Article Discussion: Out of the Desert

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This topic has 4 voices, contains 9 replies, and was last updated by  Debbie B. 1873 days ago.

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July 21, 2009 at 4:48 pm #3459

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Click here to read the article: Out of the Desert

July 28, 2009 at 5:04 pm #3472

Unregistered

Try having a Jewish father and a Protestant mother. That’s another issue all together. Half of Jews won’t even let me lay a claim to being Jewish.

August 1, 2009 at 5:44 am #3487

Sara

I know. I’m sorry. The children of Moses were not Jewish by that definition. Some people with Jewish fathers have Jewish surnames and don’t talk about their mothers. They slip in under the radar, although they shouldn’t have to hide half of their heritage to be accepted. The current dominant form of Judaism is not the only one to emerge in the course of Jewish history – even those who believe they are maintaining standards of the past are incorrect – everything changes over time – Judaism has always been in flux, like everything else in existence. I believe if the focus were on finding a spiritual path – rather than maintaining a club of ethnic purity – the matter of who is or is not a Jew would never be wielded abusively. I don’t think tribalism is a very healthy impulse when it’s used as an excuse to hurt people. Be who you are, and know that God put you here – no matter what anyone thinks, His vote is the one that counts.

August 7, 2009 at 5:38 pm #3527

Alix

I am not sure what you mean by the word “discrimination”.  Does that mean having to sit in the back of the schul?  Nobody is inoculated against unkind comments or questions about one’s background.  I use the expression Jewish in Name Only mostly against very secular Jews who opely despise Judaism and encourage hatred against Jews and against Israel. I also use the words “Catholic in Name Only” to describe pro abortion Catholics who show up at church mostly to show off and then vote against Catholic interests.  But that is another can of worms I am opening up.  We all suffer some form of “discrimination” in the sense that we are sometimes not fully accepted by everybody.

August 14, 2009 at 6:32 pm #3554

Unregistered

It’s beautiful when somebody chooses Judaism.

August 14, 2009 at 6:53 pm #3555

Sara Davies

Hi Alix –

I have been thinking about your comments. Maybe “discrimination” is too loaded a term for behavior I don’t understand. If curiosity is the antidote to judgment, these are my questions:

What do you think it means when an Orthodox person I’ve never met asks me, “How do you know you’re Jewish?” I think I know because my mother’s parents and siblings are Jewish, because I know three generations-worth of matrilineal Jewish-sounding family names, I know what part of the world my relatives came from, they said they were Jewish, and my mother told me I’m Jewish. Why would I need to make a case for my Jewishness in the United States? What motivates such a question? What does it mean when a rebbetzin who is twenty years younger than I am and has never met me before asks me in front of a room full of people, “Who is watching your children?”

Let’s say four people raised in secular environments go to a Reform synagogue. One had two Jewish parents, but no exposure to religion. The second had a Jewish father and thus has a Jewish-sounding last name, but no prior exposure to religion. The third had a Jewish mother, doesn’t have a Jewish name – also no prior exposure to religion. The fourth had no Jewish parents or other Jewish relatives at all. The official Reform position, as I understand it, is that those raised religiously are Jews and those who were not…are not. What does it mean when the person with two Jewish parents is accepted as a Jew, the person with a Jewish father is asked to convert, the person with a Jewish mother may or may not have to convert, and the person with neither a Jewish father or mother is expected to convert? If all four people have the same level of Jewish knowledge, why are different standards applied to them?

What does it mean when a Conservative Jew who grew up religiously doesn’t consider me to be Jewish, even though Jewish law says I am?

What do you think?

August 14, 2009 at 7:47 pm #3556

Debbie B.

I am not sure what you mean by the word “discrimination”.  Does that mean having to sit in the back of the schul?  Nobody is inoculated against unkind comments or questions about one’s background.
My guess is that the author of this post has not personally been the subject of this kind of discrimination. It reminds me of trying unsuccessfully to convince a white male college student friend that racial discrimination not only still occurred, but that refusing to acknowledge that it existed was not virtuous as it was to not practice discrimination itself, but rather was insensitive and bluntly cruel to imply that people who were hurt by discrimination had no reason to complain. I think being a member of an ethnic minority (I’m an an American-born Chinese), even though one that is not as often seen as negatively as others, gives me an understanding of what it is like to suffer from other forms of discrimination. I remember thoughtless kids shouting racial epithets at me. That’s one reason that I felt I was ready to face possible negative reactions to my being Jewish upon conversion—something that prospective converts are supposed to be warned about. Since Jews are already sometimes the target of discrimination, how awful it must be for a Jew to be subject to that even within a Jewish community.

Discrimination does not have to be as ridiculous as physically making someone “sit in the back of  the shul”, but it can be just as hurtful. It could mean that people no longer make any effort to talk to you after they find out that a parent is not Jewish. Even though I have not experienced that myself, I can imagine the pain of standing around by oneself after kiddush because people in that shul are uncomfortable with your parentage.  Lack of welcome can be as chilling as someone saying something negative directly. Or how would it feel to have to keep defending yourself from insensitive questions that challenge your Jewish status?

