Four Thousand Years and Counting

For a Christian, I had a partly Jewish upbringing. My father, a civil engineer, worked for a construction company that … Continued

For a Christian, I had a partly Jewish upbringing. My father, a civil engineer, worked for a construction company that was employed for five years in completely renovating the Jewish resort, Grossingers. This was a long daily commute for my father from our suburb outside New York City to the Catskills. In the summers, therefore, we lived at Grossingers. From that experience, I lived and learned that Judaism is family and food totally blended with religion. Furthermore, most New Yorkers, no matter what their faith, are sort of Jewish anyway.

In my adult life, I have taught with Rabbis, had Jewish students in my classes and spoken in many synagogues. In all this I have come to appreciate even more that Judaism is an ancient practice of living faith that has endured through enormous, even unprecedented persecution and mass murder. While some forms of the Jewish faith, such as the Reformed tradition, engage modernity and others, such as the Orthodox tradition, resist modern culture, Judaism as a whole remains not so much a belief system as a vibrant way of interpreting life lived with God.

Jewish life in the U.S. has flourished. It is true that there are as many or more ways to be a Jew in America, especially in the last twenty to thirty years, than ever before. The Jewish population in America is aging and there is a lot of intermarriage, especially with Christians. But new organizations and even synagogues have emerged to cater to the needs of interfaith families, who are now accepted as fully Jewish by Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism.

I have prayed with a Jewish/Christian women’s group from the north side of Chicago that has been meeting together for more than a decade. They employ a large number of practices borrowed from Eastern religions; this group is not unique and I know of several Jewish and Jewish/Christian groups that employ Eastern spiritual practices. In addition a new emphasis on spirituality and lay participation are reinvigorating services in Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform synagogues. Feminists have created new rituals and cultivated new roles for women in Judaism. There are many more Jewish day schools than there were 20 years ago. Orthodox Judaism is also attracting Jews in greater numbers and “secular” Jews are studying Hebrew and researching their family history.

And then there is Israel. A giant fact of Judaism, both in the U.S. and elsewhere, in the last fifty years is the existence of the state of Israel. To say that the relationship between Jews in America and Israel is complex is a gross understatement. Israel and the need to preserve its continued existence are virtually unquestioned, but how this should happen and what price this continued existence is exacting are the subject of great consternation among many.

Jewish Americans for most of their history on this soil have been more socially and politically liberal, in general, than the population as a whole. The drive to preserve Israel has drawn some formerly liberal Jewish intellectuals into extremely conservative positions; others strive to maintain their support for the state of Israel while also insisting on human rights for Palestinians and even a two-state solution.

The roiling difficulties of the Middle East and the threats leveled even at Jewish existence by extremists such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad create even more conflicts within the community. This situation has set off renewed anti-Semitism in some quarters, especially in Europe, and the perception on the part of some Jews that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism.

My experience of Jewish life lived with family, food and God has been a source of inspiration in my life; I feel grief at the pain on so many fronts American Jews feel about the violence in the Middle East. Like many Jewish friends I also feel grief at the plight of the Palestinian people.

There is no other way forward than for all Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, to insist on a real and far-reaching Middle East peace process, not only for the sake of the Jewish community but for all our sakes.

  • Chris Everett

    The peace process has been a constant for my entire life. I’ve never had the sense that any “player” in the process had any desire for peace. The Arabs and the Israelis both seem to want genocide. The U.S. want… oil? arms deals? political theater? I’m not sure.Only the powerless want peace. The rest are having too much fun.

  • Priver

    I wonder if the best chance for peace evaporated with the stroke and disability of Ariel Sharon. He seemed to be heading in a direction of conciliation when he was taken down. It’s a shame.

  • Jack Knife

    Reverend,I am curious why if there is one “God” that created the heavens and earth:1) According to Exodus, Jew’s were God’s chosen people. Why were not ALL people chosen by God?2) If Jesus is the son of God, Why didn’t the father make his son known to his “chosen people”?Respectfully,Jack

