Simon Schama berates ‘detestable’ Bennett remarks about diaspora Jews

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Simon Schama berates ‘detestable’ Bennett remarks about diaspora Jews

Well-known historian criticises right-wing government minister after he blamed Jews born outside Israel for the 'problem of assimilation'

Simon Schama
Simon Schama

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.’

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