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View Diary: Behaving Like a Jew (187 comments)

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  •  Exceptionalism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    letsgetreal, sfbob, stargaze

    As I've posted before, I'm a Jew who grew up in a small, southern Baptist town in Arkansas (about 25 miles from Memphis). I was involved in the Civil Rights struggle, and later in other political and social movements.

    This is a wonderful diary, and talks about that most important subject, Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. My bro stayed in Arkansas and became a messianic Jew, a Jew for Jesus guy, though he doesn't wholly agree with the approach of Jews for Jesus. There are a lot of messianic Jewish ministries it turns out, and they all differ in their schtick a bit. But I digress.

    He voted for Romney because of two issues. Abortion. And he claims Obama doesn't support Israel. We don't talk a lot about politics, but I know he receives a lot of that bullshit email from his rightwing friends. My bro says God doesn't intend for the Palestinians to have any right to that land, they took it from Israel long ago, and God has finally returned the land to Israel. The Palestinians will either leave or be killed. My bro is a retired doctor, who was very skilled. He's a smart, funny guy. But on this issue, and issues of religion, he manages to wear one of the biggest dunce hats I've ever seen. I can't believe it's the same guy who used to sit on the couch with me reading MAD Magazine and roaring. His idea of Jewish (and Christian) exceptionalism really excludes the rest of the world.

    So for me, I don't support the exceptionalism thing.

    Why? Perhaps it's Talmudic values. Perhaps it's the shadows of Buchenwald and Auschwitz. Perhaps it's the reverberations of European socialist values. Or, as my Mom would say, perhaps it's because every Jewish mother wants one thing for her child more than anything: that he/she be a mensch (a good person). It's cultural, this unique, American melding in Jewish communities of progressive, humanitarian values and traditional Judaism that occurred (remarkably, perhaps miraculously) in the shadow of the Holocaust.
    I also think the "every Jewish mother" or "every anyone" is not the best way to state things, as Jewish mothers--despite what comedians say--are not monolithic in their nature. Fighting monolithic ideas about cultural groups is important in my world.

    I do think that Jews have historically had to look into the societies they lived in mostly from the outside. They were generally kept on the margins. At times, they were allowed to become part of the flow of melting pot societies, but mostly they've lived on the margins. This gives any people an impetus to strengthen cultural ties with one another, for assimilation is not so easy then.

    And I think that any group that views the culture in which the live from the margins, rather than from the center, sees that culture more clearly, and can better analyze and critique that culture. I think that's why European socialist values rang so clearly for early 20th Century American Jews (and they were a big part of formulating those values in Europe).

    Most of my Jewish friends are for a two-state solution. Some of my family are not. Personally, I feel that Israel will not survive if they don't facilitate the Palestinians setting up a viable state where Palestinian children have a decent education and the Palestinian people have a decent access to earning good living and determining their own destiny. As the Middle East continues it's transformation from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century, those countries will get stronger, and at some point the will not tolerate Israel's "exceptionalism", in spite of U.S. support.

    There are wonderful black, hispanic, and Native American poets in America who have also lived in the margins of society, not the center, and they write beautiful poems critiquing the culture too. Not sure if I'm being clear here on what I'm getting at. I guess I just don't like the whole idea of exceptionalism.

    But I very much liked your diary.

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