A curious perspective

This interview with a Rabbi Sacks is rather hard for me to wrap my brain around. The first part is about something Sacks is very concerned about: Jewish continuity. He seems strangely concerned about Jewish young people marrying outside their group, and has run ad campaigns to convince young Jews to raise their children in their faith. It’s all very weird; I know my grandmother was concerned that her grandchildren marry good Scandinavians, and I even got admonished about what ethnic groups I could date when I went off to college. I’m afraid that when my Norwegian/Swedish grandmother did that sort of thing, we just called it bigotry and ignored her.

Even now, I can’t quite imagine telling my kids who they are allowed to marry, or being concerned with maintaining an ethnic bloodline. Be different and unique, I say — no one should try to be who their parents and grandparents are, but should follow their own path, and we parents and grandparents should reconcile ourselves to our progeny’s independence.

There is one odd moment in the interview. I don’t sympathize at all with the ethnic purity angle, but this part I actually liked:

In the question and answer session that followed Rabbi Sacks was asked how he would convince someone like scientist and atheist, Richard Dawkins of the benefits of religious identity.

Mr Sacks responded: “We need atheists to remind us things are not God’s will, God does not want hunger, injustice or violence. I am quite happy Richard Dawkins stops us having too much faith. There’s a lot more religion in the world than there was 25 years ago and there’s a lot more violence in the world than there was 25 years ago.”

I suspect that while I enthusiastically agree qualitatively with Rabbi Sacks, we might disagree on how much religion is too much — I’d say anything above zero.


  1. #1 David Marjanovi?
    April 28, 2007

    Is there really more violence in the world now than 25 years ago?

    Is there, for that matter, more religion in the world now than 25 years ago? I suspect the opposite.

    However, it doesn’t mean that a tribe is always limited to those who are born into it.

    Bingo. Think football.

  2. #2 David Marjanovi?
    April 28, 2007

    As I understand it, Jews are not a race.

    Well, human races don’t exist in the first place, not in any genetically meaningful sense. No human population has ever been reproductively isolated for any serious amount of time.

  3. #3 Anton Mates
    April 29, 2007

    No. Acting in self-interest (on behalf of a group in this case) has nothing to do with superiority. Do the Palestinians consider themselves to be superior to the Tibetans because they protest only their own occupation by the Israelis and not the occupation of Tibet by China?

    What does self-interest have to do with this? The Rabbi isn’t being forced to convert from Judaism. Trying to prevent other Jews from discarding their ethnic identity doesn’t benefit him at all, except possibly by upping the attendance at his talks and such.

    Do you have any reason for thinking that the Rabbi in this article has not spoken out on behalf of other minority cultures that are under threat? There is no reason for assuming either way.

    Looking over a few of his speech transcripts strengthens my impression. In fact, when discussing Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, he deplores the fact that they’re not more assimilated.