Times of Israel: Speaking at the annual fundraising dinner for the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) on Monday evening at Grosvenor House in London, Schama warned “we live in dark times.” While stressing he understood that “the situation in this country could be worse – it could be France,” Schama said that “right now, we’re a little bit on the back foot.”[...]
“We’re faced not just with criticism of Israel. What is new and poisonous and dangerous is that we are faced not with criticism of what Israel does, but what Israel is,” said Schama at the dinner.
“We need to reclaim the word ‘Zionist’ as if it is word to be ashamed of – it is not a word to be ashamed of and it is not a word to run away from,” said Schama, whose five-part documentary series “The Story of the Jews” and the first of two written volumes on Jewish history were released last year.
He noted that in spite of the warm reception both received from Jews and non-Jews alike, Jews are “having to do the work of explaining to non-Jews all over again. And we have to do it. We have to support Israel but we have to do it outside of our own tent as well or we really are in trouble. We have to find ways of doing this. It is fallen to Jews over the centuries to do this.”
The success of “The Story of the Jews” – which when aired on the BBC last year reached a weekly peak audience of around 3 million people – showed that in Britain there is a “large audience prepared to listen and be educated about what it has meant to be a Jew over the last three millennia.”
Moreover, said Schama, it demonstrated that while a purpose of the project was “to refresh our own memories – and there can never be enough refreshing of memory of what it the great Jewish epic of endurance and achievement,” the Jewish story “can also to reach a non-Jewish audience” — and that it needs to.
“What we have in the way of Holocaust education in the non-Jewish community is very often ‘drive-through Anne Frank.’ It needs to be better than that. Non-Jews need to be part of the excitement and inspiration of what it is when you read the poetry of Yehuda HaLevi or [Chaim] Bialik. They need to read “Vindiciae Judaeorum,” they need to read a document which changed the world, Moses Mendelssohn’s “Jerusalem.” We need to understand what it is to educate others as well as replenish our own sources of knowledge and collective confidence,” he continued.
“When we leave this place, when we go to our workplaces, when we encourage our children in university when they are on the rough-end of the barracking of students unions, when our children in school attract hideously brutal attention for wearing a kippa or even just for being Jewish, we need not to run away from this.
“This is not a time for understatement. This is a time for eloquent courage and education in any way that we can bring it to the schools and the wider school or else the hatred will grow,” he said.
Schama calls on British Jewry to be staunch, loyal, loving Friends of Israel, saying, “This is a moment when we can make that emotional connection with each other, with that which we cherish, and promise our loyalty to each other and to our loved ones in Israel and our beloved state as well, and take that confidence and strength out of these doors in London, into the wider world.” SUITE