Jewish Quotes

Famous Judaism Quotes Quotations

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“I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations ... They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the globe and have influenced the affairs of mankind more and more happily than any other nation, ancient or modern.”

- John Adams, Second President of the United States
(From a letter to F. A. Van der Kemp [Feb. 16, 1808] Pennsylvania Historical Society)
(See the Jewish impact on the world)

“This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created heaven and earth… [But] for the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; [and] as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

- Robert Jastrow
(God and the Astronomers [New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1978], 116.   Professor Jastrow was the founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute, now director of the Mount Wilson Institute and its observatory.)

”...If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”  

 - Mark Twain
(“Concerning The Jews,” Harper’s Magazine, 1899
see The Complete Essays of Mark Twain, Doubleday [1963] pg. 249)

“if we were forced to choose just one, there would be no way to deny that Judaism is the most important intellectual development in human history.”

- David Gelernter, Yale University Professor

“It is against their own insoluble problem of being human that the dull and base in humanity are in revolt in anti-Semitism.  Judaism, nevertheless, together with Hellenism and Christianity is an inalienable component of our Christian Western civilization, the eternal “call to Sinai” against which humanity again and again rebels.”

- Herman Rauschning, The Beast From the Abyss, pp. 155-56

“If we had lived in the second millennium BC, the millennium of Abraham, and could have canvassed all the nations of the earth, what would they have said of Abraham’s journey? In most of Africa and Europe, they would have laughed at Abraham’s madness and pointed to the heavens, where the life of earth had been plotted from all eternity ... a man cannot escape his fate. The Egyptians would have shaken their heads in disbelief. The early Greeks might have told Abraham the story of Prometheus ... Do not overreach, they would advise; come to resignation. In India, he would be told that time is black, irrational and merciless. Do not set yourself the task of accomplishing something in time, which is only the dominion of suffering. On every continent, in every society, Abraham would have been given the same advice that wise men as diverse as Heraclitus, Lao-Tsu and Siddhartha would one day give their followers: do not journey but sit; compose yourself by the river of life, meditate on its ceaseless and meaningless flow.”

“The Jews started it all—and by ‘it’ I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and Gentile, believer and aethiest, tick. Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, hear with different ears, even feel with different feelings ... we would think with a different mind, interpret all our experience differently, draw different conclusions from the things that befall us. And we would set a different course for our lives.”

- Thomas Cahill, The Gifts Of The Jews

“Mankind, East and West, Christian and Muslim, accepted the Jewish conviction that there is only one G-d.  Today it is polytheism that is so difficult to understand, that is so unthinkable.”

- T.R. Grover, The Ancient World, p. 186

There is a famous story in which the Kaiser asks Bismarck, “Can you prove the existence of God?” Bismarck replies, “The Jews, your majesty. The Jews.”

“The Jews, however, are beyond all doubt the strongest, toughest, and purest race at present living in Europe; they know how to succeed even under the worst conditions (in fact better than under favorable ones) by means of virtues of some sort, which one would like nowadays to label as vices-owing above all to a resolute faith which does not need to be ashamed before “modern idea…

It is certain that the Jew, if he desired-or if they were driven to it, as the antisemites seem to wish-could now have the ascendancy, nay, literally the supremacy, over Europe; that they are not working or planning for that end is equally sure… The resourcefulness of the modern Jews, both in mind and soul, is extraordinary…”

- Friedrich Nietzsche
German Philosopher (1844 - 1900)

“Asked to make a list of the men who have most dominated the thinking of the modern world, many educated people would name Freud, Einstein, Marx and Darwin.  Of these four, only Darwin was not Jewish.  In a world where Jews are only a tiny percentage of the population, what is the secret of the disproportionate importance the Jews have had in the history of Western culture?”

- Ernest van den Haag, The Jewish Mystique 
(New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1971, pg. 13)

“Energy is the basis of everything.  Every Jew, no matter how insignificant, is engaged in some decisive and immediate pursuit of a goal… It is the most perpetual people of the earth…”

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
German dramatist, novelist and poet (1749 - 1832)

”...whatever other qualities Jews may posses, likable or the reverse, no one who knows them well can deny that they are personally interesting.  By that I mean, specially alive, alert, quick at comprehending people or events and at making pungent or witty comments on them… One might at times find the rather hothouse family atmosphere, with it intensities and frictions, somewhat trying, but one could be sure of never being bored.”

