Just recently, Thomas Lopez-Pierre, who is bidding for a seat in the NYC council, said, “Greedy Jewish Landlords are at the forefront of ethnic cleansing/pushing Black/Hispanic tenants out of their apartments.” Zionism has already been accused of racism, but today we are seeing the argument that Jews favor only their coreligionists gaining more and more turf.
It makes sense to think of Judaism as a racist religion. After all, we are regarded as “a people who dwells apart, and will not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9). Throughout the ages, we have been defined as “the chosen people,” “a light unto nations,” and other depictions that set us apart from the rest of humanity. But is Judaism itself racist? Does it aspire to subordinate other nations? Does it demand to convert non-Jews to Judaism? Does Judaism assert that being Jewish grants prerogatives that are not to be given to people of other faiths?
As we will see, the truth is to the contrary. Judaism means more commitment and more demands from its own adherents, and not from anyone else. Instead of requiring the subjugation of others, it requires the commitment of Jews to serve humanity.
Unity that Matches Enmity
Throughout the ages, numerous scholars and people of faith have wondered about the meaning and purpose of Judaism. Cambridge historian T.R. Glover wrote in The Ancient World: “No ancient people have had a stranger history than the Jews. …The history of no ancient people should be so valuable, if we could only recover it and understand it. …Stranger still, the ancient religion of the Jews survives when all the religions of every ancient race have disappeared … Also, it is strange that the living religions of the world all build on religious ideas derived from the Jews. The great matter is not ‘What happened?’ but ‘Why did it happen?’ ‘Why does Judaism live?’”
To understand Judaism, we must go back to its beginning, and connect it to its final purpose. Some 3,800 years ago in the area known as the Fertile Crescent, humanity was taking its baby steps toward becoming a civilization. At that time, Babylon was the ruling empire and governed the lush lands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Even then, problems began to appear. People’s vanity began to take its toll as the Babylonian Empire and its king, Nimrod, tried to build a tower “whose top will reach into heaven” because they wanted to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). But instead of a tower, writes the book Pirkei De Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 24), the builders grew so hostile that they “wanted to speak to one another but did not know each other’s language. What did they do? Each took up his sword and they fought each other to the death. Indeed, half the world was slaughtered there, and from there they scattered all over the world.”
To counter the Babylonians’ enmity toward each other, the Patriarch Abraham realized that they must cultivate a…