To Andrew –

Having been away from this blog for a few months, it was great to return and find many positive comments. And then there was the post from ‘Andrew’, which states, astonishingly, as follows:

Jews are a race. Yes a lot of Jews are mixed because of the diaspora but there still is a Jewish look amongst us. There might be Japanese Jews but they are very small in number. (Perhaps <100). There were also a lot of Chinese Jews who had converted in Kaifeng, but eventually assimilated out. It is interesting to note that foreign cultures that convert to Jewry end up assimilating out. Ethopian Jews are converts hence their different genetic makeup.

Sigh. Andrew, clearly you either didn’t bother to read, or didn’t understand, the post that you are commenting on. So let me break it down for you, in a way so simple that even you can grasp this:

Jews – are – not – a ‘race’.

The proof? Anyone can become a Jew.

But nobody can alter their race.

As for this hypothetical ‘jewish look ‘- er, no, there really isn’t. I know Jews with blonde hair and green eyes and skin so fair it burns should they even glance at the sun. Equally, I know Jews who are so swarthy they are frequently labelled wrongly as ‘Arabs’ or ‘Asians’. I myself have dark hair, dark eyes and extremely fair skin – and am often assumed to be a Gentile because I ‘don’t look Jewish’…!

There is no ONE ‘jewish look’. And only a twit would believe there is.

There are Jews of ALL races.

There are Jews of ALL ethnicities.

So Andrew, you might not want to accept this point, but hey, who gives a damn? You don’t get to alter the FACTS.  We ‘aint a ‘race’. Deal with it.

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My Kind Of Rabbi

I’ve always been against faith schools. At age 11,  I opted to go to a multi faith school rather than the popular Jewish school that many of my friends from junior high were heading for. Even back then, I didn’t get it: if you’re going to live in a multi-faith country, what on earth is the point of segregating children according to religion?

This morning on ‘The Big Questions’ this was the very point being debated. Rabbi Jonathan Romain put it exceptionally well. Explaining that even as a Rabbi, he’d sent his own children to a mixed faith school, he remarked:

“I want my children to sit next to a Christian in class, to do their homework with a Hindu, to play football with Muslims, and to walk home with an Atheist. How can we love our neighbours, if we don’t know our neighbours?”

 

Precisely. Now that’s my kind of Rabbi.

Julie Burchill Set To Join The Tribe…?

Feisty British journalist Julie Burchill is apparently considering becoming a member of the Jewish family. A staunch Israel supporter, she has now become a Friend Of Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue.

Ms Burchill has been enjoying Shabbat services there for a month, and has also started studying Hebrew.

The writer, known for her acerbic wit, says: I first thought about converting when I was 25 . I will be 50 next month so it’s hardly a flash in the pan. At a time of rising and increasingly vicious antisemitism from both left and right, becoming Jewish especially appeals to me.

Added to the fact that I admire Israel so much, it does seem to make sense — assuming of course that the Jews will have me!

And she also added: ‘Jews rock!

Synagogue Chairperson Prue Baker says the congregation has welcomed Ms Burchill “…as we welcome all who share our approach to Judaism and wish to be associated with us. We are an inclusive community and have many Friends who may not be Jewish.”

Another congregant confided that “Julie has told several people that she’s enjoying the services. She’s amusing and fun to have around but she’s keeping a fairly low profile.”

Whether she convert or not, Julie Burchill is a wonderful ally to have; she is a forthright and perceptive observer and it’s great to know that she recognises Israel as being the only true democracy in the Middle East and a nation worthy of full support. So welcome to the tribe Julie, if you go for conversion – and if not, welcome as a good friend!

“Rabbi, How Can I Be Jewish If I Don’t Believe In G-d…?”

 

The Jewish Chronicle has introduced a fab new feature. Each week, it puts a reader’s question to two Rabbis. Here is the most recent one; I think it will be of some interest to both Jews and non Jews alike, as it is on the topic of Jewish identity:

 

Question: I was brought up Jewish, I am a Zionist, and I am proud to feel Jewish. However, I might not believe in God, I cringe at many practices undertaken by our (and any) religion, I am not kosher and I struggle to motivate myself to go to synagogue. Am I, and how can I, be Jewish?

 

Response from Rabbi Naftali Brawer (United Synagogue):

You were born and raised a Jew, you are committed to the state of Israel and the Jewish people – and you wonder if you can be defined as Jewish?!

Being Jewish is an all-or-nothing scenario. You either are or you are not. There is no such thing as varying gradations of Jewishness. The scrupulously observant Jew is no more Jewish in essence than the most non- observant Jew. Where these two Jews differ greatly is in their commitment to Judaism.

The observant Jew takes his Judaism seriously. He is steeped in its history, culture and traditions and he structures his life around its teachings. The non-observant Jew on the other hand does not live his life in accordance with Torah’s teachings. This may make him an apathetic Jew but it in no way detracts from his core Jewishness.

The question you ought to be asking is not whether you are Jewish but whether or not you are living life Jewishly.

I would argue that to a large extent you are living Jewishly. One of the most important expressions of Judaism is the feeling of responsibility and connectedness to other Jews which you clearly have.

As far as your doubts about the existence of God, your phrase “I might not believe in God” betrays a deep inner struggle. This is not the language of a hardened atheist but rather of someone who is wrestling with faith and doubt; something that any intelligent person of faith will experience at some point or another.

I would however encourage you to try to learn more about the meaning behind Jewish ritual and practice. There is depth and beauty in all of God’s mitzvot. Sometimes, at first glance the beauty is not apparent.

