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Jews

  • But I have felt that to be a Jew was, in some ways at least, to be especially privileged.

  • A whole roomful of Jews is like a charged battery. The vitality sparks seem to fly, and frequently the result is a short circuit.

  • ... the usual attitude of Christians towards Jews is — I hardly know whether to say more impious or more stupid, when viewed in the light of their professed principles. ... They hardly know Christ was a Jew. And I find men, educated, supposing that Christ spoke Greek. To my feeling, this deadness to the history which has prepared half our world for us, this inability to find interest in any form of life that is not clad in the same coat-tails and flounces as our own, lies very close to the worst kind of irreligion.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter to Harriet Beecher Stowe (1876), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • The purity of Jewish upbringing — the restrictions that one carries through life being a 'nice Jewish girl' — what a burden.

  • Q: Why does a Jew always answer a question with a question? A: And why should a Jew not answer a question with a question?

  • A woman and a Jew, sometimes more / of a contradiction than I can sweat out, / yet finally the intersection that is both / collision and fusion, stone and seed.

    • Marge Piercy,
    • "The Ram's Horn Sounding," Available Light ()
  • ... Dachau has been my own lifelong point of no return. Between the moment when I walked through the gate of that prison, with its infamous motto, 'Arbeit Macht Frei,' and when I walked out at the end of a day that had no ordinary scale of hours, I was changed, and how I looked at the human condition, the world we live in, changed ... Years of war had taught me a great deal, but war was nothing like Dachau. Compared to Dachau, war was clean.

  • The nations which have received and in any way dealt fairly and mercifully with the Jew have prospered, and the nations that have tortured and oppressed him have written out their own curse.

  • ... to be a Jew is a destiny.

  • To be a Jew in the twentieth century / Is to be offered a gift. If you refuse, / Wishing to be invisible, you choose / Death of the spirit, the stone insanity.

  • Could it be, I wondered, that the Jew was disliked, feared, only when he was an equal?

  • ... we Jews are alike. We have the same intensities, the sensitiveness, poetry, bitterness, sorrow, the same humor, the same memories. The memories are not those we can bring forth from our minds: they are centuries old and are written in our features, in the cells of our brains.

  • 'Jewish Christmas' — that's what my gentile friends called Chanukah when I was growing up in Michigan in the thirties and forties. Anachronistic, yes, but they had a point. Observing the dietary laws of separating milk and meat dishes was far easier for the handful of Jewish families in our little town than getting through December without mixing the two holidays.

  • Christmas was a miserable time for a Jewish child in those days, and I still recall the feeling. ... Decades later, I still feel left out at Christmas, but I sing the carols anyway. You might recognize me if you ever heard me. I'm the one who sings, 'La-la, the la-la is born.'

  • Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never allow himself.

  • I want to say to you, friends, that the Jewish community in Palestine is going to fight to the very end. If we have arms to fight with, we will fight with those, and if not, we will fight with stones in our hands.

  • The world hates a Jew who hits back. The world loves us only when we are to be pitied.

    • Golda Meir,
    • in Kristen Golden and Barbara Findlen, Remarkable Women of the Twentieth Century ()
  • ... only here could Jews live as of right, rather than sufferance, and only here Jews could be masters, not victims, of their fate.

  • The Jewish heart has always starved unless it was fed through the Jewish intellect.

    • Henrietta Szold,
    • in Mary A. Warner and Dayna Beilenson, eds., Women of Faith and Spirit ()
  • The Jewish problem is as old as history, and assumes in each age a new form. The life or death of millions of human beings hangs upon its solution; its agitation revives the fiercest passions for good and for evil that inflame the human breast.

    • Emma Lazarus,
    • "The Jewish Problem" (1882), in H.E. Jacob, The World of Emma Lazarus ()
  • His cup is gall, his meat is tears, / His passion lasts a thousand years.

    • Emma Lazarus,
    • "The Crowing of the Red Cock," Songs of a Semite ()
  • Jews are the intensive form of any nationality whose language and customs they adopt.

    • Emma Lazarus,
    • "An Epistle to the Hebrews," in American Hebrew ()
  • Though my father was poor and had nothing, the Torah, the poetry of prophets, was his daily bread.

  • Poverty becomes a Jew like a red ribbon on a white horse.

  • With all its pleasures, Passover was only nice. Yom Kippur was weird, monumental. Imagine not eating for a whole day to prove something or other to God, or yelling at God in the synagogue as the bearded old men did in their white shawls, their heads thrown back, their Adam's apples tearing at their skinny throats.

  • The secular Jew is a figment; when a Jew becomes a secular person he is no longer a Jew.

  • In this most Christian of all worlds / The poet's a Jew.

    • Marina Tsvetaeva,
    • "Poem of the End" (1924), in David McDuff, ed., Selected Poems ()
  • I suppose the nearest equivalent to a Barmitzvah in terms of emotional build-up would probably not even be one's wedding day, but one's coronation.

  • World, do not ask those snatched from death / where they are going, / they are always going to their graves.

    • Nelly Sachs,
    • "World, do not ask those snatched from death," O the Chimneys ()
  • ... a people ... wise-hearted with the sorrows of every land.

  • ... they carried their land upon their shoulders and their sanctuary in their hearts.

  • ... we were then as we are now: modern American Jews, tangled in compromise, passing the past and the heritage hand to hand like a hot potato and wincing with pain between the toss and the catch.

  • Scratch a Jew and you'll find a Wailing Wall.

    • Eve Merriam,
    • "The Wall," in Nathan and Marynn Ausubel, eds., A Treasury of Jewish Poetry ()
  • You understand / That personally I feel / Indeed, I'd just as soon shake hands / Why, lots of them are just as / Why / As you and I.

  • let my people in / to history.

  • A Jew describes another Jew simply as a human being; a Gentile describes him, first and foremost, as a Jew.

  • Flawed humans though we are, come Yom Kippur we have a moment to turn God's mirror on ourselves, if there is a God. Or it is a moment to think about something larger than everyday life, to contemplate obligations to other people, to regret our failures, to renounce our shallowness. ... Within all the nattering activity, this day is a silent space.

  • There is never a Jewish community without its scholars, but where Jews may not be both intellectuals and Jews, they prefer to remain Jews.

  • If we forget the Jews in Auschwitz, they died for nothing. If we forget the Jews in Russia, they suffer for nothing. That is what makes a Jew a Jew. He remembers.

  • You feel oppressed by your Judaism only as long as you do not take pride in it.

    • Bertha Pappenheim,
    • 1936, in Joseph L. Baron, ed., A Treasury of Jewish Quotations ()
  • And what a flurry of preparation for the Passover feast! What a chopping of fish and a simmering of soup and a baking of tsimmes and a roasting of capon and an assembling of taigloch! Grandma was in her element, humming Russian tunes, a beaming earth mother with her sleeves rolled up and her eyes shining. I did love Passover. And Grandma's observance of it was devout, but it was the domestic, the kitchen side of religion.

  • For many people — from secular feminists to observant Jews — the notion of a feminist Judaism is an oxymoron.

  • [During a pre-war interview with Hitler when he screamed at her, 'The Jews! The Jews! What are you doing about the Jews in America?':] Why nothing. We think we're just as good as they are.

  • Jews have always yearned for Jerusalem, from which they'd been exiled many times, but they also yearned for each and every one of the countries where they had been persecuted and where their ancestors once lived and are still buried.