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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So Jews get dumped on for being literate when most of the other peoples who did similar things at the same time were illiterate? I thought literacy was a GOOD thing, LOL!!

But to take a wider view -- don't you think that the Sumerians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Hittites, Romans and other early literate peoples didn't do the same things? The writings are there -- you're just not familiar with them. The Romans even printed coins with pictures of them carting off the grand Menorah from the temple with the phrase "Iudaea Capta Est" (Judea is captured).

And no, Jews didn't murder, exterminate, or burn everything in sight ANY more than everyone else in the area was doing at the same time -- the culture was PRIMITIVE, and just because the Jews (among others) survived doesn't mean that their descendants deserve permanent blame. If you want to condemn, do so fairly and without discrimination.

Natalie - I think I see the problem here.

I absolutely know that Christians don't think all those 'things' I call atrocities listed in the OT are such. They say openly that the taking and raping of little virgins is Ok because their God ordered it - every single word is holy and precious....and all the rest.......

I don't know how Jews are taught about such things except that everyone thinks they also hold those books to be special and from God. So they never disprespect what was written. I do because I believe all those 'things' to be morally corrupt. If Jews and Christians today in 2012 actually hold such things to be from 'GOD' then I hold them in contempt.

God-believers never bring such 'stuff' up do they? They never openly talk of genocide, torture, witch burnings and the many instruments they designed and used for such things. These 'things' were done in the name of 'GOD' and/or Jesus.

If modern god-believers actually hold the position that Jews and Christians are the true holy humans on Earth due to their holy writings and their belief's that only they have 'salvation'...then we as atheists have taken the correct position in ridiculing them for all they believe.

I've yet to see any JEW ever bring up the detestable 'Chicken Swinging"....have you? It's never openly spoken of as animal abuse - which is exactly what it is? It's just another subject eliminated by such 'moral' people - be they Jews or Christians. When I bring it up, people simply don't know what to say. Go figure.

OK, the first distinction I think I need to make is that there is a VAST difference between modern Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Humanistic and Reconstructionist Jews, and ultra-Orthodox Jews such as Lubavitcher, Satmar, Neturei Karta, and numberous other tiny groups.

It might be helpful to think of the ultra-Orthodox as similar to the extreme Evangelical Christian who claims to believe in and follow literally the exact words of the Bible (except that they don't). But even the ultra-Orthodox have changed over time, and they actually do try to follow the spirit rather than the letter of the law, but they DO engage in old folk-ceremonies (the kaparot is a folk ceremony, not a commandment), which many of the rest of us consider unnecessary and sometimes gruesome. Another example is that they are still trying to find the "perfect" red heifer, that is, one with not a single white hair, which is said to augur the construction of the third temple. I am deeply afraid if they ever find such a calf, because it would most likely result in violence between them and the Muslims over the site of the Dome of the Rock, which is where they would want to build the temple.

But remember that they represent only a tiny minority of Jews -- a MUCH smaller proportion than the Evangelicals represent in Christianity. The VAST majority of Jews in Israel and the rest of the world have probably never even heard of the kaparot ceremony (I hadn't until you mentioned it), and many Jews DON'T believe in that our writings are the literal word of god, but do read them to find out what the philosophical point of the story is, and how it might apply to our life today.

For me, the god part of it is meaningless, but viewing it as the stories and thoughts and philosophy of the ancient humans who wrote it down is fascinating. But even Jews who DO believe in god, and they are the majority, think of the writings in terms of how they apply to our life today, and not as a paean to ancient atrocities. The Talmud is an excellent example of how Jewish scholars around the time of Jesus engaged in quite complex debate over what the laws and traditions actually meant and how they should be interpreted. While believing in god, nevertheless, the main thrust of Judaism has ALWAYS been how to live a good and moral life in the legal sense, which means respecting the rights of your neighbors and doing your best not to harm your neighbor. Of course, many Jews throughout the centuries have failed to live up to this standard, but it is there, nevertheless.

It's interesting to observe modern Orthodox believers, because they follow many of the scriptural commandments, which are really irrelevant to the rest of the world, while not harming it, such as keeping kosher, keeping 2 sets of dishes, one for dairy and one for meat, not wearing clothes of mixed textiles (no woolsey-linsey), wearing cloth shoes on Yom Kippur, so as not to be seen as ostentatious on a day when everyone should be humble, married women practicing modesty, which while not as extreme as Muslim women, is still similar, etc. etc. etc.

