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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  When I try to understand something that I'm somewhat or entirley excluded from, due to choice or circumstance, I find that writing fiction is sometimes a good way to explore it.  I've never identified as Jewish, because I was never raised to do so. (Although I'm told that there is a family name of "Braunstein" on my mothers side, several genarations back).  I'm therefore unable to experience the world "through the eyes of a Jewish person", so I wrote this. Take it as you will.


                                                                   The Chosen One


  Rachel didn't exactly remember how many hours had passed since sunrise.  Her day had started in the dun darkness of night; that's when the mortars first hit.  Her Imah had screamed only once, her voice cut silent as the flash that lit the house was swallowed up just as fast by darkness.  She thought she might have heard it just before it hit.  She could almost remember a WHIR-mummmphh-WHIR-WHIR sound that got louder for a moment before the blast.  Or maybe that had been a dream from some other night-she really couldn't put it in place, now.

  Not that it mattered a whole lot now.  She looked down at the star-of-David in her palm.  It had been around her Abba's neck just hours ago.  He had sheltered her from the flying debris, right before the second one hit.  Outside, people were running past in the streets.  Men's voices mostly.

 "Get the women and children out", one had said.   A woman's voice warned aloud to any that could hear "They're striking from the west-move them away from the market-". 

  Rachel didn't hear the rest.  Several more mortars exploded nearby.  Rachel and her abba had run out through the only door.  It opened out onto an alley.  That's how everybody's doors were.  This was why. 

  The wind swept her hair into her eyes.  Nearby a couple of little boys played in the streets.  Today was Shavuot, and just from watching the two little boys play in the streets, nobody would think any differently.  Rachel envied children of that age their ignorance.  They seemed totally oblivious of terrible things happening right beside them.  She vaguely recalled such a day when she overheard a conversation between her older brother and an uncle.

   "Why did these people come from over the hills and do this?" her brother had asked their uncle Moishe once when she was about five.  

  " Because they hate us." Uncle Moishe had replied.

   "Why do they hate us, when we've never done anything to them?" came her brother's expected response.

   "Because we are the chosen people of the God of Abraham, nephew.  They will always hate us, so." their Uncle iterated in a tone that sounded to have been rehearsed for years.

  What had the God of Abraham "chosen" them for?  Rachel had a pretty good idea that whatever the answer to that question was, it involved more nights like last night.  She wasn't crying anymore.  That was over hours ago too.  She saw the shrapnel strike her father.  Saw him fall.  He didn't get back up.

  She had tried to move some of the rubble of what used to be her family home.  Her Imah was under there somewhere.  She already knew how useless that was.  Nobody ever came out from under a house once it fell.  She knew that from the shelling that occurred two years before.

  "...because we are the Jews..." her uncle's voice echoed in her brain.

  It didn't seem like all that good of an answer to her, though.  "We celebrate the wonder of the oil lasting for eight days..." she was told by another uncle, a rabbi, as her family lit the first candle on the menorah on a Hannukah that seemed like ages ago.

   "...because we are the Jews..." 

  And again when she was lifted from in front of a counter in a delicatessan, by her abba as he laughed and said in soft tones in her ear,

 "No darling we don't eat that."

"Why not?"

"Because we are Jews...maideleh,"he replied his eyes lighting up with the little smile he always saved just for her. 

   She winced in pain as she realized that she was squeezing her hand too tight and the points of her abba's star of David had bitten into her palm leaving little tooth-like marks. Her eyes squinted as she examined it closely.   Her dirty tear streaked face looked far older than her years.  What did it mean to be a Jew?  That you didn't eat alot of things that other people ate all the time? That you lit candles to celebrate oil lamps? That you worshipped a god that marked you for death? That everybody else in the world hated you because you danced and sang in the streets on certain days?  Who could hate anyone for singing and dancing?

  Her mother had told her she would be old enough to understand soon.  But then adults tell you lots of things when you're eight.

                                                                      THE END

  Maybe "Jewishness" is just as hard for many Jews to understand, at least in certain circumstances. 



The very minute the words spoken, "We are chosen as special by God'....you just knew there was going to be trouble. Most humans don't like such vile statements, "I'm better than you are".

