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Rising from the Ashes of the Holocaust: Jewish Society Should Define Itself by Its Positive Attributes, Not Victimhood

Allan C. Brownfeld
Winter 2009

by Avraham Burg,  
Palgrave Macmillan,  
253 Pages,  
In an article about Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Israeli Knesset turned political dissenter, The New York Times (Dec. 20, 2008) reports that, “There was a time not so long ago when Avraham Burg was viewed by many Israelis as proof that the inherent tensions of Zionism — religious versus secular, insular versus worldly, Jewish state versus state of all its citizens — could be reconciled with grace. Here was a religiously observant Jew with a cosmopolitan outlook, a decorated paratrooper who believed deeply in peace with the Arabs, an eloquent fast-rising public figure accessible to a broad range of citizens ... But four years ago Mr. Burg not only walked away from politics, but also basically walked away from Zionism.”  
In a book which was published in Israel in 2007 and has just been translated and released in the United States, he writes that Israel should not be a Jewish state, that its law of return granting citizenship to any Jew should be radically altered, that Israeli Arabs were like German Jews during the Second Reich and that the entire society felt eerily like Germany before the rise of Hitler. “Rather than reconciling the country’s complex tensions, Mr. Burg ended up imploding from them,” declared the Times.  
Shadow of the Holocaust  
In this book, Burg puts forth the idea that Jewish society — both in Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, must stop living in the shadow of the Holocaust. It is his view that Jews have been traumatized and have therefore lost the ability to trust themselves, their neighbors and the world around them. This distrust has led to growing nationalism and the violence which is plaguing Israel and reverberating worldwide. By dwelling on its victimhood, Burg explains, Jewish society fails to define itself by its positive attributes, and inhibits its own ability to move forward. Though it is important to honor the memory of victims and survivors, Burg argues that the Jewish community must not isolate itself by constantly mourning the past and fearing the future.  
In the foreword to the book’s English-language edition, Burg writes that, “One of the deepest reasons I chose to leave Israeli politics was the growing feeling that Israel had become a kingdom without prophecy. On the face of it, everything is working: decisions are being made, actions executed. But where are we headed? No one knows .... My perception of the Jewish people and the essence of Judaism forbid me from leading such a life — without a compass or direction. I was taught from infancy that the Jewish people never existed merely in order to exist, we never survived just to survive, we never just carried on in order to carry on. Jewish existence has always been directed upward; not just to the Father, the King up in the heavens, but up toward the great human calling. We sought freedom in the days of Egyptian slavery, the constitution of justice and equality in the days of Sinai and the journeys in the desert, and universal humanism in the days of the great prophets; the Great Eagle, Maimonides, optimistically strove to put an end to conquests and subjugation of the Jewish people in the Middle Ages.”  
A Model Society  
Even the Zionist idea, says Burg, “was not merely a fascinating quest for saving the Jewish people from a wrathful and violent anti-Semitic persecutor, but a heroic attempt to establish a model society that would prove to us and everyone else that there is a viable, alternative political reality, based, in a nutshell, on the principle: ‘What is hateful to thee, do not do unto thy fellow.’ This great call has become mute and silent in Israel of recent years ... My hopes are for a new humanism, a rejuvenated Judaism ... I strive toward a Jewish people that say ‘Never again’ not just for us Jews, but for every suffering victim in the world today, who I hope will enjoy the support and protection of the Jews, yesterday’s victims who defeated Hitler. This is not yet the majority opinion in Israel. Not yet. The Israeli right has nothing to offer but sword and messiah until the day of peace comes, and in general, once peace is achieved, the left will have nothing to offer in terms of new spiritual content. ... I join the rising Israeli voices who are attempting to outline the future Israeli landscape. We seek to add humaneness and universalism to the old equations and new dimensions of value-based content and national existence. We propose a life of trust, not a reality composed of nothing but endless trauma.”  
In Israel, and within much of the Jewish community in the United States, the Holocaust is an ever-present reality, something which Burg laments: “I feel that this darkest period of human history is always present, everywhere, and its reminders are many. Children prepare for the’ Auschwitz trip.’ ... Not a day passes without a mention of the Shoah in the only newspaper I read, Haaretz. The topics are varied: reparations, compensation, anti-Semitism, a new analysis, an interesting book, an insightful interview. Shoah is like the hole in the ozone layer: unseen yet present, abstract yet powerful ... The Shoah has become a theological pillar of the modem Jewish identity and that is one of the Jewish people’s greatest challenges in modern times.”  
