Baha'is and Jews: Some Reflections

Aug 2009
George Town Tasmania Australia
Over the last decade, 2005 to 2014, since my retirement from FT, PT and most volunteer work, after an employment-and-student life of half a century, 1954 to 2004, I have often written about the Jews and Judaism with comparisons and contrasts to a people and a religion I have now been associated with for more than 60 years, the Baha'is and the Baha'i Faith. The following 27 pages and 12,000 words provide a series of items containing, as they do, some of these comparisons and contrasts, among other aspects of both the Jewish world and the Baha'i world.

I put the following compilation together after watching Simon Schama's The Story of the Jews on SBSONE TV in Tasmania, on 22/3/'14, 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. His interest in the identity of the Jew, now and in history, stimulated my own interest in the identity of the Baha'i, now and in history. Some readers may find this post a little too long for their reading tastes and the site conventions of short posts which they may prefer. Just skim or scan the piece, save it for later or just ignore it, if it is not part of your interest inventory. I do this all the time.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, 24/3/'14.

Part 1:

The longer I have been a Baha’i the more and more I have seen parallels between the Baha’i experience and the Jewish experience, between what it means to be a Baha’i and what it means to be a Jew. While individual experiences, inevitably, vary greatly, certain overall themes are common between the two religions: a history of persecution; a body or writings and myths that separate the believer from non-believers and that give adherents a foundation of meaning and identity in their lives; a spiritual homeland of holy places and holy men and women who act as models and metaphors for living; the importance of written history and a transcendent Being as a source of order for man and society; the importance of Torah, or Law, written law, to bring daily life into conformity with the original teachings; a foundation in charismatic revelation and a transition to an institutional theocratic state; the place of vision and a sense of the future in history and; finally, the crucial interrelationship between the individual and the community.

I have found my Baha’i experience has been helpful in understanding general social and moral issues. I felt deeply conscious of being a Baha’i, and active in spelling out what it meant. Part of the effect of this consciousness has been to make me feel out-of-place, and separate; part of the effect, too, has made me feel integrated with, at one with, the social setting wherever I went. Another effect has been to give me many definitions of homeland: house, land, word processor, place of birth, the planet and a range of serendipitous locations where chance and circumstance has brought me to be. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, 2014.

Part 2:

This Baha’i business
plays a role at so many
different levels, and in
such varying intensities.

We have our holocaust
on a much smaller scale,
and our freshly minted tears,
from innocent, bewildered
eyes; the world’s forgetfulness
will not debase this coin of gold
which enters through a portal
from which no man returns.
We have our prophets
who came to this same
grainy, parched, landscape
and its unquenchable sun,
and the crazed hot wind
which mutters so very, very
apocalyptically. They were
placed in this oven where
the heat consumes every
thing but compassion.1

Our combustible souls, too,
vanish in a puff, but not before
those prophets, speaking
redemptive words of glacial
austerity and honey-dew
from an unseen world
viewing the entirety of
complex human history.

1 Roger White, “A Desert Place”, Occasions of Grace, George Ronald, Oxford, p.97.

It is a stupendous paradox that a god does not only fail to protect his chosen people against its enemies but allows them to fail....yet is worshipped only the more ardently. This is unexampled in history and is only to be explained by the powerful prestige of a prophetic message..-Max Weber, Ancient Judaism, The Free Press, Glencoe, 1952, p. 364.

The following quotation is from Anthony Andrewes, a classical scholar and historian in his book Greek Society:1 "It was the very instability and incoherence of Greek political institutions during the Mycenean and Dark Ages, 1600 to 800 BC, that led to a political evolution which was denied to other cultures." This quotation aroused my interest in Jewish political institutions.

