“When I was last in America.. my eye was caught by a story on the front page of the New York Times. It was headed ‘The Assimilating Bagel’, and the tale it told was this. A bagel was once a hard, round roll with a large hole in the centre. It was a Jewish delicacy which you ate with cream cheese or smoked salmon and temporarily forgot the troubles of the world. But according to the New York Times the bagel was subtly changing. Its crust was getting softer. The hole was getting smaller. Little by little, the bagel was assimilating into a bun. For ‘bagel’ read ‘Jewry’ and the metaphor is clear. Jewish identity in America is vanishing with frightening, unprecedented speed.”
“After the Shoah, one phrase came to encapsulate the collective response of world Jewry: ‘Never again.’ Never again would we stand by defenceless as Jews were dying because they were Jews. Yet, albeit in a radically different form, it is happening again. Admittedly, it is not Jews who are dying. But it is no less significant from the perspective of Jewish continuity. Judaism and Jewish identity are dying: that which made us Jews and gave shape and meaning to our lives. Every nation that suffered casualties during the Second World War has since repopulated itself. Except the Jewish people. For every Jewish child who perished in the Holocaust there is a child today who could have been enjoying a free and secure Jewish identity, but is not, because its parents have divorced, or because one of its parents is not Jewish, or because it has no understanding or knowledge of what it is to be a Jew.”
“My grandparents were not born in this country. Many, even most, of the Jews in Britain had grandparents who came here in the great wave of immigration from Eastern Europe between 1990 and 1914. We are Anglo-Jews of the third generation. It is an almost universal law that inherited wealth lasts three generations, not more. The same applies to inherited Judaism. Ours is the last generation that can still remember booba and zeida from the heim, with their fluent Yiddish and undiminished Yiddishkeit. Ours is the last generation for whom Jewish identity can be sustained by memory alone. The Rebbe of Ger once pointed out that the ‘four sons’ of the Haggadah represent four generation. The wise sons is the immigrant generation who still lives the traditions of the ‘home’. The rebellious son is the second generation, forsaking Judaism for social integration. The ‘simple’ son is the third generation, confused by the mixed messages of religious grandparents and irreligious parents. But the child who cannot even ask the question is the fourth generation. For the child of the fourth generation no longer has memories of Jewish life in its full intensity. Our children are children of the fourth generation.”