Confrontation Versus Understanding  
Within Israel, Burg reports, he lives in one language — that of tensions and trauma, conflict and confrontation. “Outside of Israel,” he writes, “I use a different language of building bridges, understanding, forgiveness and of concessions .... As the years pass, the schism between the two languages I use deepens and tears me apart. I am increasingly convinced that the language of my land ... is based on a false premise. Israel accentuates and perpetuates the confrontational philosophy that is summed up in the phrase, ‘The entire world is against us.’ I often have the uneasy feeling that Israel will not know how to live without conflict .... In the arena of war, the Shoah is the main generator that feeds the mentalities of confrontation and catastrophic Zionism.”  
While the State of Israel was built as a “safe haven” for Jews, Burg believes that “it is today the least safe place for Jews to live. Ask yourself, where is it safer to live? In holy Jerusalem, the city of bombs? Or in New York City, where fundamentalist evil downed the twin towers of the World Trade Center? It seems to me that many more view New York as a safer place to live than Israel, regardless of how many atomic bombs the Jewish state allegedly stores in her arsenal.”  
A Fortified Haven  
What has happened, Burg declares, is that, “We have erected a fortified haven but extinguished our ‘light unto the nations’ ... The Shoah is more present in our lives than God. The Musaf prayer says of God that ‘His glory fills the world’ — there is no place in the world without the presence of God. Listening to the Israeli, Jewish, and even wider world’s discourse today reveals that the Shoah is the founding experience not only of our national consciousness, but that of the western world as a whole. Army generals discuss Israeli security doctrine as ‘Shoah-proof.’ Politicians use it as a central argument for their ethical manipulations ... The Shoah is so pervasive that a study conducted a few years ago in a Tel Aviv teaching school found that more than 90 per cent of those questioned view the Shoah as the most important experience of Jewish history. This makes the Shoah more important than the creation of the world, the exodus from Egypt, the delivering of the Torah on Mount Sinai, the ruin of both the Holy Temples, the exile, Messianism, the stunning cultural achievements, the birth of Zionism, the founding of the state, or the Six-Day War.”  
While memory is essential to any nation, Burg points out, “The Shoah must therefore have an important place in the nation’s memorial mosaic. But the way things are done today — the absolute monopoly and the dominance of the Shoah on every aspect, of our lives — transformed this holy memory into a ridiculous sacrilege and converts piercing pain into hollowness and kitsch. As time passes, the deeper we are stuck in our Auschwitz past, the more difficult it becomes to be free of it. We retreat from independence to the inner depths of exile, its memories and horrors. Israel today is much less independent than it was at her founding, more Holocaustic than it was 3 years after the gates of the Nazi death factories opened.”  
Israeli Life Is Combative  
Burg laments the fact that Israeli life is “combative, against friends and foes alike. One might say that the Israeli only understands force. This arrogant Israeli phrase, ‘Arabs understand force only,’ originally alluded to the Arab inability to defeat us on the battlefield, and was used as an excuse for unjustifiable Israeli behavior. They only understand force, we said, patronizingly, as if we were educators. If ‘he who spares his rod hates his son’ then treating the Arabs with force is an effective policy. Every state needs a reasonable force at its disposal. Yet raw force is not enough, and a state also needs the confidence to restrain it .... In the end, we did what the rest of the world’s bullies do: we turned an aberration into a doctrine, and we now understand only the language of force ... A state that lives by the sword and worships its dead is bound to live in a constant state of emergency, because everyone is a Nazi, everyone is an Arab, everyone hates us, the entire world is against us.”  
In the course of Jewish history, Burg points out, Zionism has been only one strand of thought and, for most of that history, was a decidedly minority view. The vast majority of Jews rejected the idea that Judaism, somehow, involved the possession of a state and an army. Instead, they viewed Judaism as a worldview — a religion of universal values, at home everyplace in the world.  
