Christopher Buckley, the American author and political satirist once said: “Reading any collection of a man’s quotations is like eating the ingredients that go into a stew instead of cooking them together in the pot. You eat all the carrots, then all the potatoes, then the meat. You won’t go away hungry, but it’s not quite satisfying.”
For diaspora Jews living in countries where there are a high percentage of individuals harbouring virulent antisemitic attitudes, such as in Greece, Panama, Poland, Bulgaria, Serbia and France, there’s also not much to be satisfied about. Antisemitic-based quotations abound from so many Internet sources. Many have been loosely translated from Urdu, Arabic, and other languages; so much so that one has to continually scramble to separate the fact from the fiction.
For diaspora Jews in many parts of the world, the continual need to come to the defence of one’s religious beliefs have left many reeling in a state of scepticism and understandably, in a precarious quagmire. It has, in essence, become an inherent part of daily life.
Having said that, whether or not you agree with Christopher Buckley, I believe quotations do have a place for us, especially in times of incertitude. Three quotations immediately come to mind. Perhaps, as we look forward to the year ahead with some tiny spark of sanguinity, this is the time to revive them.
“Don’t shelter yourself in any course of action by the idea that ‘it is my affair.’ It is your affair, but it is also mine and the community’s. Nor can we neglect the world beyond. A fierce light beats upon the Jew. It is a grave responsibility this – to be a Jew; and you can’t escape from it, even if you choose to ignore it. Ethically or religiously, we Jews can be and do nothing light-heartedly. Ten bad Jews may help to damn us; ten good Jews may help to save us. Which minyan will you join?” -C.G. Montefiore, (1858-1938).
“My people have survived the prehistoric paganism, the Babylonian polytheism, the aesthetic Hellenism, the sagacious Romanism, at once the blandishments and persecutions of the Church; and it will survive the modern dilettantism and the current materialism, holding aloft the traditional Jewish ideals inflexibly until the world shall become capable of recognizing their worth.” –Cyrus Adler, (1863-1940).
And finally, from Leo Tolstoy, (1828-1910). “The Jew is the emblem of eternity. He whom neither slaughter nor torture of thousands of years could destroy, he whom neither fire nor sword nor inquisition was able to wipe off from the face of the earth, he whom was the first to produce the oracles of God, he who has been for so long the guardian of prophecy, and who transmitted it to the rest of the world – such a nation cannot be destroyed. He is everlasting as is eternity itself.”
2015 is just few days away. Yet, for me, it is already here. In peace.