Simon Schama berates ‘detestable’ Bennett remarks about diaspora Jews

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Simon Schama berates ‘detestable’ Bennett remarks about diaspora Jews

Well-known historian criticises right-wing government minister after he blamed Jews born outside Israel for the 'problem of assimilation'

Simon Schama
Simon Schama

British historian Sir Simon Schama has attacked “detestable comments” from Israeli minister and former settler leader Naftali Bennett for saying Diaspora Jews “don’t care about their Judaism or about Israel”.

Schama (pictured) joined hundreds who reacted angrily online after Bennett, who is education minister as well as minister for Diaspora affairs, made the accusations.

Bennett, who heads the right-wing religious nationalist party Jewish Home, was speaking at a cabinet meeting on Sunday, as he prepared to launch a campaign to persuade French Jews to make aliyah.

“There is an unprecedented crisis between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora,” he said. “The reason is a major problem of assimilation and that more and more Jews around the world don’t care about their Judaism and don’t care about Israel.”

The backlash was immediate, with his spokesman rushing to defend Bennett, saying the minister “was not attacking anyone, he was stressing the problem of assimilation”.

For Schama and many others, however, this didn’t wash, the esteemed historian laying into Bennett online, describing it as “an outrageous affront… to millions of Reform, Conservative and Liberal Jews in vibrant communities who are fighting assimilation, not enabling it”. He added that Bennett’s was “a detestable comment”.

A spokesman for Bennett told Jewish News: “The minister was not criticising any stream of Judaism, Orthodox or non-Orthodox, but expressing concern about unaffiliated Jews who are apathetic about their religious identify.’

Listen to this week’s episode of The Jewish Views podcast!

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: