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Judaism is a Gentile Friendly Religion

December 2, 2012 2:25 am 3 comments

The annual Chabad convention of emmisares. Photo: Baruch Ezagui.

This article was originally published by the Jewish Chronicle.

‘Chas, we can save you!’ When I received messages on my blog making this thrilling promise, I assumed they were spam from a finance company offering to consolidate my loans into one ‘easy’ payment. Instead, it turned out, they were from a Christian in Nigeria who, having read articles I posted about my interest in Judaism and the Chasidim, wants to convert all my curiosity about Judaism into one churchy faith.

Well, thanks for the interest but if Christianity was ever going to do the trick for me it would have done so a long time ago.

My Nigerian would-be savior is not alone in his concern. When I post about Chabad-Lubavitch – an organisation for which I have particular respect – readers’ comments offer furiously assembled quotations purporting to show that Judaism is chauvinistic and considers gentiles to be second-class and inherently ‘satanic’.

Blimey, I thought sarcastically; they kept that quiet. But, of course, it is easy to Google any religion and extract quotes out of context, mistranslated or simply fabricated. The internet is awash with antisemitic sites that make such a process particularly easy with Judaism. There are Jewish fringe authors, too, such as Gilad Atzmon, Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, whose Jewishness provides a valued fig-leaf for antisemites who quote their hostile words.

The trump card of the online antisemite is a passage about Jewish and non-Jewish souls in the opening chapter of the 18th-century Chabad Tanya. This is a passage that can be misunderstood by the hasty online browser with an agenda on his or her hands. Even as an admirer of Chabad, I was shaken when I first read it. But, rather than rush to judgment, I studied authentic sources and discussed the matter with several rabbis, Chabad and non-Chabad.

One Chabad member in Jerusalem dropped her housework on the eve of Pesach to talk me through it. The passage has been discussed, revisited and reconsidered by several rabbis. It is in any case about idol worshipers, not gentiles en masse, as is made clear later in the book.

Another favored target of antisemitic Googlers is the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, the magnificent Menachem Mendel Schneerson. As a longstanding admirer of the man and his work, I know that, far from being anti-gentile, he was responsible for the introduction of a large, revolutionary program of Chabad outreach to gentiles. He loved all people deeply and his life’s work reflects that.
When asked how, into his 80s, he found the strength to stand for hours and greet long lines of visitors, he answered that, as every human being is a precious jewel, how could he grow tired counting diamonds?

I have often attended Chabad Shabbats and other occasions in London. I’m warmly welcomed and was even playfully nicknamed “Chasidic Goy” by the splendid Rabbi Yisroel Lew of Chabad Bloomsbury. My only complaint could be that they so enthusiastically ask me, “When are you coming again?”, if I stop attending. Hardly the behavior of an organisation with an anti-gentile agenda.

Indeed, as I have studied the Torah and Talmud over the years, I’ve noticed that both books present specific non-Jews more positively than specific Jews. Noah, and the daughter of Pharaoh are just two of the gentiles painted this way. Ruth, of the book of Ruth, was a convert, and she is one of Judaism’s highest-rated figures. Likewise, the rabbis in the Talmud proudly assert that Rabbi Akiva, the Rosh la-Chachamim (leader of wise men), and a towering figure of the Talmud, was a descendant of converts.

Arguably, implicit in any religion is a belief that its followers are party to something that singles them out from the rest of the human race. Why else would anyone get and remain involved if it were not to better themselves in some sense? Yet anyone who suggests Judaism is intolerant or chauvinistic is, in my opinion, merely projecting their own weakness and fears on to a tradition that can inspire and guide any of us.

The online critics are also ahistorical. To be aware of the centuries of relentless persecution, slander and slaughter of Jewish people by gentiles, and to conclude it is Jewish people, not gentiles, who are the bad guys, is almost hopelessly insane. It is those who believe such nonsense who need to be saved.

Visit Chas’s blog here.

3 Comments

  • Also all humans have 2 souls, one animal and one human. Jews have a third soul which I presume was received at Mt Sinai or something. They have a fourth soul on Shabbat. Its in the standard prayer book not just the Tanya. Some Hassids probably believe their Rebbe has a fifth soul, and if you delve into the Kaballah (which you should not do before the age of 40 or 50 and not after studying the talmud in detail) you will probably find many more souls mixed in with a whole lot of other incomprehensible nonsense.

    In response to gentiles who comlain about how “unfair” it is that they were not chosen, you need only study a little Jewish history to understand why the Jews often say “I wish God would chose somebody else for a change!”

    If you really REALLY want to spend 6 hours koshering your oven and clean into every corner of every cupboard and every draw before Pessach then you can always convert

  • The Loubavitch are not a legit Orthodox Jewish movement. They believe that their Rebbe is the messiah. Nevermind that he is dead. Apparently he will be resurected. Sound familiar?

    If you are genuinely interested in learning more about Judaism or Noahidism please visit your local non-chabad affiliated Orthodox syagogue. They are sure to offer you a very warm and friendly Shabbat meal in their home.

  • ADMIRING THE REBBI DOESNT SAY MUCH.
    In my opinion much of his young followers need to be ‘saved’ themselves

    QUESTION IS..
    Did you renounce denounce any and all belief in “jesux”?
    Did you learn the 7 noahide laws with its 66 subsets?

    Other then your last line
    I didnt understand much of what your point is.
    Is chabad lending you money so you felt obligated to say something kind?

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