- Ernest Jones - British psychoanalyst (1879-1958)

“For the Jews have long been in revolt not only against the Romans, but against humanity; and a race that has made its own life apart and irreconcilable, that cannot share with the rest of mankind in the pleasure of the table nor join in their libations or prayers or sacrifices, are separate from ourselves by a greater gulf than divides us from Sura or Bactra of the most distant Indies.”

- Philostratus - The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, 3rd Century CE Teacher

“The Jews proved not only unassimilated, but inassimilable, and… the demonstration that this was so proved one of the most significant turning points in Greek history, owing to the gigantic influence exerted throughout subsequent ages by their religion, which not only survived intact, but subsequently gave birth to Christianity as well.”

- Michael Grant,From Alexander to Cleopatra: the Hellenistic World, 
(New York: Charles Scribner & Sons, 1982., p. 75)

“The dispersion of the Jews was both a boon and a bane; their nation was disjoined, but their culture was enormously enhanced.  Whereas a unique omneitic outlook set the Jews apart from other peoples, a common language, literacy and learning bound the disparate Jewish communities together and provided a firm foundation for further creativity.  The exercise of this multifaceted creative propensity rebounded to benefit not only the societies that harbored the Jews, but all humankind.”

- Samuel Karlinsky, The Eight Day - The Hidden History of the Jewish Contribution to Civilzation (Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1994.), xviii.

“Wishing to make Speyer into a city, I thought to increase its honor a thousand fold by bringing in the Jews.”

- Bishop Ruediger - Huozmann - 1084

“So prominent was the Jewish role in the foreign commerce of Europe that those nations that received the Jews gained and the countries that excluded them lost in the volume of international trade.”

- Will Durant, The Story of Civilization - The Reformation. (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1953)

“The preservation of the Jews is really one of the most signal and illustrious acts of divine Providence… and what but a supernatural power could have preserved them in such a manner as none other nation upon earth hath been preserved.  Nor is the providence of God less remarkable in the destruction of their enemies, than in their preservation… We see that the great empires, which in their turn subdued and oppressed the people of God, are all come to ruin… And if such hath been the fatal end of the enemies and oppressors of the Jews, let it serve as a warning to all those, who at any time or upon any occasion are for raising a clamor and persecution against them.”

- Thomas Newton - British Clergyman: Bishop of Bristol (1704-1782)

“The brief legal emancipation of Jews during the Napoleonic wars released unparalleled economic, professional, and cultural energies.  It was though a high dam had suddenly been breached.”

- Amos Elon, The Pity of It All - A portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch 1743 -1933 (New York: Picador, 2002) pg. 6

“For the Jewish impact on humanity has been protean.  In antiquity they were the great innovators in religion and morals.  In the Dark Ages and early medieval Europe they were still an advanced people transmitting scarce knowledge and technology.  Gradually they were pushed from the van and fell behind, by the end of the eighteenth century, they were seen as a bedraggled and obscurantist rearguard in the march of civilized humanity.  But then came an astonishing second burst of creativity.  Breaking out of the ghettos, they once more transformed human thinking, this time in the secular sphere.  Much of the mental furniture of the modern world too is of Jewish fabrication.”

- Paul Johnson
(Christian historian, author of
A History of the Jews and A History of Christianity pg. 585-6)

“For many people during many centuries, mankind’s history before the coming of Christianity was the history of the Jews and what they recounted of the history of others. Both were written down in the books called the Old Testament, [the Torah] the sacred writings of the Jewish people ... They were the first to arrive at an abstract notion of God and to forbid his representation by images. No other people has produced a greater historical impact from such comparatively insignificant origins and resources ...”

- J.M. Roberts, History Of The World

“The Jew lends himself easily to Communism because it enables him to devote himself to a high cause, involving all of humanity, characteristics which are natural to him as a Jew.”

- Edmund Wilson - U.S. literary critic and author (1895-1972)

“People often avoid making decisions out of fear of making a mistake.  Actually, the failure to make decisions is one of life’s biggest mistakes.”

- Rabbi Noah Weinberg, 48 Ways To Wisdom, Way #4

“Some people like the Jews, and some do not.  But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.”