"The return of the Jewish people to full participation in history through the reestablished Jewish commonwealth of Israel," writes Daniel J. Elazar in the journal Jewish Political Thought, "made it imperative that Jews everywhere reconsider the political teachings of Judaism......The crises of the past few years have generated renewed interest on the part of committed Jews in the character of Israel as a Jewish state, the various diaspora Jewries as communities in the historical tradition of their antecedents, and in the Jewish people as a corporate entity. As a consequence, the modern Jewish search for roots and meaning has been intensified.2-Ron Price with thanks to 1 Anthony Andrewes, Greek Society, Penguin, Melbourne, 1987, p. xxiii; and 2 D.J. Elazar, "The Jewish Political Tradition as the Basis for Jewish Civic Education: Pirkei Avot as an Example", Jewish Centre for Public Affairs: Jewish Political Thought.

"The process whereby its unsuspected benefits were to be manifested to the eyes of men was slow, painfully slow," writes Shoghi Effendi speaking of the life-long exile of the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, "and was characterized, as indeed the history of His Faith from its inception to the present day demonstrates, by a number of crises which at times threatened to arrest its unfoldment and blast all the hopes which its progress had engendered." -Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, USA, 1957, p.111.
You came from the plains and the mountains
with nearby river civilizations to fertilise your soil. Perhaps you went into Egypt back when
horse and chariot were first used in warfare1
and lived for half a millennium there.

Then your lands slipped out of Egyptian rule; you left for Canaan and fought as an armed group with the Philistines, Midianites, Moabites, Ammonites, Aramaeans. And you fought among yourselves in your tribal and family groups until the United Monarchy under Saul, David and Solomon(ca 1030-930 BC)....It had, and has, been a long journey that's for sure.

Things fell apart again and tensions with the
nomadic Bedouins continued a political and
economic warfare. Extended kinship groups
and warriors quibbled & quarrelled for land;
land has always been a problem of criticality.

Rural herdsmen and the settled, urban
population had sharp clashes, as did
stock-breeders and peasants in those
long lasting historical antagonisms.

Gradually......agriculture replaced
peasantry, herdsmen and artisans.
Town life took the place of country
and with the towns the urban landlords
and Kings replaced those old chieftans.
It was not without a long struggle; it
always seems to have been a struggle.

Under Solomon(971-932) this ancient
Jewish state began to take its part on
the world political stage as a kind of
oriental despotism like Egypt with a
central administration and an all-
powerful king: so it seems to me.

For the next four hundred years(922-538)
Israel took part in a series of long
political and military catastrophes
ending in the Babylonian captivity
and a diaspora: you got used to them.

During those long years oracles
of a classical prophecy told of
the terror of the Assyrians,
the time honoured ‘law’ of
the confederate tribes, and the
voice of doom, righteousness
and that distant utopian vision.

They made the moral precepts
of everyday life a duty and the
direction of society intimately
connected with a way of life in
a spirit of constant expectation
and the powerful prestige of a
prophetic, a historical message.

And so it was that prophets, psalmists,
sages and priests inculcated the Torah
for generations, mostly without success
until the Judean theocratic state in the
5th century BC gave a definite direction
to Jewish history through that Torah.

A common, universal way of life emerged
in this Hebrew Commonwealth as Greece
emerged into its golden age after its long
and formative age, for formative ages are
long & tortuous: history seems to confirm.

11800 BC

Ron Price
26/7/'96 to 23/3/'14.
The Pharisaic Phenomenon and the Dynamics of Denial, Susan Stiles Maneck, Associate Professor of History at Jackson State University
Since my experience was so very much like Susan Maneck's when I was growing up in a Christian home, I have drawn on her following essay. "My understanding of the Gospel story went something like this," Maneck begins, "God had expressed Himself through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, a simple man, whose sympathies lay with the common folk. He was opposed by the stuffy, legalistic Pharisees who sought to destroy Him for not abiding by their minutiae of rules. The battle between Jesus and the Pharisees was the battle between spirit and law, between common folk and the elite, between simple truth and hypocrisy. These were the demarcation lines that separated good from evil in my young mind, and having been raised in one of the more liberal wings of the church, it was easy for me to imagine that the demarcation line ran between conservative and liberal as well. I remember my pastor at the time proudly asserting that while Judaism had some seven hundred and some odd laws, Jesus had reduced them to essentials such as, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

