Rabbi Danny Rich
21 July 2019
Patriotism, by which I mean a commitment to, if not a love of, the country in which one was born or to which one was brought or where one has decided to reside, is a virtue and a Jewish duty.
Based in the Biblical instruction of the prophet Jeremiah (29:7) ‘to seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you…’, rabbinic tradition evolve the concept of dina malchuta dina: the law of the land is the law. Originally Jeremiah may have proffered this opinion as a pragmatic strategy of survival or as an attempt to support Jewish administration outside of the Land of Israel, yet the idea evolved to mean more than simply paying appropriate taxes and obeying local laws. Promoted perhaps by the anti-Jewish accusations that Jews held a dual loyalty, the lived experience of Jews demonstrates that, in addition to the minima required, Jewish communities have made major contributions to the societies amongst whom they have lived in virtually all aspects of human endeavour.
The Jewish people began their historical existence in a single place but primarily conquest – and occasionally choice – spread them throughout the countries and nations of the world. What is true of Jews is equally the case with others and where a person lives may be an accident of birth, a choice of parents or previous generations, or the result of trauma including war, famine or natural disaster.
As Jewish history has taught us and despite the contribution of Jews to the host society and even when the Jewish community has been invited by the local ruler, prejudice has often made it difficult for Jews to be welcomed as Jews and they have often fallen victim to suspicion, persecution and cries of ‘Go back to where you have come from’.
The earliest ancestor I know about arrived in England from Amsterdam in 1760. His descendant, my grandfather fought in the British infantry in the Great War, and more recently my late father navigated Wellington bombers in the Second World War. My four children, my two month old grandson and I were born in London. Were it said to me ‘Go Home’ what could I reply but ‘I am home!’
The recent wrangle between four Congresswoman and President Donald Trump in which cries of ‘Send her home’ have been heard is as absurd as it is dangerous. Decent democrats should condemn such sentiments in all circumstances.