An interview with David Garrett (the lawyer Francis Garrett) who leads the legal department and is a Board member of the Jewish Community of Oporto.
Why did the General Assembly of the Jewish community of Oporto appoint Sochnut as legitimate heir to all its assets?
In Europe never were a people so often robbed of all their goods. The Chief Rabbi believes that the Jewish people will always be forced migrants and that sooner or later the Jewish communities settled in one particular country will again have to leave. We have made the legal provisions that Jewish organisations in all countries should make. Legally, if the Jews leave this city and this country one day, all the assets of our organisation will belong to the Jewish Agency for Israel. The decision was taken unanimously by the seven members of the Board of Directors. In Europe never were a people so often robbed of all their goods. The Chief Rabbi believes that the Jewish people will always be forced migrants and that sooner or later the Jewish communities settled in one particular country will again have to leave. We have made the legal provisions that Jewish organisations in all countries should make. Legally, if the Jews leave this city and this country one day, all the assets of our organisation will belong to the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Do the Jews in Europe have a promising future?
There are myriad opinions in our community: that of our Chief Rabbi, my colleagues on the Board, the children of the Holocaust and members of families that were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries in the second half of the 20th century. Those for whom the memory of recent expulsions are still fresh naturally mistrust the future in any country that is distant from Israel.
What is your opinion?
Every day, I myself, and the other board members pray that the society around us is peaceful and content. We depend on that. We fear wicked times of hatred caused by restless, vain and intolerant minds. It is important that humility and reticence are increasingly valued, or else men will tear each other to pieces and there will be no one left standing. In addition, political regimes last for only a number of decades, being replaced by others whose nature is unknown, and in the middle of it all there are periods or anarchy with bestiality on the rampage, and the Jews as the first targets of the more extreme radical trends.
Does the peace of the Jews depend first and foremost on peace in the world?
Of course. The Jewish community represents a little over 0% of the population in almost two hundred countries.
Today what are the more positive aspects you find in the world?
Solidarity has become institutionalised as being virtuous, and the same with charity. All over the world, more and more people are joyfully engaged in helping their neighbour, in a spirit of selflessness. They support and encourage the elderly, children in need, youth at risk and men and women whose lack of wisdom or the wheel of fortune have thrown into the ditch. At the same time, there are ongoing discussions about the construction of peace and racial, cultural and religious pluralism of all humanity, the confederation of men and the multiplication of friendships.
Surely, your most highly valued asset is liberty.
Whilst necessary for some men, all the earth’s assets are not necessarily so for others, and may even be replaced by different ones. With the exception of safety. If we can sleep peacefully at night, today, yesterday, tomorrow, we owe it to the fact that there are laws, courts and police structures. You may not be aware of this, but if crime rises above certain levels, social life becomes impossible, for all it takes is for the scum to run free on the streets, challenging the laws, without the police doing anything at all to stop them, for no one, not even criminals, to feel safe.
Do you worry about your children’s school?
When family and school fail to do their duty properly, society will very soon disintegrate. There are no laws, or police officers, or courts able to keep peace in society. On the contrary, even they cannot offer guarantees of honesty in the face of generalised corruption.
Do you think that the day will come when the world can grant every person a universal basic income for home, food, medical assistance and education, regardless of their financial, family or professional situation?
It’s time we thought about this very seriously. Many people have prodigious talents for the arts, music, sports and in areas of great social usefulness but spend all their energies on useless lives dedicated to the struggle for their “daily bread". Others would like to live in desertified paradises, inland, but are forced to live in “slums" to be close to a crushing, badly paid job.
Isn’t working compulsory?
As Zarathustra said, it is a sin not to work. Everyone must work, but a “job” is not a necessity. Universal basic income should depend on objectives that give people’s lives more meaning, beginning with a productive existence, such as for instance developing individual talents or supporting the institutions of social solidarity, parish councils, farming or stray animals. Altruism inspires everyone and creates a better world.
Do you think globalisation, having excluded the possibility of absolute control by one culture over others, should occur while respecting moral and religious cultures and orders?
The importance of religions is so strong that in addition to a Security Council the United Nations should have a Council of Religious and Ethical Traditions and a Commission for the Enlightenment of Truth, Co-habitation and Non-repetition.
Are justice and peace in the world based on the principle of belief in God?
The most eminent Jewish leader of the 20th century – Menachem Mendel Schneerson – unceasingly reminded us all that the correct behaviour of man can only come from knowledge and education, from knowing that there is “an eye that sees and an ear that listens”, to whom in due course everyone will have to render accounts.