When I discovered the Baha'i Faith in my early teens and declared at the age of fifteen, like Maneck, I developed a new appreciation for religious law, which was quite different from the attitudes with which I had been raised, but it wasn't until I started university in 1963 that I came to realize what the Pharisees actually stood for and that, far from representing the exact opposite of Christianity, the Pharisees' teachings were closest to Jesus. This was opposed to the Sadducees who were the most literal-minded and conservative faction among the Jews.

Maneck continues: "The Pharisaic school, with its synthesis of the best of Jewish thought with perhaps a sprinkling of Zoroastrian concepts, represented the finest fruit of the two most profound religious traditions of Jesus' age. How is it then that Jesus is said to have addressed them in such harsh words as these?"

These are the words from Matt. 23:13-35: "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widow's houses, and make for a pretense long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. . . . Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes an Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. . . . Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. . . . Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify: some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city. That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth . . . "

It has usually been the case that those who oppose a new message from God will invariably be the ones who, to outward seeming ought to be closest to it. Hence the Pharisaic school rejects Jesus; the Jews of Medina, the only people with much knowledge of prophet-hood, oppose Muhammad; the Shi'ite Muslims prove the most intolerant of Baha'is. Conflict and opposition seem to be the bread and butter of religious history.

What Maneck does in her essay is to examine very carefully what the dynamics of that denial of that denial to which I refer above. It is her hope that, in the process, we can understand what is it that causes those, whom one might expect to be the first to embrace a new message from God, to be instead its most vigorous opponents. She attempts to draw out a number of interrelated aspects of this denial: "the tendency human beings have to want to control, systematize and contain revelation in manageable categories usually by taking a part for the whole in religion, the role played by the imagination in rejection, the tendency to confuse rigidity with firmness, the specific type of learning which tends to be encouraged within a religious context, the role played by pride and arrogance, the particular temptation of power and leadership, and finally the manner in which religion so often becomes a mask for the genuinely evil and hypocritical."
"There is a story about a child who was busily occupied drawing a picture," continues Maneck. "Her mother asked her what she was doing "I'm drawing God," she answered. The mother said, "But honey, no one knows what God looks like." Unperturbed the child answered, "They will when I'm finished." This child obviously had a big imagination. Many places in the Writings, do not seem to look too kindly on the imagination. Imaginings tend to be paired with adjectives like "vain," "corrupt," and "idle." As an adolescent who daydreamed a lot these references used to bother Maneck a great deal. This, of course, was not what Baha'u'llah was talking about. Rather, He was speaking about those who allow their own wishes in regards to what ought to be stand in the way of recognizing what God reveals of His Will. Baha'u'llah asserts that people, "deprive themselves of the inner reality and by clinging to vain imaginings they are kept back from the Dayspring of heavenly signs. God grant you may be graciously aided under all conditions to shatter the idols of superstition and to tear the away the veils of the imaginations of men." It is when our images stand between us and reality when we have a problem." For readers with an interest in this essay of Susan Maneck's go to this link: Documents by Susan Maneck . This link has 19 of Maneck's essays and the one above is number 10.

Ben Kiernan tells us that “genocide” is a very new word, invented in 1944 by a Polish Jew named Raphael Lemkin in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, and given legal definition by the United Nations in 1948 through The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. That convention defines the crime of genocide as “an attempt at extermination through acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial, ethnic, or religious group.”

My life beginning, as it did, in that same year 1944 has seen many an example of genocide which I won’t list here or cite in any detail, but there is one group with whom I have been personally associated and this simple prose-poem deals with that group.–Ron Price with thanks to Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur by Ben Kiernan, Yale University Press, 2008.

