Max Blankfeld

… and Save the Jews?

Save Endangered Languages, Save Endangered Species…. Save the Jews?

It is inherent in our nature to start being concerned with extinction when the danger of it happening is knocking at the door. It applies to languages, it applies to endangered species and it applies to peoples.

Not only that, but being involved in these preservation efforts is a noble cause that makes a wide spectrum of the population speak in one voice: from students to wealthy philanthropists.

So I asked myself the following question: how many of the “Save the…” student activists or philanthropists that sit in the Boards of the many preservation organizations are Jews who care about learning their own language – which was almost extinct a little over a century ago – or care about the continuity of their own people, which has always been on the brink of extinction, whether during the Inquisition, the Holocaust, or now, when different groups call out for wiping out the Jews (yes, the Jews, not just Israel)?

I would bet that not many of them care for their own people’s continuity at the same level that they are engaged with other such movements.

I would bet that many of the Jewish students involved in the preservation of languages, or of the Native Americans, or the rights of some peoples’ self-determination, are individuals that reject the notion of preservation of their own cultural and national identity.

I would bet that many of the Jewish philanthropists that donate to important preservation projects, are or will attend their children’s weddings in churches, and are OK with not celebrating most of the Jewish cultural traditions, while they do celebrate local holidays, whether in the USA, France or any other countries.

“Well,” some will say, “I don’t celebrate this of that holiday because I am not religious or not an observant Jew.” Yes, the Jewish cultural traditions are connected to the Jewish religion, but aren’t also many of the local holidays tied to the local majority’s religions? Two of the most celebrated holidays in the American tradition, Thanksgiving and New Year’s are rooted in religion. Just google it if you don’t believe me. Therefore, what I say is: celebrate the Jewish holidays not as a religious holiday, but as a cultural holiday. Don’t you admire the Chinese celebrating, for example, the start of the Dragon Year”? Don’t you value the Africans celebrating “Kwanzaa,” which is a commemoration of their history and culture?

Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not asking anyone to stop being active in different preservation efforts. All I am saying is that, along the same lines, Jews should pay more attention to the preservation and strengthening of our own culture, traditions, language and history – and of course of Israel, which encapsulates all of the above.

We need to do it before some will have to start a “Save the Jews from extinction” movement.
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About the Author
Max Blankfeld is a Houston based entrepreneur and pro-Israel activist; Born in Germany, he moved at the age of 2 to Brazil, where destiny took his parents who were Holocaust survivors; From 1970 to 1976 he studied at the Technion and Tel Aviv University, and was a stringer for Brazilian newspapers; Upon his return to Brazil he was the local correspondent for Yedioth Aharonot for two years; He serves on the Boards of Honest Reporting, FIDF and the Jewish Studies Program at Rice University. Follow me on twitter @mblankfeld .
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