America as an Alternative  
Indeed, Burg notes, “The United States of America has always been a practical alternative to the Zionist idea ... A few thousand dreamers and pioneers came to Zion but a hundred-fold more left czarist Russia for the Goldene Medina, the golden state of America, as it was called by the Jewish emigrants to North America ... As Israelis were developing collective separatism, American Jews wove themselves into the fabric of the general public. Being Jewish could be achieved in two different ways: isolation or integration; a ghetto of belligerent colonialism or Jewish universalism ... The Jewish ‘churches’ — Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Secular — were made possible by America’s religious freedom. The American Jewish Torah is a valid alternative to the Zionist national Torah and to Israel’s fossilized religious Orthodoxy, the self-appointed ‘authentic Judaism.’ Unlike the wrathful prophecies of both the Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox and Zionist preachers, there are and will be alternatives.”  
One American Jewish leader cited by Burg is Rabbi Julius Morgenstern, who presided over the Hebrew Union College from 1922 to 1947. “Morgenstern,” he writes, “was both a Jew and an American ... In his early years, Morgenstern viewed Zionism as an ideology of identity by negation.. The Zionist reaction to assimilation, including the retreat to the Middle East, seemed to him an admission of defeat and acceptance of anti-Semitic values. Zionism was escaping Judeophobia instead of repairing Judeophobic societies and the world, so as to prevent future anti-Semitism. It was treason and dereliction of duty, in violation of the universal tenets of Jewish values of identity and inclusion.”  
Reform Judaism Contrasted with Zionism  
Burg has high regard for the early leaders of Reform Judaism in the United States, and contrasts their philosophy of Judaism with that of the Zionists: “As the Zionist movement aspired to create a new structure that would enable the Jewish people as a collective to join the family of nations, the Reform movement took it upon itself to create a standard for Jewish individuals to integrate as equals in non-Jewish societies ... Few remember that the majority of the Jewish people opposed the creation of a Jewish state well into World War II. This opposition came from all sorts of Jews, Reform, ultra-Orthodox, communists, members of the Jewish labor union, the Bund, and plain ordinary Jews. They opposed the Zionist minority and feared the consequences of a national and political revival. Each group had its own ethical and spiritual reasons, but all were united by the fear — which eventually materialized — that a Jewish political entity would create intolerant nationalistic sentiments that would drastically alter the historical character of the Jewish people.”  
Burg views the Reform movement’s adoption of a Zionist philosophy as regression away from the religious ideal of a universal Judaism which it held, and which Burg believes in today. He declares: “ ... the American Jewry in the early days of the 19th and early 20th centuries was supposed to be something else — the universalistic pole of Jewish existence ... With the Holocaust, everything changed dramatically and even the Reform movement joined the Zionist ideology and contributed to part of the national shell rather than the desired openness .... Thus the Shoah changed the course for American Jews. From a path of enormous potential toward becoming the rightful heirs of pre-war European, especially German Jewish creativity, the Shoah narrowed the field of vision of American Jews. Anyone who follows the statements and actions of American Jewish leaders and organizations today would be unable to find anything resembling Morgenstern’s great spirit of universalism ... I regret this dangerous erosion of purpose very much. I fear a world in which the only Jewish voice speaks only of nationhood and nationalism. Such a world is bereft of the wisdom our father Jacob had when he prepared himself for the decisive encounter with his brother Esau.”  
Dominance of Holocaust  
The dominance of the Holocaust in the thinking of both Israelis and American Jewish leaders is having, Burg believes, a decidedly negative impact in a variety of ways. “American Jews, like Israelis,” he writes, “are stuck in Auschwitz, raising the Shoah banner high to the sky and exploiting it politically. It seems natural then that the third supporting pillar, the Shoah and the vow ‘Masada will not fall again’ becomes the central element of American Jewish identity. Masada was the site where allegedly Jewish warriors chose to commit suicide with their families rather than surrender to superior Roman forces. In one of my early trips to the U.S. I saw a poster in the offices of AIPAC that read ‘Masada — A Living Memory.’ Is collective suicide the contemporary motto of American Jews?”  