There ARE problems with ultra-Orthodoxy in Israel, for example, when the men demand that women sit at the back of the bus, and secular Israelis (and there are a lot of them!) are fighting back about things like that.

About the idea of "salvation", that is a purely Christian idea. I never even knew what it was, until as an adult, I started to study Christianity from the viewpoint of religious anthropology. I'm STILL a religious anthropologist (as a hobby), and I'm currently studying YOU!! :-)

But, back to what I'm trying to say, I just wasn't raised with a lot of the concepts that Christians take as universal, and so I never had anything to discard. Tevye the Milkman believed in god, so he argued with him (classic Jewish 19th century book). But in my case, once I stopped believing, there was no longer anything to argue about. But I still like the moral concepts I was raised with, such as the responsibility, if you eat meat, to kill the animal in the most merciful manner possible. That is the real root of kosher -- mercy. In the olden days, the most merciful killing method was a quick slitting of the throat, in order to let the animal bleed out as quickly as possible. If there are better modern methods, I'm all for them, because it's not the historical practice of kosher that I hold, but the concept of mercy toward animals.

Another law I like is the one of leaving the corners of the fields for the poor during harvest time. Of course, that wouldn't work in modern times, but if I were a farmer, I would want to make a donation of a certain percentage of my harvest to feed the poor.

Of course, there are other parts of the writings that I abhor, such as the stoning of women who have been raped (Muslims are apparently still doing that), but I have the freedom to reject things like that as ancient customs, that, although they have been recorded historically, I am under no obligation to follow. The VAST majority of Jews feel the same way. Some parts of the Jewish writings are simply unacceptable in this modern era, and no one considers them the world of god that must be followed.

So I guess what I am saying is that I am very comfortable with the way I was raised, and really, the ONLY change that I made was to lose the belief in god. Same thing with my brother. I still believe I should be humble about the wrongs I have committed, and have an obligation to admit those wrongs and apologize and make good to those people I may have hurt in the past (concept of Yom Kippur), and that does not depend on any belief in god. I am happy to celebrate the New Year in my own time, and I am happy to celebrate the harvest, and the availability of food, and I am happy to celebrate the concept of religious freedom (the true concept of Hanukah), and I am happy to celebrate the New Year of the Trees (trees are IMPORTANT), and I am happy to keep the welfare of the poor in the front of my mind, and to practice as best as I can Tikkun Olam, which is the repair of the world (early concept of ecology), etc. I'm not worried about Heaven and Hell, because for me, they never existed, but I strongly believe in, and accept the obligation to live the best, kindest and most moral life I can here on earth. Seems to me that there are more similarities between modern Judaism and Humanism than differences, and while the vast majority of Jews ARE believers, we can be Jews without believing as well. (That's the tribal aspect).

I know I'm a kind of rambling writer, and so, forgive the scrambled nature of what I say, but I do want to address what you have written, if not completely. My brother calls me the most devout Jewish atheist he has ever met! :-) So please keep on talking! :-)

Natalie - Einbein - being born and raised in New york area attended Jewish schools and learned everything he knew from attending those synogages and those Rabbi's teaching him. Several were involved.

His problem was that those teachings - and you've referred to such above - are not practiced in real Jewish life. He saw throughout his life in dealing with family, business's, communities it was all a lie.

Then, he went to Israel to study, work and live - and saw more of the same things - only worse - from the standpoint of his new young wife's family, business. and community's he was involved in.

It matters not that there are many different Jewish sects. They all - every single one of them - exactly as Christians have their different sects - they all have special problems that we should know about. They should all be exposed one by one if possible. I give no latitude to any of them - for they are all corrupt - with each having their own cruelty and evil moral codes....and their backup? Religion. God.

I've brought to your attention the problem within one small Jewish sect about "The Kapparot Chicken Swinging Ritual".

That's not the only problem Natalie! The other problem is that you didn't know about such a thing going on all over this country (I have several places listed that hit the national news) and it's YOUR TRIBE! You claim it - not me. Animal cruelty within a sect of Judaism should be known by everyone - and you should be pissed that the rest of the Jewish community has not made this deplorable thing well known. In fact, they all should be ashamed that an atheist had to bring forth this news.

But - that's exactly the problem isn't it? Jews won't discuss the true nature within their culture - exactly like Christians. It takes an atheist like me to bring out all the foul (pun  intended) things going on within these 'sects'. They are complicit by their silence.

How come an atheist knows about these things and the people living within these very communities doesn't - or say they don't? How they bury their heads in the sand!

