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    Jewish contributions to civilisation – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. What is the secret behind the sheer number of Jews who have contributed so much to civilisation?

    A. There are several solid books listing the vast numbers of Jews who have made immense contributions to every aspect of human culture.

    No aspect of the world would be the same without the Jewish contribution.

    Look at science and medicine, literature and the arts, commerce and adventure – Jewish names figure out of all proportion to our population figures.

    We aren’t looking for Nobel Prizes or votes of thanks: we have simply served humanity and its many areas of interest.

    The question is whether there is something in the Jewish mindset that impels such contributions.

    Taking names at random – Salk and Sachs (or Sacks)… Chagall and Kafka… Mahler, Marx and Malamud – does not answer the question.

    Maybe the thought that unites the Jewish contributions to civilisation begins with the Bible and marks us out all through history: creativity, education, compassion, messianism, literacy, community.

    Maybe we can call them the forces of mental, moral, spiritual and utopian energy.

    We are never able to leave things as they are.

    What did Jacques Maritain say? Jews are “deeply involved in the warp and woof of the world, irritating, exasperating and moving it”.

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