American Jewish organizations, which proclaim that Israel is “central” to their identity, and which engage in the political arena largely in behalf of Middle East policy are, Burg notes, unrepresentative of the vast majority of American Jews in whose name they speak: “It seems that instinctively millions of Jews understand that a White House that is good for Israel should not do everything Israel requests, but rather do what Israel needs. Furthermore, an ordinary Jew ... wants his children to grow in a healthy society. He would rather integrate into a multicultural society and look forward to the future than linger, holding on to the past ... American Jews seek solutions both as members of the Jewish faith and as partners in the building of the American nation. The one-issue strategy does not address these goals as it deals with Israel and nothing else. Yet every time a strategic reevaluation concerning Israel is called for, the silencing voices are heard: Shoah, pogroms, self-hating Jews. Again anti-Semitism, swastikas, and Hitler decide the debate on Jewish identity and an opportunity for dialogue dies before it often begins.”  
Within Israel itself, Burg shows, there have been many voices who have warned of the dangers of nationalist expansion, expressing concern about what such pursuits would do to the humane values which the Jewish tradition, ideally, is established to transmit. He cites the late Professor Yeshayahu Leibowich, a native of early 20th century Riga, who was educated in Germany. Burg believes that the lessons of Bismark and the German empire resonated in his ears when he watched the Seven Day war in 1967 and refused to be carried away by the messianic ecstasy which followed.  
Undermining Jewish Essence  
At that time, Leibowich provided this analysis: “The dilemma of whether to hold on to the territories or to evacuate them is not directly related to the problem of peace and security ... We are destined to live a long period in a state of perpetual war ... The inclusion of one and a half million Arabs within Jewish jurisdiction means undermining the human and Jewish essence of the state and the destruction of the social-economic order that we established ... The destruction of the Jewish people and the corruption of the human in Israel. .. In the greater land of Israel (there) will not be a Jewish worker or a Jewish farmer. The Arabs will be the working people, and we will become a people of managers, supervisors, officials and policemen ... That state will necessarily be a police state, and its central institution will be the General Security Services ... This will surely influence the entire spiritual and moral atmosphere in the state and in society; it will poison education ... And all this is in the Jewish sector of the state. In the Arab sectors the Israeli government will build concentration camps and gallows. This is a state that is not worthy of being and will not be worth letting exist.”  
Building Israeli identity upon the Holocaust has led, Burg reports, to a dangerously distorted view of reality. The Palestinians, who have legitimate grievances of their own, were not the perpetrators of the Holocaust, but tend to be portrayed as the latest in a long series of foes and enemies to be defeated. The Shoah is used as a weapon against them, though doing so tells us more about the Israeli mindset than it does about the Palestinian reality.  
“Shoah Is Our Life”  
“In our eyes,” Burg argues, “we are still partisan fighters, ghetto rebels, shadows in the camps, no matter the nation, state, armed forces, gross domestic product, or international standing. The Shoah is our life and we will not forget it and not let anyone forget us. We have pulled the Shoah out of its historic context and turned it into a plea and a generator for every deed. All is compared to the Shoah, dwarfed by the Shoah, and therefore all is allowed — be it fences, sieges, crowns, curfews, food and water deprivation or unexplained killings. All is permitted because we have been through the Shoah, and you will not tell us how to behave ... Yet despite the terrible dimensions of the Shoah, it was not terminal, and it is a fact that we are here, after all, after all. Instead of developing an alternative to the Holocaust soul, we are bogged down in it and fail to reach the riverbank of optimism that is necessary for our rescue and survival. We must recognize that, while it was the tragedy of all tragedies, it is not and should not become our final path.”  
While the Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust, in a strange reversal of history, they have had to pay a major price for it. In the minds of many Israelis, Burg writes, “ ... we will never forgive the Arabs, for they are allegedly just like the Nazis, worse than the Germans. We have displaced our anger and revenge from one people to another, from an old foe to a new adversary, and so we allow ourselves to live comfortably with the heirs of the German enemy — representing convenience, wealth and high quality — while treating the Palestinians as whipping boys to release our aggression, anger and hysteria, of which we have plenty.”  
