People or Religion

This entry was posted in Beliefs on by .

In honor of the debate I had with Ariel Beery this week about distinctions between Jewish Peoplehood and the Jewish Religion, I thought I’d poll you about your associations and affinities.

Posted on April 11, 2008

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13 thoughts on “People or Religion

  1. preston

    It is not an easy question to answer, but I chose the “Jewish Religion” because I do not believe that the Jewish Religion is something that is experienced separate from Jewish Peoplehood. I identify with the Jewish People because of our shared values and experiences, and those values and experience go back to the Torah, when the Jewish People became a people through their covenant with God, thereby establishing a distinct religious identity.

  2. The Doctor

    I identify with both, with some reservations.

    First, I identify with the Jewish People, regardless of religious differences. I support Israel and the plight of Jews around the world. Having said that, I am always uneasy about the concept of “in the name of Am Yisroel you must do or believe such-and-such.”

    I identify with the Jewish Religion because it is the commonality and the venue of the values that tie us together. Having said that, I have signifcant disagreements with different streams of Judaism; not only those who would not accept my children as Jews because they disagree with the theology of the rabbi who officiated at their conversion, but also those who would strip away my heritage because of a belief that all old things are wrong, and that traditions with essentially no meaning other than their antiquity are anathema because they do not comform to an obsession with modernity.

    Bottom Line:

    I identify with both, but have some discomforts with both forms of identification.

  3. mbczion

    בס’’ד

    I identify with BOTH because they are BOTH inseparable parts of the package. There are those that claim that Judaism is “just a religion”, but how can that be the case if there are many Jewish atheists/agnostics? There are those that claim that the Jews are solely an ethnic group (there are some on other forums I frequent that even have borderline “racialist” views of who is a Jew). If this was the case than how would one be able to join the Jewish people (which has been happening since ancient times).

    On the one hand, we are a people, but on the other hand without religion, customs, traditions, etc. to bind us together we would be indistinguishable from others after a while.

    מנחם בן צבי הכהן

  4. clara1

    MBC,

    I agree with you. I converted because I believe in the religion. But, i am also felt I was Jewish. I would think that a person who is Jewish and is not religious is still cognizant of the religious part of being a Jew.

    Clara

  5. dan13

    There is 1 thing in jewish religion,You don’t have to believe,but You have

    to choze the rigth way how to believe not in the religion but GOD!
    Than You allready identifyed how and where to belong.

  6. Marie4

    Shalom,

    This is my first post here on the discussion board and I wanted to mention my own personal experiences. Ever since I was a young child I empathized with the Jewish people, my first yearning to convert came when I was thirteen years old.
    Indeed since then I have done a lot of soul searching and researching, but I must say that before I even conceived of the idea to convert to the Jewish way of beliefs I was Jewish in my heart and always will be.

    It is refreshing to see other people who have felt the same way.
    Marie

  7. Marieh

    I’ve been a Jew in my heart since I can remember, and a Jew by choice for close to 10 years now. I identify with both. I go through phases where I’m not observant as others, but I always come home, now that I finally found it. (I too, wandered for 40 years!) :)

  8. brose07

    I am so thrilled to find that there are so many people out there who feel the same way I do about the Jewish Faith.

    I too am going through a conversion, although I have felt like a Jew at heart for many, many years. Not until I married a Jewish man did it actually occur to me that I could convert. And what a joy it has been.

    I have been drawn to Judiasm since I was a child. I remember watching ’Little House on the Prarie’ and there was a Jewish family and one of the main characters marries into that family. Then I remember being so horrified by the Story of Anne Frank, and I was only about 10 years old when I read the book, then watched the movies. I couldn’t understand such hatred for people.

    I do believe that Judiasm is more that a religion. I feel like it is a way of life also. How else can you explain so many different backgrounds, but all tied together by the Torah. Catholicism is just a religion. There is no tie in to the home like there is in Judiasm. Yes, maybe you pray around the table, but that’s it.

    And the Jewish Faith ties more into my personal belief in God and the world than anything else. There is no FEAR of God – and you are encouraged to ask questions. The greatest thing in life is the ability to ask questions, and knowing that you will get an answer. It may take some time, but you won’t hear, “Well, that’s just the way it is”. I finally feel like I am home.

    Thanks for sharing your stories and giving me so much to gain. I appreciate it.

  9. clara1

    It’s good for me to know that there are people who have felt Jewish for many years. I converted three years ago. I studied Judiasm for about ten years before converting.

    I was raised in the 60s and no one converted to Judaism then. So, I converted to Catholicism (which has taken about 80% from Judaism). I find that a lot of Catholics convert to Judaism==it just seems like the next step.

    I am 63 and want to go to live in Israel eventually. At this time my project is learning Hebrew and continuing to study Judaism.

    Clara

  10. Joshua3900

    This is a bloq I submitted previously in a different context:

    I couldn’t agree with you more about judging people a priori according to their cultural, racial or national origins….Bigotry is a curse both to bigots and bigoted.

    Words like “goyim” are loaded epithets signifying others who are different and inferior. A lot depends on the user and what he has in his heart. The word goy in Hebrew means “a people”. In fact when Abraham made his pact with “big daddy”, in return for following God’s prescripts, he was promised that his progeny would become a “goy gadol”. A great people. Sooooooooooooo….strictly speaking we are goyim too.

