Judaism, Jewishness and everything you were never taught in school about it.

I've been hanging around for a while, and the amount of ignorance and misinformation abounding around Judaism, Jewishness (not the same thing), and Israel just astounds me.

Because we are an ethnic group that just happens to have a religion attached to it (much like the Japanese) it is entirely possible to be a Jewish atheist -- and I don't think I'm the only one here, although it seems to me that others may be unwilling to come out, because of the rampant hostility that I have seen expressed against us.

I think that this hostility comes from ex-Christians truly not understanding the difference between the definition of a Christian and a Jew, much less the profound cultural differences that exist. Americans in general, which mostly means Christians, haven't a clue about Jewish history, nor approaches to philosophy, nor how we have evolved, nor our world-view. 

So I have a lot of topics in my head to write about -- but I'm also VERY interested in genuine questioning, just so some of you can understand before you attack.

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Shinto IS the Japanese native religion. It occurs nowhere else in the world, has a deity (Amaterasu Omikami) and a host of demons and protectors and rituals and shrines and all the other accoutrements of religion. Buddhism is a graft in Japan, and what is interesting about that is that the Japanese accepted it with great equanimity without giving up their native religion at all. So they practice both when they practice at all. Their religious ceremonies are more part of their culture than a result of any true belief.

American Jews tend not to be very religious, but retain a sense of ethnic identity, which is what you're probably seeing.

John - I'd rather say I'm a heritic or a blasphemer than 'a bit of an ass'. However, when called an ass I prefer myself to be known as a really big ASS...expecially of the ass calling is from a god-believer.

Now - those Jewish people that you mentioned in stores on Sunday - if they are American jews - and I suspect they are - they are low - lower than all Isareli Jews for certain - and are not accepted in Israel as anything other than  "GOYS".

I'm certain Natalie will explain this more.

Yes, I will explain it, happily. I'm no more a goy (or shiksa, for a female) than you are a giraffe. The word "goy" comes from the Hebrew, meaning "nation". A famous quote from Isaiah is "Lo yissa goy el goy kherev" -- "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation." After a while, the word came to mean anyone who is not Jewish.

So, yeah, Jews, among themselves, will talk about the goyim, and in this country, it usually means Christians, because they simply happen to have been the vast majority in both Europe and North America. It can be used in a derogatory way, or in a simple denotative way, depending on the speaker.

I have been to Israel, and met many Israelis here in the US, and on various trips elsewhere, and they have never been anything but totally accepting of me as a fellow Jew. I kept having to correct one man, because he kept referring to me as Israeli, and I had to remind him that I'm American. Even the Lubavitchers (whom I would NEVER join, because they are ultra-Orthodox, but an interesting anthropological study) have welcomed me warmly whenever I have come in contact with them. Modern Orthodox Jews have also been totally accepting, although I'm not observant, and not as knowledgeable about customs and ceremonies as they are. I frequent the Jewish community occasionally for anthropological interest, not because I believe in god, but because I enjoy my culture. But I also sang for 3 years in an Episcopal church choir in order to study Christianity, too, and I learned as much about Shinto and Buddhism as I could when I lived in Japan.

So, no, your concept of non-Israeli Jews as "low" is totally mistaken.

Natalie - Have you lived in Israel? If you have not - then you are not in line with how Israel Jews behave towards 'others' - meaning Jews from anywhere and 'others' of any other place on this planet. To them YOU are certainly a GOY (low class Jew).....and there are many examples in Leaving Judaism that refer directly to this.

James Einbein (Ed) in his book 'Leaving Judaism' explains how he grew up in America as a son of Jewish parents - their extended family, friends, neighborhood and community. He explains what it was like working as a teenager at Jewish owned business' in New York area. Absolutely shocking.

How his grandparents emmigrated to the U.S. and instilled in his parents - and they attempted to instill in him - that only Israeli' are 'true' Jews.....and that he MUST marry an Israeli woman - to up the status of this Ameican Jewish family - and it goes on and on. Yes, Ed lived in Israel - and his vibrant descritpions of his wive's family, (mother, sisters etc.), the neighborhood, the business' arrangements, the community, extended across the entire area, and that he - as an American Jew was inferior - was told this many many times by nearly everyone - because only Israeli Jews are the top of the cream.

His children (after the divorce) lived and grew up under such Jewish perfection in Israel...and their attitudes towards 'others'...yes, even their own father is described in detail.

Finally, you're NOT a true JEW unless you're born of an Israeli (or Jewish) woman. You didn't mention that either. Jewish fathers be damned...it's just another way a particular group of people separate themselves from the rest of humanity.

Natalie - Please read Ed's book - maybe you'll see something I've missed.

Steven, I'm sorry to tell you, but Ed's book is flat-out WRONG. I don't know what community he grew up in, but the attitudes you described are simply unheard of.

