On last night's TV show, Glenn continued his interview with Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of London, England. Glenn really wanted to know what people who are truly awake and truly dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism could do to make sure the horrors of the past never repeat themselves.
Glenn: You are talking to an audience now who has been through this. This is well-tilled soil here, and we have talked about these things for a long time. My audience is, I really, truly believe, one of the more dedicated groups of people to let’s be the righteous among the nations; however, I know I feel this way, and I’m sure the audience does. I bet there are people all over the world that feel this way—what do I do? What do I do?
Yes, I know. I know what’s happening in Egypt. I know what’s happening in Iraq. I know what’s happening in Afghanistan, in France, in England, in Germany, in Russia, what’s happening here. I know. We keep saying it. We keep talking. Rabbi, it’s such a huge problem. As I was thinking about this interview today, I thought I think this is going to be one of those interviews that people look back ten years, fifteen years from now and say, “They knew, people knew…what happened?” And what happened was we don’t know what to do.
Rabbi Sacks: Let me tell you what to do, Glenn. Here’s an event that had a huge impact on me, the Six Day War in 1967. I think it had a transformative effect on everyone in my generation, but we know one Jewish community that it had a huge impact on, the Jews of the Soviet Union as it was then called. You had a lot of Jews, Jewish life had been suppressed after the Russian Revolution, serious persecution of Jews under Stalin, and then suddenly having faced what looked like a second Holocaust, you know, Nasser spoke about driving Jews into the sea, and Israel was outnumbered and outgunned, and suddenly Israel wins this extraordinary victory in six days, and that whole Jewish public in Russia suddenly woke up and suddenly wanted to be Jewish and suddenly wanted to be free.
Many of them, as you know, wanted to go to Israel, and they were known as the Jews of silence, the Jews who couldn’t make their voice heard. I was a student in those days, so I know exactly what happened. Jews around the world picked this up, and they’re probably was not a single country that had any Jews that did not campaign for the Jews of Russia. There were vigils. There were prayer meetings. There were protests. There was a worldwide movement. Glenn, there are not many Jews in the world. We are one fifth, less than one fifth of 1% of the population of the world, but we let our voice be heard.
Today, if the Christian world which numbers minimally 2.2 billion people, pretty much a third of the people alive in the world today, if the Christian community were to join its voices in protest at the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, parts of Africa, in Pakistan and elsewhere, if the moderate Muslim community which represents, I suspect, something like 90% of the Muslim world which is itself 1.6 billion, if we were to join voices together and stop saying there’s nothing we can do, there is everything we can do.
If we were to get up and protest and say this cannot be right. Whichever way you believe, religion is telling us to love one another, not hate one another. Life is sacred. Life isn’t cheap the way ISIS pretends it is. This is not religion, this is desecration. If we were capable of saying that and doing so together, we could change the world.
Glenn: The yarmulke, the kippah…I read in the paper yesterday that in Europe people are starting to wear a hair kippah so it just looks like part of your hair, and I thought to myself well, that’s a way to be safe. And as I’m listening to you, we have to all stand up, is it right to wear that, to hide the fact who you are, or is it right to wear it because stay safe?
Rabbi Sacks: My late father used to sell schmattes in the English equivalent of the Lower Eastside. Do you know what schmattes are? Off-cuts of cloth. It’s the kind of thing poor Jews did. He came over from Poland as a refugee, didn’t have an education, had to leave school at the age of 14, and he was the kind of Jew that you knew of in New York in the Lower Eastside. As a young man, I remember once I was walking in the street coming back from the synagogue, and I was wearing my yarmulke in the street.
A very sweet gentleman who had been praying with us in the synagogue saw me wearing this and run up and said, “Mr. Sacks, I think your son has forgotten to take off his yarmulke.” You know, it was not the kind of thing you did in public. My father, you know, left school at the age of 14, he turned around to him and said, “No son of mine will ever be ashamed to let people know he’s a Jew.” That sentence changed my life, and I will never, as chief Rabbi of Britain, I never did, and I never would tell people don’t wear yarmulke in public. If people can’t live with us being who we are, they can’t live with us, full stop.
Glenn: Patriotic, you’re patriotic. You love England. You’re a former chief Rabbi of England. You’ve been knighted by the Queen, so we know your loyalty and everything else. Seeing what’s on the horizon, knowing what’s happened in the past, first question: If you could go back to the Jews in Germany and in Europe in 1933, what would you tell them to do? And then, here we are. I don’t know what here it is as history repeats itself, but it’s on that track. What do you tell the Jews in Europe? Do you tell them it might be best to leave, and how do they compare?
Rabbi Sacks: First of all, Britain is not an anti-Semitic country. There are elements, minorities, fringe minorities. This is not the 1930s. We are dealing with an Internet phenomenon where individuals can be globally radicalized. The 1930s, you had something called a national culture, so you could ask, has France got an anti-Semitic culture? Has Germany? Has Britain? And there were elements in Britain in the 1930s that were also anti-Semitic.
The big difference between Britain and mainland Europe was that it never entered the public domain. It never became a vote winner, and that was the big difference. And Britain to this day is one of the most tolerant societies on earth. I have to say that out of deep personal conviction, but there are radicalized individuals who are capable of doing a great deal of harm. Now, I say in the 1930s, anyone who could run, ran. In the 21st century, we stand and fight.
The big difference, of course, is today Jews have a home, a homeland in the land of Israel. In the 1930s, they had nowhere to go. So, I think this very existence of the state of Israel which is so fundamental to Jewish self-definition says that once we have that, we are no longer capable of being intimidated. A terrorist seeks to intimidate. I as a Jew and I hope you as a Christian refuse to be intimidated. We refuse to hand terrorists a victory.
Glenn: I refuse.