    Let me tell you a story. I am a kibbutznik. Our children are sequestered and until they reach school age, see very little of the outside world. However, they are familiar with the word “goyim”. Years ago, we took our kindergardeners on a trip to Jerusalem. They, like most of us, were enchanted by the magic city. Eventually, the bus passed through Mea Shearim, the neighborhood of the ultra-orthodox. Our youngsters had never seen anyone dressed like that… the jet black attire, the tsitsim. The sidelocks and the Davy Crocket hats…………One youngster turned to his friend and said,
    “THESE MUST BE THE GOYIM”.

    Another loaded word is “nigger”……..a forbidden epithet when used by a Caucasian.
    However black people use the word frequently when referring to themselves or other blacks. In the mouth of a black it becomes a descriptive adjective. When I grew up in Brooklyn, negro was a polite and acceptable word to use. Now it’s off limits. In truth it is more scientifically accurate than black. Black people are some shade of brown not black. And only albinos are white……..

    In short…..no need to get too up tight about “goyim”……Bigots can use even the politest language to convey their poison……

    However, your message brings up other issues no less weighty. I refer to your pride in not being a “team player”, and that being Jewish is not “the whole package”. It goes to the very heart of an ongoing debate 2000 years old. It deals with the question of how one defines his Jewish identity in the diaspora. One of the neat things about Judaism is that every Jew can define his identify as he sees fit. There is no Pope, no priest, that is required as an intermediary between a Jew and his God. We all have a hot line. God can even be castigated for his failures (viz. Job).

    Nonetheless, my conscience tells me that Judaism, as I understand it, is more than merely a religion. We are a “goy”, a people, separate and distinct from other goyim.
    Just as Frenchman are different and distinct from Germans. The question is can one be a Jew and an American, in the same way someone can be a protestant and an American???? My conscience tells me that real Jewish identity and being American at one and the same time, is a situation fraught with conflicts of loyalty. The history of the diaspora since the Enlightenment traces various efforts of Jews to assuage the conflict. It has seen Judaism split into different streams, each with a different remedy for our schizophrenic malady. For someone whose sense of Jewish identity is very strong, the only real solution is aliya. That is the path I chose. I grew up in a pious conservative family. I have fond memories of the atmosphere and especially the Sabbath and holidays, but it became impossible to come to terms with the mitzvoth, the role of women, the harsh and even cruel precepts of Jewish justice. By coming to Israel, I no longer needed the religion to bind me to my fellow Jews. The Jewish religion is part, an important part, of the Jewish heritage. I cherish and want no other……but it is not an apt code for guiding my behaviour in the 21st century.

    Being Jewish isn’t the whole package by any means. We all are unique, each in his own way. But a Jewish package is distinct and different from a “goyishe” package. Our Judaism colors and delineates our demeanor in myriad ways. If not, it becomes exceedingly difficult to define the package as Jewish.

  11. Ezekah

    [Joshua3900]By coming to Israel, I no longer needed the religion to bind me to my fellow Jews. The Jewish religion is part, an important part, of the Jewish heritage. I cherish and want no other……but it is not an apt code for guiding my behaviour in the 21st century.

    Well that’s a first. A person that makes aliyah and draws away from Judaism.

  12. MSCAROL58

    I HAVE RECENTLY FOUND OUT THAT MY FAMILY IS OF GERMAN-JEWISH DESCENDENTS.
    DO JEWISH PEOPLE BELIEVE IN GOD AS OUR SAVIOUR AND LORD? DO THEY BELIEVE THAT HE SENT HIS SON TO FORGIVE US OF SIN THAT WE MAY ALSO GO TO HEAVEN?
    I HAVE A LOT OF QUESTIONS.
    I TOO, HAVE HAD A “FEELING” SINCE I WAS A LITTLE GIRL. I HAD READ A STORY ABOUT A JEWISH FAMILY.
    HOPE YOU CAN ANSWER MY QUESTIONS.
    THANK YOU.

  13. Ezekah

    [MSCAROL58]I HAVE RECENTLY FOUND OUT THAT MY FAMILY IS OF GERMAN-JEWISH DESCENDENTS.

    DO JEWISH PEOPLE BELIEVE IN GOD AS OUR SAVIOUR AND LORD? DO THEY BELIEVE THAT HE SENT HIS SON TO FORGIVE US OF SIN THAT WE MAY ALSO GO TO HEAVEN?

    I HAVE A LOT OF QUESTIONS.

    I TOO, HAVE HAD A “FEELING” SINCE I WAS A LITTLE GIRL. I HAD READ A STORY ABOUT A JEWISH FAMILY.

    HOPE YOU CAN ANSWER MY QUESTIONS.

    THANK YOU.

    Having some Jewish ancestors doesn’t automatically make you Jewish.

    Jews believe in G-d. Why do you believe that we don’t?

    Questions are fine, but will you accept our answers when they disagree with your beliefs?

    I just finished reading a story about a fictional place called Discworld. There weren’t any Jews there. The main protagonist was a witch named Granny Weatherwax.

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