The title of my blog post today is the words of Charles Krauthammer. For those readers who do not know who Charles Krauthammer is, I will save you the trouble of looking him up on Wikipedia.
The following quote is from Wikipedia:
Charles Krauthammer, MD (/ˈkraʊt.hæmər/; born March 13, 1950) is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, author, political commentator, and physician. His weekly column is syndicated to more than 400 newspapers worldwide. He is a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and a nightly panelist on Fox News’s Special Report with Bret Baier. He was a weekly panelist on PBS news program Inside Washington from 1990 until it ceased production in December 2013.
Charles Krauthammer is a frequent commentator on Bill O’Reilly’s TV news program. I have listened to Krauthammer speak many times, enough to know that he is extremely intelligent and highly informed about literally everything. He is a person who should be greatly admired for what he has accomplished in his life, despite the adversity which he has had to overcome.
Today I read a news article entitled Krauthammer: the Holocaust and the Jewish identity which you can read in full at
The following quote is from the news article, cited above:
Memory is sacred, but victimhood cannot be the foundation stone of Jewish identity. Traditional Judaism has 613 commandments. The philosopher Emil Fackenheim famously said that the 614th is to deny Hitler any posthumous victories. The reduction of Jewish identity to victimhood would be one such victory. It must not be permitted.
The newspaper quote continues with this explanation:
Bernie Sanders is the most successful Jewish candidate for the presidency ever. It’s a rare sign of the health of our republic that no one seems to much care or even notice. Least of all, Sanders himself. Which prompted Anderson Cooper in a recent Democratic debate to ask Sanders whether he was intentionally keeping his Judaism under wraps.
“No,” answered Sanders: “I am very proud to be Jewish.” He then explained that the Holocaust had wiped out his father’s family. And that he remembered as a child seeing neighbors with concentration camp numbers tattooed on their arms. Being Jewish, he declared, “is an essential part of who I am as a human being.”
A fascinating answer, irrelevant to presidential politics but quite revealing about the state of Jewish identity in contemporary America.
Think about it. There are several alternate ways American Jews commonly explain the role Judaism plays in their lives.
(1) Practice: Judaism as embedded in their life through religious practice or the transmission of Jewish culture by way of teaching or scholarship. Think Joe Lieberman or the neighborhood rabbi.
(2) Tikkun: Seeing Judaism as an expression of the prophetic ideal of social justice. Love thy neighbor, clothe the naked, walk with God, beat swords into plowshares. As ritual and practice have fallen away over the generations, this has become the core identity of liberal Judaism. Its central mission is nothing less than to repair the world (“Tikkun olam”).
Which, incidentally, is the answer to the perennial question, “Why is it that Jews vote overwhelmingly Democratic?” Because, for the majority of Jews, the social ideals of liberalism are the most tangible expressions of their prophetic Jewish faith.
When Sanders was asked about his Jewish identity, I was sure his answer would be some variation of Tikkun. On the stump, he plays the Old Testament prophet railing against the powerful and denouncing their treatment of the widow and the orphan. Yet Sanders gave an entirely different answer.
(3) The Holocaust. What a strange reply — yet it doesn’t seem so to us because it has become increasingly common for American Jews to locate their identity in the Holocaust.
For example, it’s become a growing emphasis in Jewish pedagogy from the Sunday schools to Holocaust studies programs in the various universities. Additionally, Jewish organizations organize visits for young people to the concentration camps of Europe.
End quote from newspaper article.