Lampeter University’s Dan Cohn-Sherbok controversially argues that anti-Semitism provides a paradox for the Jewish community – and its demise has left today’s Jews in chaos.
Rabbi Professor Cohn-Sherbok says that hatred of Jews has kept Judaism alive for thousands of years.
But he argues that state of affairs is being threatened by the fact that anti-Semitism has gradually disappeared and in the last two centuries – with the exception of Nazi Germany – Jews have integrated into society.
His book The Paradox Of Anti-Semitism will infuriate many members of the Jewish community across the world.
Rabbi Cohn-Sherbok, a professor of Jewish theology at Lampeter, claimed the paradox affecting Judaism and Jewishness is something that can affect all minority groups – including the Welsh.
He warned, “There is no solution to this problem. I don’t want anti-Semitism to continue, I want it to disappear but at the moment there is a risk the Jewish people will disappear if anti-Semitism disappears.”
The comments sparked outrage from some Jews. Labour peer Lord Janner of Braunstone said he was “appalled”.
Lord Janner, who was born in Cardiff, is a vice-chairman of the British Israel Parliamentary Group and was President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the main representative body of British Jewry, from 1978 to 1984.
He is a key figure in efforts to seek compensation and restitution for Holocaust victims.
Lord Janner said, “Anti-Semitism has been the scourge of the Jewish people. It was the basis on which Hitler wiped out some six million Jews.
“I worked as a war crimes investigator and anti-Semitism was at the root of this. I do not agree with what he is saying. Anti-Semitism is an unmitigated evil.”
Holocaust survivor Elen Davies, 77, from Swansea, said, “This man is asking for trouble for Jews. If that spreads then God help us all, because there are not that many of us left.
“I’m absolutely livid that anybody could say this. I really can’t understand this.
“As far as I’m concerned anti-Semitism is the vilest thing under the sun. We have so much discord, surely it’s time we had harmony.
“For a man who is supposed to be well-read and educated to make these sorts of comments is unbelievable.
“This man is inviting people to hate him. He is just being controversial for the sake of it, there is no sense in this comment whatsoever.
“He should’ve been around when Hitler was around. How can you be any sort of Jew if you say you can only live by antagonism?”
But Rabbi Professor Cohn-Sherbok said, “I have taught for more than 30 years and have written a number of books on anti-Semitism.
“In everything I have written about anti-Semitism, I have emphasised that it is an evil and we, as the Jewish people, have suffered at the hands of others for thousands of years.
“In the modern world there is not the kinds of anti-Semitism there were in the past and that has to be welcomed.
“Writing about all this, thinking about all this and experiencing all this, I have seen there is a positive side to it. Anti-Semitism has kept Judaism alive – and that is the paradox.
“Jews hate anti-Semitism, we all hate it. We don’t believe that racial hatred is a good thing. It’s controversial to say what we hate is good for us.
“What’s very controversial about the book is that it is saying without anti-Semitism, in the modern world, traditional Judaism has disintegrated.
“We have embraced the surrounding world and discarded our traditions because we are no longer hated. That is paradoxical.”
Cardiff Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg said, “There is a certain truth to this. Whenever you are living under siege you have either got to survive or give in. But now the community is more secular than Islamic communities – maybe they will be the same in two generations.”
We appreciate your support
Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission — at no additional cost to you — for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this service free of charge.