By Lasse Wilhelmson
Can a Jewish culture institute help save Europe at a time when alleged questions of integration are increasingly causing disagreement in many countries?
The word, or rather the concept, paideia, comes from ancient Greece. It was a system of learning, complete with instructions, and aimed at giving students enough cultural general knowledge for them to become true, real and genuine human beings. Paideia aspired to be the cultural heritage that is continued through the generations.
In ancient Greece, as with democracy, only the aristocracy were included in paideia, that is to say free men but not women, children or slaves.
Paideia and Democracy as concepts have obviously been affected by the passing of time and prevailing cultural influences. However they are, still today, important symbols of humanistic values and people’s participation in a state’s affairs, i.e. the power of the people. I have discussed various aspects of this in the article ” The Uprisings in the Arab World – Reflections on Democracy”.
Sweden currently has a European institute for Jewish studies called Paideia. It was founded in 2000 with government funds amounting to 40 million SEK to set it off. Its enterprise is ambitious and takes place within the framework of The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities.
One would think that a European paideia institute, in modern times, and acknowledging the tradition paideia stands for, would have an organisation and management that somewhat represents the various peoples, cultures and nations of Europe. Furthermore, a neutral base would be more suitable than the Swedish Jewish council which has its own specific set of ideas.
Of course you might think that there is really nothing to stop the Jewish Paideia from acting on behalf of all Europeans and that it doesn’t matter that the institute is Jewish. However that is hardly the impression conveyed by information on its webside. In a video featuring Paideia’s head, Barbara Spectre, she explains her ”philosophy”.
(note. This video is regularly removed from YouTube by the user, probably because it reveals too much about leading Jewish representatives’ endeavours to play a dominant role in culture and education in the West and how Sweden’s government willingly subsidises the plans.)
The video concerns Jewish beliefs and the process of training a qualified cadre of Jews to lead the integration movement to save Europe. Spectre does not seem entirely convinced however that this will be positively received by non-Jewish Europeans and anticipates that it could cause resentment, which, one supposes, falls within the framework of ”anti-Semitism”.
Hitherto, Paideia has been such a success that Barbara Spectre has been awarded a prestigious Israeli prize for her work. It is difficult to see this prize as anything but a reward for work done to promote the interests of the Jewish state. For sure Paideia will get some help from Paideia Trustee, Ambassador Jan Eliasson, appointed Deputy Secretary-General to the UN.
Do European Jews, using the Paideia institute, now wish to take on a leading role, similar to the one held by the men of ancient Greece, and assisted by millions of taxpayers’ money, develop and consolidate this role? Many questions need answers, but I do not think it is possible to understand the activities of the Jewish paideia without understanding what ”Jewish” is.
The Jews themselves speak of Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish history, Zionism and, last but not least, the Jewish people and the Jewish state. What is it, then, that is so special about ”Jewish”?
I have wrestled with this question, from time to time, my whole life – for purely personal, but also political reasons. I have written many articles on the subject and also published a book. My idea of what ”Jewish” is can be summarised thus:
Most of those who call themselves Jews today, connect their identity primarily to the Jewish state Israel and are secular. Jewish identity is very much about perceiving oneself as special in a positive way, to be chosen by God, but at the same time as a victim, forever hounded by the Holocaust. This is often used as a compelling moral agument to motivate special treatment of the group at the expense of others, mainly the Palestinians. It is also the grounds for what is usually called ”Jewish Chutzpah”, broadly meaning ”reckless audacity”. But most trubeling is the idea of sypermacy in the Jewish law Halacha, where non-Jews are not seen as real humans. Altogether, this makes a racist orientated tribal mentality.
”Jewish” can, to some extent, be a religion (Judaism), to some extent politics (Zionism) and so on, or a mixture of various things, but only to some extent. Primarily and fundamentally, ”Jewish” means a mentality or an ideology (Jewishness).
Grounded on ”Jewish ideology” Paideia, based in Sweden, now spends 40 million of Swedish taxpayers’ money, to start with, to spread this ”culture” to the whole of Europe. This will, of course, create ”anti-Semitism”.