Jewish life in Europe, view from the East
I know how it is difficult to develop really good social project, which will lead to development of something bigger in future. I have a mark, which shows that the project passed well enough and dropped some seeds into ground. People continue arguing after on critical aspects the project finished. So, I do consider that JPropel, happened in Uppsala several weeks ago hit the point, because now most of the participants are involved in discussion “is there any future for European Jewry, or not”.
Ariel Beery and Clive A Lawton met in a virtual battle to discuss, either there is place for renewing Jewish communities throughout Europe, or Europe will remain a peaceful and nicely done graveyard. I do agree with both of the opponents and at the same time I do see some things differently.
I want to raise a voice from Eastern Europe and even more – from former Soviet Union country. I think that people here might see things little bit different, than Ariel and Clive. Nobody is blamed here, but you, people, have what Europe in general lost more than 70 years ago – Jewish community. There is no such term in Baltic States and I can say, there I haven’t see it either in Belarus or Russia. In Estonia we have Jewish community and Jewish religious community. Jewish community is more like club on various interests with prefix “Jewish”. Religious community is more for the ritual needs. Jewish population in Latvia is about 10 thousand people, but situation is the same as in Estonia. There is no real wish coming from community members to develop their communities and from other side community head also doesn’t want to change the situation. According to Lenin’s saying “It is only when the ‘lower classes’ do not want to live in the old way and the ‘upper classes’ cannot carry on in the old way that the revolution can triumph…revolution is impossible without a nationwide crisis.”, we now have that revolutionary situation. So, that is how I agree with Clive. There is possibility now to change the situation. And I see passionate young people here in Baltic states, who are eager to develop young and strong communities.
As I stated before, I agree also with Ariel. I have a vision, that Europe is developing new religion; let’s call it Humanism and Tolerance. This new religion obtained several aspects from Christianity. One of the aspects is sacred offerings and excruciation of saints. 60 years ago, there appeared a sacred object of new religion – Jews died in Shoah. Six-millions-Jews were turned into excruciated Saint. And all these memorials and museums are just sacred places to store sacred remaining. European Jewry is considered as Mummy or a fly in amber – ancient, interesting to see one time and very interesting to learn about its life. And old generation of Jewish leaders in Europe (and especially in its Eastern part) are so amused with idea to create a wonderful Jewish Acropolis all over the Europe that cannot even think about tomorrow of Jewry in Europe.
20 years ago Soviet Union was destroyed. At the end of 80’s, there appeared a possibility to develop Jewish communities in Soviet republics. My parents stayed at the roots of this process in Daugavpils, Latvia. This was really epic time. I never saw such desire to build own national community. During 70 years of suppression of any thought about creating and developing any Jewish organization, it suddenly became possible. People were working for free – teaching Hebrew, learning Jewish traditions and participating in various Jewish activities. Then in middle 90’s everything start decomposing and finally at the beginning of new century we’ve got passive Jewish Youth and Jewish leaders, trying to show how to deal with dying Jewish communities. This happened mostly because International Jewish organizations from USA and Israel were too occupied with competition for Jewish heads in early 90’s and simply fed up people with free stuff. In Russian, there is nice work “Chaljava”, it came from Yiddish. In 19th century, Jews in Eastern Europe lived very poor and there was a tradition to give milk (Chalav) for free in synagogues. Now Chaljava means that something is given free of charge or even little effort. Jews got fed up with Chaljava and many of them just went away, because considered everything connected with Jewish life as chip and not important.
On JPropel, we saw that there is young Jewish movement in Europe, which certainly differs from American or Israeli ones. And this movement is growing, even though old Jewry is occupied with idea to place as many possible memorial stones everywhere it is possible and not. The power of new Jewish community in Europe, to my mind, is the people, who are ready to invest their time, efforts and knowledge into the future of their communities. And I do consider this as an investment. On Shabbat session, led by Ariel and Aharon Horwitz, and idea of learning from for-profit organization was raised. Let’s imagine, that all of us got stock options in the company called Jewish Community of Europe for a price twice higher, than current in market. So, the better we work and more we contribute, the earlier we’ll be able to obtain our options’ price level and even more in future.