Responsibility for Actions  
Burg is critical of Israeli leaders who do not want to take responsibility for the results of their actions. He is critical of the fact that, “Israeli leaders have never admitted to our responsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem. From a tactical point of view, no one wanted to open the Pandora’s box of refugee recognition and compensation too soon, so as to avoid giving the Arabs anything tangible in return for nothing. At the same time, Israeli officials did not want to ‘lose points’ in the muddy arena of international political wrestling. Another reason that lurked under a range of devious, tactical arguments: a heavy guilt complex. We could not admit to ourselves, much less publicly to the world, that ‘the Wandering Jews,’ a people of refugees, are the cause of the Palestinian refugee problem.”  
While Israelis carry on reminding the world of the Holocaust, Burg believes that many have learned the wrong lesson from it: “Speeches and policies demanded the nations of the world to ensure that what happened would not happen again. We meant that it must not happen to us; do not allow evil to raise its head again, to persecute Jews again, but the world heard something more: No Shoah, no Holocaust, no genocide must ever happen again.”  
Silent About Genocide  
Israel, and Jewish organizations in other countries which follow its lead, have been silent in the face of genocidal acts against other groups, past and present. Burg points to Israel’s embrace of Turkey’s position rejecting responsibility for the mass murder of Armenians and the lobbying on the part of American Jewish groups against any congressional recognition of that event. He points out that when Serbia was engaging in “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia, Israel was on the side of the Serbs. Where, he asks, is Israeli concern for the slaughter of innocents in Rwanda and the Sudan? Shouldn’t those who have suffered themselves identify with the suffering of others? Burg thinks that they should and that in not doing so, Israel is turning its back on the humane Jewish tradition.  
Israel’s policy “in the land of our patriarchs,” he writes, “desecrates the heritage of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. True, we are no longer Abel, always being murdered by his brother, because we now have power of our own and because international norms have changed. Nor are we Cain, who kills just for the joy of killing. But can we agree that Cainism has increased recently in the Jewish psyche .... We have forgotten the obligations that our earlier generations took upon themselves. We treat ‘them’ as if we have never vowed in Hillel the Elder’s brilliant summation of the Torah: Do not do unto others what is hateful to you. We hated it, and we are doing it, sometimes much too joyously ... Is it possible that we can be ‘Jewish’ only when we don’t have liberty and independence? So far, it is an undeniable fact that from the moment we had a state ‘like all the other nations,’ we wanted to be gentiles like them. While they in turn are already willing to be a bit more Jewish than they were.”  
Ignorance of America  
Israel’s ignorance of the life and religious values of Jews who live in the United States and other countries is widespread. Burg quotes the late Israeli President Ezer Weizman who once told Burg that, “They should either come and live here, or they should go to hell.” For Zionists, Burg states, Jews who live in free, open societies, are of no interest. Those who live in repressive societies which limit their religious freedom, however, tend to justify the choices which Zionists have made. In this sense, he says, Zionists welcome trouble for Jews in other countries as a means of persuading them to emigrate to Israel.  
“This,” he writes, “is catastrophic Zionism at its worst: what is bad for the Jews is better for Zionism. In this sense, I am not just a post-Zionist, but an anti, anti-catastrophic Zionism. I believe wholeheartedly that if we do not establish modern Israeli identity on foundations of optimism, faith in humans and full trust in the community of nations, we have no chance of existing and surviving in the long run — not as a society in a state, not as a state in the world, and not as a nation in the future. The era of fearful Judaism and paranoid Zionism is over. The time for integration in a free, positive world has come. The faith of the Jewish people in the world and in humanity must be rehabilitated.”  
Judaism’s Many Strains  
Judaism has many strains in its history, commandments of openness and tolerance, and also narrow impulses of tribalism. What Burg believes is necessary for the future is a “new Judaism” that embraces its universalism and rejects its narrowness and, in particular, its contempt for others. Just as Jews have long called upon Christian churches to cleanse their tradition — and even their sacred literature — of anything which teaches contempt for Jews, so Burg calls upon Jews to do the same.  
