Einstein and the Value of Jewish Independence

Election day is less than two weeks away, and one could be forgiven for feeling depressed about the lack of mature political discussion and debate taking place. Nonetheless, circumstances often provide us with the opportunity to step back and gain a new understanding and appreciation of the circumstances the Jewish People today find themselves, not withstanding the paucity of intelligent political conversation, whilst continually reminding us of the substantial sacrifices we continue to make. In the past 24 hours, several unconnected episodes did exactly that.

The first was the content of the fascinating letter penned above by Einstein in 1939, which was sold at auction yesterday for over $130,000. The most striking line was when we writes that, “We have no other means of self-defense than our solidarity and our knowledge that the cause for which we are suffering is a momentous and sacred cause”.

We have no other means of self-defense than our solidarity and our knowledge that the cause for which we are suffering is a momentous and sacred cause

In 2019, 80 years later, we are blessed for the first time for arguably almost 2,000 years to be able to defend ourselves with more than words and solidarity. Whatever the result of the upcoming elections, we are fortunate to be living in an independent Jewish state where we no longer have to rely on mere sentiments and well-written letters. Indeed, in the past several days, a number of teenagers in my community have received aliyot to mark their enlistment into Tzahal, a reminder that we are blessed with a far more potent defense mechanism than “solidarity and knowledge of a sacred cause” living in 2019.

The second episode was during tefilla this morning. The baal tefilla was marking the 17th yahrzeit of the murder of his daughter, Avia Malka. The Israel Government website says as follows,

“Mar 9, 2002 – Avia Malka, 9 months, of South Africa, and Israel Yihye, 27, of Bnei Brak were killed and about 50 people were injured, several seriously, when two Palestinians opened fire and threw grenades at cars and pedestrians in the coastal city of Netanya on Saturday evening, close to the city’s boardwalk and hotels. The terrorists were killed by Israeli border police. The Fatah Al Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.”

In just 80 years, Einstein’s hope that the contributions at the start of the Shoah would lead the persecuted Jewish people “toward a better future” has been realised far more than he could have ever expected

Whilst we are now better placed than any time in our recent history to defend our nation, we’re still faced on all sided by bitter enemies who wish to wipe us out. The hatred for the Jewish nation, which began with Pharoah in Egypt, and continued with Amalek in the desert, lives on to this very day in a multitude of different formats and guises. The sacrifices which our nation continue to make to be a “free nation in our land” are painful, and constitute a growing part of our people’s collective memory. But in just 80 years, Einstein’s hope that the contributions at the start of the Shoah would lead the persecuted Jewish people “toward a better future” has been realised far more than he could have ever expected.

About the Author
Simon worked in many roles within Jewish Education in the UK, including as the National Director of Bnei Akiva UK, teaching Jewish Studies and heading Mizrachi UK. After making aliya, he continued in the world of education, serving as the Director of Education for Lavi Olami and an educational consultant for the National Library of Israel. He writes in a personal capacity.
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