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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Criticizing Israel's policies is not anti-Semitic in itself, but I do think the disproportionate focus on Israel's *horrible crimes* while paying no attention to or making excuses for the actions of all the other countries in the area is evidence of anti-Semitic bias.

No, John.  I don't think that would cause you to be classified as anti-Asian. 

But the whole "Jews started this evil thing, and in Isreal they continue to do so today" statement Stephen made earlier doesn't sound like it's just being critical of the nation of Israel.  I'm not trying to accuse anyone of being anti-semitic. Take it from me, I've made many of these same statements before and I don't consider myself to be anti-Semitic (just one-sided as hell, sometimes). What really burns me is that I made almost that exact same statement before on another one of Natalie's discussions..   

This is a subject which always invites discussion-quite often heated discussion.  Ethnicity sounds like such a little thing.  It's not.

  If something exists, then it can be talked about. If atheists can't have a civilized discussion on a topic like this, then I don't expect anyone else to.  But we CAN have a civilized discussion on this topic, so I'm all for that.   

  This whole blog has been quite informative despite the "heaviness" in some parts.  I enjoy this group for just this reason.  I always learn something.

Considering how many responses Natalie's blogs on this subject always generates, I can't wait for the next one.  Where there is disagreement, so long as rational dialogue can be maintained, eventually there is understanding-but that doesn't guarantee agreement.

John, it's perfectly OK for you to disagree with what North Korea is doing. But if you held it against the civilians of North Korea who have no influence on their government's actions, and South Koreans, and people of Korean descent in other countries, that would be a different thing.

And if you ONLY concentrated on North Korea to the total exclusion of the problems that are occurring in the neighboring countries of North Korea, for example, China, Taiwan and the Philippines, then, yeah, I would think you had a specific bias against North Korea which might not be justifiable.

Or paying no attention to or making excuses for actions in countries not in the Middle East.

For centuries, English Catholics and non-Catholic xians slaughtered as many of each other as they could.

Natalie - Israeli Jewish people treat 'visitors' completely different than if you're part of their family. There is a reason for this but I won't go into it at this time.

I could go visit Israel and be treated fine. I could see all the lovely sights and see all the lovely women. I'm not part of their family's nor am I part of their business dealongs - other than I will be treated nicely because I'm a visitor hopefully with lots of MONEY.

I believe that's exactly what you experienced when you 'visited' that country. Living there and intermingling within family's and their workforce/workplace is a different animal.

Those darn Jews have become as bad as Disneyworld! 

i've dealt with something similar my whole life.  i was raised Catholic, but my father was Jewish (hence my last name, Greenberg).  most people are very confused, and simply say that i am Jewish, or at least 1/2 jewish.  my response was always you can't be half of a religion (Judaism), but i would agree that part of my culture is Jewish.  in that regard, i guess you could call me a Jewish Catholic (at the time), but you can see where that is a false label. 

 

i have 2 Jewish friends who are both Atheists, but they very much embrace their Jewish heritage.  Atheism is not a big deal to either of them - they don't really ever think about it.  their Atheism came quite natural to them and required little to no digging. 

As you know, Jews include just as wide a spectrum of belief, observance and action as other peoples do (I intentionally did NOT say "religion" because Jewishness is NOT just a religion -- that idea comes from the Jews of my parents' generation who were desperately trying to assimilate in order to avoid the anti-Semitism which was quite prevalent in their time).

It is very clear in later Jewish writings that the concept of god is formless and unknowable. From there, it's a very easy step to agnosticism, and for those to whom it makes sense, to atheism. We just don't carry the Christian baggage of concepts like original sin, heaven, hell, salvation, or what would Jesus do. Jewish writings are also very clear that what matters is what you DO in this life -- there is little to no concept or concern about an afterlife, or about reward and punishment. Jews have always been very legalistic (as are Muslims), and this is very apparent in books like Leviticus. But what is most interesting is that, except for fringe groups, Jews have ALWAYS considered it necessary for laws to be interpreted in context of culture and individual exigencies, not as literal commandments from God. That's why we not only have the Talmud, which is a compendium of arguments pro and con for how to interpret and apply ancient law to (then) modern situations. It is said that young people who have studied the Talmud score significantly higher on the LSAT than those who haven't, because the Talmud teaches you how to debate and support your position with proof from the writings available to you. (which is what some of the atheists here are doing quite successfully!)

