The term "Hellenism" which literally means, "to speak Greek," or "make Greek," refers to ancient Greek rule and history and covers the period following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE and the rise of the Roman Empire. It ended in 31 BCE.
To many, "Hellenism" denotes ancient Greek Culture and is mostly perceived as that period in history where Greek language, Culture, Literature, Art, Architecture, Science, Philosophy and Erudition prevailed.
The Hellenistic period had deep influence on the Eastern Mediterranean area, which was under Greek rule for a long time. That, unfortunately, also included Eretz Yisrael.
I say, "unfortunately," because in many spheres, this cultural phenomenon had a lasting and devastating impact on Judaism and the thought process of our Jewish People, an impact that is felt until this very day. In almost every way, Hellenism and Judaism were culturally diametrically opposed in terms of mankind’s place in the world, the role of personal responsibility, man’s relationship with G-d, and the concept of and role of hope.
The effects of Hellenism on the Jewish population were felt as early as the year 200BCE. At that time, there surfaced a group among the Jewish population called Mityavnim, meaning Hellenists. Its members, most of whom were those closest to the Greek rulers and eager to please them, adopted Greek culture and way of life, which was foreign to the Jewish one in almost every way. Their practice of it reached such a degree that, almost unvaryingly, it replaced their Jewish culture and Jewish identity. One example of the extent to which these individuals were willing to go in order to be accepted as Greeks or Hellenizers, relates to one of the most central practices in Judaism, circumcision.
Ancient Greeks, as we all know, were great believers in practicing the art of nudity. That was demonstrated in sports, which were done in the nude. Bathhouses in ancient Greece were popular and, likewise, were attended in the nude. Circumcision was not among their practices. Therefore, in order to avoid embarrassment and be accepted as an equal and "Good Greek," Hellenized Jews "underwent painful operations-at a time with minimum anesthetics-to restore their foreskin and appear Greek…" Naturally, those who were ignorant of Jewish life and tradition fell easy prey to Hellenism and some of its positive aspects. "Others, however, became vicious self- haters." Among the latter group, many detested their Jewish brethren and thus became willing collaborators, ones who were ready to help them in their attempts to eradicate Judaism in Eretz Yisrael and replace it with their "more enlightened pagan culture of theirs." (http://www.jewishhistory.
Our Sages warned at the time about Hellenism invading Jewish thought, how it would pervert how Jews thought of themselves and of their own beliefs, how Hellenism was like a disease that would leave the Jewish People sick and how difficult it would be to rid ourselves of this sickness.
Now, let us fast forward into the present.
If we replace ancient Greek and Hellenism with The New Israel Fund (NIF) and their agenda of a New Middle East, an agenda that is foreign to Jewish culture and traditions then we reach the unavoidable and unfortunate conclusion that history, in this case, Jewish history, repeats itself. For how else can one describe organizations such as "Breaking Silence," or "B'Tzelem," both of which are funded and supported by (NIF) and other entities whose sole purpose is to remove the Jewish essence of Eretz Yisrael, but self- hating Jewish collaborators? For people to so want to appease and conform to the beliefs and interests our their enemies is sick.
How else or what else can we call those who loathe and despise anything Jewish and in their efforts to blend with the "in" crowd are ready and willing to sacrifice their brethren, their Jewish core on the altars of modern day Hellenism?
But there is yet another kind of Hellenism, one that stems not from self- hatred but from misplaced gratitude to the non-Jewish supporters of the Jewish people and political Zionism (the movement established by Herzl at the end of the 19th century). That kind of Hellenism stems from the fear of losing that support of the world that is so void of love for Jews.
We should be happy and thankful for the support others show us. Nothing is wrong with that. Everyone wants and needs friends in this world. But, here’s the interesting question. “Friendship”, real friendship, means accepting us for what we are, respect for our traditions, our beliefs, our security, our rights. Those who are really friends will not try to change us, not try to redefine us in ways alien to our traditions and beliefs, nor impose things on us for their own benefit.
There are, sadly, those Jews, however, who have adopted Hellenism, replacing Judaism and the noble concept of honest Jewish gratitude, out of some mistaken fear of losing friendship and needed support, and in the process seem willing to shed some underlying fundamental principles in our few millennia old Jewish tradition and leave them in the hands of those who are, for now, friends. Many of those who claim to be our sincere friends and sincerely love us, are rarely familiar, if at all, with what Judaism is all about, and through really no fault of their own try to define us, our beliefs, our traditions, in terms that are familiar to them and alien, to a degree, to what our tradition teaches us.
We are not going to accuse people of having evil intent. We don’t see evil in this. We see misguided. We see something akin to Stockholm syndrome. Two Thousand Years of persecution and deprivation has an effect of making a people vulnerable to being liked, eager to seek approval, but let’s not fool ourselves. Approval and being liked that comes from giving up what you are and copying those who you fear might not like you, is not acceptance. It is surrender.
Surrender cannot be allowed to define the Jewish Future. Jews and Am Yisrael are here to stay regardless of what either group does or says. How difficult our journey will be depends on how well we guard what we are and grow by our own beliefs and traditions as we alone can define them. Regardless, our fate is known, sealed and proven. We are an eternal nation, no matter what!
Chag Sukkot Sameach to all of you.
Written jointly with Roger Froikin.
Written jointly with Roger Froikin.