Skip to comments.Why Bother Being Jewish?
Posted on 10/09/2013 5:27:13 AM PDT by IbJensen
Why should American Jews bother to be Jewish? According to a new Pew Research Center survey of the American Jewish community, more and more American Jews have reached the conclusion that there is no reason to be Jewish.
Outside of the Orthodox Jewish community, intermarriage rates have reached 71 percent. Thirty-two percent of Jews born since 1980 and 22% of Jews overall do not describe themselves as Jews by religion. They base their Jewish identity on ancestry, ethnicity or culture.
Whereas 73% of Jews say that remembering the Holocaust is an essential part of being Jewish, only 19% said that observing Jewish law is a vital aspect of Jewish identity. Fourteen percent say eating Jewish foods is indispensable for their Jewish identity. Forty-two percent say that having a sense of humor is a critical part of being a Jew.
Gabriel Roth, an intermarried Jewish author, welcomes these numbers. In a column in Slate, Roth claimed that the reason most cultural Jews keep traditions of any kind is a sense of guilt toward their parents and previous generations of Jews. He believes that its time to get over the guilt. Keeping such traditions has no intrinsic meaning.
How much value can Jewish heritage have if it signifies nothing beyond its own perpetuation? he asked sneeringly.
Obviously, the answer is no value. To do something you feel is intrinsically meaningless just because your forefathers did the same meaningless thing is a waste of time. If Judaism has nothing to offer beyond lox and Seinfeld, then there is no reason to remain Jewish.
The findings of the Pew survey, and indeed, sentiments like those that Roth described are no surprise to those who have been following the downward trajectory of the American Jewish community.
Numerous initiatives have been adopted over the past decade or so to try to reverse the trend toward assimilation and loss of Jewish identity. These initiatives, including websites like JDate that help Jewish singles find and marry one another, and Birthright, which has brought tens of thousands of young, largely unaffiliated Jews to Israel, have had a positive impact in slowing down the trend. But the move away from Judaism for non-Orthodox American Jews remains seemingly inexorable.
We have tried a lot of different things and created a lot of wonderful programs, explains political theorist Yoram Hazony, the founder of the Shalem Center and author of The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, published last year.
Hazony, who now heads the Herzl Institute, continues, Weve tried everything other than the central thing. Jews need to understand that there is an attractive and compelling idea that makes it valuable to be Jews.
That idea, as Hazony explained in his recent book, is found first and foremost in the Bible.
Roth wrote, If you believe that Jewish traditions are part of a covenant with God, of course you want your children to continue them.
Yes, of course. But if you think that Judaism can be summed up so glibly, then you have no idea what it is that you are abandoning.
So in a sense, you are abandoning nothing. Because you cannot abandon what you never had in the first place.
And what Jews like Roth never had is basic Jewish literacy.
Hazonys excellent book explains in easy, approachable language that the wisdom and philosophy imparted by the Hebrew Bible was purposely denied by the anti-Semitic philosophers of the Enlightenment. Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Hegel and other leading philosophers of the Enlightenment were vicious Jew haters. They sought to cleanse modern philosophy of all references to the Bible in a bid to write Jews and Judaism out of the history of ideas and the contemporary intellectual world.
This they accomplished by subsuming the Hebrew scriptures (like the New Testament) under a broader criticism of work of revelation. As a revealed text, (a divine covenant ordered by a deity with which none of us have direct dealings), the Hebrew scripture was then misrepresented as something that has no relevance for people trying to determine for themselves what it means to live a good, moral and just life. Those concepts, we were told, could only be learned from Greek philosophers, who, in turn, were falsely characterized as atheists.
Hazony does not simply expose the philosophical crime against the Jews undertaken by the Enlightenment philosophers. He demonstrates why the ideas found in the Bible are deeply relevant and important to our lives, and indeed, how they form the basis for mans quest to live a good, moral life.
The Jewish idea is in the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible and the rabbinical commentaries on the Tanach, he explains.
To the extent we care and see something worthwhile in these ideas then everything falls into place. When you take it all out, everything turns into a bagel it all tastes good but theres a big hole in the center where the idea is supposed to be.
