Ilya Shambat

Ilya Shambat
Location
Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Birthday
November 21
Title
Partner
Company
Adda Enterprises
Bio
Born in Russia, family moved to America when I was 12. Got a degree from University of Virginia at 18. Worked for Oracle, translated four books of classical Russian poety, was part of San Francisco and Washington, DC poetry and music scene. Good friends with San Francisco's own Persephone's Bees and acquainted with Patch Adams. Currently married with children, residing in Australia and working on a clean energy technology implementation.

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Salon.com
APRIL 26, 2012 8:28AM

Holocaust, Israel and Jewish Identity

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The Jewish identity today is too tied to victimhood and not enough to accomplishment. This has negative impact on Jewish people and on their reputation. Anyone can be victims; not anyone can be Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Donald Rumsfield or Golda Meir. And the more the Holocaust is emphasized and the more the contributions of Jewish people are de-emphasized, the worse becomes the image and the identity of Jewish people.

There are Holocaust memorial museums in any number of places. Where are the museums to good things that Jewish people have done? Where are the museums to Jewish people's vast contribution to Western civilization and to humanity? Where are the museums to Jewish scientists, filmmakers, musicians, financiers, entrepreneurs?

The Jewish victimhood in the Holocaust is very well-advertised, to the point that other groups that have been victimized in the past have a legitimate grievance. If Jews are to be seen as perennially victims, then what about them? What about the atrocities that took place against black people, against Asian people, against Native Americans? If Jewish victimhood in the Holocaust is to be celebrated, then should not be the atrocities that have taken place against these people as well?

Jews are not equal to concentration camps. Per unit of population, the Jewish people have made vastly greater contributions than any other group in the world. The list of Nobel Prizes that the Jews - at less than one percent of the world's population - have won, is staggering in its length; and it is this, not the Holocaust, that actually differentiates Jewish people. 

This vast contribution to the Western civilization, not the Holocaust, must therefore be the core of Jewish identity. Anyone can be victims. Not anyone can make the kinds of contributions to the world that Jewish people have made.

With Israel, there is a related problem of policy. Israel spends vast resources on its military, but not nearly enough on things that Jewish people are good at. There is a vast list of Nobel Prizes that were won by Jews outside of Israel, but only about 10 that were won by Israelis. And this is a major miscalculation. Not only is the talent of Jewish people in Israel being wasted, but also the Israeli Jews are prevented from earning the goodwill of the rest of the world. If Israel spent more on science and research, then there will be a much larger contribution by Israelis to the world, and more reason for the world to be grateful to Israel. And this would do more for Israel's security than its present vast military expense.

Who are the Jews and what direction should Jewish people take? Nothing less than this is under consideration here. It is a vast disservice to Jewish people to equate them with victimhood, and it is a greater disservice to Jewish people to have the Jewish state spend most of its resources on the military and much less on pursuits that Jews are especially good at and through which they can actually earn goodwill and respect of the world. Jewish identity has to be based on accomplishment and contribution, and it is toward these ends that should be directed Jewish policy. And this will do far more to prevent future holocausts than either equating being Jewish with Holocaust or spending vast resources on military and minimal resources on science.

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