- Winston Churchill - Prime Minister of Great Britain

“Our survey of three and a half millennia of Jewish history is closed.  But the story which we have set ourselves to tell is unending.  Today, the Jewish people has in it still those elements of strength and endurance which enabled it to surmount all the crises of its past, surviving thus the most powerful empires of antiquity.

Throughout our history there have been weaker elements who have shirked the sacrifices which Judaism entailed.  They have been swallowed, long since, in the great majority; only the more stalwart have carried on the traditions of their ancestors, and can now look back with pride upon their superb heritage.  Are we to be numbered with he weak majority, or with the stalwart minority?  It is for ourselves to decide.”

- Cecil Roth, A History of the Jews 
(Oxford University: Shocken Books, 1961) pg. 423

“Small minds discuss people.  Average minds discuss events.  Great minds discuss ideas.”

- Unknown

” would be a mistake…to ascribe to Roman legal conceptions an undivided sway over the development of law and institutions during the Middle Ages… The Laws of Moses as well as the laws of Rome contributed suggestions and impulse to the men and institutions which were to prepare the modern world; and if we could have but eyes to see… we should readily discover how very much besides religion we owe to the Jew.”

- U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in his The State

“In the facades we put on for others we demonstrate our potential; through our children we reveal our reality.”

- Lawrence Kelemen, To Kindle A Soul  p. 195

“It’s not how much or how little you have that makes you great or small, but how much or how little you are with what you have.”

- Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch
(Horeb, vol. 1, pg 46)

Intolerance lies at the core of evil.
Not the intolerance that results
from any threat or danger.
But intolerance of another being who dares to exist.
Intolerance without cause. It is so deep within us,
because every human being secretly desires
the entire universe to himself.
Our only way out is to learn
compassion without cause. To care for each other
simple because that ‘other’ exists.

-  Rabbi Menachem Mendle

“Intelligent people know of what they speak; fools speak of what they know.”

- Minchas Shabbos Pirkei Avos 3:18 / Ethics Of The Fathers

A renowned genius once asked a student, “What are you watching when you sit on a hillside in the late afternoon as the colors turn from yellow to orange and red and finally darkness?” He answered, “You are watching the sunset.” The genius responded, “That is what is wrong with our age. You know full well you are not watching the sun set. You are watching the world turn.”

- Jeremy Kagan, “The Jewish Self”

“The entire purpose of our existence is to overcome our negative habits.”

- Vilna Goan, Commentary to Mishlei 4:13

Rabbi Zusha used to say:  “When I die and come before the heavenly court, if they ask me, ‘Zusha, why were you not Abraham?’  I’ll say that I didn’t have Abraham’s intellectual abilities.  If they say, ‘Why were you not Moses?’  I’ll say I didn’t have Moses’ leadership abilities.  For every such question, I’ll have an answer.  But if they say, ‘Zusha, why were you not Zusha?’ for that, I’ll have no answer.”

Until today (1888), no people has succeeded in establishing national dominion in the Land of Israel.  No national unity, in the spirit of nationalism, has acquired any hold there.  The mixed multitude of itinerant tribes that managed o settle there did so on lease, as temporary residents.  It seems that they await the return of the permanent residents of the land.

- Professor Sir John William Dosson
Modern Science in Bible Lands, London: Harper and Brothers, 1889, pp. 449-450.

“If a Jew doesn’t make Kiddush (to sanctify himself by maintaining a distinctly Jewish lifestyle), then the non-Jew will make Havdalah for him (by making the Jew realize he is truly different).”

- R’ Chaim of Volozhin

Most people are servants of their passions, but the truly free person is the one who can control his desires.  When the sages taught “Only one involved in Torah is truly free” (Pirkei Avos 6:2), they meant to say that only Torah allows one to free himself from the shackles of desire and to truly exercise free choice.  Without Torah, one is not free at all, he is a slave, controlled by a master foreign to his better instincts.  While intellectually he might have correct ideas of how to live, ultimately his master - his passion - will force him to act otherwise.

