September 9, 2018

5778 in News of the Jews

Posted in Judaism at 9:13 am by chavalah

Continuing in the vein of my posts for the last two years. Wherein I assess my personal thoughts about the broader Jewish world before the start of High Holidays this evening.

The United States

I’ve been doing a little bit of reading about the American Jewish experience this year. We’ve always been in a bit of a weird position. We’re legally white, because the powers that be in the 19th century figured that helps establish Manifest Destiny and the idea of a superior culture, based on color. I’m not sure if any other nation, even other British colonies, formulated its identity so firmly along race lines. For Jews, it’s a far cry from the inferior position that we held in Europe (and often in North Africa and the Middle East.) But just because we were legally white doesn’t mean that we didn’t face bigotry and persecution here. “Cultural” whiteness isn’t so clear cut, at least with us.

This is helping me deal with realities for Jews on the left today. (The perception of Jews on the right seems to lie between Nazis screaming “Jews will not replace us!” and the fetishizing of Israel as a pornographically gun-happy state. I’m kinda scared to watch Sacha Baron Cohen’s “mockumentary” on the subject.) For my purposes, I’m projecting American Jews as “other” from our country’s politics. The more I think about it, the more I believe that the Jewish narrative is cyclical. We don’t fully fit in anywhere.

It’s an easy cop out, though, to not engage. I know that my “activism” consists of watching Zioness from afar and occasionally reposting articles in the hopes that my liberal friends will consider an empathetic approach to Jewish issues. I FEEL both despondent and resigned to the fact that we’ve been here before. So few gentile movements give decent credence to the Jews. We have to contend with Women’s March leaders defending (or at the very least downplaying) Louis Farrakhan’s antisemitism, or dismissing the storied, progressive history of the Anti-Defeamation League. “Intersectionality,” the new left says, does not apply to Jews.

So thank you, JTA, for publishing this opinion piece. Let me take the message into 5779–do NOT disengage. Find common ground for the greater good. But keep resisting, too. Make sure that Jews are heard.

The Personal

I really love my book club (hi guys!) Should be doing more about my Jewish affiliation, but y’all are my biggest kehila right now.

Even though I think y’all think I’m crazy for how much I associate The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin with Jewish themes. But seriously–this might be the most kosher book I’ve read this year! Excepting–lol–that I believe the fortune telling aspect, and main conceit of the story, is a little too far into the Christian predetermination camp.

The themes of this book loom large during the High Holiday season where, metaphorically, we exist somewhere between life and death. There’s beauty and tragedy to the image of Gd sitting poised to write our names or blot them out of the Book of Life. But on a deeper level, these holy days remind us of the fragility of life. Death is inevitable for all of us. But how are we going to live in the here and now? That’s up to us, and these ten glorious days give the structure to assess for the future, however lengthy or brief.

With every passing year, I find myself more emotionally connected to Rosh Hashanah. This might be the only time of year when I believe in the “God” who feels prevalent in the general understanding of Abrahamic religions. Gd as a sense of personal expectation, at least, of separating “right” from “wrong.”

Usually I’m an agnostic. Aside from love of family, my most deeply held belief–so deeply that sometimes it startles me–is in the Jewish narrative. I think about the long thread of Jewish religion, culture and history and I’m left gasping for air. Gd is simply a character in the story. The beauty and pain, the persecution and promise and hopeful redemption of the Jewish narrative is what makes me believe in a higher purpose.

I’m not trying to spit on, y’know, the vast majority of the world or anything. 😛 I’m just saying I know where my place is, because this belief is so integral to me. I tend to express this devotion through reading and reviewing a boatload of Jewish literature per year. But I have to challenge myself, too. Judaism is about kehila. We may also be the people of the book, so props to me for that, but I need to interact more with the people, too. This is where I belong.

The Israel

To get the most important bit out of the way–next year to renewed actions towards peace with Palestinians. I don’t want to be glib, but the topic obviously merits its own space.

On a more personal note–what the shit. And more of this?

I know I’m focusing on the negative. It can be difficult, as a Diaspora Jew, to feel the nuances, the bad and the good, of the Israeli experience. I continue to be grateful to The Promised Podcast, but as an American, non-Orthodox Jew, its easy to feel those deepening divisions. A nice counter to that argument–JTA recently published that many Israeli and American Jews are sick and tired of the Chief Rabbinate. Next year to focusing on where we agree and effecting pluralistic and empathetic change.

L’shanah tova.


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