The Jews were the people who brought the idea that an individual was responsible for discovering truth and right and for bringing it into the world. That is the idea that freed mankind.
That is the biblical idea. The Bible is about the expectation that a human being is going to take responsibility for discovering the truth and whats right and devote his or her life to bringing what is right to the world.
The fact that most Jews no longer study it, no longer remember it, means they stopped being part of the historic Jewish drama. It is being part of that great drama that makes people care whether their children receive a Jewish education and marry Jews, and that makes them support Israel. Without the great drama that we learn from the Bible, then Israel becomes meaningless and intermarriage becomes obvious, Hazony concludes.
Orthodox Jews feel that the Holocaust is less essential to their Jewish identity than Conservative and Reform Jews, (66% of Orthodox, versus 78% and 77% of Conservative and Reform Jews, respectively). On the other hand, 69% of Orthodox Jews believe that being part of a Jewish community is essential to their Judaism. Just 40% and 25% of Conservative and Reform Jews, respectively, feel this way. And this makes sense.
The Holocaust was the most recent attempt of an oppressor to annihilate the Jews. In the 4,000-year history of the Jewish people, there have been dozens of attempts to annihilate us. The Jewish story is the story not of others attempts to destroy us, nor even of our capacity to withstand and survive these attempts. The Jewish story is the story of the lives we lived, the culture we developed, and the life of the mind that bound us together.
Jews who have learned the Bible know their history did not start in 1933. They know that the Jewish story is the story of a people that believes so strongly in its mission to bring the liberating idea of personal responsibility to choose good and life over evil and death that it refused to surrender to its oppressors.
The Jewish drama, as set out in the Bible, is the story of a nation that from the outset and until the present day chooses freedom over submission, while maintaining allegiance to a sacred trust, and an ancient people and a promised land.
When you understand this, remaining Jewish is a privilege, not a sacrifice.
And, alas, when you fail to understand this, leaving Judaism not a tragedy but simply a natural progression.
This article talks about the holocaust; but there has been an ongoing internal destruction among Jews since the enlightenment: That is full assimilation, the need to be liked, the spiritual devastation of the Jew from the Left, from Reform and Conservative Judaism.
Historically, it is only recently that this has become a pandemic. Judaism was supposed to universalize its values, and Christians were supposed to spread that message all over the world. This has largely stopped, and it couldn't have stopped at a worse time, now that the Left and Islam are much more serious and diligent in furthering their traditions.
American 'Progressivism' unfortunately has large contingents of Jews in their midst. Jews, by nature and religion, should be Conservatives!
If youd like to be on or off, please FR mail me.
They have forgotten the Truth. Many American Jews just look at their religion as an elite club.
And their empty lives reflect their shallowness.
There are some who know the Truth, and who do the right things, but American Jews are lost in the wilderness, by and large.
But listen, the Lord always talks about a remnant. The problems with Jews is NOT other people, it is themselves.
The first sentence is all the farther I go to we where this was going. Why believe in anything. Believe in nothing and form no opinions and be a mindless journalist. If you can’t spell become one of the low information people and do exactly what the mindless journalists say. Believe in nothing./s
Apparently, (and sadly) for too many Jews, the bowl of pottage is too compelling to resist.
My girlfriend is Jewish. There’s no way I would raise my children Jewish since a majority of American Jews actually have no faith. When seventy percent of your religion supports a President that is hostile to your homeland, you’ve really gone off the deep end. One day, I’ll teach my children about the rich history of the Jewish people, but I see no reason why I would ever allow them to be affiliated with American Judaism.
Because one should never pay retail?
I totally understand. When I started my journey to understand the Jewish Jesus, I was so rewarded. The Old Testament, the Torah are beautiful love stories.
I am one of them.
Chopped liver, pastrami on rye with Russian dressing?
Bowls of kreplach? Cabbage soup? Matzo ball soup with noodles?
I know. Cold beet borscht with sour cream.
Ah, lox and bagels.
When Holy Redeemer Hospital merged with Abington Hospital, they negotiated that abortions could no longer be performed on the premises. In response, a group of Jewish rabbis protested the merger and the decision to outlaw abortions at the hospitals. Only the orthodox Rabbis supported the decision of the hospital.