Excerpt from: The Torah Treasury pg. 146

This people are not eminent solely by their antiquity, but are also singular by their duration, which has always continued from their origin till now.  For, whereas the nations of Greece and of Italy, of Lacedaemon, of Athens and of Rome, and others who came long after, have long since perished, these ever remain, and in spite of the endeavors of many powerful kings who have a hundred times tried to destroy them, as their historians testify, and as it is easy to conjecture from the natural order of things during so long a space of years, they have nevertheless been preserved (and this preservation has been foretold); and extending from the earliest times to the latest, their history comprehends in its duration all our histories (which it preceded by a long time).

- Pensees by Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952 - Paragraph 620, p. 285

Only if you have some knowledge of the human sacrifices, the vicious temple rites, the degrading superstitions and customs that were practiced . . . can you realize how much the modern world owes to the Hebrew prophets, whose monotheism and moral teachings entered into Christianity and Islam….

- from Ancient and medieval history,
by Carlton J. H. Hayes and Parker Thomas Moon.
New York: The Macmillan company, 1929.

“All that is thought should not be said, all that is said should not be written, all that is written should not be published, all that is published should not be read.”

- Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Tomashov (the Kotzker Rebbe)

“Certainly, the world without the Jews would have been a radically different place. Humanity might have eventually stumbled upon all the Jewish insights. But we cannot be sure. All the great conceptual discoveries of the human intellect seem obvious and inescapable once they had been revealed, but it requires a special genius to formulate them for the first time. The Jews had this gift. To them we owe the idea of equality before the law, both divine and human; of the sanctity of life and the dignity of human person; of the individual conscience and so a personal redemption; of collective conscience and so of social responsibility; of peace as an abstract ideal and love as the foundation of justice, and many other items which constitute the basic moral furniture of the human mind. Without Jews it might have been a much emptier place.”

- Paul Johnson
(Christian historian, author of A History of the Jews and A History of Christianity)

“Death is merely moving from one home to another.  The wise man will spend his main efforts in trying to make his future home the more beautiful one.”

- Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Tomashov (the Kotzker Rebbe)

“No ancient people have had a stranger history than the Jews. ... The history of no ancient people should be so valuable, if we could only recover it and understand it. ... Stranger still, the ancient religion of the Jews survives, when all the religions of every ancient race of the pre-Christian world have disappeared ... Again it is strange that the living religions of the world all build on religious ideas derived from the Jews. .... The great matter is not “What happened?” but “Why did it happen?” Why does Judaism live?”

T.R. Glover
(The Ancient World, Penguin, pp. 184-191)

“This one book (the Bible) ... has attracted to it, and had concentrated on it, vastly more thought and has called forth more works, explanatory, illustrative, apologetic, upon its text, its meaning, its geography, its theology, its chronology, its evidences, its inspiration, its origin, than all the rest of the literature of the world put together. An immense bulk of the world’s literature owes its origin to this book.”

- Carlyle B Heynes in The Bible, Is it a True Book

“The world says that time is money, but I say that money is time. In order to earn enough money to satisfy his desires, one must sacrifice inordinate amounts of time. For me, that sacrifice is too great.”

- Chofetz Chaim

     “What is the Jew?...What kind of unique creature is this whom all the rulers of all the nations of the world have disgraced and crushed and expelled and destroyed; persecuted, burned and drowned, and who, despite their anger and their fury, continues to live and to flourish. What is this Jew whom they have never succeeded in enticing with all the enticements in the world, whose oppressors and persecutors only suggested that he deny (and disown) his religion and cast aside the faithfulness of his ancestors?!
     The Jew - is the symbol of eternity. ... He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear.
     The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.”

- Leo Tolstoy
(What is the Jew?
quoted in The Final Resolution, pg. 189, printed in Jewish World periodical, 1908)

“There is a striking point that runs through Jewish history as a whole.  Western civilization was born in the Middle East, and the Jews were at its crossroads.  In the heyday of Rome, the Jews were close to the Empire’s center.  When power shifted eastward, the Jewish center was in Babylon; when it skipped to Spain, there again were the Jews.  When in the Middle Ages the center of civilization moved into Central Europe, the Jews were waiting for it in Germany and Poland.  The rise of the United States to the leading world power found Judaism focused there.  And now, today, when the pendulum seems to be swinging back toward the Old World and the East rises to renewed importance, there again are the Jews in Israel…”

- Professor Huston Smith
The Religious of Man, New York: HarperCollins, 1989

“When we scan the diaspora of Jewry over the entire globe and throughout the entire civilized world, we are surprised to see that this Nation, which is almost the most ancient in the world, is in truth the youngest in terms of the land under its feet and the sky above its head.  As a result of the relentless persecutions and forced expulsions, most Jews are but recent new-comers to their respective lands of residence.  Ninety percent of the Jewish people have lived in their new homes for no more than 50 or 60 years!  (The Jewish People) are dispersed throughout over 100 lands on all five continents.”

