Thursday, April 2, 2015

Civil Judaism

My class for this quarter taught in tandem with the sociology department "The American Jewish Community" is taught for an academic sociological context rather than institutional or historical.  One reading for next week is a chapter from a book called "The Jew Within" mentions the concept of 'Civil Judaism' and it rang bells for me; it's the environment and context that I grew up and identify with

The tenets include "one could be a good Jew and a good American; that the separation of church and state was essential; that Jews were one people and could not permit denominational differences to divide them; that while theology was somewhat irrelevant, ensuring Jewish survival was central; that Jewish rituals were valuable, but individuals must be free to observe them or not as they chose.

It also informed me about a conflict that I recently had with someone I know, someone who has been very friendly with me.  She's involved with a movement that I won't mention but part of what they do is work with other people resident in countries involved with World War II and talk about their issues and differences.

Including the Jews who are, you know, separate.

Recently at a party she kind of took me aside, looked at me dubiously when I said my grandfather had graduated from Harvard.  I talked about some difficulties I had (mostly resolved) working with another chapter.  "Don't you think it's because you're Jewish?" she said.  I looked at her appalled.  "No."  She proceeded to tell me about how Jews were different; she knew about it and she knew that sometimes that they liked to 'act Jewish'.  I know this was coming from this WWII stuff.  I denied all of this and felt very offended.  Just writing this out shows me how antisemitic this all really was.

But one thing that now becomes clear to me.  This particular view of Judaism, may come from Jewish characteristics from 70 years ago.  I do not have much to do with European Jews who perished in the Holocaust or those that escaped.  My context is, for better or worse, was this civil judaism, not the European Judaism ideas from 70 years ago.

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