GLAD I’M JEWISH ~ BUT SOMETIMES I WONDER WHY!
“Yes, I’m glad I’m Jewish, but sometimes I wish I wasn’t”
you ever said, or thought that?
Again, it seems you would not be totally honest (or even Jewish) if you had not thought that ~ even if you didn’t say it! Probably that is why you can find stickers, or badges or T-shirts that say ‘Don’t worry – be Jewish’. Of course - Jews never worry! [Joking – of course!]
note this article uses ideas and facts from the present to the
Later we will focus on the future.
IS A ‘JEW’?
Wow! What a question! More discussion has surrounded this question, and more great sages have offered answers, than could be counted, probably. Again the Internet is useful, and it seems the site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jew.html is a good place to start. It might be tricky to define who is a Jew, but the reality is there are a good 15 million people who call themselves Jews anyway!
Most people know – the accepted definition – (in Israel especially) for gaining citizenship for a Jew making aliya, is that either their mother or grandmother is ‘provably’ (with documents) - Jewish. Yet many Jews are actually not able to prove that easily, and added to this there are many Jews who do not practice ‘Talmudic or ‘Halakha’ Judaism’. We touch on this aspect in the article ‘Do you hate religion?’
Jews by ‘conversion’
For the Orthodox/ Hasidic ‘section’ of Talmudic Judaism, the key factor is acceptance of the rites and rituals of the Orthodox religious dogmas. The person who undergoes the training in these and ‘passes’ is called a ‘convert’ or a ‘proselyte’, whether they believe they are Jewish or even for some Gentiles. This is clearly spelt out briefly at: http://judaism.about.com/gi/dynmaoc/offsite.htm and in an article at www.beingjewish.com/#identity.html
The result of all this is to define a Jew, as a religious person – rather than an ‘ethnic’ – or natural-born Jew.
Jewish but not ‘religious’
The anomaly is that – maybe millions of people who consider themselves truly Jewish, by birth, background, and conviction, - (up to 70%) - would call themselves “secular or atheistic Jews”, in this 21st century! So are they all pretending? Not at all! They take their Jewishness seriously.
The fact is that most Jews, have chosen or at least accepted that they are Jewish.
Therefore, ‘Judaism’ to them, is an outward culture, which can be enjoyable while it doesn’t make huge demands on them. If supporting Israel, or giving to the J.N.F. is part of their commitment, that is O.K. too. Also, marrying a non-Jewish person is acceptable to them.Of course by mixing with other Jews one can often find a club, or hobby or study group or ‘whatever’ - that provides friendship to an individual. This is probably why there are estimated to be 50,000 Jewish people in various non-religious Jewish (Humanistic Groups), in 13 countries.
The reality is that by far the largest group of people, who regard themselves as true Jews, (about 70%) call themselves ‘Secular Jews’. Their Jewishness does seem to be an inner conviction and choice based on family and environment – even cultural educational background, but NOT on ‘religion’. This could be based on the second point (out of at least 5) that the Organisation for ‘Secular Judaism’ –also called ‘Humanistic Judaism’ gives.
is the Historical Culture of the Jewish People,
and religion is only one part of it.”
Anything which detracts from being Jewish or even –
‘disqualifies’ someone from being Jewish is thought of as
despicable, even ‘evil’. Sadly Jewish Religious
Leaders have made it a principle that to change from being a
religious Jew to another religion means that person is no longer
‘Jewish’. Yet some Jews that are into ‘TM’ or
eastern Mystic practices, and some Jews that have other religious
connections does not disqualify them from being Jewish. So it
is possible to be a Hindu Jew, or even a B’hai Jew, or an
atheist Jew and still be accepted as a Jew. We believe as we have
stated that being Jewish should NOT be based on ‘religion’
– it should be based on a cultural heritage by being
Jewish-born and inner, honest convictions about Truth.
Therefore ~ for most Jews, it is actually a ‘treasured possession’ to be Jewish! Most Jews are rightly glad they are Jewish, even if just occasionally they wonder why! This may be that some Jews find the concept of being ‘chosen’ or special rather uncomfortable as it infers some particular ‘role’. Instead they would like to be thought of just like any other racial or ethnic ‘people group’.
A SECULAR JEWISH PERSPECTIVE.
The first point, (out of several made by the Secular Jewish/ Humanistic Judaism leaders) is: “A Jew is someone who identifies with the history, culture and future of the Jewish People.” We would accept that, and would like to discuss the part about the future, in another ‘paper’.
Let’s face it ~ for some Jews there is a problem about being ‘Jewish’. Some Jewish people resent the idea of being ‘special’, or ‘different’ in some way. This can be because of a number of factors, perhaps depending largely on where you live.
