The State of the Jewish World

Rabbi Sacks’ keynote address to the AJC Global Forum

On Monday 11th May 2014, Rabbi Sacks delivered the opening keynote address at the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum in Washington DC.

Press release from the AJC:

For the first time in its long history the Jewish people enjoy a secure and independent Jewish state as well as a free and vibrant Diaspora, but it also faces unprecedented challenges that can and must be addressed. That was the message that Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the recently retired Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, conveyed in his State of the Jewish World Address to an audience of more than 2,000 at the opening of AJC’s Global Forum.

Rabbi Lord Sacks identified three looming threats to the Jewish people. One is the resurgence of anti-Semitism, especially inEurope, where it places the very future of Jewish communities in doubt. Second, he noted the campaign to delegitimize theState of Israel by impugning its very right to exist. This effort, he said, has become the new anti-Semitism, which targets the Jewish state rather than the Jewish “faith” or “race.” He identified the third threat as Iran, which supports anti-Israel terror groups, continues to pursue its nuclear program, and has stated its determination to wipe Israel off the map.

Rabbi Lord Sacks argued that Jews around the world must realize “the victim cannot stop the crime by himself,” and seek friends and allies. Anti-Semitism is bad for other minorities as well, he pointed out, and for society as a whole. The vast majority of victims of Islamist terror are other Muslims, and the Christian population of the Middle East has declined from 20% to 4% as a result of Islamist pressure. He said, “We will fight for the right of Christians to live without fear, but we need Christians to fight for Jews’ right to live without fear as well. We will fight against Islamophobia, but we need Muslims to fight against Judeophobia.”

Rabbi Lord Sacks emphasized the importance of Jewish solidarity and self-confidence in confronting the dangers facing them. “How can we expect the world to love us if we can’t love one another?” he asked. After all, while all Jews “do not share the same faith, we all share the same fate.” And he cited the example of AJC, with its long record of advocacy for the Jewish people as a whole, as an example of such solidarity. He went on to define Judaism as “celebration,” declaring, “We never loved power—we loved life.” Renewed recognition that Judaism is “less oy and more joy,” he suggested, would strengthen Jewish determination to persevere and prevail.