After the Talmud, there is a great library of writings on the same subjects, such as the Shulchan Aruch (Long Table) and the Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides, and there is a long history of famous scholars who contributed to the literature. And it is still going on. Just yesterday, I read an article by an ORTHODOX rabbi on how to include gays into full participation in the Jewish community. He quoted Torah, and he quoted Talmud, and made quite a logical and compassionate argument, considering modern scientific learning about the origins of homosexuality -- the article was quite beautiful. It's at http://morethodoxy.org/2012/01/11/homosexuals-in-the-orthodox-commu... and quite breathtaking for an Orthodox rabbi. Of course, most Orthodox rabbis won't currently be following him, but it's a start. (And Reform congregations have been freely accepting gays for decades).

More in response to other messages.

I've found this discussion regarding culture being 'this or that'...such as 'my culture is Jewish'...not refering to the religion at all...just the 'heritage'.

This sort of 'thing' separates us. My name suggests and I know for a fact that my ancestors came from Italy - migrated to France - and in the 16th century migrated to Canada and then the U.S.

I relate not one tiny bit to Italy. Those people - next to American's are frickin fruit-cakey! Look at the Amanda knox trial! Besides, their ancestors were the Romans...and I want nothing to do with any of them...they are NOT my heritage. Neither are the French, nor the Canadian's - except I USE the Canadian's when I travel cause it's frickin embarrassing worldwide to be know as an American - you know - 39th out of 40 Western countries in ranking for math and other sciences. Only Turkey ranks lower on this scale. The entire world laughs at us and our religious ignorance.

You know it's perfectly OK for you NOT to identify as an Italian, but anyone who sees your surname, and knows anything about the Italian language, will immediately identify you as someone with origins in Italy. You're lucky, because there isn't any cultural hatred or oppressions of Italians EVEN if they have their wacky side, and you can treat your Italian heritage any way you want to. People have probably said to you "That's an Italian surname, isn't it?" but it's just a curiosity question, and it ends there.

On the other hand, you are hesitant about identifying yourself as an American when you travel abroad. Could that be because people DO have and show hostility toward Americans? You mention embarrassment at being known as an American -- but there is no reason to be embarrassed, except as a reaction to how people might treat you. Well, Jews have experienced that kind of reception for millennia, and have been forced to live in special districts, and to show their Jewishness through colors and styles of dress, just so that Christian Europeans could harass them. In your case, all you feel is a little embarrassment (but enough that you hide your real identity), but to Jews, it was a threat to their livelihood, families and lives. I wonder if you can see the parallel.

To my mind, various ethnicities are a wonderful, endlessly interesting characteristic of the human race. I don't want us to all be the same -- it's incredibly boring to go to Tokyo, and eat at McDonald's. While there are basic mores that we need to share, such as the obvious "no murder" to the less obvious "we need to protect the ecology" (this is a subject that needs much discussion and debate), there are lots of ways that we can rejoice in our differences with respect, and no need to feel divided. Each individual is different from every other anyway, and I find that a reason to enjoy life, and not a reason to hate anyone or put them down.

No argument from me that many groups have been discriminated against. I just talk about the Jews because I am one, and I DO have a good knowledge of Jewish philosophy, laws, culture, language and customs, and would like to see them represented fairly and dispassionately.

Natalie: This should be a wonderful topic that we all can learn from!

I think I had previously recommended a book written by an American Jew that describes his Jewish family - recently Americanized - but still fully 100% believing that Israel Jews are the 'true' chosen peoples - thus they were pleased when this author marrried an Israel woman. It was the biggest nightmare regarding Israeli Jews I've ever read.

Leaving Judaism by James Einbein (not his real name).

I'd like to address a couple items for your consideration.

1. the word GOY...used by Israeli Jews towards everyone on the frickin planet (yes, other Jews are still GOYS because they're not Israeli)....some are more 'goy'  than others - apparently there's a sliding scale.

2. You have stated that Jews are an ethnic people. I say that's pure bullshit. They are Semitic peoples exactly like those Palestain's they fight with and kill and are killed. Dating back 4,000 years or so - they were murdering and taking only the virgin girls - genocide - and thus making them an 'ethnic' people because they murdered and or killed everyone for 100-Kilometers in ever direction. This sort of in-breeding certainly qualifies them for their very own special 'ethnic' status?

Take an Iranian - Iraqi - Syrian - Saudi - and line them all up - they all look damn near the same - dressed exactly alike I doubt anyone can tell the difference - 'ethnic' Jews? I don't accept it and don't believe it. Prove me wrong.

Now if one were to refer to these 'people' as Hebrews - a sect apart from other Semitic peoples - that make sence to me - just as a 'Persian' makes sense - not 'ethnic' still Semitic - but simply a different sect of an original very widespread Semitic peoples.

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