We have been asking this question repeatedly.



 There is no doubt that the confinements of the Ghetto and its smothering environment which was imposed on European Jews has created a unique breed of Jews. The near schizophrenic existence of Ghetto life for so long, the dichotomous yet juxtaposed inferiority/superiority complex with relations to their environment for many centuries has unfortunately become part of some of our people’s frame of mind. It dictates and shapes, so it seems, their conduct and vision of modern day life and reality.

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 It would be unfair to say that this phenomenon is unique to Jews. Any minority that has been isolated, persecuted, used as a scapegoat by the powers that be, develops a coping mechanism for survival, perhaps a long - term version of the Stockholm Syndrome where the victim starts to identify with the victimizer as a tactic, unconscious as it may be, to be liked and increase chances of survival.



In the case of the Jewish People, there has been a 2000 year Stockholm Syndrome, that has left scars on the Jewish world on everything from how Jews view themselves, their place in the world, and even their own Jewish culture and religion. The problem comes when what were useful, and possibly necessary strategies for survival in one set of circumstances is transferred to another circumstance where it is counter-productive, where its appropriateness is questionable, and where it damages the chances of survival of the culture and its uniqueness. In short, what we are calling a “Ghetto mentality” is the habit, in every circumstance, before every decision, the Jew who consciously or unconsciously is saying, “what would the goyim think”, “what would make them happy, what would make them think well of us, how can we make ourselves more acceptable to them?” What is even worse is that some Jews allow that thought process to come first, ahead of what would logically be best for the Jewish people, Jewish culture, Jewish identity. It also takes the form of self-deprecation and looking to put Judaism “on trial” as if it has to prove itself.

Perhaps some examples are called for to illustrate. One example is that of the Ghetto leader whose daughter is kidnapped by the local prince, and a week later returned raped and beaten. The leader smiles and thanks the prince for returning his lovely daughter alive. Another example, the Diaspora Jew who is eager to tell his Gentile associates how he does not bother with all that old-fashioned Kosher stuff or Sabbath, when he does not realize that these gentile associates really don't care anyway. Or how this Diaspora Jew will espouse whatever opinions that conform to those who are powerful, even when hostile to Yisrael, to protect his position with those powerful people (not too different from the Ghetto leader and daughter story). Here is another example of where, here in Yisrael, an Yisraeli politician rushes before anyone knows the facts, to condemn Jews for an attack on an Arab settlement because he wants to make us look good to the Europeans who might be critical.

The Ghetto mentality prevents them from savoring any moment of possible triumph of anything Jewish, be it the Jewish way of life, a strong Yisrael and even a perceived pro-Jewish, pro-Yisrael Presidential candidate. Somehow, they feel uncomfortable with the image of the new Jew that has risen out of the ashes of Europe. After all, the Ghetto was aimed towards making Jews feel different, unworthy of a normal life and a rewarding existence. It seems to have succeeded.

When it comes to efforts to defy such a mentality, we cannot help but recall the lyrics of Betar Song, written by Zeev Zabotinsky in 1932:

“Betar” From the pit of decay and dust with blood and sweat

Shall arise a race

Proud generous and cruel Captured Betar, Yodefet, Masada

Shall arise again in all their strength and glory Hadar

Even in poverty a Jew is a prince

Whether slave or tramp

You have been created the son of kings

Crowned with the diadem of David

Whether in light or in darkness

Always remember the crown

The crown of pride and Tagar. “



These words are a call to do exactly the opposite, the antithesis of what the Diaspora has done to many Jews. They are a call to undo that which life in the Ghetto has turned us into, a subservient, subdued nation of people who sometimes refuse to rise to the challenge and instead is quick to accept responsibility and apologize for any wrongdoing before it is proven guilty of anything. By any measure, it is of utmost importance that we, Jews, wherever we are, learn who we are, what is ours, the difference between Torah and Jewish culture on one hand and what we have adopted as a survival tactic that no longer works, on the other.

It is time to simply do what's right for us – without looking over our shoulders for approval, without imagining that we must protect and preserve diaspora adaptions that often divide and weaken us. Let us free ourselves from the rusting shackles that tie us to a time, a place and a mentality that enslaved us. Let us learn the richness of what we have, of what we have been given and proudly live it and share it.


This article was written jointly by Roger Froikin and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks



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