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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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What’s A Jew? Who’s A Jew?

kotel prayer

Photo Credit: Batya Medad

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One thing I’ve been noticing over the years when at the Kotel is that more and more obviously non-Jews come to pray there.  As an ancient recognized holy spot for Jews, other people and religions also want the benefit of the “local call” to God.

That’s fine.  I’ve also seen it in Shiloh among those who come to Shiloh Hakeduma at Tel Shiloh to visit the site and also pray.  Christian groups have been coming for decades.  They consider the Jewish Bible and History as also theirs.  Even abroad, there are non-Jews who frequent the graves of Jewish people/rabbis etc considering them as not just spiritual mentors for Jews.  Don’t forget that Christians and the Muslims vie for the status of our replacement as God’s Chosen People.  Their biggest theological and logistic problem is that we not only still exist, but bli eyin haraa, we’re thriving in a successful country and active Diaspora.

Our biggest problem is that with Jewish success and acceptance there is terrible assimilation.  Many Jewish families or branches of Jewish families have ceased to exist as Jews. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman brought up that subject in his address to the Presidents Conference.

However, the recently released results from the Pew survey on American Jewry make for pretty depressing reading. They demonstrate that there is a significant rise in those who have little or no Jewish content in their lives, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish, than from a similar survey taken ten years ago. The intermarriage rate has reached a high of 58% for all Jews, and 71% for non-Orthodox Jews, a huge change from before 1970 when only 17% of Jews intermarried.

On attitudes towards Israel we are witnessing a major generational gap. While 30% of respondents professed to be very attached to Israel and 39% said they felt “somewhat” attached, 31% answered that they felt not very or not at all attached to Israel. Asked whether caring about Israel was an “essential” part of being Jewish, only 43% answered in the affirmative, only one percentage point higher than those that responded “having a good sense of humor” was an essential part of being Jewish.

According to the researchers, older Jews are more likely than younger Jews to see caring about Israel as an essential part of what being Jewish means to them, with more than half of respondents over the age of 65 believing that caring about Israel was an essential part of their Jewish identity, whereas only 32% of respondents under the age of 30 shared the same belief.

This massive loss to the Jewish People also exists in my own family among my cousins and their children and grandchildren.

At this point in time, years decades after Conservative and Reform Jews have decided on their own criteria for conversion, there are many, many people who consider themselves Jewish but aren’t.  For strictly Torah observant Jews aka Orthodox to refuse to recognize them isn’t “discrimination” any more than it would be considered discrimination when a new immigrant who had been a doctor in his/her former country is required to study and qualify.

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About the Author: Batya Medad blogs at Shiloh Musings.


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3 Responses to “What’s A Jew? Who’s A Jew?”

  1. Stuart Kaufman says:

    If your mother was a Jew, you are a Jew. If you were converted in a Halachically correct manner (according to Jewish law), you are a Jew. If you were converted by a Reform "rabbi" you are NOT a Jew!

  2. Dan Silagi says:

    If you write that if one who is converted to Judaism by a Reform rabbi (no quotes needed, Arschloch) is not a Jew, then you are a putz. Gehen Sie in Meer Scheissen, Stewie.

  3. Stuart Kaufman says:

    Dan Silagi Whether or not you like it is of no concern to me. The law is the law. Otherwise its meaningless… which is the definition of the Reform Movement. Cursing in yiddish doesn't make you any more correct. Have a nice day.

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