  • harold a zeller

    quoting Jack KnifeLookDo you see “when man began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them” “My spirit shall not always strive with man” “his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” lOOK “And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel. And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in: also the Lord hath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.” Do you see “I am an hundred and twenty years old this day” “his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” Do you understand the “daughters were BORN” of MAN, MOSES (ISRAEL) Does not Solomon say to keep the LAW of your Mother.So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said. And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.Do you see “Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law” Moses harkened to His Father (The LORD) in Law. Not his wife’s father. Moses’ Father and Mother were the LORD. Do you not understand “keep the Law of your Mother, written by the Hand of the LORD and hearken to the voice of the LORD, the Father. For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.What is Israel? “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord” They keep the Law of their Mother, the LORD, and hearken to the voice of the Father the LORD. They know not of any other gods. Do you see “the Lord loved you” “the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand” “redeemed you” And who are they delivered from “from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”Israel is Chosen of the LORD”If Jesus is the son of God, Why didn’t the father make his son known to his “chosen people”?Israel is the seed of the LORD. “Jesus (Pharaoh king of Egypt) is the son of God” That is why Israel knows Moses and not Jesus.

  • Mad Love

    This article has reminded me that I haven’t had a homemade knish in about twenty years. :^(

  • Yet More B.S.

    This woman thinks she knows from Jews. And Jews, she says, don’t need Israel. Oh, no. We’ll just rely on the good ole world to look after us. 5000 years of pogroms and holocausts, and what we can depend on is the peace loving world?This is total B.S. Such mamby-pamby thinking belongs in some zen budhhist temple on a mountain top, high above the daily reality of civilizations.Only a fool would listen to this kind of stupidness.

  • A Small Request

    It is funny to see that all four commentators here were not Jewish. This commentary seems particularly dismissive of Orthodox Judaism. All we Jews ask of you gentiles is that you keep the seven Noahide laws and do your best not to try and exterminate us. Is that too much to ask?

  • mnjam

    “Judaism as a whole remains not so much a belief system as a vibrant way of interpreting life lived with God.”This high-sounding statement doesn’t stand up to analysis. “A vibrant way of interpreting life lived with God” presupposes some kind of “belief system.” There can be no interpretation without some framework of interpretation which boils down to certain core beliefs used to rank and regulate the rest of one’s beliefs.Judaism is a religion: i.e. belief system or, perhaps, a family of closely related belief systems. Remarkably, Jews, a notoriously intellectual and verbal group, have always resisted formal theology with axioms, dogmas, doctrines, creeds and catechisms — preferring and, indeed, insisting that “core beliefs” of Judaism must be and can only be expressed and transmitted tacitly. But there is set of core beliefs about the nature and fate of the world and the human condition (i.e. “faith,” to use the Christian term) which distinguishes Judaism as such. And those core beliefs are very different from that of Christianity. Indeed, the belief that other core beliefs can only be expressed and transmitted tacitly is part of the Jewish belief system and one which symbolizes critical differences between Judaism and Christianity, at least most forms of Christianity. A related core belief, to which Thistlethwaith alludes but doesn’t really capture, is this: the true sacraments are the mundane acts of life, i.e. eating, sex and learning, done with the proper intention — that you meet God in these ways — not through ritual or prayer or in an afterlife.Many Jews, if pressed, would take exception to some or all of the foregoing. Yet all of them, if examined closely, act (i.e. believe) accordingly. It’s what makes them Jews.

  • Providence Candlelight

    I agree with Disgusted.I hope that Susan will provide answers to J. Knife’s questions with a proof that doesn’t require faith (that belief which can neither be proven nor disproved).H. Zeller’s explanations seemed only to underline JK’s questions.

  • mnjam

    Jack Knife states that “according to Exodus, Jews were God’s chosen people” and asks “Why were not ALL people chosen by God.”The Jewish answer, as I understand it, is that all people are chosen by God — that there is nothing special or privileged about Jews. The “chosen-ness” is more a matter of self appointment: creating and perpetuating a culture and communal life based on a belief that the world is created out of nothing by that which is prior to either something or nothing; that this is the truth and a liberating one; that it is available to everyone on the same basis, whether they are Jews or not; and that living according to this truth, or trying to, will benefit all of mankind.Another way of putting it: according to some ancient Rabbi, the Jews were “chosen” after God offered what became the Jewish way of life to all of the rest of the world’s “peoples” (69 out of 70, according to the folk-ethnology of Genesis), these other 69 peoples wisely declined the offer, and the Jews (“Children of Israel”) were only group foolish enough to accept it.

