British historian Sir Simon Schama has attacked “detestable comments” from Israeli minister and former settler leader Naftali Bennett for saying Diaspora Jews “don’t care about their Judaism or about Israel”.
Schama (pictured) joined hundreds who reacted angrily online after Bennett, who is education minister as well as minister for Diaspora affairs, made the accusations.
Bennett, who heads the right-wing religious nationalist party Jewish Home, was speaking at a cabinet meeting on Sunday, as he prepared to launch a campaign to persuade French Jews to make aliyah.
“There is an unprecedented crisis between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora,” he said. “The reason is a major problem of assimilation and that more and more Jews around the world don’t care about their Judaism and don’t care about Israel.”
The backlash was immediate, with his spokesman rushing to defend Bennett, saying the minister “was not attacking anyone, he was stressing the problem of assimilation”.
For Schama and many others, however, this didn’t wash, the esteemed historian laying into Bennett online, describing it as “an outrageous affront… to millions of Reform, Conservative and Liberal Jews in vibrant communities who are fighting assimilation, not enabling it”. He added that Bennett’s was “a detestable comment”.
A spokesman for Bennett told Jewish News: “The minister was not criticising any stream of Judaism, Orthodox or non-Orthodox, but expressing concern about unaffiliated Jews who are apathetic about their religious identify.’
an outrageous affront by @naftalibennett to millions of Reform, Conservative and Liberal Jews in vibrant communities who are fighting assimilation not enabling it. Detestable comment https://t.co/GUQzLYo7Ha
— Simon Schama (@simon_schama) December 10, 2018
Listen to this week’s episode of The Jewish Views podcast!
While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.
That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.
We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.
Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”