Belonging to Israel in the Diaspora is, in itself, a spiritual act. It is utterly inconvenient to be a Jew. The very survival of our people is a kiddush Hashem. We live in spite of peril. Our very existence is a refusal to surrender to normalcy, to security and comfort. Experts in assimilation, the Jews could have disappeared even before the names of modern nations were known. Still, we are patient and cherish the will to perpetuate our essence.
We are Jews as we are men and women. The alternative to our existence as Jews is spiritual suicide, disappearance. It is not a change into something else. Judaism has allies but no substitute. It is not an analogy of other peoples, creeds, or religions. “It is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9).
Abraham Joshua Heschel, “To Be a Jew: What Is It?”, in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, ed. Susannah Heschel (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996), 10. First published in Zionist Quarterly vol. 1, no. 1 (Summer 1951): 78-84.