August 17, 2009 at 8:27 am #3566

Sara Davies

Confronting how little I have in common culturally with cultural & religious Jews has shattered my long-held belief that being halachically Jewish meant something. I believed it did because my family told me it did – because they believed it. Turns out nothing can make up for a different frame of reference on the culture. From that perspective, I can appreciate why culturally Jewish Jews look at me like I’m nuts if I claim to be Jewish. On the other hand, they are the ones who keep asking the question, reinforcing the need for the question -”Who is a Jew?” is a typical subject for an Intro to Judaism class. I expect to be grilled and pigeonholed in almost any Jewish setting. Why does it matter who is inside or who is outside of some unspoken standard? The real standard of Official Jewishness has to do with how you were raised – and this is true in any denomination. I wish I didn’t have to debate who I am or what that means. I would prefer to put my energy into making the most of what Jewish knowledge offers, without having to justify my interest. I would like to grow as a person and live a more meaningful life. Isn’t that what religion is for? In practical terms, the choices I face are similar to the choices of converts – but with the added twist that I don’t get to choose my heritage. These are some of the reasons for the Half-Jewish phenomenon. Half-Jewish is not so much a statement of personal identity as it is a recognition of the relationship a person with one Jewish parent – especially one not raised as a Jew – can expect to have with Jews. It is also a statement about the impact of the “other” half in a person’s life.

September 4, 2009 at 3:56 pm #3712

Alicia
Debbie wrote:
I am not sure what you mean by the word “discrimination”.  Does that mean having to sit in the back of the schul?  Nobody is inoculated against unkind comments or questions about one’s background.
My guess is that the author of this post has not personally been the subject of this kind of discrimination. It reminds me of trying unsuccessfully to convince a white male college student friend that racial discrimination not only still occurred, but that refusing to acknowledge that it existed was not virtuous as it was to not practice discrimination itself, but rather was insensitive and bluntly cruel to imply that people who were hurt by discrimination had no reason to complain. I think being a member of an ethnic minority (I’m an an American-born Chinese), even though one that is not as often seen as negatively as others, gives me an understanding of what it is like to suffer from other forms of discrimination. I remember thoughtless kids shouting racial epithets at me. That’s one reason that I felt I was ready to face possible negative reactions to my being Jewish upon conversion—something that prospective converts are supposed to be warned about. Since Jews are already sometimes the target of discrimination, how awful it must be for a Jew to be subject to that even within a Jewish community.

Discrimination does not have to be as ridiculous as physically making someone “sit in the back of  the shul”, but it can be just as hurtful. It could mean that people no longer make any effort to talk to you after they find out that a parent is not Jewish. Even though I have not experienced that myself, I can imagine the pain of standing around by oneself after kiddush because people in that shul are uncomfortable with your parentage.  Lack of welcome can be as chilling as someone saying something negative directly. Or how would it feel to have to keep defending yourself from insensitive questions that challenge your Jewish status?

Lady, I have been discriminated against left and right, upside down and righside up so I do know what I am talking about!  Please do not condescend to me.  Nobody is inoculated against unkind comments  You have to deal with it.  Period. I have cousins with Italian names who are Jewish.  Imagine the reactions they receive.  They don’t care!

September 4, 2009 at 6:03 pm #3713

Debbie B.
Alicia wrote:

Lady, I have been discriminated against left and right, upside down and righside up so I do know what I am talking about!  Please do not condescend to me.  Nobody is inoculated against unkind comments   You have to deal with it.  Period. I have cousins with Italian names who are Jewish.  Imagine the reactions they receive.  They don’t care!

I agree that the best defense is to grow a thicker skin. And I’ve pretty much told Sara that myself in other discussion threads.

I personally prefer to be amused rather than offended. Just last night, my daughter and I basically had our presence in an all-kosher supermarket questioned because we don’t “look Jewish”. The man was actually amazingly rude and was pretty slow in not realizing his mistake sooner as I answered his questions: Yes, I knew that the supermarket was kosher. That’s why I was shopping there. Yes, I did keep a kosher home. And yes, we were in fact Jewish. My daughter laughed and I have to admit that I took a bit of perverse pleasure in seeing that man finally seem embarrassed. And it was only what he took to being laughed at that brought him up short (although my daughter was laughing at the situation, not at him). Frankly, none of the above should have even mattered. I used to shop there before I converted and before my home was strictly kosher. And he certainly doesn’t go around asking other customers those kind of questions.

But I sympathize with people who are hurt when they are treated badly for things they can’t change like their ancestry. And the problem is that there are people who think they are justified in treating people with a non-Jewish parent badly. Some of these people even think they are actually doing something positive for the Jewish people by ostracizing anyone having a connection to intermarriage because they think that if they can make being intermarried a terrible enough experience that it will scare young Jews away from intermarriage. Ironically, they are nasty to intermarried people and exclude them and then turn around and criticize the Jewish partner for not going to synagogue or raising children as Jews.

So yes, I think people need to learn to “deal with” nasty comments directed at them, but I don’t have to like it. I also feel that an unsympathetic attitude sometimes starts to become blaming the victim (“there wouldn’t be a problem if they or their parents had avoided marrying a non-Jew”) and accepting uncivil behavior.

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