The text below was one of the main outcomes of the first Beit Makhshava retreat. The first cohort of participants were the authors and original signatories of the declaration. You can find their bios here. The first draft of the declaration was written in Glämsta, Sweden, on 14/09/14 and after a few weeks of online discussion the final version was approved on 03/11/14.
We would like to encourage anyone who supports the vision and goals of the declaration to join us and sign it. With this we hope to contribute to the ongoing conversation about the place of Jewish life and culture in Europe.
We are a group of activists, thinkers, and artists united by a commitment to the renewal of Jewish life and culture in Europe. In recent years, matters relating to anti-Semitism, the Shoah, and the State of Israel have come to define Jewish interaction with the larger European community. While we acknowledge the importance of these topics, we are also concerned that an exclusive focus on them does not do justice to the richness and breadth of what Jewish life and culture have to offer. We strongly believe, in particular, that Jewish thought and experience can make important contributions to the on-going endeavour for a more just and democratic Europe. To that end, we propose the following points:
- European Jewish cultures – past, present, and future –are as much Jewish as they are European. We see European Jewish cultures as integral to Europe and no less indispensable to Europe’s self-understanding than, for example, the legacy of Classical Antiquity or the ideas of the Enlightenment. For this reason, we do not think that divisions of Jewish life and culture in terms of “centre” and “diaspora” are helpful models. We rather think of the Jewish world as constituted by a multiplicity of centres which exist in relation to one another, and to the societies of which they are part.
- We envision the Beit Midrash, the house of study, as the centre of Jewish community life. A key element in our project is to reclaim the Beit Midrash and its methodologies in order to engage Jewish texts not simply as sources of authority, but as sources of inspiration, questioning, and discovery. Where there are texts, there is always intertextuality. Texts invite other texts, including those from other traditions, and they call for renewed readings and interpretations. We believe that the doors of the Beit Midrash should be open to all, regardless of background, who share a common love of learning and inquiry. Diversity should be actively encouraged as a way to incorporate new perspectives and understandings. In the spirit of the Beit Midrash, we also encourage rabbis and community leaders to welcome creative dissent and to facilitate conversations around controversial issues through the learning of texts.
- Number of members, by itself, is not an adequate measurement of the vibrancy of Jewish communal life. What others may read as a weakness in population size is for us an historical opportunity for deeper engagement with our broader communities. The maintenance of a thriving Jewish space requires, and signifies, the cooperation of people with diverse personal relations and affinities with the Jewish tradition—whether identifying themselves as Jews or otherwise. The Jewish space, centred on the Beit Midrash, should provide access to all those—Jews, non-Jews, and all in-between or undefined—who are eager yet who remain estranged from the vital elements of Jewish culture. Jewish space should offer a unique meeting point for Jews and non-Jews to learn together from our different traditions, to reclaim and renew the neglected aspects of our overlapping yet distinct heritages.
- Jewish thought and experience have important insights to contribute to the European project. European Jewish communities can provide a model for minority citizenship based on the principle of integration without assimilation. The long history of multifaceted identities among European Jews can serve as a useful precedent at a time when transnational biographies and identities are becoming increasingly common in Europe. And last but not least, we believe that Jewish thought can contribute to the European quest for universal values by providing examples of how universalising claims are constantly examined in light of a multiplicity of voices.
We recognise that the future of Jewish life and culture in Europe is far from certain. We are concerned about the consequences of rising populism and xenophobic tendencies throughout Europe, as well as the tensions and acts of violence against various communities perceived as “non-European”, including Jewish, Muslim, Roma, Sinti, and immigrant groups. But it is precisely for this reason that we lay claim to a stake in Europe’s future, and are committed to making a contribution. The renewal of Jewish life and culture in Europe is for us inextricably linked to the success of the European endeavour as a whole.
