Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Makes a Proud Jew?

Quick poll:

Do you consider yourself a proud Jew?

If so, what was the primary contributing factor to that pride?  (You may choose more than one - this is not House Hunters.)

1. Your home/parents
2. Grandparents
3. Jewish day school (through 8th grade)
4. Jewish day school (through 12th grade)
5. Time spent in Israel
6. Jewish summer camp
7. Other (what?)

Ready?  Go.
28 comments

28 comments:

  1. None of the above. It is your actions. Don't hide your identity. Act in a manner to bring approbation on other jews. Let Torah be your first guide in everything you do.

    If by source you mean how did I get to point where I identify as a proud jew, I would also argue none of the above. It was years of living in the south as a real minority.

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    1. Marc, I totally agree with your first point, but I did initially mean the second point. And I find that fascinating, because I do see that Jews in more isolated or hostile environments emerge with an almost perversely proud Jewish identity. Thanks for weighing in.

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  2. 7. The amazing stories I hear about chessed between Jews from around my neighbourhood, the country, and the world. Knowing the source of my heritage goes back beyond even the "greatest" secular societies. Seeing how much truth there is every day while living a Torah lifestyle. Getting a glimpse of great Jewish people - leaders and not - who are a mentch ("normal") first, a sponsor/rebbe/genius/parent/professional second. Being able to affect others - Jewish and not - simply by acting as a Jew should.

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  3. My initial thought in response to your question is that I am not "proud" or "not proud" - being Jewish is just what I AM. It is like asking if I am "proud" of having blue eyes. But I guess in a world with colored contact lenses, my blue eyes are also a choice.

    Do I live my Jewish life publicly, consciously, confidently? Yes, most definitely. Why? I'd say primarily my parents and secondarily my elementary school day school education.

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    1. miriambyk - interesting. I always saw Jewish pride as not only a choice, but a goal.

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  4. Hard to say. I never thought too much about my Jewishness until I was an adult. It just was. So, even though I come from an observant home, I wouldn't say it was that. My school (high school) started to get me thinking and making conscious choices about which direction I wished my life to go. Post high school, I studied for a year in Israel (Bnos Chava on the Neve campus) which gave me more opportunity to think through who I was and wanted to be. My interactions with the girls who were just starting to explore their Jewishness at Neve gave me a new appreciation for the upbringing and schooling I had and the knowledge I possessed. And then, working in the secular world and then moving out of town to a place where you could count the observant people on your fingers, encouraged me to hold my Jewish head up high and take seriously my mission of being a light for my fellow Jews and a light unto the nations.

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  5. I would most definitely call myself a proud Jew. I would say my parents were the biggest instiller of that pride, by teaching me most of what babysteps317 wrote (it was really beautiful). Outside of living a Torah lifestyle, it's amazing how much they taught me about being proud of who I am. They somehow gleaned the essence of what Judaism means, without the observance of it-- that's why I still find commonalities between what I learned from my parents as a child and the deeper meanings of the mitzvos I am only learning about as an adult. My dad is Israeli, so I definitely have pride from that, and a primal connection to the land where my family has had a deep personal connection for over a hundred years. THank you, Ruchi, for asking a question that lets me remember and honor my parents like this!!

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    1. You're welcome, and thanks for the beautiful and inspiring tribute! You make me hold my Jewish head higher!

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  6. Should be workingMarch 22, 2012 at 1:36 AM

    The question puzzles me, actually the phrase even sounds to me like something I would not aspire to be--because I associate 'pride' with 'vanity' or 'arrogance' and so really the goal would be to be a 'humble Jew' or more generally a humble person.

    But I know this is not how the phrase "proud Jew" is meant by Ruchi and others here, for whom being Jewish IS about being humble before God and other people. I guess the phrase in this blog context means 'proud of Judaism' which would not be a personal pride in oneself but a pride in what one feels privileged to belong to.