  • MY small request

    TO: A SMALL REQUEST Frankly, it seems to me, however faulty my histroy, the Jewish immigrants came here of their own choice.In fact, Americans didn’t want the Jewish refugees here, nor did any other country in Europe or elsewhere if you recall. Soo sorry you’re unhappy. Other immigrants have declared happiness, realize that assimilation is what America’s all about and have set to it.And they don’t expected to be terminated, mostly, I believe. Don’t spend much time complaining about their “separateness and superiority”…and don’t whine much. Oh well.

  • Jack Knife

    Reply to Harold A. Zeller,A compelling response to my questions, but I’ll remain faithful to Ziene! :-)A Chinese Creation Myth (Miao People) Heavenly King made heaven and earth, How made heaven and earth? Heavenly King was intelligent,

  • ananymous

    SUSAN, All that Mumbo Jumbo but allowing you to slip in an appalling insult to the president of IRAN, Mahmmoud Ahmadinejad being a extremist, as further increase anti muslim, hate, malice, thus aiding military force against IRAN it’s peoples. SUSAN there being no doubt you have been well as truely brainwashed,as such used in your defence. Yet, to writing such poison an very grave crime. SUSAN, it cruel a act heartless as it appalling, you should hang your head, in utter shame of it.

  • Exasperated

    Personally, I blame the Brits. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, they ran all over the place with their “world domination” mentality and interjected themselves into cultures they didn’t understand and never learned. Then, when things got tough, they moved out. They drew a line in the sand (literally in this case) along the Jordan River, said “East of the Jordan in for Muslims, West is for Jews… we’re outta here!”In fact, they did the same thing when they left the Pakistan / India region. Israel and Palestine battle over the West Bank, Pakistan and India battle over Kashmir, and I think Great Britain’s mismanagement is largely to blame.My 2¢.

  • Dexter Van Zile

    It’s not ,i> all

  • Priver

    “PRIVER… The death of a thousand leaders, will not divert ISRAEL it’s people from their ultimate goal…”Which would be…..??

  • Dan

    My question is this; why is so much emphasis given to what is really nothing more than a minor world religion?

  • Jim

    Susan Thistlethwaite’s sloppy nauseating flagellation to Jews reaffirms my belief that America is a Jewish nation. I look at Jews as just another faith that deserves no special treatment. America’s ridiculous swing from fair arbiter to a nation in bed with Israel is despicable. I am tired of being called anti-Semitic because I don’t consider the Jews to be special. Jews are anti-everything because they attack all who do not revere them. By the way I tried their food and I don’t like it. END THE WAR IN IRAQ.

  • vonkeitz

    Pretty even-handed treatment by the author, which means it really did not “say” all that much.

  • vonkeitz

    Pretty even-handed treatment by the author, which means it really did not “say” all that much.

  • Anonymous

    PRIVER… The death of a thousand leaders, will not divert ISRAEL it’s people from their ultimate goal… .. .

  • MaryAdrianna

    The Jewish People have survived for over three thousand years.(The earliest reference to Israel is from the funery stela of the Egyptian Pharoah Merneptah, now in the Cairo Museum, which dates to 1209 B.C.)All other empires that persecuted the Jews, from the Arameans to the Moabites, from the Babylonians to the Assyrians to the Selucids, from the Romans to the Spanish Inquisition to the Nazis to Communists, have fallen.Yet the Jewish People are still here.Yes, they are very tiny: there are only 13.2 million Jews in the world, compared to 1.7 Billion Muslims and 2 Billion Christians. However, I believe they will continue to survive.Today, every Jew by birth that is alive is not only a descendent of the people of ancient Israel, but a descendent of those who survived great persecution and pressure to convert over countless centuries.This is a great privilage and an incredible legacy.Yet, today many Jews are ignorant of their own heritage, from the Hebrew Bible itself to the archaeology of Israel, from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the great works of the Rabbinic Era.Thus, in this country and others they are intermarrying, turning away from the sacrifices of their ancestors and casting out this heritage.Pressured by societies that still hold true to the ideas of Replacement Theology–the theology that the Church, or the Islamic Ummah, has replaced the Jewish People as G-d’s choosen–they often want to assimilate into the maintstream.Without the knowledge of their history, the Jewish People cannot understand the religious roots of Replacement Theology and how it evolved into anti-Judaism and then anti-Semitism.They forget that Jesus was a Jew, as was Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, all the Disciples, Isaiah, Jeremiah, all the Prophets, King David, Solomon, Jacob, Isaac, and Moses…Thus, they simply, and tragically, internalize it.So, will the Jewish People disappear over time?No, it cannot be a coincidence that after 2,000 years of Exile the Jews have returned to their ancestral homeland to build a state, as it was predicted by Jeremiah and Isaiah.Here is the future of the Jewish People, and as they have done for three millenium, they will–however small their numbers become–continue to survive and continue their ancestral legacy.