At that point in time,I realized that most American Jews have utter disregard of their Holy Book.
You'd think so, wouldn't you?
So should Christians. Yet how much trouble have modern-day, mainstream "Christians" caused in the world? A lot.
If you understand Judaism and want your kids to be that way, fine. Being Jewish, bound to the TANACH (Bible) requires a tremendous amount of effort on a daily basis and for the vast majority of ignorant and lazy Jews, it's just too much.
If you marry your Jewish girlfriend, the kids will be Jewish according to Jewish law (Halacha). If you raise them that way or not is almost irrelevant, they're Jews, ignorant maybe, but still Jews.
At that point in time,I realized that most American Jews have utter disregard of their Holy Book.
It’s not “utter disregard”, it’s utter ignorance. They don’t have a clue about who and what they are. They don’t have a Holy Book, they have the 5 Books of Moses and the Commentaries, hundreds of books...
I’m not bound by Jewish law. If I baptize my kids, they are Catholic. In fact, in order to have an inter-faith marriage, I will have to promise my future pastor that I will do the best of my abilities to raise the kids Catholic.
<3 U, Your Inner Hebrew Speaks!
The magic of borscht it one reason. It provides a natural way to put nitric oxide into your bloodsteam. Nitric oxide widens your blood vessels which lowers your blood pressure and provides the benefits of Viagra. Seriously.
The food is great but all of it is a spin-off from the religion and then culture.
G-d did not tell the Hebrews to go easy on the salt, did He?
He didn't say that chopped liver is full of cholesterol.
He didn't warn the Hebrews that lox was addictive!
He didn't tell them that a well grilled Reuben sandwich (corned beef, sour kraut and melted Swiss cheese on toasted rye bread) was Kosher, did He?
Thank you so much.
I’m not Jewish. I assumed the Torah was referred to as a Holy Book. And how can it be utter ignorance when Reform Rabbis are leading the charge for liberal policies. I think it’s utter disregard. Just like the Catholic priests and nuns promoting abortion and same sex marriage. They have utter disregard for their sacred texts.
You’re right on the money. These Rabbis and Pastors are to be avoided, that’s all. Go where you feel your leaders reflect your inner goals and if that means NOT following the Lemmings over the cliff, fine, avoid the cliff.
I come from a very practicing family. She does not. There would be much more spiritual support from my side, but there will still be a lot of protest from her side if we go that route. I want my kids to have a strong spiritual background, but I fear many religions have been infested by Leftists teaching false prophecies.
Don’t forget latkes and blintzes.
Hazony’s commentary was fascinating. When secular humanist phosphors like Kant and Hegel minimized the Scriptures, whether Jewish or not, and presented the Greek philosophers as the apex of non-religious logical thinking, they pushed divine morality out of the conversation. This affected the Christian intellectuals of Europe. It is not only Jews who regard their religious heritage with quaint sentimentlity. I wonder how many Christians-by-birth of Europe regard themselves as believers.
Again, one side is usually dominant.
Jew or Christian or whatever, it’s a personal choice.
If you are stronger in your faith than your wife in her faith or she’s willing to go along, fine.
The interesting thing will be the protests from her side of the family. If I were you, (and I am Jewish), I’d ask her family exactly why they may be against it.
My guess is that they will make a lot of noise but NOT be able to clearly explain the reason for their objection because they themselves may be “watered down Jews” who are ignorant themselves.
I don’t know but this is my guess.
They might say many things and object but they’re probably lacking in concrete reasons as to why not marry a Christian and raise the kids Catholic.
Many religions have been infested, just got to find the Church (or Synagogue) right for you guys...
That's a continuing story of the Jews being spread to their conquering kings and despots.
That God chose evil enemies to punish Jews for ignoring Him was part of His plan then, that Jews today continue to ignore Him today, do so at their peril!
Mixed marriages fail. At their core the man and woman yearn for different things and what is most organic to you is foreign and repulsive to your girlfriend.
Unless they are baptized and raised as Christians.
Are you going to deprive them of contact with their maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins? How’s that going to work out?
The reasons were not very good. Most of the reasoning involved the Holocaust and assimilation. I would have preferred an argument based around spirituality and religion.
