Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Updated: Aug 3, 2018

Will We Have Jewish Grandchildren? (1994)

Jewish life cannot be sustained without Israel at its core. That was true for nineteen hundred years when there was no Jewish state. It is no less true now that the state exists. One of the most profound turning points in the history of a community is when it declares that it has no interest in the return to Zion. That occurred among Reform Jews in nineteenth-century Germany. Similarly, there are people today who claim that twentieth-century America is not galut…


Sooner or later, such a view spells the end of Jewish life. To be a Jew means to live between two different worlds: the finite and the infinite, the particular and the universal, here and elsewhere. Once that tension is broken, the dissolution of Jewish identity follows as inevitably as night follows day. The process takes on average four generations. But it is inexorable. A Diaspora that turns in upon itself and severs its connection with Israel is a community which, wittingly or otherwise, is breaking its links with Jewish tradition and the Jewish people and taking the first step on the path to complete assimilation...


Both Jewries are beginning to see that how we live as Jews may be as important as where we live as Jews...The Israel of survival was Jewry’s “city of refuge,” what A. B Yehoshua called the Diaspora’s insurance policy. The Israel of continuity must become Jewry’s classroom, the Diaspora’s ongoing seminar in Jewish identity. Once, Israel saved Jews. In the future, it will save Judaism...


Israel is now the only place in which a total Jewish experience is possible. It is the one country where Jews constitute a majority of the population. It is the only context in which they exercise political sovereignty. It is the sole place where Judaism belongs to the public domain, where Hebrew is the language of everyday life and where the Sabbath and the festivals form the rhythm of the calendar. It is the land of our origins, the terrain on which Joshua and David fought and Amos and Isaiah delivered prophecies. It is the birthplace of Jewish memory and the home of Jewish destiny…


The entire relationship between Israel and the Diaspora will shift from dependence to reciprocity...

Israel, surely, is our ultimate destination. But the immediate question is less whether Jews are at home in London or Jerusalem than whether they are at home in their Jewishness...


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