Sweden, Chanukah and Jewish Identity

Jews must abandon their Jewish identity to become Swedes

The holidays are over but we want to focus your attention on an event that caused a minor storm during Chanukah, but was probably glossed over by most people because we were all so busy preparing and celebrating.

Deputy-Speaker of the Swedish government, Bjorn Soder made headlines all over the world when he said according to the Guardian… “Jews cannot be Swedes unless they abandon their Jewish identity..”

He was quickly accused of anti-semitism.  Jewish leaders said this conveyed a message that Jews were untrustworthy “exactly like in 1930’s Germany.” Swedish politicians called for his resignation.

The irony that this was happening during Chanukah was lost to most people. And even if some noticed the coincidence in timing, they compared Soder to a modern day Antiochus who wanted the Jews to abandon their identity and assimilate into Hellenist Greek society.

But is that what he was really saying?

Soder actually said Jews could become Swedish citizens but could not be Swedish unless they were assimilated. To clarify he said no one can be a member of the “Swedish nation” and at the same time the “Jewish nation”

The Deputy Speaker was actually teaching the Jewish people the lesson we are supposed to learn from the Chanukah story!.

When we are living in exile, we must see ourselves as members of the Nation of Israel (Am Yisrael) who happen to have citizenship in our host nation.  When Alexander conquered the Persian empire, the Nation of Israel lived as “citizens” in his empire, but neither Alexander nor the Jews saw themselves as “Greeks.” Everything was fine.

But as soon as Jews began assimilating into Hellenist Greek society and saw themselves as “Greeks,” it meant they had to abandon their Jewish National identiy. That was the beginning of the civil war between the “Hellenist Jews” and the “Nationalist Jews.- the Macabees.” Our national identity is based on our identification with God and Torah. To adopt a national identity that is not based on God and Torah means abandoning our Jewish identity. We can’t have both. Bjorn Soder is correct, Jews can become Swedish citizens, but they cannot become Swedes unless they give up their Jewish identity.

Joseph, as viceroy of Egypt is the paradigm of how the Jewish people can survive in exile under a foreign nation.

Sweden, Chanukah and Jewish Identity

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