1. For those living in a western, democratic nation, the problems are less.
It would seem, most Western Jews are quite comfortable in a modern, democratic society, where the main problems are just the same as everyone else’s – the business of housing, employment, education, health and simply ‘living life’. This is true now, but sadly there have been times when Jews were spoken to or about in cruel ways, even as children. Hopefully it is better for them now.
Arts, sports, and any form of leisure are open and freely available to them. Often Jewish people can advance to high levels of business or government involvement, both men and women. In actual fact, since the establishment of the nation of Israel, many immigrants to Israel from various parts of the world (especially Russia) have then, later on, been able to emigrate from Israel, to USA or other western nations, and found it reasonably easy to find acceptance. It is said there are about 5 million Jews in the USA, with all the freedoms needed to form their own Synagogues, and organisations of different kinds.
2. Those living in Communistic Nations.
It is well known that Jews living in Russia were for a long time forbidden to leave the country, and even imprisoned for trying to leave, as well-known figures like Natan Sharansky, demonstrated. The Soviet Union’s real reasons, were not clear, except for the desire to control all the lives of all the citizens of the USSR. Therefore, the issue of being Jewish was very real to many people, some of whom were really discriminated against, simply for being Jewish. Practicing religious Judaism was dangerous, if not actually forbidden, especially to children and young people. The change of policy after ‘perestroika’ was greatly welcomed by the West and by thousands of Russian Jews who were glad to leave and make a new life in Israel. Gradually President Putin’s Russia realised it had suffered a severe ‘brain drain’ of intelligent and skilled citizens, and is currently working hard to win them back to Russia! So, perhaps this adds to the puzzle of whether being a Jew is an advantage or a disadvantage! [This dilemma is so well presented in the wonderful Play, “Fiddler on the Roof”!]
3. Being a Jew in a Muslim Nation has been very hard for many!
Very many Jewish people have fled over the last 60 years to Israel from Islamic nations, often losing all their property by doing so. In fact the nation of Israel, has absorbed thousands of Jews from ALL parts of the world! Some came through pressure, some by desire for a better life. It is good that recently the fact that many Jews were forced to go to Israel as refugees (leaving possessions and family roots over generations of life), has been recognised by the UNO. These Jewish people do not easily –if ever – forget the discrimination, forced poverty and status as ‘Dhimmis’ – or second-class citizens, as demanded by the Islamic Koran. The story of the Yemeni Jews, for instance is an amazing one.
We recommend you look at: http://jewishrefugees.blogspot.com and especially the story called ’The saviour of Syrian Jewry’. Many Jews from Arab nations have settled well, either in Israel of the Diaspora, but they do not forget the ‘price’ of simply being ‘Jewish’ in their previous country! But they treasure being Jewish in Israel or in a democratic country, now.
almost everything in life there are advantaged and
disadvantages in being Jewish at this present time
~ but one day it will be a great advantage!
BUT THERE IS A TIME, and SOME VALUE IN LOOKING BACK IN HISTORY.
We quote again the first point in Rabbi Wine’s
list as taken from the article in Wikipedia.
“A Jew is someone who identifies with the history,
and culture… of the Jewish People.”
See list of the principles of Jewish Humanism here.
the ancient names and background of today’s Jews, is
There can be no argument from the evidence in historical literature, (of many M.E. national libraries, such as the Akkadian and Sumerian writings, etc,) that originally the early descendants of the nation, some 3,000 years ago, were called ‘Hebrews’.
Later, with the numerical growth of the people as a slave race in Egypt they became known as ‘Israelites’, and then in the establishment of the people as a kingdom in their reclaimed Land, under King David and his son Solomon, they were collectively known as ‘Israel’.
Even though the kingdom was divided, and each part named separately as ‘Israel” and ‘Judah’ and as such, taken in several ‘waves’ of exile away to Mesopotamia, (during reigns of either Babylonian or Assyrian Emperors), gradually they became collectively known as ‘Jews’, (from ‘Yehudi’ =from Judah.) This is confirmed by the reliable records in the Tanakh - of Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah, etc.
After their restoration to a small part of the Land of Israel BCE, they continued to be known as Jews, and this name has persisted to today. There is good evidence, from the Tanakh that the pre-exile nation, called Judah, actually included the 3 other tribes of Benjamin, Simeon and the Levites, so they were not just two tribes, but four. Later, they were joined by many god-fearing Jews at the time of the split away by the so-called ‘10 Tribes’ – (called ‘Israel’), to join the ‘Two Tribes’ – (called ‘Judah’), at the time of the division into two Kingdoms.
Later at the time of good King Hezekiah, so many hundreds more people from the 10 tribes came to Jerusalem, that Hezekiah had to build new walls for the City, parts of which can be seen today, proving it happened! [For those who do accept the Tanakh as a historical book, these facts are written there in several places, e.g.2 Chronicles 11: 13 – 17, and chapter 15:9, also 30:1, etc.] So the ‘Kingdom of Judah’ even before they were also taken in exile to Babylon - included people from all 12 Tribes.
