Richard A. Spector is a board certified otolaryngologist in private practice in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been a Clinical Instructor in the Department of Otolaryngology at Tulane University School of Medicine since 1978. He has held Adjunct Professorships in the Schools of Music at Loyola University of New Orleans and the University of New Orleans. He earned his Juris Doctor from Loyola University School of Law in 2001 and consults in health care law.
Letter to the Editor about Andi Rosenthal's Column "Once a Jew, Always a Shiksa?"
InterfaithFamily.com's columnist Andi Rosenthal's first "Star/Crossed" article was reprinted in the Jewish Civic Press. We are reprinting a thoughtful response that was published in that newspaper.
To the editor:
I cannot read Andi Rosenthal's article without a response. Though written cautiously about her own feelings of self- worth, she touches upon a much deeper affliction... Do Jews deserve Judaism? How dare a community, who knows persecution and denial, practice such bigotry?
I am a child of Northeastern Conservative Judaism. I grew up in communities where I was a Heb, or Yid, or kike, yet heard the same poison within my places of prayer with shiksa, goy, and schvartze whispered with tones of derision.
My wife and I raised four children in New Orleans Reform community, bar and bat mitzvahing each child before our community placed any value in addressing a child's religious maturity. We taught our children precepts that were apparent to us, precepts that echo throughout the Old Testament:
Genesis' opening words are "In the beginning." In the beginning, no religion existed. We spoke with our Creator without intervention of a priesthood and witnessed the works of creation with awe, respect, and curiosity. As parents, we taught our children that all people were of the same creation, to be honored, respected, and preserved, as should we honor, respect, and preserve the land, sea, and heavens that sustained us.
The patriarchs took wives from peoples who did not share their beliefs. Yet these women created homes that nurtured their families. From these homes, children like Isaac and Jacob grew to adulthood and carried monotheism into the future. The strength and goodness of these women is echoed in Deuteronomy where we are admonished to welcome the stranger as our own, and to cherish the righteous of all nations. As parents, we taught our children that there is goodness wherever we may look, even when the face is strange and the beliefs are foreign.
Exodus reminds us that society needs structure to survive, so ten commandments guide our actions. As parents, we taught our children that their word is their bond. They learned from us that when they leave this life, they take only their good name, and leave to their children only that name and the honor with which they lived.
Three of our children married outside our faith. Our fourth is in love with a woman not of "our own people." Each of them is in love with a soul mate, someone behind whose eyes stirs a reminder of our immortality, that "other-half" who fits us like no other, as if somewhere beyond the bounds of life, each was joined to the other to make one. Soul mates are blind to differences, no not blind, they don't see differences as consequential. Differences simply do not define the person.
We are proud of our children and ecstatic that they have found love to sustain them through life's journey. Yet, our Jewish community is unaccepting. Our children are ostracized, so they seek their way alone, ever more bound to each other. The Jewish community loses "one of their own" and sins by failing to welcome a stranger or to cherish the righteous of another nation.
I believe that my wife and I have taught our children the essence of Judaism. They embrace monotheism. They see the Creator's touch wherever they look. They strive to honor, respect, and preserve all that they see. They are ethical and moral. And thankfully, shiksa, goy, and schvartze are not in their vocabulary.
What of their parents? We believe in Judaism; it gave us the fabric to instill values in our children. But these values are hollow if Jews isolate themselves behind slurs and bigotry. I wonder, when God promised Abraham that his children would be as numerous as the stars in heaven and the sands of the earth if he worshipped our Creator, did God promise that we all would be Jews? Or was the promise that we all would be monotheists?
Did it matter? From the beginning, aren't we all the same?
Richard A. Spector, M.D., J.D.