    Even in that, though, I can't say I feel proud of Judaism, the whole formulation still sounds to me like a claim of superiority that I would not be comfortable making. I learned to ENJOY Judaism at good old Camp Wise in the 1970s, but pride is different from that. I am happy to be indirectly associated with some of the amazing Jewish intellectuals that have written great things (I'm thinking more of secular Jewish authors and Jewish Enlightenment e.g. Mendelssohn), but I can't say I feel 'proud' of them because I can't take any credit for any of it.

    Is Jewish pride here an important value for Orthodoxy (like the Jewish unity emphasis that I had never heard of before this blog)? Or is it more a matter of emphasizing one's pride as a response to negative representations of Jews and to the history of persecution of Jews with a Jewish-positive attitude?

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    1. "'proud of Judaism' which would not be a personal pride in oneself but a pride in what one feels privileged to belong to."

      Yes. That's exactly it.

      As always I find your perspective so enlightening. I love it that we can learn more about the greater Jewish community by discussing ideas with one another.

      Here's the phrase from the Torah that jumps into my mind:

      "And you shall be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6) - this was transmitted by God to the Jewish nation via Moses just before the revelation at Sinai.

      What does this tell me? In discussing the inherent pride that each Jew should have in his identity, the analogy is used of the "priests." Now, not every Jew was a priest. It means that priest:Jewish nation::Jewish nation:other nations. Leaders, teachers, moral beacons.

      Ah...if only it were more often so.

      Nevertheless, this pride is inherent, without any claim of superiority. The Jewish priests were given respect and certain honors, but they are not "superior." Ditto for us. It's a moral mandate, and of that we can be proud - but it certainly begs the question, are we fulfilling it.

      And no, unlike many Jews' tendency to link identity with negative things (like the Holocaust), it's not a response to the negative.

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    2. I think if cohanim were never treated as superior, there would have been no need for Korach to rebell in the first place.

      For all groups, there's a thin, thin line between pride in one's group and feeling superior to another group. And the vast majority of people, including Jews, do not see that line at all.

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    3. Hi Anonymous,

      Korach's rebellion did not indicate a flaw in the system, nor in the practice of it. It indicated a flaw in him.

      When I look at the landscape of Judaism today, it seems to me that the vast majority of Jews have too little pride in their faith, not too much. Or - don't really know what "pride" really means. Either way, education is the solution, as opposed to chucking the system.

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    4. Korach would have not felt the way he did if there was no attitude of superiority. He was not an idiot or a liar or an attention seeker. Of course, you can posit he was wrong. But I am asking what led him to the wrong conclusions in the first place? Surely it could not have been an active, obvious attitude of equal but separate. - MP

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    5. Hi MP, what led him to the wrong conclusion was a defect in his personality. In a word, jealousy.

      If a person is a jealous of another, does that necessarily mean that the object of his envy behaved badly, or that a system in which there are concentric circles of status of any sort is inherently flawed? (I'm thinking...Animal Farm?)

      For more on the root of Korach's flaw, see here: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/chrysler/archives/korach69.htm

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    6. Sure, there are all kinds of hierarchies in society. That is a given. And there are people to whom I feel superior (ex. criminals) and there are those who are better and worthier people than I am ( doctors without borders). Usually, though, these hierarchies are not based on rather superficial things like which version of God one belives in, I think.

      Also, Animal Farm depicts a society where equal but separate is the slogan, but really some beings are "more equal than others" so it is a very appropriate moshal for our discussion here.

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    7. Why are you superior to a criminal? You don't know what that criminal has contended with. Your choices are not his choices.

      Which version of God one believes in? Where does that enter the equation? Actually, a Kohein is a Kohein no matter what he believes - but that still doesn't make him superior. Ditto for a Jew.

      My reference to Animal Farm was meant to indicate that attempting a world with no hierarchies is unrealistic - but I see you already agree with me on that. We simply diverge on what constitutes the categories.

      I do think, ultimately, that you will continue to hold your opinions on the matter and I, mine. I'm okay with that. My goal is not to change any minds that wish to be left alone but rather to offer insight to those that seek it.