THIS TIME ON IN HISTORY THEY
ALL BECAME KNOWN AS ‘JEWS’.
landmark historical events in the beginning of the Common Era, 1,948
For the sake of brevity, we are condensing the very ancient history of today’s Jewish people, as we refer to the horrific period of the Dispersion of the Jews, almost 2,000 years ago from Israel – ultimately into every nation, so that before 1948, there was no nation, even in Asia or Africa, where descendants of Jews were not found – in what is called ‘The Diaspora’. They were everywhere!
We realise the readers of this site will know all about these things, but our summary is for you to build a mental base of understanding and to try to answer our headline, regarding ‘being Jewish.’ After the destruction of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem religious Judaism began to change, so the ‘Oral’ Law was written, plus Commentaries on how to keep those explanations of the Oral law, The Talmud and the Mishnah. So gradually the character of ‘Biblical Judaism’ changed over the centuries to the more formal Orthodox/Hasidic ‘Talmudic Judaism’, which religious Jews follow in different forms through to this 21st C. Some branches of religious Judaism became more adapted to modern life than others.
However, because of a great love of writing and keeping records, (plus keeping cultural practices, inspite of difficulties), most families did keep a genealogical record, for themselves so many Jews can now verify the fact of being Jewish. The value of it is another question as many records were destroyed or lost, yet the inner understanding of being Jewish has lasted to today.
As we’ve said, Jewish people decide for themselves today, but a knowledge of Jewish history is important, and the cultural character that comes from it, can be of help.
FUTHER SIGNIFICANT FACTS ABOUT BEING JEWISH.
For the thinking person, the above continuing history of the Jewish people, (though an in-depth study of it all would take hours) is not just an amazing scenario – it is built on solid ‘concrete’ - facts! It is heightened by the ‘backdrop’ of sad events that throughout the last 2000 years, and increasingly as the 2nd Millennium was coming to a close! So the survival of the Jewish race has been inspite of renewed efforts of cruelty and oppression in various times of inquisition, banishment, pogroms and in the 1940’s inspite of the genocidal holocaust of the ‘Shoah’ in Europe, to wipe the Jewish race out.
Yet Jewry has survived! Jews, speaking up to 90 languages have re-established themselves in their own separate Nation State and are recognised as a nation by the UNO and most of their members. They have gone on to restore Hebrew as a modern language and excel in many areas of technology, agriculture, defence and other areas of development inspite of their numerically small population.
Israel is also economically very viable, with high levels of foreign investments. Based on a worldwide population of 15 million, Jews equal less than ¼ of 1% of all, yet their influence in so many areas of science, practical inventions, medical advances, is far beyond their numbers. These are only some of the present facts. Jewish people are here to stay against all odds. Thinking people would be quite right to call it a ‘miracle’!
Secular Humanistic Judaism disagrees. There are those who see nothing special, let alone spectacular in this whole verifiable, often studied and written about story – real history!
‘TIME-WISE’ –after 1900 years of living
as a race of people with no Homeland, millions of Jews still
exist. Jews have lasted for 5 Millennia as members of one
race. Also they are one of the few races that have several thousand
years of written, provable history. So there are very valid reasons
for seeing something far beyond ‘purely human
* Time factors of events were written about, thousands of years before they happened. *
2. ‘PEOPLE-WISE’ – The Jewish people as a race of people have survived – and are known by friends and enemies alike – by the hundreds, thousand and even millions. Where they were divided into separate tribes and two different ‘kingdoms’ they are now well blended into one nation of people, inspite of having lived in many different nations. Yet in proportion to their population, Jewish people have made many great contributions to the world, for its betterment, in many different ways, far beyond their numbers.
Jews are more than ‘survivors’!
* These facts were also written about, thousands of years before they happened.*
3. ‘PLACE-WISE’ – or the actual return of Jewish people to their own Eretz Isra’el, in the exact geographical place the Jews were sent out of! This has happened in the 20th Century before the eyes of the entire world, so even as a new Nation, Israel has absorbed millions of new immigrants, from 120 nations, helping them with all they needed to become one nation.
Yet Jews in Israel have still become a modern, vibrant nation State, which attracts for good or bad, the attention of the rest of the world. Success has come by actually using the fertility of the Land in agriculture and horticulture and this is a huge money earner, as is their superb use of water and solar power. [The Kurds of Iraq/ Turkey, the indigenous peoples of Oceania, and many more racial groups, would give a lot (and in some cases are fighting desperately) to have the same privilege, of having their own Territory or land.]
* For Eretz Isra’el, this was all written about, thousands of years before it happened.*
4. ‘SUCCESS-WISE’ – In so many ways, as we’ve said, in comparison with other ethnic groups of the present time, in education, science, medical breakthroughs, inventions, technical expertise, amazing presentations in art, entertainment, (even movie films) and more, Jews have been very successful! In addition the Jewish linguists were even able to revive an ancient language yet make it the main language in a very modern, technical world of all kinds of modern gadgets and equipment!
