Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

American Jews: Not Too Jewish?

Posted by lchaimlover on September 26, 2007

While I was at shul one of these past chaggim, a friend said to me “I miss Israel.” And by this she meant she missed the services and spirit of chag found there. Then today, I saw that an Orthodox rabbi from New Haven, Connecticut said that American Jews aren’t very Jewish. Rabbi Greer said, “Tikkun olam [a large focus of the Conservative and Reform movements] is the way of people who call themselves Jews to conceal the fact that they have no Jewish content left.” What’s the connection between these two statements?

Answer: America is missing something.

 I’ve heard people complain that Israel is Jewish enough for people leading to the large number of secular Israelis, while in the Diaspora we have to actually work for our spiritual sustenance. But then again, almost every Israeli I knew, even if I have never seen them in shul, fasted for Yom Kippur. While many American Jews I know went shopping and ate like it was any other day.

As we come upon Sukkot, maybe we Americans should consider what we have picked and chosen in and out of our Judaism. What have we emphasized, and most importantly, what have we left behind?



9 Responses to “American Jews: Not Too Jewish?”

  1. Glad to be quoted and glad to be considered a friend! Chag sameach and see you in shul!

  2. minsky said

    I would like to learn more of Greer’s opinions.

    Tikkun Olam doesn’t strike me as commonly used by anyone other than Rav Lerner. Is he criticizing the overall concept, or its frequent usage?

    As for Jewish content, I would like some specific examples, so I can better understand the practical meaning of his criticism.

  3. Oyster said

    ‘Tikkun Olam’ is a wonderful Jewish value… one among many. Some, in fact, which are considered more important than ‘Tikkun Olam’.

    It is the cherry-picking of Jewish values (middot) and law (halakhah) to conform to the contemporary norms of our host society that will lead to decay in the Jewish community. We must struggle to master our own authentic traditions and literary canon to independent of “what the goyim think”.

  4. Squeedle said

    Two things: everyone does some sort of cherry-picking. Everyone fudges on their belief system to some degree, because as inconsistent, infallible beings, we can’t help it. So we question must be about degree.

    Second, why does the question of Jewishness seem to always be about personal observance only? There are those who observe the last jot and tittle of dietary, and ritual laws who are abusive, stingy people. Are they “more Jewish” than someone who doesn’t keep kosher but who is kind and generous? What about secular Jewish culture, such as food, crafts, music, language and dance? Doesn’t that count toward “Jewishness?”

    Is there evidence that American Jews are less observant than Israelis in all areas of Jewish laws, customs and values? If not, it’s simply not a defensible statement.

  5. Squeedle said

    that’s THE question, not we question. doh.

  6. AaronfromWG said

    for squeedle:

    Being kind, friendly and generous are part of being an observant Jew. Those who keep kosher but are cruel are lacking something in their personal observance.

  7. lchaimlover said

    Squeedle: Judaism is a religion, while there is a culture that has sprung up around it due to centuries in the ghetto, we are still first and foremost, people of “the book”. That book is Torah by the way, not the Jewish Book of Why or Heeb magazine.

    Second, I am not saying that Israelis are more or less observant. I am saying that the country is a Jewish country and therefore they are more “in tune” with Judaism than many American Jews I have met. Case in point, I met a life long secular Israeli with whom I had an in depth discussion over the laws of the Fast of Gedaliah. I met a woman who was raised as a “religious” Jew in America who thought I made up the holiday of Purim.

    So, again I ask, do you not think something is wrong with American Jewishness?

  8. lchaimlover said

    Note: I should not have quoted Greer, he is nutty, I only used him to illustrate how I came to this point. I did not read the article and I took the quote from the title. Please do not think I stand behind Greer!

    Squeedle: to respond about people being stingy and abusive: I’ve met observant Jews who are the nicest people in the world and I have met secular Jews I have wanted to strangle. What makes a person Jewish is a simple yet complicated issue is it not? I am speaking strictly to the Jewish community, America vs. Israel.

  9. minsky said

    Some time ago, I made the stupid observation, that there is no need to question being Jewish. I used the “*.*” for Jew, to some people’s annoyance.

    Following the nasty Zionist exchange in my previous post, I repent.

    Even if we dodge this unappealing matter, because we are afraid of erecting or tearing down boundaries… we will, by default, have erected, or torn them down – I think. Don’t ask my why. I am more than certain you don’t want neither my logic nor rant.

    In any case, who is a “*.*”, and what does being a “*.*”, mean?

    The Zionist question makes it clear, there are two fundamental answers:

    1 – religious definition
    2 – ethnic definition.

    Maybe we need to debate this question further.


    American Jews vs Israeli Jews.

    I am sure, we are easily seduced by Isreali charm. But we shouldn’t fall head over heels.

    Is one Jew better than another, because he eats pork year-round but fasts on holidays? Vs. another Jew who will never touch pork, but not recognize a holiday?

    Well, doesn’t it depend on how you define a “*.*”?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: