Friday, 30 July 2010
According to an article in the New York Times, the Israeli parliament is trying to pass a law that the definition of Jewishness will now be determined by a group of ultra-Orthodox rabbis. Basically, all of Israel is considered non-Jewish until proven otherwise.
It's worth noting that the methods used by these rabbis defy the conditions set by Hillel, who is arguably the most well-known rabbi in Judaism (besides, perhaps, Jesus).
Thanks to Adolf Hitler, the 18 million Jews that existed in this world-- descendants of survivors of crusades, inquisitions, and genocides for millenia --was reduced to 12 million. That's barely even 1 percent. It's ridiculous that any Jew would want to establish a law to make that number even less. That means that a majority, if not all, of Jews in America will be stripped of their Jewish identity.
It makes sense that I should be somewhat relieved by this. I mean, if I was never Jewish in the first place, I guess I can worship Jesus now without guilt. This is difficult to explain without offending Jews of any denomination, but I have to say it anyway: the issue of how Jewishness is defined is a big reason why I fled to Jesus (I don't like the word "convert," as it implies that I left my Jewish identity behind, which I didn't. It's like trying to peel my skin off). I didn't like having to justify to my Orthodox friends that I was just as Jewish as they were even if I never kept kosher or wore long skirts. I have never been comfortable with the idea that the definition of what makes someone Jewish can change as time moves forward. The introduction of the Reform movement in the seventies promoted a "pick and choose" style of faith. It worked for many Jews in America; it didn't work for me. I don't want a faith with laws that change with technology and societal norms. I wanted a relationship with a consistent Creator.
This is an odd argument coming from me, I know. I should know better than to judge Judaism based on the people who try to make it something that fits with their lifestyle, because I am the first person to jump on a non-Christian for criticizing Christianity as a whole based on people who twist Jesus' words to fit their lifestyle. I am biased, obviously, because I am now looking at Judaism as a system of laws that have already been fulfilled. Many people have told me I have no right to call myself Jewish anymore because of my faith in Christ. Okay, point taken. But if this law passes, no Jew that I know will be able to call themselves Jewish anymore, either. Where do you draw the line?
Here's what I've always loved about being Jewish: it's something you just are. Sure, people convert, but for those who are born to Jewish parents, that is all it takes. You can be Orthodox to the letter of the law, or Reform to the point where you question the existence of God, but as long as your parents are Jews, you're golden. So no matter how far you may stray, you are always welcomed back to a community with ties that date back thousands of years, still strong despite all the attempts made to annihilate us. Sorry Hitler, but not even your Nazis were strong enough to defeat us.
This new law is nothing more than a nail drilled into the coffin of what modern Judaism has become. I may not agree with other Jews' ways of practicing their faith, but God help me, it is their right to do so because they too were figuratively standing next to me on Mount Sinai, receiving the laws of Moses. I still consider them family even if they do not feel the same about me.
It's not my place to determine anymore what a "real Jew" is since my beliefs clearly defy the norm, but I can tell you this: blood is thicker than any law. And that's all the proof I need.
Is Judaism, or other religions, determined by ethnicity or practice? What makes a religion or people distinctive? How much sway should governments and/or religious leaders have in determining who is or is not part of a given religion?