Today we celebrate the second edition of the Jewish Book Festival, Séfer Barcelona, and at the same time we can say that we are living in exceptional times. We must confess that those behind this project have had our head elsewhere most of the time. These last months have been full of difficulties, and for that reason, organizing the production of a festival, a festival we consider necessary, has not been easy. As we have said before, our dream is to create a meeting point between literature and Jewish thought and the citizens of our city. Our intention is to promote debate and reflection around issues that, despite being particularities, we know that contribute to the universal problem. We want to create a meeting point where prejudices are mitigated and intellectual search is stimulated. Culture as a social motor and not so much as a mere consumer product. Therefore, despite all the obstacles, we are here determined to contribute, from our position, with a proposal as a Catalan Jewish Cultural Platform, because as Catalan Jews we can not be indifferent to what is happening in Catalonia today. We dedicated our last publication, Erets Catalunya, precisely to explore this area, the Jewish Catalonia of the past, but also the present.
We know that these are not good times for democracy. If politics is, among other things, the art of organizing and making our environment liveable, on October 1 this environment was blown apart. The scenes of police violence were terrible and unjustifiable. The statements of President Rajoy the same day – where he defined Spanish democracy as “mature, advanced, kind and tolerant” – are clear examples of the denial of reality. This is not the politics we believe in. Wanting to solve a long-term conflict, historical, political, economic and cultural, as we live in our country, exclusively through the judicial and penal procedures, is not in any case the solution. On the other hand, it must be pointed that judicial cases related to political corruption throughout the Spanish State are reflected in more than 1,378 politicians charged with corruption. Less than 86 are in prison.
Instead of an honest and true dialogue with a high point of view, instead of seeking a political solution amongst the uproar of Catalan society, opportunistic agreements seem to prevail. The world looks at us and does not understand anything. The social fracture is in sight, social networks boil. This space for dialogue has become a place of reproaches and insults. The tendency is to repeat phrases, old articles or tweets that others have formulated with grace or jokes. All this before the impossibility to base a proper positioning. We are living in strange times.
And meanwhile, what can we say as Jews in front of this situation? No one should be told that European Jewish thought of modernity often adopted a self-reflexive and critical position within Western culture. The position of the Jewish intellectual arose from a questioning exteriority, where they always stood as unconditional implicates. We just need to think of the Jewish-German symbiosis, and in such significant figures as Franz Kafka, Rosa Luxemburg, Walter Benjamin, Martin Buber, Sigmund Freud, Hannah Arendt, Gustav Landauer or Paul Celan. It is precisely this contradictory symbiosis that made the Jew an unparalleled critical conscience, and that is also why it has left a deep trace on the history of Europe.
We do not want to be indifferent to the reality of today. At least, not here. That is why we want to comment about some concrete facts. A few weeks ago, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (FCJE) issued a statement where it was defined as “the institution that officially represents all Spanish Jews,” and continues: “As Spanish Jews, we fully support the Spanish Constitution, the application of the Law as the backbone of the Rule of Law, solidarity and equality among all Spanish people and the unity of Spain “. It should not be said that this statement is not only a lack of respect for the plurality of Jewish voices in the Spanish State; it is not just an opportunistic statement that should be read in a political key; it is not only a unilateral political positioning, when none of the Catalan Jewish communities had written a word about the Catalan political process out of respect for the plurality of voices that coexist within it; it is worse: it is the Judaism of strict obedience to a concrete political position and to the service of power. We are not just far away from this statement, it doesn’t represent us in any way. For us, the legacy of Shemaya continues, where it is said in the Pirké Avot: “Love work, hate authority and avoid intimacy with power”. However, we have not yet seen any reaction from the Catalan Jewish communities. No problem. We position ourselves publicly so that there is no awkward silence that does not represent us. Unfortunately, we have also seen some intervention, typical of a brilliant mind, which, hiding anonymously behind a website entitled “Jews for Catalonia”, continues with the same litany. And always using Jewish identity as a political currency. As you can read in their manifesto, after insulting a legitimate political claim as the right to self-determination, the “Jews for Catalonia” speak on behalf of “the real voice of the majority of Jews who live here: Jews who are, simultaneously and without conflict, Catalan bonds and loyal Spanish people“. Are they a real or a virtual voice? Do they represent us? In Mozaika we do not know how many people we represent. For sure, not the majority of Jews in the city. We imagine that we represent the people who participate in our projects or initiatives, such as the magazine, the Literature Festival, the Salam-Shalom initiative, the conferences or the other small projects that are emerging. Projects that will continue to grow, because the appearance of this tendency to cling to the status quo, does not go with us.
Therefore, our will is to create a framework of plural, critical participation, of study of our tradition, and, as we said before, that which stimulates thought and intellectual search. We will not stop. That’s why we celebrate today, happy to be here with you. Because, in spite of everything, we are proud to claim and present the Catalan Jewish legacy that unites us, with the will to add initiatives to the associative fabric of our city. We speak for ourselves. It is the moment of change. As Rabbi Hillel say: “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I’m just for myself, who am I? And if not now, when?” Let’s start, today, slowly, together and with you.