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Are There Jewish Answers to Europe's Questions?

Diana Pinto

Unwillingly and unwittingly, Jews have become 'icons' in Europe's new commemorative pluralist democracies. They have now set the standard for national commemoration of specific historical wrongs, for victimhood, for public visibility, for community organisation, for the right to multiple loyalties, and for a position that one can call selective national belonging; in brief, for real but also highly symbolic power. The main challenge Jews will be facing in the future will be that of making sure these 'iconic' rights are spread more globally in a setting of greater collective justice. But Jews, more than any other group, can also set the limits to too strong an identity pursuit. I believe there is an urgent need to recast a common belonging inside our respective countries and societies. The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of sanctified specific identities. The time has come to move it back toward a more moderate centre. Commemoration should lead to reconciliation, overcoming of the past, and healing, not to exacerbated identities. And Jews, precisely because of their iconic quality, now hold the keys to such a swing back. Otherwise we should not be surprised if Europe's Muslims follow the Jews in the path of declared victimhood, selective belonging, even disintegration through an implicitly hostile reading of the larger society outside.

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