I will say, though, that
the religion I have now
been associated with for
nearly 60 years has also
been associated with the
word genocide in the land
of its birth and it has been
this fierce opposition and
hatred that has been the
chief instrument for the
spread of its organizational
form to every corner of the
planet. I have seen this in my
lifetime since the beginning of
the second century of the Baha’i
Era while I have lived and had my
being-& the story is far from over!

Ron Price
20/11/'11 to 23/3/'14.
Poetry After Auschwitz

The Knesset made Yom Hashoah a national public holiday in 1959. The Knesset, the legislative branch of the government in Israel, enacts that country’s laws. In 1961 the Knesset passed a law that closed all public entertainment on Yom Hashoah. At ten in the morning, a siren is sounded, everyone stops what they are doing, pulls over in their cars, and stands in remembrance. Yom Hashoah is known in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day or Holocaust Day. It is observed as Israel's day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany. It is a national memorial day and public holiday.

In the same year that Holocaust Day was inaugurated, 1959, I joined the Baha’i Faith. I knew nothing of Yom Hashoah back then at the age of 15. Immersed as I was in affluent post-war North American culture, in sport, in school and in entertainment in its many forms, I was hardly aware of the Holocaust or of the events of WW2. –Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 31 July 2010.

I was comfortable in the smalltown
smugness of my childhood born, as
I was…into salvation’s complacent
trinity of Catholic, Protestant & Jew.

My world was small, safe & familiar.
Indians were the bad guys who always
got licked in the movies amidst candy
wrappers and the popcorn-smell of
matinees at the Roxy theatre in a life
that feels now as if it belongs to some-
one else in a dream with those little
streets and the little houses of a youth.

I did not strive against acne or Auschwitz,
although I did have my fears, for all was
not smooth sailing by any means in those
small rooms where I grew-up and had my
being before a cold winter set in about the
age of 18, a winter I had never felt before.

I did come across Yom Hashoah fifty years
later when, in 2009, I was in Haifa visiting
my son at the Baha’i World Centre. I still
heard that song which I had first listened to
in ’59; it had arisen from the Siyah-Chal &
echoed through the palaces of Europe--now
flooding the earth with its felicity--this new
song—this Godsong. And now, dear Lord,
I falter, yet sing, for there is poetry after the
Holocaust, after Auschwitz: and I make it!!1

1 Roger White, “New Song,” Another Song Another Season, George Ronald, Oxford, 1979, pp.116-118.

Ron Price
31/7/'10 to 23/3/'14.
It was comfortable in the small town smugness
of your childhood. You were born securely into
salvation's complacent trinity: A Catholic, and a
Protestant or Jew.
So begins a delightful poem by Roger White. He seems to describe the tone and texture of my childhood and adolescence. He continues:

The world was small and safe and familiar.
And very white. No red or black offended
our prim steepled vaults of self-congratulation.
Indians were the bad guys who got licked in the
movies, dying copiously amid candy wrappers
and the popcorn smell of Saturday matinees.
Yes, it was comfortable then.

When you heard that God had died, you wondered
Whether it was from sheer boredom--
The tempest came in your twelfth or fifteenth year,
a clean cold wind and you were left like a stripped
young tree in autumn with a cynical winter setting in
and nothing large enough to house your impulse to believe.
The need lay as quiet, unhurried and insidious as a seed
Snow-locked in a bleak and lonely landscape.
So White describes my personal condition from about the age of ten or twelve to fifteen, the years 1954 to 1959. "The need" was there to believe. It "lay as quiet" as a seed and grew, germinated. The tempest blew into my life at eighteen, a little later than it did in White's poem, in his life. But, in the years 1959 to 1962, fifteen to eighteen, I caught a glimpse of the Bab “in the clearing smoke of the rifles in the barrack-square of Tabriz." I heard His "new song./Up from the Siyah-Chal it rose." .....enough, yes, I have heard lots of stuff in my life amidst all sorts of other stuff and somewhere between the noise and the silence other stuff entered.
Last edited:
Jul 2014
Very, very nice to meet you and a loving Baha'i greeting, too!
Oct 2013
Glenwood, Queensland, Australia
Good morning friend Ron

When I saw you name attached to this post, my heart knew a great joy. We have made it across each other's path a few times over the years, but do not think we have actually communicated. Wonderful to see you !!