“Judaism is an astounding culture,” he writes, “complex and full of light, and naturally it also contains some shadows ... I will not make my work easier by saying that all circumcised Jewish fundamentalists, or extremist followers of Moses’ Torah or the Sabbath-observing racists are not part of me. They are. They are part of Judaism’s flowerbed and against them I direct my first battle on the path to returning my people, who have derailed during the past few years, to the tracks that their predecessors and founders laid for them. My father did not raise me by those beliefs when he taught me God’s Torah and the People’s Commandments. My mother did not raise us on these values from our infancy until her death. We were raised on a Judaism of love, founded on the verse ‘Love your fellow person as you love yourself.’ We were educated to oppose what was hateful to us as individuals and as a people, and vowed irrevocably not to perpetuate those hateful deeds on others, not to individuals and not to a people, whatever the circumstances.”  
Genuine Jewish Tradition  
Burg is committed to what he sees as the genuine Jewish tradition, which he finds in Abraham, who did not restrain himself from rebuking God, “Will the judge of all the people not do justice?” He looks to the School of Hillel, and to the students of Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakai, who during the Great Ruin of A.D. 70 preferred Yavne and its sages, its values, and morality to the then-corrupt Second Temple and the political, brutal and extremist Jerusalem. He notes that, “These words are written for Israel’s greats, from Maimonides, who believed that the world’s redemption would come with the annulment of oppression and occupation, to Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and their colleagues who believed and swore in the name of the religion of peace for the benefit of the entire world. With their power, I seek to uproot the evil growth that climbs the ivy on our tree of life, and threatens to asphyxiate it.”  
Burg recalls a talk he had with a member of the Border Police, who was Druze. He told Burg, “We, the Border Police are not Jews, you know. We are Druze. We guarded the tomb and the yeshiva (at Hebron). The students are not religious like you, but like the others, with the big yarmulkes and threads hanging outside their shirts. They were inside and we were outside. All day we heard them studying, and in the evening we escorted them and their rabbi back home to their settlement. We heard them talking. And what did they say? That the blood of the goyim is not like the blood of the Jews, and that Arabs are like beasts ... Our blood is only good enough to guard them and to die for them. That is, like a watchdog.”  
For Burg, that rabbi and his friends are “heartless religionists, worshippers of another god, and followers of a racist Jewish creed. In my view they are circumcised Amaleki, which we are committed to eliminate . .I focused my argument on the Jewish struggle against the idolatry of places and the territories. In my view, Jews who worship graves, wood and stones are pagans ... The argument concerns their interpretation and understanding of Judaism as a race theory and a faith of discrimination and violence.”  
Growing Extremism  
An example of the kind of extremism which is growing in the West Bank and elsewhere in Israel, Burg reports, is Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg. He was born in the U.S., studied mathematics and philosophy, then embraced an ultra-Orthodox religious worldview and emigrated to Israel. He once called for the boycott of all Arab goods and was active in publishing the book memorializing Baruch Goldstein, the Brooklyn-born physician who massacred 29 Arabs at prayer in the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994.  
“From the first days of our patriarchs,” writes Burg, “two trends rose in Jewish history; exclusivity and inclusiveness. The exclusivists separated themselves from the world and detested the-gentiles’ being and inputs; the inclusivists were open to adopt positive spirits and ideas from other cultures .... Our forefathers never succeeded in erasing the significance of the gentiles in our lives. Judah, the patriarch of the House of David, was the first Israelite to have a mixed marriage outside the patriarchal family. He married ‘a daughter of a Canaanite man, whose name is Shuam and he took her and came to her.’ Ruth the Moabite slept overnight at the feet of the Israelite farmer Boaz, who later married her according to Jewish custom. The couple created a lineage from which David, the king of Israel, was born, starting a royal dynasty .... This is the weave that produced us. On the one hand, exclusivity; on the other, universalism. Jews and gentiles created the historic Jewish identity.”  
The words of Jewish self-segregation in the world begin with the believer’s personal wake-up prayer, which includes the line, “Blessed are you, our God, king of the universe, for not having made me a gentile.” It is brought to light at the end of the Sabbath, as the prayer is recited: “Blessed ... who differentiate between Holiness and everyday matters, between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations.” Burg notes that, “This is a distinct separation of one group, of everyday affairs, darkness, and nations of the world, from the group of holiness, light and the people of Israel. These distinctions are made in numerous sources. The idea of the Chosen People can be explained in historical and human contexts.”  
