Whose Jews? | The Washington Post

17

There’s a major problem in any survey of Jews: deciding who is really Jewish, and who gets to decide. Orthodox Jews demand that the mother be Jewish, while more liberal Jewish groups are willing to accept those with a Gentile mother if the father is Jewish.

Jews stopped the practice of converting Gentiles in the fourth century C.E. for a very persuasive reason. At that time, the Roman Empire, having adopted Christianity as the state religion, made conversion to Judaism a criminal offense punishable by death of both the proselytizing Jews and their converts. Such conversions are no longer crimes, but Orthodox Rabbis discourage conversion and many reject would-be converts three times; if they remain adamant in their desire to convert, they are then allowed to begin the conversion process. Different branches of Judaism are more welcoming to those who wish to become Jews, but Orthodox Jews don’t recognize converts to Judaism by other branches.

And then there are Jews with adjectives. I know some Unitarian Jews, Buddhist Jews, and Quaker Jews. Most Jews don’t see such “Judaism plus” as a problem for Jews. I have an adjective, myself: atheist Jew, so some Jews might think of me as a “Jew minus.” However, I’m not such a minority. The Pew Research Center’s landmark new survey of American Jews found that 62 percent say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and culture, while just 15 percent say it’s a matter of religion. Jews are considerably less religious than the U.S. public as a whole, with 23 percent of Jewish Americans saying they don’t believe in God, compared to only seven percent in the general public.

Even religious Jews are generally not very concerned about the existence of atheist Jews. They reserve their antagonism for Jews with a different adjective: Messianic Jews (Jews for Jesus). Much to the surprise of many Jews, the Pew Survey showed that 34 percent of American Jews think that a person can be Jewish if he or she believes that Jesus is the Messiah. Had I been surveyed, I would have been among those 34 percent. In fact, I think the percentage should be much higher. Ultra-Orthodox Jews have more beliefs in common with Jews for Jesus than with Jews like me. Both sects believe that a Messiah is coming. They differ only on whether it will be his first or second trip to Earth. When my Orthodox uncle died, his family flew his body to Jerusalem for burial because he and a number of other Jews believe that those buried in Jerusalem will be resurrected first when the Messiah comes.

Written By: Herb Silverman
continue to source article at washingtonpost.com

17 COMMENTS

  1. “When my Orthodox uncle died, his family flew his body to Jerusalem for burial because he and a number of other Jews believe that those buried in Jerusalem will be resurrected first when the Messiah comes.”

    Christ, you’ve already waited this long, does it really matter who gets resurrected FIRST?

    • In reply to #2 by McCourt:

      “When my Orthodox uncle died, his family flew his body to Jerusalem for burial because he and a number of other Jews believe that those buried in Jerusalem will be resurrected first when the Messiah comes.”

      Christ, you’ve already waited this long, does it really matter who gets resurrected FIRST?

      Perhaps the first ones up get the best housing or something?

    • In reply to #2 by McCourt:

      Christ, you’ve already waited this long, does it really matter who gets resurrected FIRST?

      Have you ever talked to Christians about the earnest belief they will get to sit right beside Jesus at a giant picnic table in the sky?

      That would be considerably more difficult to arrange than tea with Mick Jagger, even if there were a picnic table in the sky. I suppose though with infinite time, you would eventually get your turn. Poor Jesus, like some endless book signing.

  2. Well, if Jewish is a religion, then anyone can be Jewish by deciding they are Jewish. It’s called religious freedom. As for the child, let them decide when they are old enough. If Jewish is a cultural thing, who gives a shit? Culture is what you do when you have nothing better to do. If it’s a race, you’ve already fucked it up and it doesn’t mean anything.

  3. Judaism is much less annoying than Christianity or Islam. Because they don’t proselytize, they don’t try to impose their beliefs on others. They joyfully offer the miracle of the Jewish deli to the world. Even though their Torah condemns homosexuality, you rarely hear Jews condemning gays or beating them up.

