbouring virulent antisemitic attitudes, such as in Turkey, Greece, Iran, Romania, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine, there’s also not much to be satisfied about. Antisemitic-based quotations abound from many Internet and Twitter sources. Many have been loosely translated from Urdu, from Arabic, and other languages; so much so that one has to continually scramble to separate the fact from the fiction, or as put to us nearly every day by the US president, “Fake News!”
For diaspora Jews in many parts of the world, the continual need to come to the defence of one’s religious beliefs have left many reeling in a state of scepticism and understandably, in a precarious quagmire. It has, in essence, become an inherent part of our daily life.
However, in the USA, not to be outdone, in its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, ADL found that “the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose 57 percent in 2017 – the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking such data in 1979. The sharp rise was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row.”
Having said that, whether or not you agree with Christopher Buckley, I believe quotations do have a place for us, especially in times of incertitude.
Four quotations immediately spring to mind. Perhaps, looking ahead and with some tiny spark of sanguinity, what better time to reflect on them than now, a few days before Passover, a holiday commemorating our freedom from servitude in ancient Egypt:
“Scum remains scum, and antisemitism is the ideology of the scum. It is a horrible epidemic like cholera, which can neither be explained nor cured.” –Theodor Mommsen, 1881 (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1902)
“Don’t shelter yourself in any course of action by the idea that ‘it is my affair.’ It is your affair, but it is also mine and the community’s. Nor can we neglect the world beyond. A fierce light beats upon the Jew. It is a grave responsibility this – to be a Jew; and you can’t escape from it, even if you choose to ignore it. Ethically or religiously, we Jews can be and do nothing light-heartedly. Ten bad Jews may help to damn us; ten good Jews may help to save us. Which minyan will you join?” -C.G. Montefiore, (1858-1938)
“My people have survived the prehistoric paganism, the Babylonian polytheism, the aesthetic Hellenism, the sagacious Romanism, at once the blandishments and persecutions of the Church; and it will survive the modern dilettantism and the current materialism, holding aloft the traditional Jewish ideals inflexibly until the world shall become capable of recognizing their worth.” –Cyrus Adler, (1863-1940)
And finally, from Leo Tolstoy, (1828-1910). “The Jew is the emblem of eternity. He whom neither slaughter nor torture of thousands of years could destroy, he whom neither fire nor sword nor inquisition was able to wipe off from the face of the earth, he whom was the first to produce the oracles of God, he who has been for so long the guardian of prophecy, and who transmitted it to the rest of the world – such a nation cannot be destroyed. He is everlasting as is eternity itself.”
Passover 2018 is just a few days away. Yet, for me, it is already here.
Chag Pesach Sameach.