The lines drawn between Jews and non-Jews in traditional sacred literature is widespread. This is something of which few contemporary Jews, particularly American Jews, are aware: Rabbi Yehuda Liwa ben Bezalel, known as HaMaharal of Prague, for example, draws a precise line between a Jew and a non-Jew: “It is written that this nation is holy, that it tends towards (God), for it is the beginning of all nations.” In another place he interprets the universalistic, humanistic phrase, “Favorite is Man for being created in his image” as excluding non-Jews. Although it says man, it does not include all. The stage of Israel in relation to the nations is as the stage of the nations in relation to the non-speaking animals.  
Sadly, in Burg’s view, the racism suffered by Jews has not caused a revulsion to all such forms of separation and discrimination, but has reinforced a Jewish variety of exclusivity. “The entire Torah in one verse, Hillel the Elder told us, is not doing to others what we hated done to us. In Israel today, there are horrible layers of racism that are not essentially different from the racism that exterminated many of our ancestors,” he writes. “This racism is sanctimonious and slick and we do not always notice how dangerous it is ... It is imperative to declare a war of values with these racists, and to present a practical alternative of faith to the distortion they call ‘Judaism’ and which they present as our authentic faith ... A good Arab and a righteous gentile will be a brother or sister to me. A wicked man, even of Jewish descent, is my adversary and I would stand on the other side of the barricades and fight him to the end. Automatic Judaism, bereft of self-criticism and moral obligations, is for me an abominable race theory.”  
Real Answer to Hitler  
The real answer to Hitler, Burg believes, is “the union of all good people in the world against the coalition of evil, which includes some of my people. Israeli humanism must understand that the answer to the Israeli occupation is not just withdrawal from the occupied territories, but also the creation of a new Jewish identity ... We need to write a new prayer book, a Siddur, in which the arrogant verse ‘You chose us from among all the nations,’ will be replaced with ‘You chose us with all the nations.’ This should be a prayer book that makes no distinction between one human and another and between Adam and Eve. There will be no mention of sacrifices, slaughters and a bloody temple, but a temple of life and its pursuit ... It is time for a new Judaism.”  
Israel — and Jews elsewhere in the world — should, Burg urges, leave Auschwitz behind and build a healthy Israel — and a new universal and ethical Judaism. He writes: “Israel must understand that after the Shoah, genetic Judaism has to end. We have to connect to the Judaism that shares a common fate and values with others. There will be among us descendants of Abraham and Sarah, but we will all be the children of Adam and Eve. Unlike many rabbis among us ... who believed that a non-genetic Jew is not equal to us, we will adapt the medieval scholar Maimonides’ astoundingly modern views and bold positions. This is what he wrote to Ovadia the Proselyte, his contemporary ‘There is no difference at all between us and you in any matter ... and do not underestimate your origins. If we are descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you are descended from the Creator of the World.’ Victory Day over Nazi Germany will also be the day of victory of the shared identity over the divisive religious law.”  
Trust Between Jews and Non-Jews  
In the future, Burg hopes, young people in Israel “will travel not only to Auschwitz, but to Spain — to Aragon, Castile and Andalucia, becoming familiar with the Golden Age when Islam and Judaism had mutually beneficial relationships. They will study the Jewish millennium in Germany and Eastern Europe — not only the twelve years of the Nazi regime. They will visit Jewish communities in the West, especially the United States, where “they can learn what it means to live a life free of threats. We can learn about solidarity and how life with national meaning can be lived without an external enemy, and with full trust between Jews and the non-Jewish environment.”  
Avraham Burg uses his own family history — his parents were Holocaust survivors — to inform his innovative views on what Israelis need to do to live at peace with their Arab neighbors and feel comfortable in the world at large — and on how Jews everywhere in the world can reject the narrow, exclusivist portions of their tradition and embrace, instead, the universal moral and ethical standards which are Judaism’s unique contribution to the world. “Remember the past,” he writes, “but do not be its slaves.”  
The shadow of the Holocaust and its application to the contemporary Middle East have been harmful for Jews, Israelis and Arabs alike. This is an important book of hope from a man who wants to find ways to return Judaism to its universal calling. This book has as much to say to American Jews as to Israelis. It deserves a careful and widespread reading. •  
Allan C. Brownfeld is a nationally syndicated columnist and serves as Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and Editor of Issues. The author of five books, he has served on the staff of the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President.

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