Not all mixed marriages fail. Some do, other do not. It depends on one side caving to the wishes of the other. Poor kids, yanked in every direction.
You’ve got to be pretty open to the partner in order to make it work.
In my view when you marry someone close to your faith or background, it’s just one less obstacle to a difficult, compromising life = marriage.
Again, not wishing to argue here, it’s a matter of interpretation...
One thing that she surprisingly omitted in the article...a recent survey showed that other that the Orthodox, some 70% of American Jews do NOT belong to a temple. That sort of explains it all. Religion is a "community of faith" and you can't have that community without a house of worship...
Q: Why be against assimilation?
A: Jews are taught that they must “Teach their children” to uphold G-d’s covenant with them and not become like the “OTHER” nations, (also called “Goys” or Goyim, aka others or Gentiles).
Q: What about the Holocaust?
A: Jews were killed for being Jews or half Jews or small percentage Jews so they thought they would be spared by assimilating.
Q: Assimilation didn't help?
A: Nope, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew.
Q: Then what should the Jew do?
A: Observe G-d’s laws and not try to be like the “other”.
Q: But Being unique is to be “clanish”, no?
A: G-d set the Jews apart on purpose, He even made them eat very specific foods, (Kosher) in order to keep them apart.
Q: Doesn't that piss off the Gentiles? I mean who the heck do they think they are? Chosen and all that?
A: Yes so they try to destroy G-d’s Chosen, the Holocausts, the Iran, the PLO.
Q: So the Jews must preserve who they are and avoid assimilation?
A: Yes but it is exceeding difficult, the temptations are to great. Many Jews just want to be like everybody else (Gentiles) even though G-d told them to avoid this:
RESULTS? Confused Jews who need to invent Psychiatry (Freud)just to figure out their own complexities and dilemmas with G-d and their fellow Man...
As one wit said, Reform Judaism is the Democratic platform with holidays.
Issues of Holocaust and assimilation may be G-d’s way of keeping her and her descendants Jewish until they have the merit of exposure to authentic Jewish faith, which will enable them to become informed believers as their ancestors were.
“Jews, by nature and religion, should be Conservatives!”
Jews, according to the Torah, are to raise a famu=ily nad study the Torah/Talmud.
While their original contract called for being an example of the Law (Judaic Law, not “Prog Law), most decided to “interpret the nuances”, to “understand the umbras”, adf nauseam.
Worst of all, they not only became de facto collectivists, they began to ask their children “What did you learn at the Pooblik Shrewl Collective, today?”
The historic Jews asked their children “What questions did you ask, today?”
As a result, their children learned and behaved as little collectivists/Progs, not Jews.
It’s not the question of being Jewish. It’s you >are< Jewish. It’s something you’re born with. It’s not like being American is some sort of culture/religion with certain customs. Maybe in the US or the rest of the world but in Israel ..... if the article is somehow true then the Jews would leave Israel to the so-called Palestinians.
Jews-In-Name-Only (JINOs) are intermarrying, turning gay and getting abortions. They are 78% Democrat. Meanwhile, religious Jews are having 8 kids per family. They are 68% Republican. It will take a while, but 20 years from now, American Jews will be a solid conservative bloc. It is worth the wait.
Please do her a favor. Do NOT marry her.
Your post #37 is excellent, but shouldn’t you have listed Karl Marx along with lil’ Siggie Pooh in your closing list of prominent ‘Jews” with conflicts consequent to their confusions?
Judaism is a religion of communal concern. When you take G-d out of the equation you are left with a structure without morality, which expresses itself through coercive utopian systems like communism and socialism.
I love that graphic....saving it just so I can pull it up and look at it.
No future generation of Jews, and no Jew alienated from his people, can say, Moses made a covenant with our ancestors but not with us. We didnt give our consent. We are not bound. To preclude this, he says these words:
Deuteronomy 29:13-14 “But not only with you am I making this covenant and this oath: but with those standing here with us today before the Lord, our God, and [also] with those who are not here with us, this day.”
Are you saying that if the grandchild is baptized Christian, the grandparents on the Jewish side will not talk to them?