I have yet to read the item posted - that will be done now - but ask that next time you speak to Daryl and/or Debra, please pass to them my loving regards. Daryl especially has spoken highly of you.

With my loving greetings

Oct 2013
Glenwood, Queensland, Australia
Good morning Ron

An interesting rread, and not one which should be rushed. There are a few parallels which particularly drew my attention. And I like your definition of 'homeland' - not one that had considered before, but very apt.

Firther in the article. Under "Unsuspected Benefits":

The crises of the past few years have generated renewed interest on the part of committed Jews in the character of Israel as a Jewish state, the various diaspora Jewries as communities in the historical tradition of their antecedents, and in the Jewish people as a corporate entity. As a consequence, the modern Jewish search for roots and meaning has been intensified.
This brought to my mind something else, closer to home perhaps for Australians, and likewise one that may be mirrored by the American Indian. We see a similar effort at its beginnings with the indigenous people in our country - that quest for identity, the seeking for social cohesion, the efforts to keep a grasp on their root and so forth. Still in early days, and in some instances more in an exclusionist manner. But the white man has been, sadly, a very good teacher, and it is this Revelation that, as it is grasped and properly understood, that will help them to find their social redemption, while at the same time becoming part of a body of spirituality that extends beyond the tribal into the global.

The combination of your and Maneck's thoughts on the rejection of Jesus brought to my mind many quotes from the Baha'i Sacred Texts which relate to the matter. 'Abdu'l-Baha deals with this likewise. But there is one aspect not touched on here, and that is the concept of these persecutions being the fuel that feeds the Fire. The first paragraph under "Unsuspecyted Benefits" is, in my own mind, related intimitely, holding as it does the concepts of deprivation of the material leaves one only with the spiritual.

Ypour story of the child drawing God reminds me of another which probably everyone here knows. The mother and child who had been to church, and the sermon was about how God was infinite and had His home in our hearts, and she quizzed her mother; "If God is that big, and He lives in the heart, wouldn't He show?".

I remember that same comfort you speak of, small-town, righteously white, Presbyterian, and the quiet undercurrent of prejudice against anyone not-white. The stereotyped images of good and bad. I was fortunate, the son of an immigrant who had fought in the 2nd world war in the underground, and thus my own upbringing held far less of those attitudes, but simply living in the society we did, we still picked it up. The poem by Roger White says much, and brings back memories likewise. For me, that tempest, that wonderful, stormy, cleansing tempest struck me in my late teens, to culminate on my 20th birthday. And the very first Baha'i I met was a namesake of your own, at around my own age, and his sister was about the third Baha'i I met, that same night. The name 'Price' has always held for me a tender place.

With my warmest of greetings

Oct 2011
Dear Ron, so happy to see you back on the forum.

How are things down south? as in south for most Aussies.

I have tended to head north in my older years, the cold is not good for my bones.
Now I am in Quilimari, iv region in Chile, still striving to spread the glorious message of Baha.

I found your thread most interesting, and of course some reminders of my own youth.
As for the Jewish peoples have met many, wonderful people, and yes they have suffered, as have many peoples throughout the world. I found it interesting where you commented that God does not protect His chosen people from suffering, something that all need to meditate upon.

Best wishes Ron
loving regards
Aug 2009
George Town Tasmania Australia
Thanks Folks

i will mention you to Daryl and Debra, Romane, when next we meet, and thanks for your thoughtful and interesting response. Blinkey Bill, you do get around. To answer your question "how are things down south?" I give you this link to read as much or as little as you like: Ron Price - Pioneering Over Five Epochs

Life is busy even in retirement as I go through my 70s.-Ron