Throughout history, Jewry has encompassed a number of radical individuals who sought to overturn the corrupt status quo of their day. Within these rebels however, is something innately ‘Jewish’ –their conceptions of justice, their humanist values and ultimately, their universal concern for the underdog. The vestigial impact of the historical memory of the discrimination of their own people profoundly influenced these radicals and motivated them to revolutionary action.
Justice in the Jewish tradition is the highest moral virtue. It is upheld by two pillars, tzedakah and tikkun olam, which inform a universal concern for the suffering of others and give rise to a humanist tradition within Judaism that applies to all. With the coming of modernity and the failure of the promise of Emancipation to integrate Jews as equals into society, many Jews rebelled against outward symbols of ‘Jewishness’ through secularizing and universalizing Jewish values into revolutionary ideologies. These new philosophies, such as Marxism, focused on Jewish notions of cosmopolitanism, sympathy for the underdog and the creation of a messianic utopia. In this way, a phenomenon termed by Isaac Deutcher as the ‘Non-Jewish Jew’ was born: radical Jews who were of Jewry but not in it; Jews who found the narrow confines of Judaism too restricting and moved beyond it.
It is obvious that a child is a human being that should be always offered protection, care and respect. No matter how one behaves, she or he deserves embracing and love. The case of Naama Margolese proves that this perception of childhood might be far from true in some societies.
The girl in question was spat on because she was considered to be dressed immodestly. Arguing what is provocative and what is not seems to be out of place in the context of a child who became a tool in a game of rancor between adults. Apparently, the tensions that have been covered under a thin coat of political correctness and deceptive gestures were released in a most unimaginable way. Naturally, the ultra orthodox tendencies have been present in discussions, they evoked various actions or protests, but the harassment of Naama might have opened a way to privately managed social anathema. From the perspective of a student living in the UK, this type of extremism channeled to an unprotected and evidently innocent being is simply unconceivable. The added religious background of the whole event makes it even more dreadful. What is more, some environments tend to argue that the harassing behavior of those spitting on a girl was an expression of religious emotions. No other logic can be more ludicrous.
I am a women, a mother, a Jew. I have been educated at University and in my Jewish home. I see things happening around me, both the good and the bad. However, one would imagine that in today’s society there is a certain level of freedom, tolerance, respect, the ability to live without fear, to feel safe and to have human rights protected.
Who gives someone the liberty to humiliate, bully, or harass another human being, especially a younger person? Surely this is not fear but possibly some combination of a lack of education, discrimination, hyper-nationalism, extremism, and self-anti-Semitism within the one country that Jews were waiting for. Why is this happening?
Naama’s story reached many people in the world, through the written press and TV outlets. After reading about the story you ask yourself, “is this actually possible”?
ACCESS Global Voices, continues its debate of the role of religion in politics…
As a Polish sociologist trying to understand the case of Naama (the young religious girl who was spat on and verbally abused by extremist Haredim in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh) only one thing comes to my mind: that today’s culture and society have been created entirely by men and for the sake of men.
The rules behind today’s culture are no longer logical because they were invented with an assumed willingness on behalf of women. Its entirety must instead be based on heterogeneity, geographical diversity, genuine differences, and continuous changes. Culture as opposed to Law doesn’t need to be completely inclusive or fair-- it doesn’t have to relate to each individual or group in the same way. However, Culture must never be formed in order to restrict or narrow, rather it must serve to motivate and improve.
We must be willing to stand up and take our society back from the ultra-Orthodox.
Seven months ago, my daughter was born in Jerusalem. For both sides of the family she was the first one in many generations to be born in Israel, in Jerusalem no less. My joy at her birth and her upbringing in Jerusalem is tempered however by fear and concern as to what kind of city and country in which she will grow up. As one who chose to live in Israel, my Zionism did not end with my aliyah here, rather it only begins now by playing an active role in shaping the Jewish State, the place where I chose to live my life and raise my children.
Following our ACCESS 20/20 Conference last May, one of the global Israel activists who had gathered in Washington, DC, asked a critical but resonant question: Is ending the delegimitization of Israel what we are working for? Is that our whole goal?
The question comes back to me often when I speak to some of the best and brightest young American Jews about their overwhelming hesitancy to engage with Israel-related political issues, even as those very issues are pushed to the center of global political debate. I’ve come to believe that it holds one of the keys for understanding the trend of alienation from Israel, which has been documented in manifold studies and living room conversations – a concern that must be heard and addressed by our Jewish leaders and role models.
When my friends and family asked me to tell them about the Third Generation Initiative there was so much I had to say ... but I was at a loss for words. It was not easy to find the right words for something that left such a deep impression in me. It still is not easy.
I could talk about the program, whom we met, what we did. But this would not do justice to the incredible week we had.
Yes, we did meet scholars, politicians, the American Ambassador, historians, company executives, leaders of the Jewish community in Germany. We heard a lot of things, many ideas, lots of positions, opinions, statements, propaganda. Meetings from dawn till dusk - literally. But that's just a small part of what happened during this week.
Imagine being locked into a small room with a group of thirty people ... for nine days. People strange to you. People that you maybe thought would never talk to you. Imagine these people talking to each other. All day long. All night long. Until their brains refuse to function. They would get a few hours of sleep, then wake up eager to talk more. This is how I felt.
In the beginning we just exchanged views ... standpoints.
This changed. People opened up. They talked about their feelings. Their cut and dried opinions and how they started to change. About their families. Their past. Their future. Days and days of talking.
Strangers were no longer strangers ... they had become friends - within just a few days.
Then came Sachsenhausen. The visit to the former Concentration Camp. A visit filled with emotions. Neither the Jewish nor the Germans could hold back the tears. Everyone was just so overwhelmed by this experience. You could feel the pain, the shame, the guilt. And then again, you were not alone. There would always be the touch of a hand on your shoulder, an understanding word, or just someone sitting beside you in silence.
And then ... the trip was over. We had to walk separate ways again. Boy, oh boy, this was hard. It felt like someone took my family members away from me. How had I lived before this trip. I could not remember.
Luckily someone gave the advice to me to take a few days off after the trip. I was just sitting there, my brain still spinning around all that was said ... all that was felt. It took me almost a week to think about something else.
It takes a while for the brain to digest.
And now? What now?
Some of us decided to not let this ebb away. To continue the discussion. To offer this discussion to everyone who wants to participate.
This is why we started http://together.to
A platform for American Jewish German dialogue.
Stretching back into history from the moment Moses raised his hand against the oppressive Egyptian overseer and led his people from slavery into freedom; to the instant that Abraham smashed the morally bankrupt idols of his day and opened his home to the stranger; through the modern revolutionary ideas of Marx and Freud and beyond, Jewish radicalism has emerged as a profoundly powerful force that has weaved itself through the epochs. By drawing on the great humanist and cosmopolitan notions of identity and justice within Judaism, a radical Jewish ideology and worldview has formed a tradition within a tradition. Profoundly motivated by the historical memory of the suffering of their own people throughout the ages, Jewish radicals have eternally sought to overturn the corrupt status quo of the day and transform humankind’s structures of thought.