Finding Identity

4 02 2007

Last night I had a long discussion with a friend about trying to define who is and isn’t Jewish. Amazingly, she hadn’t seen all of the long debates about that very issues, and it was really interesting to talk to someone with a fresh perspective.  Despite not being particularly observant, she still feels like being Jewish should be defined by practice, by DOING something Jewish. She was of the opinion that Judaism is at it’s core a religion, not an ethnicity, that affiliation is through action, not just through decent. Honestly, I feel like the closest comparison is to a nation, since that allows for affiliation through birth, and for joining later in life. It also parallels the sense that converts, that people who choose to join the Jewish people are held to stricter standards than those who were born into it. That said, it’s not perfect. Judaism survived for 2000 years scattered across the world, in separate communities, with no land of their own, and no nation that has done that. But religion doesn’t cover it either. People who’s parents are Baptists don’t identify as Baptists in the same way that secular Jews do.  Not surprisingly, we didn’t make any major breakthroughs in this discussion (I somehow don’t think that two college age girls in half an hour of discussion will resolve something people with much more knowledge than we have have been working over for years.  Not that it hasn’t been asked of my before, but that’s another story) 

What really touched me was something she said in passing.  She said at one point that what she was really confused by was that as far as she was concerned I defined what Judaism was supposed to be, someone who was committed and passionate and knowledgeable about Judaism, and yet by any definition I’m not Jewish.  One of the things I respect most in the observant people around me is that they live their lives so that other people can see the beauty in that life.  I am orthodox, so I do see value in people becoming more observant, even while I acknowledge that orthodoxy isn’t for everyone.  To have someone who is in the process of finding their place in Judaism say that they see me as that sort of example feels like one of the highest compliments that I could hope for.  It’s nice to know that I’m succeeding at least as far as one person sees it. 

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One response

5 02 2007
TikkunGer

Interesting blog

I have some thoughts that I would like to share but don’t have time just know. However, i will add you to my blogroll and try to follow your journey into conversion. fell free me to add me to you Blogroll, if you like.

also a friend sent me this and i thought you might find it useful.

http://community.livejournal.com/weirdjews2/685121.html

be well

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