Yesterday I said that the Burg event at the New York Public Library Monday night was special for a statement that Avraham Burg, the former speaker of the Knesset, now an author, made about the relationship of American Jewry to Zionism. I just relistened to the statement. Burg said his English isn’t great; I think it is, but I may have misheard a couple words. Here is the statement [a few minutes in on that MP3], in all its glory:
For me Zionism was the scaffolding… that was supposed to
help the Jewish people to rebuild, to restruct [sic] itself from an exilic reality to
sovereignty. And the structure went on and on and on and on, and and now 150 and
100 and some years later, when you look around the Jewish existential reality,
you realize that actually the Jewish people built two structures. One is the
semi-autonomous American Jewry, which was not here 150 years ago– powerful influence,
access to the corridors of power, impact on the culture, and civilization… plus
the infrastructure of the community of solidarity and fraternity and support
system and education etc and also the sovereignty over there in the Middle East.
I ask myself– the only people in modern history who succeeded
to rebuild itself twice–we have two beautiful structures. Isn’t it time we
removed the scaffolding and look at the beauty of the building and the beauty
of the structure? And my answer is this. For me, Zionism is a chapter, a
glorious chapter in my past, but not the only chapter. It was written, it’s a
launching pad, it’s a starting point, but it’s about time to move forward… What
is the next landscape?
Couple comments. Burg’s book is blurbed by Mearsheimer. These are not fearful men: Burg was a paratroop officer, Mearsheimer a captain in our Air Force. Mearsheimer said something of what Burg said in his and Steve Walt’s important book of last year, and no one has invited him to the NY Public Library. I must say honestly that I never saw my Jewish-American life as being part of that structure. Maybe that was my mistake? I thought, we built this city on rock and roll. But, if you think about it, Doug Feith had Theodor Herzl’s picture on his wall and he got a lot further than me, all the way to Baghdad, and he’s about the same age as me and Burg. So here we are. The idea that Jews have to reimagine their future is a beautiful one. I guess that makes me an assimilationist.