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Sharett Stresses Need of Better Education to Perpetuate Jewishness

October 24, 1961
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Emphasizing that “not all Jews can go to Israel,” Moshe Sharett, Israel’s former Minister and ex-Premier, told a conference on Jewish education here today that perpetuation of Jewishness in the lands of the Diaspora cannot be taken for granted and must be strengthened through Jewish education.

“Not all Jews can go to Israel,” he said. “Even if the Diaspora were to be liquidated, that would take several generations. Meanwhile, we would lose part of it by assimilation. Nor can we cut our losses and say that Israel is Jewry and the rest must be given up as a dead loss. The only way that remains open to us is self-assertion by the Jews in the West of their distinctive spiritual personality.”

“This does not mean cultural isolation,” Mr. Sharett continued. “It means a whole-some Jewish personality, open to all cultures but cherishing his own, and remaining faithful to the traditions and the past of his people. The freedom which is enjoyed by the Jews all over the West can be used as a mighty instrument for the assertion of their own individuality. But, in order that Jews do so, we require a mighty effort in the field of education.”

Jewish consciousness in the West, Mr. Sharett stated, “is but a pale reflection of the intense spiritual loyalty that resided among East European Jewry. Even the message of Israel must be brought home to Western Jews; it does not come over to them by itself.” At the same time, he emphasized, “the young Israelis must be educated to the idea that every Jew is their brother and sister; it does not come to them automatically,” he said.

While there are few Jews, Mr. Sharett held, who still need to be persuaded about the importance of Jewish education,” “the problem is comparatively novel and bears restating.” The pattern of Jewish life that was recreated in the new Jewish centers in the West “are dissimilar from those they had in European Europe,” he pointed out.

Mr. Sharett noted that Russian Jewry, constituting the second largest Jewish community in the world, is cut off from contact with the rest of Jewry. “Finally,” he said, “there is the rise of Israel, which solved many old problems and removed the curse of political disability but brought about new problems of a different character which time alone will not solve. These must be solved by the Jewish people collectively.”

Another of the speakers at the opening session of the conferences was Arthur Lourie, Israel’s Ambassador to Britain. Lauding Mr. Sharett as the architect of Israel’s foreign service, “who guided its original officials in their first steps,” Mr. Lourie said that, in his new post, as chairman of the Jewish Agency, Mr. Sharett has “infused new life into that body.” Mr. Sharett, he said, holds a “unique” position in Israel, acting very often as “the conscience of the country.”

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