Many people on this website apparently want to deny my ethnicity, culture, and heritage - to pretend it doesn't exist, or even that I have invented it.
Well I'm here to tell those folks something.
I am a Jewish American.
I'm a proud agnostic, who has never been to Israel, who has barely ever set foot in a synagogue, whose girlfriend is a Louisiana Creole and a Buddhist... and I am also 1000% Jewish.
Because Jews are a people. It's my ethnicity, culture, and heritage, and the ethnicity, culture, and heritage of 8 million Americans and 15 million people worldwide.
Let me tell you a story.
My ancestors in the 1400s lived in Spain. And you know what happened? They got kicked out. So they fled and made their way to a town on the Adriatic coast of Italy. People who they had never met who lived 1000 miles away instantly took them in and made them part of their community. My last name is the name of that town. I just visited there this spring, and a plaque still marks the spot where the former Jewish ghetto stood. Unfortunately, we got kicked out of there in the 1600s, and my particular ancestors moved from there to the relative safety of Poland, and again people who they had never met who lived 1000 miles away took them in and made them part of their community. Then in the early 20th century they moved to America, and still again people they had never met who lived 6000 miles away took them in and made them part of their community.
What is that, if not a people?
When the uninformed and the ill-motivated deny my peoplehood, when they try to say that all of my ancestors - and all of my Jewish brothers all over the world - are just a motley of different people who happened to share a religion, it hurts. It's personal. And it's incorrect.
Shall I tell you about my Y-chromosome? Like so many Jewish people all over the world, it points to our common heritage in the Levant 2000 years ago. Shall I tell you about my mitochondrial DNA? It points back to Scotland for some unknown reason, because variety is the spice of life.
I write this because lately there have been some haters. And this particular slander has a long pedigree on this blog, as elsewhere.
Like so many other misconceptions and lies that are afloat these days, this one is motivated and sustained by the vitriol associated with the I/P conflict. But I want you to put aside your feelings about that, and think for a minute, focus on what it means to deny a people their peoplehood.
Was Albert Einstein a Jew? How about Richard Feynman? Tony Kushner? I ask because all of these people, and countless more that I could cite, proudly identify as Jewish, and are proudly recognized as Jewish by Jews and non-Jews all over the World. And yet they had or have zero belief in the religion of Judaism. This is only the case because Jews are a people and a cultural and ethnic grouping, not a primarily religious designation.
At this point some say "But those people you cite were descended from families that practiced the religion of Judaism, that is why they are Jews." But this is quickly dispensed with the following: Is Richard Dawkins a Christian? Nobody, including Richard Dawkins himself or any authority on Christianity, would claim such a thing. And yet he was born into a Christian family and attended Sunday school. So while being a Christian is a religious designation, being a Jew is clearly not. It is an ethnic or cultural heritage. A people.
Another conceptual sticking point that people have is that there was no single country or region of Jewland from which Jewish people immigrated to the United States. They came indeed from many different polities. But this is certainly not the criteria for peoplehood. The Roma are spread across many countries yet nobody denies their peoplehood. The same is true for the Kurds. For some reason, it is only Jewish people that are singled out for this sort of denial.
As I responded to one of the comments linked above, the supposition that Jews are not a people is demonstrably false because it cannot answer the very simple question: What ethnicity is Eugene Levy? That supposition cannot answer because the answer is clear. Jewish.
mets102 said it best in his recent rec list diary celebrating the Jewish New Year:
It is important to remember that my Jewish identity has two components. One component is ethnic and related to my Jewish heritage, connecting me to a shared heritage with my fellow Jews spanning back to time immemorial. The other component is how I practice the religion known as Judaism. There are Jewish atheists out there. There are Jewish agnostics out there. There are people out there like me — Jewish people who practice the religion known as Judaism.
If someone here presumed to deny the peoplehood of Kurds, or Greeks, or Persians, they would be HRd to oblivion and probably instantly banned. Rightly so. But because the vitriol of the I/P conflict clouds judgments, we find some wiggle room in the case of the Jewish people. Well I ask that whatever your feelings on a just resolution of the I/P conflict, you stop hating and stop denying. Because I'm not going to let this one go.
And the Palestinians are a people too.
Shalom haverim. שלום חברים