* These two things were both written about, long before they happened.*
There surely has to be an element of some ‘Unusual Force’ in this world, if all the truth is known and accepted. Because each of these things were all written about separately and together over 2,500 years ago. That should make every Jewish person very glad to be Jewish! The reality is: the preservation and success of the Jewish race can ONLY be described as a ‘Divine Miracle’, and for a beautiful reason.
HOW HAS THE MIRACLE OF EXISTANCE OF MODERN JEWISH PEOPLE HAPPENED? The preservation of the Jewish race as a distinct, ethnic ‘people group’, is exceptional!
Survival - inspite of being scattered.
For example: In the purely natural course of events, the Jewish people as a race, should not exist. Being scattered in smaller or even larger groups in every country of the world, should have led to them being ‘lost’ as a recognisable, racial group of people. People have to mix and mingle with those around them, and Jews have done this so well, yet have maintained their distinctiveness.
Survival - inspite of discrimination – even hatred.
Also for thousands of Jews, discrimination has made them more aware of what it means to be Jewish. The pressures that surrounded them, were a kind of ‘preservation mechanism’. By choosing to maintain their cultural traditions, yet advance in many fields of excellence is amazing, and yet not be absorbed and lost as a distinctive group - of Jewish people.
Where there was discrimination – or worse – persecution, the Jews were forced (especially in Europe) to live in closed areas, called ‘ghettoes’. This preserved their religion and culture, right up to the 20th century. That they survived the vast, cruel machine of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’ is nothing less than a miracle, yet some 60 years on, Jewish people in their own Nation State of ‘Isra’el’ and even in the rest of the world have much to celebrate. We are so glad they can! It means so much to us.This is not to belittle the huge problems Israel is currently grappling with!
it could be possible that for reasons we may not fully understand,
the experiences of hardship were allowed by a Higher Power,
to preserve Jews for a greater future than they can ever imagine?
Each of the above points provides an amazing proof of the significance of ‘being a Jew’. When plain, ‘secular’ history is examined carefully; the continual preservation of the Jewish race is an indisputable fact! It may faintly resemble a fantasy, but instead, it is a fantastic fact of verifiable history!
*** Note each of the statements made about the events being written about hundreds of years before would require extensive quotes and studies of the ancient documents, ESPECIALLY the TANAKH, so we will write about these in a separate article. ****
contrast many indigenous races over the millennia have
Some were eliminated by ethnic cleansing in various wars, some by repeated absorption into nearby racial groups, some even by disease and famine in the areas they lived in. So one could ask, “where are the Canaanites, the Hivites, the Jebusites, the Hittites, the Perizites?” They were all strong and viable national racial groups when the Hebrew people, (under their leaders from Joshua on) were claiming the Land their ancestors had lived on. Even their ‘cousins’ (from Esau) the ‘Edomites’ were finally eliminated, as clearly foretold in books of the Tanakh, like Obadiah.
now ~ we believe ~
for every truly Jewish person
in the next few years ~
THERE IS A SURE HOPE OF A VERY BRIGHT FUTURE
reality of serious situations for Jews in the present times of
the 21st century.
We now move from the historical facts and points of interest and significant historical facts to the present situation for Secular Jewish people, and most Jews, today. For many observers, and those with an interest in Israel and the Jewish people, the concern is that the Jewish people will disappear through ‘absorption’. This is a genuine reason for concern, to a degree. Also the modern military possibilities of elimination by war and lethal weapons are an on-going threat to Jewish survival, by large and small power blocs, who still resent their existence. Amazing, but sadly true!
It is also good to know the facts of the future.
So will all Jews be eliminated one day? No, not ever! It cannot happen, under any circumstances. Believe us, there is still a missing Factor in all the discussions and conclusions. It is part of who you are! We trust you will allow us to introduce this to you for your own thinking and encouragement in another paper. See ‘What’s so special about being Jewish’.
All Jewish History and analysis of it cannot eliminate a Divine factor.
It is said, a monarch, (in ancient France), who had his own personal Priestly Advisor, asked him one day, “How do we know there is a God?’ The royal Advisor (a famous mathematician – Blaise Pascal) thought for a moment, and then replied, “The Jews, your Majesty”.
are all part, we believe of the
greatest story ever told!
It could even be called “GOD’S STORY”!
So to know you are Jewish is a privilege! You are no ‘accident’!
Please do us (and maybe yourself) a favour don’t make any conclusions yet…
Wait till you have read our next article. The second of the ‘Mystery Articles’.
See it here. Thank you so much!
Don’t forget you are welcome to contact us with your comments or questions.
We’d love to hear from you.