Ask the Rabbi - Basic Concepts

Europe and America: building Noahide communities

Q: What differences do you see between Europe and America, in terms of religion and culture? How can we build up Noahide communities, taking into account modern trends emphasizing individuality?

Question by Mattitjahu; reply by Rabbi Oury Sherki in bold type.

Q: I am curious to hear from you what differences you see between Europe and America.

I never have been in America. What I see is that the most Christians for example in America are more superficial, more conservative but without much knowledge.

I realize that America is a very big country, far from Israel and with a short history. Most American don’t know a lot about history, not even their own. And they don’t feel that they need anybody in the world. They are more self-centered (because they are big and independent). Also everybody can speak English, so why should they need to learn other languages?

Europe is small and depends on the rest of the world. The people need to learn additional languages to be in contact with others. Europe has a long history, with many wars and much violence. To understand the other, even those close to you, you need knowledge of their history. We are always aware that we are not the best or the biggest. We know we are not independent.

But the world has become smaller and smaller. The most people now speak English.

And….Europe is really Americanized. The people have become more superficial, with less knowledge of history, both their own and that of others. Christianity is on the decrease. It is not as important as it used to be.

I think Europe is now more atheistic than America.

And everybody has the same problem: Islam. Everybody is afraid. What will happen if Islam and Arabs become the majority or are able to have a large influence? Because most people don’t know enough anymore about their own country and culture, they don’t have a strong identity, and they don’t know how to react to cultural or religious Islamic identities.

This is what I see and observe. But I don’t know how this relates to Noahism. In fact it is not a bad time to build on a new identity, a Noahide identity. But because of a very anti-biblical atmosphere and an increasingly anti-Israel, anti Zionist attitude worldwide, it is really not easy to build up Noahism.

Most people become more narrow-minded. They work, they look for entertainment. But beneath the surface they are dissatisfied, not really happy. There is a feeling of emptiness.

The world is changing. Internet makes people more individualistic. Identity is built up on individualistic choices. People shop for different religions. Everybody picks and chooses what he or she likes. It doesn’t matter to them that they are not consistent. How should we respond to this situation? How can we create communities again? How can we break down this very individualistic way of life?

When I think about it, I feel that we need to answer the following questions:

What can we expect from Islam? How to respond to it? What is good, what is dangerous? How can we break down Islamic violence?

And… Why should we try to start communities again? What makes communities so important? How can we break through the tough individualistic attitude and way of life? How can we convince people that groups are necessary without a loss of freedom?

I write and think from a Dutch perspective, based on what I see in Holland. Every country is different. France is Roman Catholic. Germany is Lutharan. Holland is Calvinistic. It is important to know these differences, together with the differences in history, both religious and cultural, before trying to understand each country and to build a Noahide movement. Holland might be one of the most atheistic countries in Europe now.

These are some of my thoughts, but I am very curious to know and hear your opinion from you and to know what you observe and see. Perhaps outside Europe and America you see things that I can’t see, because I am part of the European mentality. Can I disconnect myself from my own mentality? That’s very hard.

I look forward to your response.

A:  I really appreciate your analysis of the situation in the world. I think America is a world without deep cultural roots. On the other hand, Americans are very sentimental in their religious feelings. Europeans have a very rich past and are more intellectual.

It seems to me important to clarify the difference between the concepts of G-d and worship in Christianity and in Judaism. According to Rav Kook modern atheism is an important step in rejecting paganism and advancing towards a purer understanding of the concepts of faith.  The idea that the conception of deity is completely different than that of the Christians may be an attractive basis for Noahism. How to build communities is still a mystery to me. Maybe it is possible to learn from Jews about their own communities.

Rabbi Oury Cherki

Rav Oury Cherki was born in Algeria in 1959 and grew up in France, and he made Aliyah in 1972. He studied at Merkaz Harav Yeshiva, which was founded by Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. He performed his military service in the artillery branch of the IDF. He studied with Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Rav Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi (Manitou), Rav Shlomo Binyamin and Achlag. Rav Cherki heads the Israeli department of Machon Meir, and he is the Director of Brit Olam - the Noahide World Center. He teaches in many places throughout Israel. Rav Cherki is the spiritual leader of the "Beth Yehuda" community in Kiryat Moshe (Jerusalem). He has written many books on Jewish thought and philosophy.

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