I Am a Jew

“I am a Jew. As a Jew I carry with me the tears and sufferings of my grandparents and theirs through the generations. The story of my people is a narrative of centuries of exiles and expulsions, persecutions and pogroms, beginning with the First Crusade and culminating in the murder of two thirds of Europe’s Jews, among them more than a million children. For centuries, Jews knew that they or their children risked being murdered simply because they were Jews. Those tears are written into the very fabric of Jewish memory, which is to say, Jewish identity. How can I let go of that pain when it is written into my very soul?”

“And yet I must, for the sake of my children and theirs, not yet born. I cannot build their future on the hatreds of the past, nor can I teach them to love God more by loving people less. Asking God to forgive me, I hear, in the very process of making that request, His demand of me that I forgive others. I forgive because I have a duty to my children as well as to my ancestors. Indeed the former defines the latter. The duty I owe my ancestors who died because of their faith is to build a world in which people no longer die because of their faith. I honour the past not by repeating it but by learning from it – by refusing to add pain to pain, grief to grief. That is why we must answer hatred with love, violence with peace, resentment with generosity of spirit and conflict with reconciliation.”

The Dignity of Difference, p. 161