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|Magda Rubenfeld Koralewska||Poland|
|Lievnath Faber||The Netherlands||YEAH!|
|Jordan Schivek||United States||As a Finnish-American Jew, I wholeheartedly support this declaration.|
|Lenore Harriman||USA||We stand together|
|Dr. David Weinberg||USA|
|Fabian Sborovsky||United Kingdom|
|Ralph Melnick||USA||May you go from strength to strength.|
|Juna Berry Madrone||USA||I thoroughly endorse the concept of the Beit Madras as a learning center/center of community life.|
|Paulina Aarts||New Zealand||Wonderful and inspiring initiative.|
|Alexandre Meyer||france||I am not so sure about point 3 : the fact That our minority citizenship can serve as a model (it has been quite a chaotic one !) but on the whole an interesting project ! Keep me informed for next step...thkx|
|Avigail Hurvitz-Prinz||United States|
|Elissa Strauss||United States|
|Shlomo Spectre||Los Angeles, CA||I think there’s a resurgence of anti-Arabism because at this point in time Israel has not yet learned how to be multicultural, and I think we’re going to be part of the throes of that transformation, which must take place . Israel has not yet learned how to be multicultural. Israel is not going to be the monolithic society that they once were in the last century. Arabs are going to be at the center of that. It’s a huge transformation for Israel to make. They are now going into a multicultural mode, and Arabs will be resented because of our leading role. But without that leading role, and without that transformation, Israel will not survive.|
|Charles Cohen||United States||I, and my agency the Commission for Jewish Education of the Palm Beaches, strongly support your effort, and wish you hatzlacha in bringing a new era of scholarship and commitment to European Jewry.|
|Yonatan Glaser||Israel||I\'m deeply moved by your vision, your discernment, your approach, and your desire to invite others - like the signatories here - into your conversation. Best wishes.|
|Patrick Morrow||United Kingdom|
|Anne Krainz||Germany||Paidea Emmanuel Levinas Fellow|
|Dmitry Zilbershtein||Russia||In the glory of freedom, enlightenment and love! Amen!|
|Anna Mariya Basauri Ziuzina||Ukraine|
|Antony Lerman||United Kingdom|
|Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers||UK|
|Louise Belfrage||Sweden||that´s the spirit!|
|Tami Wolf||USA||I hope this becomes a model of Jewish life and thought across the world.|
|Shawn Landres||USA & Slovakia|
|Glenn Lerner||USA||great article|
|Rabbi Adam Lavitt||USA||Amen!|
|Joshua Avedon||USA||I love European Jewry!|
|Jerry Marcus||USA||Let\'s hope this begins a larger movement along these lines.|
|Elisabetta Abate||Italia / Deutschland||Paideia (Walter Benjamin) Fellow 2009/2010|
|ulf lindgren||Sverige||I as a Christian must become Jewish in my heart - otherwise I will not grasp the spiritual message|
|Rabbi Jessica Minnen||United States||Amen. So proud to support this vision.|
|Pierre Benes||Czech Republic|
|Folke Holtz||SWEDEN||A great opportunity to be part of the vision and goals.|
|Jon Goldberg||Austria||Go Team !|
|UTE STEYER||United States|
|Igor Kožemjakin||Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|Stephen Rappaport||Sweden||Love it, great work and thank you.|
|Christian Nilsson||Sweden||Paideia alumn (Rosenzweig fellow)|
|Yitzhak Can Kocanali||Turkey|
|Simon Goldberg||Hong Kong||Inspired by your dedication and vision. I stand with you.|
|Hernan Plohn||Argentina||Los felicito por el trabajo que están haciendo. Sin lugar a dudas que en América del Sur también estamos transitando por momentos de antisenitismo , sobre todo después de la ultima guerra en la franja de Gaza. Nuevamente felicitaciones y cuenten conmigo para lo que necesiten !|
|Rachel Colwell||U.S. A|
|Gary Wexler||US||Jonna, Aliza and others: Count on me to help you. If you want to have a skype call, let me know. Gary|
|Rabbi Leah Jordan||United Kingdom|
|Jane Braden-Golay||Belgium||Proud and humbled to have participated in this project - I think an important foundation is being laid!|
|Tomer Weil||Israel||Let\'s bring the change!|
|Lena Posner-Körösi||Sweden||Founding member, on Paideia board|
|Manuella Kanter||United Kingdom|
|Meira Odina||Spain||i would like to continue being informed|
|Benjamin Antell||USA||I have nothing to add - succinct and thorough.|
|Ben Kasstan||United Kingdom||Very proud to have been part of this initiative.|
|Lukasz Gorniok||Poland/Sweden||An important voice in the debate.|
|Alexander W. Marcus||United States||the token American|
|Symi Rom-Rymer||United States||This is such an important statement. Thank you to all of these European Jewish leaders and activists who are taking control over their narrative!|
|Inbar Fruchsad||Austria||Originally from Israel but living in Austria and an active member of the community there.|