  • jaleeskhan

    The Holy rophet(peace of Allah on him) said once that every child born is a Muslim,it is we who label/make him/her christian,jew,hindu etc.It meant that every new born is innocent and a true man of God is innocent=pure from every kind of rubbish-spiritual or physical.One wise man once said that when the people shall be presented before God on doom’d day then the creator shal enquire them that from the share of innocence y were given at time birth,how much persent innocence y have brought back and on this basis our status in world after shall be evaluated.The terms of religions and sects are our self made.Judaism also is also a pretty vacubollary.The question arises whether the practicing men of faith are truly practicing commands which their respective Prophet ordered or they have mixed the commands with their own self desires and illusion-borrowed from other traditions/faith or mixed willfully.The innocence of Prophet should never be ,aligned or tarnished if y truly want to present ourselves in front of creator on doom;s day

  • Viejita del oeste

    I’m not Jewish so I won’t debate whether the Jews “need” Israel or not. I will observe that American Jews are not the largest and most vocal lobby in support of the worst instincts of the Israeli government and the settlers’ movement (mostly made up of ultra-religious dominionist fanatics) in the West Bank. That honor goes to American Evangelicals of a millenialist stripe, who want nothing more than Gotterdammurung – they call it Armageddon – in the Middle East.

  • ananymous

    *PRIVER…..The continuation of the many on the present course, end as must being as one within creation. The loss in that one having forfeited the material as gifted of the human form… .. .

  • Garyd

    The Jews were chosen to aid and abet in the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind. Not even they were aware of that and many unfortunately to this day aren’t aware of it.Jews Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God as the character of the deities in question are very much different. Different characters equal different Gods.The great divide is between works and grace. The difference is between God Rescuing whom he wills and

  • Thomas Baum

    TO GARYD: You wrote, “And yet knowing of the cross and exactly what it meant and every detail of what it would cost him and that even that would save only a few chose to utter those words any way.” YOU ARE SO WRONG. You have no idea what God even went thru. Jesus, Himself, went to hell. Jesus took the sin, original, and the sins, each and every sin, of every human being, past, present and to come upon Himself. I know that hell is real and I also know tht spiritual death is real and I don’t think that you do. There is a difference between knowing and believing, some seem to interchange the two words. I will give you this, you know God’s Name. Many that know God’s Name sure do underestimate God. God created everyone and we are all God’s people whether you like it or not. God’s Plan is for all of His people to be with Him in His Kingdom. Jesus condemned no one, He did woe some but He condemned no one. Total Victory, God wins, satan loses, a tie is unacceptable, the captives shall be released and the dead shall rise. Take care, be ready, see you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Garyd

    Wrong. God isn’t a unitarian. It isn’t even necessary to save everyone to demonstrate mercy but if everyone goes to heaven then all that talk about justice in both old and new testament is just that talk and the Cross and its pain and suffering become in that context meaningless.

  • Thomas Baum

    TO GARYD AND THE REST OF HUMANITY: You wrote, ” The ultimate difference becomes between a God for whom justice ultimately matters and one for whom justice is ultimately a matter of whim. Have you ever heard of Mercy? Have you ever heard of Forgiveness? Have you ever heard that God has a Plan? God is not going to jump into and out of a box for anyone no matter how nice you or anyone else makes it. As Jesus was dying on the cross, He said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”, how true, then and now. Does it ever seem that humanity is one, big, unruly family? Take care, be ready, I’ll see you all in the Kingdom. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Garyd

    Of course I have Mr. Baum. Absent Mercy none of us will ever see heaven. None of us you see can ever be worthy of heaven for none of us are omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient which means we have no hope of ever obtaining perfection.Humanity is not a family it is a collection of warring tribes and that appears to have been the case from the earliest days.Of course God has a plan. He saw the cross before him before he ever uttered those faithful words “Let there be light” And yet knowing of the cross and exactly what it meant and every detail of what it would cost him and that even that would save only a few chose to utter those words any way. The single greatest act of love in the history of the universe.