When I walk my dog (my pug named Fig) each morning, I am in my pajama bottoms, a vintage cutoff Adidas t-shirt and leather flip flops- people look at me.
They may think I am a goy. Sometimes people are brave enough to speak to me. They may say, “boker tov” or “Shabbat shalom.” They are always men, (wearing a kippah) they are never women.
Often Jews ask me the following:
Them- “ Why did you make Aliyah?”
Me- “I do not only believe in the Zionist enterprise conceptually, I believe in it literally. I am here to give my soul and and my resources to the Jewish state of Israel.”
Them- “I have never heard anyone say it like that.”
Me- “I believe I have a responsibility. I also want diaspora Jews who are straddling the Aliyah fence to be tipped over as a result of me leading by example.”
Them- (silence…dumbfounded and sometimes this pause is followed by), “thank you.”
Me- “In America, a Jew has to try to be Jewish. In Israel a Jew is simply a Jew. In America, a Jew must go out and seek a kosher market. A Jew has to try very hard to keep Shabbat. Here in Jerusalem I do not have to try and keep kosher. Everything in my refrigerator is kosher because I am surrounded by kosher options. I do not have to try to keep Shabbat because when the siren goes off to usher in Shabbat, everything is closed and public transportation stops. I can observe Shabbat because it simply is Shabbat.
The difference between being in America and living here is this: It is the difference between trying to be Jewish and simply being a Jew.”
I actually had a guy tell me last night that the only reason he wears a kippah is so that people in his neighborhood will let their kids play with his son.
They have bought into the trappings, the costume has become more important than the content. In a sense this is idolatry- but I will leave that alone for the rabbis…
Once we shed the trappings and strip down to nothing -we can release sectarianism and denominationalism and begin to take a very personal inventory. Each and every Jew must search his and her soul in order to identity what part of their Jewishness or what of themselves is colonized?
This is not an anti-religion post. I am not asking Jews to abandon Judaism. I am asking for something much deeper.
The one thing that should unite every Jew is:
History, Tradition, Culture and Language.
… and a book. We have a book.
Religious Jews do not have a monopoly on the Torah; there are plenty of secular Jews that could and do embrace it as our most ancient textbook as well as a prescription for statehood, organization and ethics.
The religious Jews here do not think I am Jewish.
The religious Jews do not think the secular Jews of Tel Aviv are Jewish.
They do not know that I have read the Torah five times.
They do not know that the fifth time was in Hebrew.
They do not know that I have read the Mishneh and Midrash.
They do not know the volumes of rabbinic commentary I have read.
They do not know that I have read Buber, Rosenzweig, Mendelsohn and Arednt.
This list too: ( Tales and Maxims from the Midrash by Samuel Rapaport
Ethics of the Father’s- Pirke Avot
Kitab al Khazari by Judah Hallevi
The Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg
Philo-Judaeus of Alexandria by Norman Bentwich
The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides
The Ethics and Theological Political Treatise by Baruch Spinoza
Chapters on Jewish Literature by Israel Abrahams
The Renascence of Hebrew Literature (1743-1885) by Nahum Slouschz)
They do not consider that my ancestors stood next to their ancestors at Sinai.
They do not consider that the “mixed multitude” at the Sinai event was comprised of precisely that:
Intellectual Jews, mentally retarded Jews, disabled and disfigured Jews, beautiful, old, young, men, women, children, heterosexual, homosexual, hermaphrodite, rich, poor, literate, illiterate, pagan, polytheist…
They do not consider that the Torah was given to all Jews for all time.
They think I am an atheist.
They do not know that I believe in HaShem, but my definition is very different from theirs.
They would think me to be a heretic.
I believe the One is incorporeal and non-anthropomorphic.
I do not believe in an interventionist G-d.
I am a Spinozist, which makes me a Pantheist.
I believe we are evidence of HaShem and so is every living thing in the universe.
I am Jewish enough to be murdered by Hitler.
I am Jewish enough to be accepted by the Jewish state of Israel.
I am not Jewish enough for the religious Jews.
I am the majority of Jewry.
I am not the ‘new Jew’ nor the ‘post-modern Jew.’
I am the ancient Jew.
I am the Sinai Jew before we became institutionalized Rabbinic Judaism.
I am the original Pagan Jew.
I am the offspring of Sarah, Rivkah, Leah and Rachel.
I am the blood of Hannah, Deborah, Yael and Esther.
I was born this way.
I woke up Jewish.
I am a Jew by choice.
I am 1Jewess.
I am a French Jew.
I am an American Jew.
I am an Israeli Jew.