I spend 10 weeks in Israel when I was 17, and traveled around the country, and visited families in kibbutzim and moshavim, as well as touring Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Beer Sheva, Eilat, etc. and have come into contact with Jews in and from all around the world, and of all denominations from Ultra-Orthodox to very liberal Reform, and I have NEVER, in my 63 years of life EVER come across a fellow Jew who called me a "goy" or looked at me in any other way than as a member of the tribe. I have NEVER heard of any such experience from any other Jewish person I have met; on the contrary, all I have ever experienced or heard of is a warm acceptance, and knowledge of our kinship.

An interesting counterpoint to Ed's experience is that when I went to Israel, my parents were very straightforward in that they didn't want me to find an Israeli boyfriend -- they wanted me to remain an American Jew. NOT that they felt superior to Israeli Jews, but simply that they were proud and happy to be Americans. The fact is that Jews all over the world, and of all origins DO feel a kinship, and while disagreement over issues is a common and expected thing (in a room with 10 Jews, there will be 11 opinions), the word "goy" is NEVER EVER applied to another Jew, and there are NO superiority issues, except in isolated, fringe communities. I could go to Israel tomorrow (not that I would want to; I AM an American), and I would be welcomed, and the ultra-Orthodox would immediately begin searching for a husband for me, goodness forbid!!! LOL!

No, of course Japanese is not a religion. It is a culture with a religion, Shinto, attached to it. Jewishness is a culture with a religion, Judaism, attached to it.

And it is true that some Jews will take any criticism of Israel personally. I, myself, don't mind criticism of the Israeli government, with which I often do not agree, nor of the ultra-Orthodox bigots, but do resent it when that criticism spills over to all Jews, which it often does.

The "race" appellation is irrelevant, because the concept is too muddy to be useful. Scientists abandoned it years ago.

One concept that the Christian-raised do not understand is that in Christianity, you are not BORN a Christian. First you have to be baptized (at whatever age), and second you have to be confirmed, or make some kind of public statement of your acceptance of Jesus as your savior. In Judaism, and in Japan, and in African tribes, on the other hand, you are BORN into your tribe. There is never ANY necessity of public confirmation that you are Jewish or Japanese or Luganda or whatever. You just are. The Bar Mitzvah is NOT a confirmation of Jewishness; it is the acknowledgment that the child is now an adult and eligible for adult rights and responsibilities. The Reform Jews DO have a confirmation ceremony, but that it a very late add-on copied from Christianity, again, in the attempt to become assimilated and as Protestant as possible in order to head off anti-Semitism, for all the good THAT did. The Reform movement was founded in Enlightenment Germany, for the purpose of being accepted as good Germans -- Jews had never been accepted as citizens of any country in Europe that they had ever lived in.

As far as the Japanese, they will say they are not religious, but they will go on celebrating Buddhist and Shinto ceremonies, because they consider that a part of their culture -- there was historically (and still usually is) no concept of religion as separate from culture. When the Christian missionaries came in (and that's another long story which deserves a different thread), they had to INVENT words for Christian concepts, which had never existed in Japan before. Again, Christians have a concept of the separation of religion and culture, but Jews and Japanese, and pre-Christian and Muslim Africans didn't.

As far as the traditional Jewish community in your area -- of course they shop on Sunday -- they wouldn't violate the Sabbath, which is on Saturday. They're actually NOT dressed like Abraham Lincoln, but instead, like the Polish gentry of the 18th and 19th centuries. That was considered "fashionable" at the time, and they have become fossilized, much like the Amish, in that time period. Again, like the Amish, their practices are frozen in that time period, and they have a very hard time adapting to modern culture, and mostly WON'T. That's their right, per freedom of religion, but they are certainly NOT representative of the majority of Jews in this country.

And while you are somewhat sarcastic, you're not an ass -- you brought up questions which I am happy to talk about.

Natalie, I hadn't thought about comparing Jewish with Japanese/Shintoism. The comparison I usually thought of was the comparison with Gypsies, another group of people that wandered around, had a distinct ethnicity because it kept separate while in other lands, and had their own religious traditions.

The problem of comparison with the Gypsies (Roma/Sinti), is that they DID convert to Christianity for all the good it did them. They are still horribly discriminated against in the countries where they are numerous, much hated and excluded. I remember seeing Roma children begging on the street in Romania (their Asian Indian heritage makes them quite recognizable), where they are not allowed, either by their community, or by the state, to go to school, and thus have no way of bettering themselves, and no livelihood except what they can scrabble together. No wonder they're derided as thieves and carnival fortune-tellers when they literally had no other way to subsist!

Natalie - Any group of people....a cultural group such as Gypsies - most have learned that by grouping together - (Jews are famous for this) they bring themselves out of poverty and dispair.

Gypsies for example could have picked a base where they wanted to reside - begun to purchase land - have their own business' etc.....over a period of time...they to would have progressed - and those that 'didn't like them' can go to hell.

Perhaps this particular grouping of people just have no feelings towards 'roots'...it's just not in their DNA to settle down etc. If that's the case - then they will never assimilate into this would. That's their choice and it's a very hard life.

John - I think a correction is in order. The 'race' of Jewish people is HUMAN. Or to be specific - homo-sapien. Perhaps you're meaning ethnicity?

HI John,

I think I am also guilty of this mistake.




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