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An American Affidavit

Thursday, November 30, 2017

185. Judaism: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org


Religion is a school of its own, teaching what it values and what it marginalizes or 
rejects, and why. Judaism, for instance, the older brother of Christianity, has norms which 
have had important influence on the formation of American character. Although very few 
Jews lived here until the late nineteenth century, the holy books of Christianity had been 
conceived by people reared culturally and religiously as Jews, and the elders of the New 
England colony actually looked upon themselves from time to time as the lost tribes of 

What can be extracted as living wisdom from these Jewish religious thinkers when sieved 
through many centuries of Christian cloth? The following at a bedrock minimum: 

1 . As a condition of creation, humans are called upon to honor their origins in flesh 
through honoring the father and mother and in the spirit by closely studying the 
first five books of the Old Testament (known as the Torah), to dwell upon divine 
origins and a time when God directly interceded in the affairs of mankind. 

2. The acceptance that authority is morally grounded in divine authority. The 
Commandments must be kept; God will not allow compromise. From this comes 
respect for law and further organization of Jewish culture around the belief that 
there is a right way to do everything, discernible to intellect, revealed by wise 
scholars to ordinary people. Close reading and subtly layered exegesis are Jewish 
values which became benchmarks of Western intellect. 

3. The Law of Hospitality to Strangers — in the tradition of Abraham and the angels, 
the Jewish Talmud teaches that strangers are to be treated with respect and 
affection. This openness to experience led to great advantages for Jews as they 
traveled everywhere. It encouraged them to be curious, not always to remain self- 
ghettoized, but to take risks in mingling. 

4. A tradition of prayer, and respect for prayer, as a way to know "before whom you 
stand," the legend written above the ark containing the Torah scrolls. 

Judaism teaches that God wants our love and loves us in return. The first five books of 
the Bible are His gift to purify our hearts with the story of a pilgrim people making its 
way through the desert to God. Judaism teaches a way of life that sanctifies the everyday, 
an outlook that sees no accidents — not a sparrow falling — without a moral charge to 
select a course carefully, since God always offers a road to the good as well as a road to 
trouble as His way of honoring free will. Christianity has to some extent incorporated 
these precepts, but it also has a unique doctrine of its own, just as Muslim stress on 
egalitarianism, and Hindu and Buddhist stresses on renunciation and self-knowledge are 
centerpieces of those religions. I'll turn to what that uniqueness of Christianity is next. 

The Dalai Lama And The Genius Of The West 

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