Yet by studying their meaning and embracing their practice, one comes to appreciate their power to positively transform our lives and to enable us to connect with the Creator.

 

Response from Rabbi Jonathan Romain (Reform)

You have asked the wrong question. Assuming that your mother is Jewish, then you are Jewish. It is as simple as that.

The better question is: what sort of Jew are you?

This highlights the fact that there are so many different ways of being Jewish – for some it is a matter of heritage and descent; for others it is about faith and belief; for others it is to do with culture and the way we think, laugh, eat and behave.

Some Jews mix all these elements together in their lives, others select some of them, and all are right when they claim a Jewish identity.

This may sounds rather unsatisfying – so much better to have a water-tight definition of Judaism that all can recognise – but it is one of the ongoing mysteries of Judaism that it cannot be neatly packaged.

That is why we can have people who call themselves “atheist Jews” : you cannot be an atheist Christian – you have to believe – but there are many Jews who have Jewish parents, subscribe to Jewish ethics, identify with Israel, support Jewish charities, appreciate Jewish history, bring up their children likewise, but do not believe in G-d. Rabbis may not approve of them, but that does not make them non-Jewish.

Perhaps it might be ideal if you did all of the above and were a person of faith, but if that was the only sort of person allowed to be Jewish, then we would disappear very quickly and be far less colourful or creative.

It means that you are far from being an outsider, but part of a significant group within the Jewish community who value certain parts of Jewish tradition and not others.

The best way forward for you – and the many like you – is not to focus on what you do not like about the community, but get involved in the aspects that do attract you. Eat what you like, but participate in Jewish social action groups. Do not go to services, but help promote links with Israel among both Jews and non-Jews.

Have your own beliefs, but support interesting projects happening at your local shul; and if there are none, then initiate something and advertise it on the internet and elsewhere for others like you. You are far too Jewish to let all your energy and pride be wasted.

Facts That The World Ignores

There is so much nonsense in the media about Israel. Much of it revolves around the absurd idea that Jews just rocked up to the Middle East in 1948, kicked out the ‘native palestinians’, and declared a Jewish nation in a part of the  world that they had no link to and no rights to.

Of course, the reality is far, far different. The very term ‘Palestinian’ always referred to the Palestinian Jews that had already been living there for the past 3500 years – continuously.

And the ‘palestinians’ as we know them today, are the descendants of Arabs. There is no ancient ‘palestinian’ people that have been stripped of their ‘home’. On the contrary, they are Arabs whose parents and grandparents moved to the region only after the Jews irrigated the land, drained the swamps, and began transforming the land into a flourishing and viable place to live. Not to mention creating numerous work opportunities.

These are verifiable facts. Yet try and present them and I guarantee from personal experience, you will stand accused of ‘spreading zionist propaganda’. It seems that offering objective historical fact is not acceptable when it supports Israel’s right to exist, and the Jews’ right to live in peace, in safety, in Israel.

Do keep on reiterating these facts. And here are some more, most eloquently put, courtesy of Think Israel:

;What is ironic is that Israel belongs exclusively to the Jews by International Law.  So why do the Arabs insist the land is theirs? Because the Jews have been so crazy for peace, they have been willing to share, to give up pieces of their tiny country, for a piece of paper.

The Arabs created a phony people in 1964, called the “Palestinians” and blanketed the world with the mantra that they were the Palestinians and Palestine was theirs.

There has not ever been a country or a state called Palestine. There have been Palestinians. During the British Mandate from 1922 to 1948 the Jews called where they lived Palestine. They played music in the Palestine Philharmonic. They read the Palestine Post (now the Jerusalem Post.) As the Palestine Brigade, they fought in the British Army in World War 2. The Arabs also fought hard – for Hitler

(Eliezar Edwards, December, 2008.


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A Palestinian State? You want that? OK. BUT not in Israel. No way. Not now. Not ever. Put this Arab state in Dubai or Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or Libya or Syria. Make it big. Fill it with the Po’ Arab “refugees”. And with the Arabs of Gaza and Samaria and Judea (AKA West Bank). And treasonous Arabs who have Israeli citizenship. Build a big fence around it. Let them learn to develop the infrastructure of a state. Or let them destroy themselves, if that’s what they prefer. If they ever become civilized, then it’s time to consider letting them join the human race. (Eliezar Edwards, August, 2008)

Talking Point: Which View Do *YOU* Agree With Here…?

Here’s the thing:

I don’t get it. The media keeps banging on about how ‘honourable’ some delegates at Durban II have been, by walking out of Mad Mahmoud’s speech.

But what in G-d’s name were they doing by providing an audience for him in the first place???

Look, the second your backside meets the seat, and you agree to Mahmoud ‘The Holocaust Is A Lie – I’ll Wipe Israel Off The Map’ Ahmadinejhad, giving a speech on ‘anti racism’, you LOSE any right to the moral high ground.

Would you attend a neo Nazi rally, while assuring friends ‘Oh, but it’s fine – ’cause the minute they say anything offensive, I’ll leave!’?

No, of course you blinking well wouldn’t!

Big deal, so French and British delegates managed to muster enough metal to sidle out the door, when Mahmoud’s Israel bashing got going, in the full glare of the world’s media?  What do they want – a medal?

The only nations who can claim to have acted honourably here, are those nations that boycotted Durban II.

They, and they alone, inhabit the moral high ground here.

Your views…?