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With the 4th of July approaching, here’s a little Jewish Identity Quiz to help explain my point that our sense of Jewish identity gets all messed up in the Diaspora.

Many Jews make the mistake of thinking they are Jewish because they are members, in one form or another, of the Jewish religion. To their way of thinking, their main identity is as Americans, or Englishman, or Frenchmen, or Canadians, and they also belong to the Jewish religion, just like there are Americans who are Protestant, Catholic, or Baptist. But this isn’t the case at all. Being Jewish is a nationality, not merely a religion. We Jews are the Children of Israel. We are members of the Nation of Israel. It doesn’t matter where we live. Only because of having been exiled from our own Jewish Land and scattered to foreign countries for the last 2000 years do we mistakenly think we are members of those foreign, gentile nationalities. Yes, a Jew may have citizenship in the United States or France, but he is still, first and foremost a Jew. Without going into the deeper, spiritual explanation of our unique Jewish souls, this is a simple, basic truth that we have learned the hard way throughout our history, again and again and again. Wherever we wandered, whenever we thought we were good Yeminites, or good Spaniards, or loyal Germans, or dedicated Russians, or faithful Poles, sooner or later, the gentiles always reminded us that we were tragically mistaken – we were Jews – dirty stinking Jews.


All Jews are the People of Israel. For a time, we may reside in foreign lands, holding foreign passports, but in our fundamental essence, we are always Israelites – people whose ancestors came from the Land of Israel.

Let me give you an approximate example. Suppose a Chinese man, whose family has lived in China for 4000 years, comes to America and becomes an American citizen. Technically, he is an American, because he has all the proper papers in order, but he is still a Chinaman – that hasn’t changed. Looking at him, you instantly see that he is a Chinaman. Maybe after a few generations of marrying American blonds, his offspring will become to look more and more like regular Americans and one day they will be homogenized totally. But this gradual generational transformation from a Chinaman to an American can never happen with a Jew as long as he marries a Jew and has Jewish children who also marry real Jews. His offspring can be in America 500 years and they will still be, first and foremost, Jews. Because their nationality remains being members of the Children of Israel, who have temporarily been outcast from their Land.

That’s why being in the Diaspora so long has screwed up our thinking. Over the long years of exile, we mistakenly came to identify with the places where we lived. This is a natural phenomenon. But just like a leopard can’t change his spots, we cannot stop being Jews – which is derived from the word “Judah” or the people who were exiled from the Land of Judah – meaning Israel. You may think you are American, but that’s only your passport and birth certificate. Inside, you have an Israelite soul that you can never exchange for another. All you have to do is splash freezing cold water on your face, take off your Purim costume as an American or Frenchmen, abandon the masquerade, and face the fact that you are really an Israelite whose ancestors were dispersed from their Land.

To help you understand how terribly distorted our true Jewish-Israelite identity can be in the exile, here’s a simple pre-Fourth of July, Jewish Identity Quiz for your enjoyment.

While we have chosen the example of America as our sample Diaspora, Jews living in other countries can substitute pictures from the countries of their exile, whether it be England, France, Australia, or the North Pole. Choose only one answer to each question.

Which flag is the flag of your nation?


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Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" The DVD of the movie is available online.


  1. Mr. Fishman,
    Perhaps it is something that you have picked up from living amongst a relatively homogenous culture after having moved to Israel or perhaps your opinions were always bordering on racism, but when I see the "Chinaman" (perhaps you are unaware but that is no longer an acceptable term to use to refer to people of Chinese descent) you described, I see an American of Chinese descent, the same way I see someone from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Africa, etc. who has moved to the US and established himself and his family as US citizens. As Judaism allows for voluntary conversions and most of us, both sephardic and ashkenzic, have ancestors who were converts, the ONE thing that Jews have in common is religion, whether they practice it or not. Our right to the Land of Israel is from our religious belief, not genetic ancestry.

  2. Maybe this article is way too deep for you to understand to label this blog moronic but even so I would not consider you nor Tzvi to be of an intelligence quotient of 50 to 69 which is on the outside at the lower end of the IQ bell curve. Rather, with Tzvi’s capabilities, training and successful endeavors in life, his presentations and understandings are also outside of the median area of the IQ bell curve but on the higher end. To impact the public on concepts in a humorous, simple yet skillful manner is more effective than bewildering the people with complex highly professional technical terminologies that only a few professionals would understand.
    In short, Tzvi’s 30 – 40 years of studies with a one of the highest revered Cabbalist in Israel maybe has surpassed many like yourself to understand the National Soul of the Jewish people (Clal Yisrael) of which he is trying to introduce the public to in this blog in a very simple manner. To clarify and substantiate this matter further, please read Torat Eretz Yisrael, The Teachings of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, chapter 2 pages 27 – 46.

  3. Your nation's favorite information source?
    1. New York Times.
    2. Sefer Torah

    Which of these drinks do you consider your nation’s favorite?
    1. Budweiser & Miller High Life.
    2. Goldstar & Maccabee.

    Symbol of one of your nation's holidays.
    1. xmas tree
    2. A lit menorah.

    Symbol of your nation's king.
    1. cross/crucifix
    2. Magen David

  4. Liad- first, I will admit that I never had an Orthodox conversion, as I was born into a Jewish family. Second, of course when one converts they join our people, but the link is based on religious belief, not genetics. Finally, can you please not post your assumptions about my personal background, as you have done here and on the other article? It's rude, your assumptions are incorrect, and it makes you look like an idiot. From your initial response in the other article, you seem like an intelligent person, so try to comment in a way that reflects you intelligence. Thank your

  5. Like I said Chayim and you agreed that you didn't learn about Orthodox conversions and seemingly still don't understand that “voluntary conversions …, both sephardic and ashkenzic,” as you termed it, learn that THEY are part of the ancestral family of Jews of which the religion (Judaism) is inseparable. I am sorry that you do not agree with this. The Torah states that the converts become as one of us but you say no. When you list “Yeshiva” next to your name, I assumed that you may have studied this point; however, I stand corrected and wish to not further this discussion any further to avoid creating anger and sin on your part for calling me an idiot on a national forum.

  6. The answer to most of these questions is "both" for me, and if you think otherwise, perhaps YOU should spend some time outside YOUR narrow world! See the United States. See the national parks. Meet people (including those unlike yourself!). Eat the food (including food you are not familiar with!)

    No, dear heart, supporting the USA and supporting Israel are not mutually exclusive propositions, and your insistence on the narrow view demeans support for either.

  7. Also, if there were really a war between Israel and the USA, it would make sense for Jews to join the US Army. Why? Well, if the US were having a war against Israel but not anti-Semitic enough to bar Jews from military service (a weird counterfactual, for sure)…given that Israel would almost certainly lose, the smartest thing for the survival of the Jewish people would be to allow some to survive in the USA and eventually attempt to establish a Jewish state when conditions allow.

    The role of the Diaspora in the survival of the Jews is underestimated. The only reason Hitler failed was that millions of Jews were out of his reach in the US and Canada.

  8. Stars and Stripes (MY nation's flag), Washington DC (MY nation's capital), Mount Rushmore (showing the faces of some of MY nation's greatest leaders, White House (where MY president lives), I would join the US army if there was a draft, I have memorized the Star Spangled Banner, the flag raising on Iwo Jima is far better, George Washington was far better (despite the fact that he wasn't that good a general, he was just charismatic and very lucky a lot), and I love McDonalds. 100% Jewish AMERICAN.

  9. "…we cannot stop being jews." Nonsense. Of course you can. ANY religion is simply a matter of a choice that an adult makes about an afterlife that he's most comfortable with.

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