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What Is Judaism?

by | Sep 18, 2019

From Rabbi Elmer Berger’s A Partisan History of Judaism: The Jewish Case against Zionism (1951):

Judaism evolved from a primitive tribalism to as noble a spiritual and universal vision as man has ever attained. This fact attests, even without detailed proof, to the truth that “unity” and segregation may have had their partisans but that there must also have been undiscourageable partisans of another kind through the long history of Jews and Judaism.

For change and evolution rarely, if ever, are born from uniformity. Uniformity is imposed, as our modern world knows, in order to suffocate rather than encourage growth. That the history of Judaism reveals such growth is proof of disunity, of individualism, of liberalism, and of respect for these things in whatever degree necessary; to have accepted their achievements and grafted them into the organism of Judaism itself.

Both traditions and both viewpoints existed side by side. There has been a constant strugge between them. Sometimes the viewpoint of universalism and assimilation of all but religious identity prevailed. Sometimes the segregaton was initiated by separtist Jews. Sometimes it was enforced by segregation-minded people who were not Jews. Sometimes both groups or a combintion of circumstances created by segregationalists of both kinds established the pattern.

But the important fact remains that always, among both Jews and those of other faiths, there were those who respected the individual integrity of people of Jewish faith and the transcending, universal values of Judaism….

For people other than Jews to resist the apparent prevalence of “Jewish” nationalism and affirm that Judaism is a highly personalized conviction about God, the universe, and mankind is not, therefore, to violate either the feelings of Jews or the traditions of Judaism….

In plain English, to oppose Jewish separatism and segregation in our national life, except in the field of religion, is not the equivalent of anti-Semitism.

About Sheldon Richman

Sheldon Richman is the executive editor of The Libertarian Institute and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. He is the former senior editor at the Cato Institute and Institute for Humane Studies; former editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education; and former vice president at the Future of Freedom Foundation. His latest books are Coming to Palestine and What Social Animals Owe to Each Other.

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