Jews started this evil trouble...and in Israel today - they still foster this same ideology. They are 'chosen' and you are certainly not.

People - being how they are - were desperate to become a member ot the special and holy 'chosen' of God club. They tried many times in various ways - finally the time was right - a person named Jesus came along at the right time and place - and BINGO - JACKPOT - it took some time, but now these people (Christians) actually believe they have now become the only ones truly 'chosen' and even are so ignorant they believe those JEWS will convert in 'the last days.'

That was not enough of course for those Arabs, descended from Abraham from his first-born - and so this group concocted another scenero - and now we have Islam.

When will this madness end?

OK, here's one of the myths in person. In the writings, and in the oral culture, the words "Chosen People" ONLY means that the Jews were chosen to receive the Torah from god. It has NO connotation of superiority, and is often used to express regret, like "Why couldn't you have chosen someone ELSE to suffer?" The tale is that god approached a number of tribes with the Torah, but only the Jews accepted. Of course it's a myth, a cultural folk tale, but has been used to scorn and mistreat Jews for millennia by people who have no clue what it really means.

Hi Natalie, 

The tale is that god approached a number of tribes with the Torah, but only the Jews accepted.

According to the Tanakh:

Deuteronomy 14:2, "For you are a holy people to YHWH your God, and God has chosen you to be his treasured people from all the nations that are on the face of the earth."

And in Hebrew:

ב  כִּי עַם קָדוֹשׁ אַתָּה, לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ; וּבְךָ בָּחַר יְהוָה, לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לְעַם סְגֻלָּה, מִכֹּל הָעַמִּים, אֲשֶׁר עַל-פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה.  {ס}

There is absolutely no possibility of another prophet coming here and therefore this madness may end sooner than we think.

Oh Reaally?!  And just why couldn't there be another prophet?  The Christians are supposed to believe that J.C. was the be-all-end-all messiah, then Tim Tebow came along.  Now look whose memory is being neglected in favor of the newcomer.

Madhukar, don't hold your breath until the madness ends.

As art is in the eye of the beholder, prophet-ness is in the head of the gullible.

When a group of people regard someone as a prophet, for them he/she is a prophet.

I agree with both of you but my optimism stems from the fact that the world is slowly but surely becoming less faithful. Forget the Americans and the Muslims for the present, but what I say is true of most of the other world. America is the last flicker of the religion before it dies. Islam will actually cause the death of all religions. We will not be able to see this, but it will happen.

Very poetically written story, but I don't quite get the point.

As the number of replies on this thread are becoming very compounded and thus confusing to follow, I assume that you are referring to the story I wrote a couple of days ago.  There isn't really a point to it, other than the fact that we are all born into cultures that we really don't choose.  As we grow older it becomes our struggle to understand why many parts of it are supposed to be so significant. What does it mean to be "x"?     

Oh, OK, thanks. Now that you've explained it, I DO understand. And you're right -- we don't choose the cultures we are born into, but they DO become a part of us, even for those people who don't even recognize that they are part of a culture. When I was in college, I often heard the argument that Americans didn't have a culture (because, historically, they came from many different places and cultures, I guess), but it seems abundantly clear to me, and apparently to the rest of the world, that there is a very distinct American culture. Not everyone likes it, but it's there!

Absolutely!  We often can't see things that we're a part of.  I've had the argument before with folks who've made the comment about Americans not having a culture-we absolutely DO! Other cultures can definitely spot Americans for that reason.

 An easy litmus test for whether or not someone has a culture (which is an easy task, because we all do) is to ask them if there is any act which they think is weird or wrong.  The answer that they give will always be a culturally based one, as norms of behavior stem ultimately from culture. 

  It is fascinating to observe the effect that cultural "lensing" has on a person's perceptions.  An act can be either insignificant, or punishable by death, depending on the prevailing worldview.  Culture reminds us what a gift it is to be able to perceive, to conceptualize of a family unit, to celebrate or to grieve, to have a language and to wonder what lies beyond our shores. I've done myself such an injustice to have treated it like such a small thing for so long. 

  Our culture is our perception.  We see, think and act through it.  We cannot do otherwise.




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