I'm happy you feel OK about the way your were raised. i am not happy being rasied within a religious community - not one tiny bit. It's pure child abuse - plain and simple.

"...I'm currently studying YOU!! :-)"

And, Natalie, I'm studying you, especially your capitalizing single words.

For instance, how many more than a vast majority are a VAST majority? I'll accept an approximation. :-)

very interesting...

Hi Mac Rex,

Perhaps what makes a person adhere to their "Jewish" heritage, has more to do with the persecution that Jews have faced 

Every human that has formed a group has faced persecution at some time and has persecuted others at some time. Regardless of whether or not humans purposely form a group or a group comes about naturally, that group will persecute others and be persecuted. It is the same for every group in human history. 

...what makes a person adhere to their "Jewish" heritage...

This is so for all groups. What makes anyone adhere to any group? It's all in the brain, no where else. If humans form a group, be it in football, a religious group, an ethnic group, or political group, they are doing two things, they are collecting like-minded people together and rejecting those not of their mindset. 


Um, I think that was what I was saying...

Um, I think that was what I was saying..

oo, I was just putting it in a way that made no reference to any particular group.  It's a kind of practice. 


Actually, the Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews make up 50% of the Jewish population in Israel, and the Ashkenazis make up the other 50%. I think you got your 80% figure from the fact that Jews make up 80% of the TOTAL population of Israel, the rest being members of various Muslim subgroups, and a few Christians.

The reason your mitochondrial DNA is Germanic is because during the Roman Empire, a lot of Jewish men traveled throughout the Empire and Central and Eastern Europe as traders, and they usually didn't bring women with them. So being men, they found wives where they could. It seems apparent that these women converted to Judaism, since the culture and language and religion were preserved, but you almost certainly have Semitic genetics in your male line, and in your autosomal genes. Interestingly, MY mitochondrial DNA is Germanic, too (T2f1), but my brother's Y chromosomal DNA is R1a1, which is carried by 50% of Ashkenazic Levites, but occurs at 4% or less among Israelites (those Jews who are not of the priestly lineages, Cohen and Levite) and non-Jews in the same localities. That confirms my family tradition that my father's line was Levite. Cohens have an even stronger genetic proof of Semitic heritage, and the Cohen Modal Haplotype is found in ALL Jewish communities, presumably because the laws concerning Cohen marriage were a lot stricter than for non-Cohens. And interestingly enough, there is a tribe in Africa, called the Lemba, of whom one clan, the Buba, also have a high percentage of the CMH. They may also be descendants of ancient Jews who traveled and intermarried!

In other news, I had a genetic study done by 23andme, and I am VERY strongly genetically Ashkenazic. The genetic studies that have been done on Ashkenazic Jews definitely support a common ancestry, related to, but not all that similar to surrounding populations. They have actually been found to be genetically more closely related to Italians and Mediterranean peoples than to Central and East Europeans, probably because they moved freely around the Roman empire before they were nearly exterminated by the Romans. Which also accounts for the Ashkenazi bottleneck, but save that subject for another day.

Wow!  I think it's facts like these that I appreciate reading the most!  I love to read about genetics, but I never got far enought to understand all the  different designations of the various parts of the genome.  Regardless of how historically correct the folk-tales of the Jewish folk are or aren't, if the information you offer here is correct, it at least DOES prove that the Jewish people kept close records of the family bloodlines.   

  About a year or so ago, I read an article in SEED magazine about genetic evidence that many of the so-called descendants of Confucius (who hold a kind of royal status in China) are not in fact related to one another (genetic testing reveals differing "Y" chromosomes), therefore they could not ALL descend from Confucius (if in fact any of them do).  Needless to say the "families of Confucius" reject the science behind the tests. 

  Another religious group that has actually managed to help the further study of the human genome was the Oneida community of upstate New York (yes, the same Oneida family that makes the silverware).  Originally they attempted a kind of "eugenics" project of breeding only certain people with certain traits with one another and keeping detailed lists of family histories of each sexual partner.

  As scientists continue to study the human genome, populations with a far-reaching history who actually have some method of keeping records of genetic inheritance are treasured finds.   I think the human genome is fascinating and our various racial histories are really the story of one little unit of DNA in it's incredible journey for survival.  Thinking about "race" or "ethnicity" in that manner makes me appreciate our differences rather than condemn them. 

Yeah, mostly I get defensive about being Jewish in the face of adversity. Adversity does bring people together.




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