- Leschzinsky
“The Jewish Dispersion”, pg. 9 (Heb.) click here for history

“The struggle for world domination is between me and the Jews. All else is meaningless. The Jews have inflicted two wounds on the world: Circumcision for the body and conscience for the soul. I come to free mankind from their shackles.”

“When over long periods of human history I scrutinized the activity of the Jewish people, suddenly there arose up in me the fearful question whether inscrutable Destiny, perhaps for reasons unknown to us poor mortals, did not, with eternal and immutable resolve, desire the final victory of this little nation.” (Mein Kampf, p.64)

“The Ten Commandments have lost their validity…Conscience is a Jewish invention. It is a blemish like circumcision…”

- Adolph Hitler
(Herman Rauschning, Hitler Speaks, p. 220) (click here for more)
(click for why do people hate the Jews?)                                    

“The preservation of the Jew was certainly not casual. He has endured through the power of a certain ideal, based on the recognition of a Higher Power in human affairs. Time after time in his history, moreover, he has been saved from disaster in a manner, which cannot be described excepting as ‘providential.’ The author has deliberately attempted to write this book in a secular spirit; he does not think that his readers can fail to see in it, on every page, a higher immanence”

- Cecil Roth, Oxford University
(History of the Jews, New York, 1963, p. 424)

“I have already explained with clear proofs that the soul is the dominant factor in the nature of the Jew.  For example, being stiff-necked is one of the bad qualities that Jews have.  Practically speaking, that means that Jews refuse to accept criticism and will not listen to corrective advise.  This is in fact because they are not essentially materialistic.  Only something which is materialistic is readily altered.  Consequently Jews are very resistant to change and will not accept the advise of others.  Further, the Rabbis say (Talmud - Beitzah 25b) that they are the most aggressive and pushy people.”

    - Maharal of Prague (Rabbi Yehuda Loewe, 1526 - 1609)

“Israel’s great achievement, so apparent that mention of it is almost trite, was Monotheism. It was an achievement that transformed subsequent history….One may raise the question whether any other single contribution from whatever source since human culture emerged from the stone age has had the far reaching effect upon history that Israel in this regard has exerted both through the mediums of Christianity and Islam and directly through the world of Jewish thinkers themselves”

- from The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man,
by H. and H. A. Frankfort, John A. Wilson, Thorkild Jacobsen, William A. Irwin

     “The Jews have played an all-important role in history.  They are pre-eminently an historical people and their destiny reflects the indestructibility of the divine decrees.  Their destiny is too imbued with the “metaphysical” to be explained either in material or positive historical terms.

     I remember how the materialist interpretation of history, when I attempted in my youth to verify it by applying it to the destinies of peoples, broke down i the case of the Jew, where destiny seemed absolutely inexplicable from the materialistic standpoint.  And, indeed, according to the materialistic and positivist criterion, this people ought long ago to have perished.  Its survival is a mysterious and wonderful phenomenon demonstrating that the life of this people is governed by a special predetermination, transcending the processes of adaptation expounded by the materialistic interpretation of history.

     The survival of the Jews, their resistance to destruction, their endurance under absolutely peculiar conditions and the fateful role played by them in history; all these point to the particular and mysterious foundations of their destiny…

     The historical not only represented man’s external relations, but that it might also reveal the very noumenon and essence of his being.  The peculiarity of Jewish destiny consists in its incommensurability with either the pre-Christian or the Christian era.  Scientific criticism applied to traditional Biblical history can neither discredit the universal role played by the Jews nor offer a satisfactory explanation of their mysterious destiny.  Nor does this criticism grapple with the absolutely peculiar tie existing between the Jews and the ‘historical,’ and their extraordinarily intense feeling for history.”

- The Meaning of History by Professor Nicholai Berdysev
Moscow Academy - London 1935, pp. 86-7

Posted in: Jewish Beliefs & Philosophy