    The growing religions expand by overbreeding, proselytizing and forcing mixed marriages to raise the children in the more bully religion. The Jews don’t do that. The age old custom of arguing Torah teaches young Jews to think critically, (and become atheist in our age). They also put all their eggs in one basket by moving to Israel. This is a poor strategy for long term survival, especially when they ticked off millions of people to create their basket.

    I saw a documentary a few days ago, Susan Sontag’s Promised Lands made circa 1970. I was distressed that she promoted the notion that all opposition to Jews in Israel came from the same root as that which put Jews into Auschwitz. Never once did she even allude to the fact that in 1948, Jews invaded Palestine, seized lands and set up an apartheid police state.

    The Zionist thinking is that Jews suffered unspeakably in Auschwitz. This gives them the right to impose suffering on others without criticism. They are the master race, not the Nazis. Even though most of those who suffered in the death camps are long dead, the shield of virtue created by that suffering is inherited by all Jews.

    I and the public know
    What all schoolchildren learn,
    Those to whom evil is done
    Do evil in return.
    ~ Wystan Hugh Auden 1907-02-21 1973-09-29

    Other than Zionism, my main complaint with Jews is prayer. It is not really my business, but I would think if anyone had ample evidence prayer does not work, it has to be the Jews.

  4. There’s no doubt Herb essentially nails that Jewish sense of humour ! Almost as good as the Scots !

    You look great in that red dress.”

    You mean I look bad in the blue one?”

    Apparently not all Jews are banging their heads against the Wailing Wall !

  5. Thanks to RD for connecting with this guy and bringing his work to us. If I had a bucket list of people I’d like to share drinks with before I go, Herb would be on it. He has earned his stripes in the 42% club.

  6. Nice one. Wasn’t there a good one about Jews for Jesus?

    Two Jews walk by a Baptist church that has a sign which reads “Jews, come to Jesus! We offer $1000 to every Jew who’ll listen to the argument!” One of them decides to give it a shot while the other guy waits outside. After half an hour his friend returns and the waiting bloke says: “And, how was it?” “Well I’m convinced! I’m saved! I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior!” “And the one thousand bucks? Did you get them?” “Is that all you people ever think about?”

  7. Jews are considerably less religious than the U.S. public as a whole, with 23 percent of Jewish Americans saying they don’t believe in God, compared to only seven percent in the general public.

    This is why I like Jews.

  8. Jews do present a slightly different case in the examination of religions. Judaism lays claim to being both a religion with specific rituals that connect them uniquely with God, and a race, with entire blood lineages leading back to Abraham. It is the latter notion which forms the basis of the aggressive Zionism in Israel. But as soon as you call yourself a race, and claim specific rights because of that race (which are denied to other races) then your ideology is no better than Nazism.
    I appreciate that so many American Jews are secular and laid back in their practice of Judaism, (not to mention such high achievers in almost all intellectual professions) but am distressed by how many support Israel without question, no matter what it does, and thus close their eyes to that ideological problem.

    • In reply to #15 by justinesaracen:

      It is the latter notion which forms the basis of the aggressive Zionism in Israel.

      Only one fraction of the original Zionist movement was based on the hereditary right to the ancestors homeland. Mostly, Zionism was and still is supported as an answer to or a solution of the problem of antisemitism. Theodor Herzls “Judenstaat”, the original Zionist manifesto, doesn’t even mention religious or racial rights and even suggests building the Jewish state elsewhere (Argentina is mentioned).

      But as soon as you call yourself a race, and claim specific rights because of that race (which are denied to other races) then your ideology is no better than Nazism.

      I don’t think that this does even merit a refutation.

      • In reply to #16 by foundationist:

        In reply to #15 by justinesaracen:

        It is the latter notion which forms the basis of the aggressive Zionism in Israel.

        Only one fraction of the original Zionist movement was based on the hereditary right to the ancestors homeland. Mostly, Zionism was and still is supported as an answer to or a solu…

        I don’t completely agree with you about Zionism but I don’t want to get into it. But I do agree that comment about Jews being Nazis was disgraceful.

Leave a Reply