Article Discussion: Meeting the Parents of Your Jewish Daughters Catholic Fiance

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October 1, 2009 at 11:49 pm #3816


“Taste for certain foods”?  I like Italian food, Andrea:  does that make me an Italian Catholic – culturally, that is?  I mean, most Italians are Catholic so if I like cannolis does that make me a  “cultural Catholic”?  Capisce?  I think it is fair to say that you do not “Encourage Jewish choices” which is what this website is supposed to be about.  I also sense disdain for Judaism and Jews from you in most if not all of your postings.

October 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm #3818

Hebrew Catholic

Hadassah, I know you are responding to Andrea, but I think you completely ignored my post about what people generally seem to mean by “culturally Jewish”.  It’s a category that comes up especially because the word “Jewish” is used not only of a religion but also of an ethnicity.

For that reason, your parallel with “liking Italian food and being Italian Catholic” is a fallacy.  In fact, it’s very close to the distinction my post drew between being culturally Mexican and being Catholic.  “Catholic” is always a religion, never an ethnicity.  “Italian” is always an ethnicity, never a religion.  Neither can be said of “Jewish”.

A person could certainly be “culturally Italian” without being Catholic, and that might very well include liking Italian food, among many, many other factors.  However, no one is saying that liking bagels and lox, by itself, makes someone culturally Jewish.  I think you know full well that no one is saying that, but you’re trying to make the idea of cultural Jewishness sound foolish.  Well, it’s not working.

I repeat:  If you don’t like the term “culturally Jewish”, then propose one that you think more accurately describes people who identify with their Jewish ethnic background but are not religiously observant.

By the way, I do not identify as a “cultural Jew”, but I know that there are people who do.  I’d like to see a better word for them, too, because it would save time on these circular arguments over terminology.

October 2, 2009 at 11:01 pm #3821


I responded to Andrea because I sensed certain bigotry in her description of “culturally Jewish”.  In part I was being sarcastic.  I felt real hostility in her generalizations.  No, I do not think there is such a thing as “culturally Italian”. I like DeSica movies – that does not make me an Italian.  Andrea has dealt in terrible, negative steretypes in what in means to be Jewish.  Eating bagles on Sunday does not do it for me.  She was practically spewing out terrible steretypes in her description, especially the part about practicing Budhism and being anti-Christian.

October 4, 2009 at 3:25 pm #3823


I think the term “culturally Jewish” as Andrea has described it is silly and offensive.  It seems that in her view if you read the book The Joys of Yiddish, pick up a few words, and, more importantly, hate Christians and like certain Jewish foods you are “culturally Jewish”.  This is nonsense.  Can you be culturally Baptist?  The bottom line is that I find what Andrea has written – and I believe she has real problems with Jews – to be very offensive.  I also wonder why the moderator has not picked up on this.  I note that she claims in another discussion that she is not particularly religious (I think she is Catholic) but would want crucifixes and statues of Mary in her house even if she were married to a non-Catholic. I have a Star of David because I believe in it – not because I am “culturally Jewish”.  If I were “culturally Jewish” I would wear a photo of Woody Allen around my neck.  I have found that this is a discussion that people who don’t know a lot about  Judaism like to get into.  My personal belief.

October 5, 2009 at 7:20 pm #3828

Hebrew Catholic

I think this is just one of those situations where people are living in vastly different worlds, and are never even going to understand one another, let alone agree.  I think Andrea and I have both tried to explain what we each think of when we hear the phrase “culturally Jewish”, but ultimately, we are not Jews, and we are NOT the ones who came up with the phrase or the concept it describes.  It’s not our job to justify its use to people who just plain don’t want anyone to talk about Jewish identity in a way that distinguishes between culture and faith, and therefore disallow any vocabulary that refers to such a distinction.  It’s not originally our term.

As a quick test, I tried searching the phrase “culturally Jewish” with quotation marks on Google.  The search came back with 124,000 hits.  I wasn’t about to look up all of those, but at least on the first page of hits (which was all I looked at), every single web page was written from a Jewish, not Christian, perspective.  It was not the big, bad Christians who invented this term, and not primarily Christians who use it.  It is the self-description of many Jews (according to one of those web pages, 2 out of 5 Jews in the U.S.), and one that comes up a lot on these discussion boards.  And yes, the part about not being Christian as a primary part of the definition has come up here, as well as the claim that “Buddhism or atheism might be OK, but not Christianity.”  I can’t speak to whether Andrea is hostile toward Judaism or not, but I can tell you that she is not making that part up, nor is it a “negative stereotype” invented by anti-Semites.  She heard it right here from self-identified Jews.  (Many of those threads are no longer accessible due to the change in software this summer.)

You, Alexandra, and Alicia and may well disagree with the particular Jews who talk in those terms.  As far as I can tell, they are the ones you should really be arguing with about whether “culturally Jewish” has any meaning.

January 30, 2010 at 8:17 pm #4289


You can most definitely be “culturally Catholic.” Many ethnicities are tied around the Catholic Church, and traces of “Catholicness” remain even if an individual becomes atheist – because becoming a true atheist in the case of these people will also mean abandoning their cultural heritage. Many of these same individuals marry in a Catholic church and baptize their kids Catholic because it’s something that is expected of them by family.

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