This history reveals why Israel remains vital to Jewish survival. But that does not mean we should dismiss the Diaspora as fundamentally tragic. The mingling of Jewish and other cultures helped create the earliest global financial networks, the development of “off the shelf” clothing and the Hollywood entertainment industry. Intellectually, the Diaspora created some of the world’s greatest minds, including Moses Maimonides, Baruch Spinoza, Karl Marx, Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Andrew Grove and Saul Bellow.
Diasporas tend to produce remarkable innovation and creative thinking. Dispersed colonies of Armenians, Lebanese, Chinese and Indians have played disproportionate roles in modern cultures and economies, due largely to their global reach and knowledge. One of the great tragedies of the current wave of Islamist agitation lies in the gradual eviction of Christians, Baha’i and other minorities from the Middle East, where they have played critical roles in these countries.
Ultimately, maintaining the Diaspora may prove as important to Jews as the continued security of Israel. Without the Diaspora, Israel just becomes another nation, with its unique history but no real universal message. The universality of the Jewish experience grows not from the soil, but from culture and thought developed largely in “exile.” In this respect, the erosion of the French Jewish community, as well as others, is not just a tragedy for that country, but for the world.