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← Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Rob W.'s Avatar Jump to comment 14 by Rob W.

What unites the atheistic Jew with the religious Jew (and all the Jews between them -- e.g. secular, agnostic Jews)? What is it that they all have in common which allows us to apply the term "Jew" to them all? I'm arguing that it's that heritage of Torah & Mitzvoth, even if part or all of that heritage is rejected at an individual level. That's why history is part of the big picture. The idea of "Jewish culture" being separate from "Jewish religion" is a very post-modernist idea which takes Jews and Judaism out of historical context.

A Jew is not neccessarily someone who believes or practices Judaism. A Jew is someone whose mom is Jewish. That's not just some opinion; that's the legal definition. In fact, it took me a long time to get this because the western world is so dominated by Gentile -- mostly Christian -- notions about what religion is. I've noticed that a great deal of Western Atheist thought is informed by these Christian notions. It's so ubiquitous that it has affected the thinking of Western Jews and Gentiles alike even when people are not aware of it.

If it is not the heritage of Torah & Mitzvoth, then I don't know what it is. All other suggested answers fall short because all other suggested answers only include some subset(s) of Jews; no other suggestion I've heard covers all the Jews.

As I say, this heritage is matrilineal. For years, people kept telling me this, and I would argue. It typically went like this:

"Rob, if your mom is Jewish, then you are Jewish."

"Isn't it my own personal decision what religion I am? What if I want to go join the Hindu temple, for example?"

"Then, Rob, you will be a Jew sitting in the Hindu temple."

"But my dad's side of the family is Gentile. So that makes me half-Jewish."

"You can't be half-Jewish any more than you can be half-pregnant. It's your mom who determines your religious identity; Jewish Law (Halacha) says so."

"What do I care what Jewish Law says? I'm an American; I live under the Constitution."

But the world won the argument by wearing me down through repetition. So many people over the course of so many years just kept telling me over and over again:

"Rob, if your mom is Jewish, then you are Jewish,"

until finally one day, I just caved. I threw in the towel, and said,

"Okay, alright, I'm Jewish! Apparently I'm Jewish whether I like it or not. I guess I better get my toochas to shul and learn to like it."

So nowadays I do attend synogogue services where I'm learning to like it.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 09:18:41 UTC | #950865