Judaism has many teachings about equality. Firstly, there is the equality between men and women. All men are equal, but women are not equal to men. Their role is not inferior, just different. Therefore, all women are also equal. Women have the special and sacred role as child bearer, homemaker and transmitter of Jewish values, and they have the main responsibility for the children’s upbringing. I think this is fair and although they aren’t equal I think that both men and women have equally important roles in the Jewish society.
Then, there is equality throughout history. The Jews have experienced a lot of discrimination, persecution and hostility from their neighbours through the Middle Ages, the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Their responses to the Anti-Semitism were:
* Turning Inward – isolating themselves from non-Jews and focusing their efforts on the Jewish community
* Supporting the Persecuted – the experience of persecution has created a positive resolve to support others suffering racism
* Suspicion of Non-Jews – some Jews still fear those who have persecuted them and those responsible for genocide.
* Protecting the Jewish Community – Some Jews take action to protect the Jewish community from attacks of violence, abuse, vandalism, threats etc.
* Rejecting Judaism – turning away from Judaism. For them, anything Jewish is totally negative, since it has always lead to discrimination and persecution
* Celebrating Multiculturalism – Trying to make Jews and Judaism a thoroughly integrated part of modern multicultural society, but without losing or compromising Judaism
There were a few organisations which specialised in protecting the Jewish community. They were J-Core and the CST. J-Core (The Jewish Council for Racial Equality) works to counteract racism in all areas of British society. Their projects include: giving practical aid to refugees, providing career support and training courses and anti-racism education programs at schools. The CST (Community Security Trust) provides security advice and services to the Jewish community in Britain. Working alongside the police, it aims to counter racism, Anti-Semitism and terrorism.
The Torah teaches Jews that all people are equal and it is their responsibility to treat people as equals and to help those in need, regardless of who they are, or what they look like. The 5 Principles are:
1. All humanity is of inherent worth
2. All people belong to God and Jews have a responsibility to treat them accordingly
3. Being the “chosen people” isn’t a superiority, it’s a responsibility
4. Love and co-operation are in fulfilment of the divine will; hatred is in opposition to it
5. Jews have a responsibility to love the stranger since they were once strangers in strange lands.
Isaiah 42.6-7 emphasises the responsibility of the Jews when he writes “I created you, and appointed you a covenant people, a light of nations – opening eyes deprived of light, rescuing prisoners from confinement, from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” I think he is trying to say that the Jews need to guide those who don’t know any better, and show them the correct path, the right way to behave and pass on the teachings of God.
“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the Lord am your God.” Leviticus 19.33-4.
I think this is telling Jews that they once needed help and so now they should help those who need help because they know what it is like to be a stranger and although they had a God to guide them, this stranger may not and therefore he needs guidance. It also says to love everyone as you would love yourself and to help anyone, no matter who they are or what they look like.
Jewish people see themselves as “the chosen ones”, and some people say this makes them feel superior to others and therefore Jews don’t really believe in the equality of other people and religions. This limits God because if God chose the Jews then he is not the God of everyone, but he is the God of the Jews, and if he has favourites, then he is not all-loving and if he had to make a choice then he is not all-powerful. The Scandal of the Particular is the idea that God would choose one group over another.
However, the Jews say that they chose God, not that God chose them. They say that God chose everyone and gave everyone a chance but they were the only ones who responded. God went from nation to nation asking them to accept the Torah, but no one wanted to keep the 10 commandments, and the Jews were the only ones who accepted the responsibility.
The Jews have a covenant (relationship) with God, and this is what they believe makes them “the chosen ones”. They have a responsibility to obey God faithfully.
“It is a responsibility to change the world by living as a model community upheld by ethics, morals and beliefs of 1 God. By doing this, Jewish people can influence the rest of mankind, a “light unto the nations”. (Isaiah 2:6)
The teachings of equality are further shown through forgiveness. In the story of Jonah and the whale, we see that God loves all his people (not just Jews) and doesn’t want to see them suffer and that is why he gives people second chances.
There is some speculation over how welcoming Jews are of others due to the strict and lengthily process of conversion. Judaism does not actively seek converts although it is possible to convert. This suggests Judaism isn’t welcoming of others however, Judaism does not see conversion as necessary as they believe there are other paths to God.