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  • Henry Worcman Schmiliver

How Jewish Values Survived Throughout History

Henry Worcman Schmiliver // São Paulo, Brazil

The Greek's Partenon, the Roman's Coliseum, the Egyptians' pyramids of Giza. Trace elements of ancient civilizations that were once great empires, but whose histories are nowadays written on school didactic books. Just like the Persians or Phoenicians, the Hebrews are an ancient civilization. What differentiates us from such groups is the fact that we have remained alive for 4,000 years while their empires have fallen. Facing constant threat of stronger opposers and being scattered through the whole globe, our people persevered and continue to perpetuate our existence and dedication to the exercise of faith.

There must be a reason, a secret responsible for enabling us to survive through every period of history, maintaining our values and traditions alive till today. And not surprisingly, it does. A specific model of social organization of the Jewish community, summed up with some other aspects and particularities of our people, made it possible for us to make it till here. Sociology explains that societies are organized according to a cultural pattern. It states that an individual's values, traditions, and beliefs are mirrored by the ones of those who taught them, which are originally shaped according to the characteristics of their place and time of existence. The application of such theory to the Jewish people explains a lot about our survival. Even scattered throughout the whole globe, in a state of exile (galut, גלות), the Jewish youth receives education and develops itself mirrored to the older ones. Following this pattern to its genesis, it is possible to arrive at the first generations of Hebrews. Those were developed according to Middle East patterns and ancient times, and to the prophecies and lessons from the patriarchs, constituting the Jewish faith.

The presented organization of our community contributed significantly to continuity but is not the only aspect to do it. What guarantees that the youth is receiving quality education based on the values of our people? From this inquiry, another huge aspect of the continuity of the Hebrews is brought up: institutions. What guarantees the education of youth and sharing of values and traditions, are institutions such as Jewish schools, synagogues (beit hakneset, בית הכנסת), and Jewish study centers (kollel, כולל). In such places, religious mentors who are willing to accept the challenge of teaching, stream Jewish values and traditions, including knowledge from the sacred scriptures, to the youth. In almost every country around the globe, at least one branch of Jewish institutions or even places supporting the Jewish lifestyle such as kosher (כשר) markets or restaurants is found. A great example is the Chabad (חב"ד) branches present in places you would never imagine: from Beijing to Rio de Janeiro.

All that is only possible due to a specific particularity of all Jewish people, which is the sense of family and belonging between individuals who don't even know each other. Philanthropists and religious leaders found such institutions, promoting Jewish education and lifestyle. All that, just to help individuals who belong to our community and would not normally have access to a quality Jewish education and easy exercise of tradition and faith. Jews' social organization, education, and social justice (chessed, חסד), make weapons useless for our protection, explaining how we survived until now, and hypothesizing how we will survive until the end of times.


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