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  7. I don't really know where I got my Jewish identity. I was raised secular and my dad's a Christian. We celebrated Christmas and Easter (non-religiously) every year, but only occasionally made a half-hearted stab at Chanukah and Pesach; I wasn't raised knowing any other Jews who were more observant than that or even not intermarried. Still, I never even considered becoming a Christian, and always felt an irresistable pull towards Judaism. I asked my mom unprompted if I could go to Hebrew school (although she had brought it up before when I was too young to understand its significance), and when I became seriously ill and had to drop out at age eleven, I kept studying Hebrew and Torah on my own off the Internet. I'm teaching my little brother now. So....I guess I would fall under #7, maybe?

    One of the most painful things I've experienced was finding out that my mom's mother was born a goy and never officially converted, despite adopting her purebred-Orthodox husband's Jewish lifestyle and identity one hundred percent, which makes me not officially a Jew. I can't even describe how much it hurt, because Judaism is really important to me and I love it so, so much. It still does hurt, but I figure I'll deal with it when I go to college this fall. I don't need a matrilineal bloodline to be part of a Reform synagogue, anyway, and that's the only one close to campus. But I decided not to tell my brother until after he's had his bar mitzvah.

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    1. Rivqa, thank you for commenting here. I got the chills while reading about your journey. It sounds like there are some true stirrings in your soul, and I encourage you to continue on your journey and see where it leads you. Welcome to my blog.

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    2. Thank you, and I definitely will. I couldn't abandon Judaism; it's too important to me. So I know I'll keep it; I just don't know the details yet. And I like your blog! I've been lurking for a while now, but maybe I'll comment more. ^^

      Also, I just realized I kind of missed the point of the question. ._. So....don't mind me....*awkward cough*

      Actually, I have a story about Jewish pride! The wrong kind. If you want to hear it.

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    3. Rivqa - I didn't think you missed the point... but anyway.

      Not sure what you mean by "the wrong kind" but if you think it's germane, go for it.

      OH and please lurk away :)

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  8. I went to Day School from grade 1-8, but that didn't make me a proud jew. I've been to Israel twice. That didn't make me a proud jew. I'm not religious, and married a man who doesn't even want to go to shul on the high holidays. Obviously, that doesn't contribute. What makes me a proud jew is everything-my family, my parents, my heritage, my culture. The beauty and joy of the rituals. The identity, the food, the people, the sense of belonging wherever I go. That's what makes me a proud jew.

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    1. Mara, do you think day school and Israel contributed at all, or no?

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  9. This is a paragraph from my conversion essay. It is why I am proud to be a Jew:


    I know I am Jewish because the Jewish religion is still the most reliable source of ethical and moral values in the Western World. Because Judaism compels us to reconfigure the loneliness of exile and Otherness into the struggle for truth and justice. Because our identity gives us strength to do what is right and important for the sake of the rest of the world. Because Judaism understands that words can wound, can maim, and can kill. Because Judaism affirms that women have a role in this tradition, and that it was the righteousness of women that led to our liberation from Egypt. Because Judaism is not governed by any hierarchy imposed by G-d and that we can all communicate directly with the Holy. Because our G-d cares what people do and rewards and punishes people as an expression of divine care. Because doing as we are commanded is the fire test of our strength. Because the toughmindedness of the Jewish tradition provides us with a vehicle to confront the challenges of life, fueling our perennial quest for perfection. Because we audaciously propel ourselves toward a future conceived with the tremendous faith it takes to believe in the possibility of a new Genesis. Because we are G-d’s partners—equal, worthy, and competent—in building a just world, not because it is the nice thing to do but rather our G-d-given obligation to actively live and participate in the world around us.

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    1. This is so magnificent. Thank you for posting it here.

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  10. "this pride is inherent, without any claim of superiority. The Jewish priests were given respect and certain honors, but they are not superior. Ditto for us."

    so true; I never thought of it that way before now - ty ruchi!

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