Friday, October 4, 2013

Jewish Identity Now

From Pew Research Institute
There is a new poll done on Jews in America.  I think it's sort of scary.  I'm in an interfaith marriage, but I don't know that we really consider it that.  We are definitely raising EG Jewish, we had a Jewish wedding with a ketubah, and we are committed to Judaism as a religion and a culture.  I was raised conservative, but I have no idea what label to put on myself now.  EG is at a Chabad daycare, we light candles every Friday, but I don't cover my hair and we don't keep Shabbat.  I have philosophical/religious problems with Reform Judaism related to the Messiah, but we don't attend a conservative temple... so, what are we?

My sister... not quite the same story.  She's actually a member of a temple, had a Jewish wedding, does lots with her Chavura.  Despite temple membership I'm not sure she considers herself a religious Jew.  I know that she would associate herself with reform Judaism, but I'm not sure her husband would call their son a religious Jew...?

We know a great couple- both Jews.  She was raised Conservative, him culturally Jewish.  Now they are somewhere in the Reform camp.  Kosher at home, not outside the house. 

We held a Yom Kippur baby break-the-fast this year.  It was lovely, and well attended.  We had two Israelis who speak Hebrew, but don't think of themselves as Jewish religiously.  Two intermarried couples in addition to ourselves- one who is non-religious, one who just came because it was a get-together.  We are happy to have everyone, but it goes to show that everyone's relationship to Judaism is different.

Seems like my little world hits all of the different options in the survey.

Judaism has always had a dual existence in my mind.  Yes, it's a religion.  But in many ways its a culture and an ethnicity.  To be culturally Jewish, and want challah and matza ball soup when you are sick.  To be ethnically Jewish and have the shared history to Moses, Joseph, and the Holocaust.  These are things that go beyond a religious identity.

Only 15% said they viewed Jewishness as mainly a religion.  On the one hand this makes sense.  I don't practice all the aspects of the religion, and when I was in college I didn't practice any of them, but I'm still a Jew.  The 2/3 that said you didn't have to believe in G-d to be Jewish were probably jsut coming back from Israel.  Where everyone is a 'Jew' belief in G-d being completely beside the point.

We learn from early on that 'being' Jewish is really about your heritage.  That's what matters to the Rabbi, and that's what mattered to Hitler- attendance at church or temple was besides the point.

The thing that scares me the most though is what they said about how 40% of Jews believe you can still be Jewish if you believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  Really!?  Now this I don't understand.  Isn't that the principle difference between Christians and Jews?  The whole messiah thing....

Since EG goes to the JCC in the South Bay (which is actually a Chabad), they talk a lot about the coming of the moshiach.  It sort of puts us in an odd place, because I'm not exactly sure what to say or feel about it.  I don't know that I really believe that my actions can directly bring the messiah to us, in our time.  However, I do believe that the messiah will come.  Which sort of precludes us from being Reform Jews (who generally believe that the arrival of the Messiah is a state of mind, rather than a literal person or coming).

Where do you stand?  Are you a non-religious Jew in America?  Do you/are you teaching your children Judaism as a religion?

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