7.16.2010

What is an American? What is a Jew?

One of my favorite parts of every semester in my American Literature survey is when we address the question, "What is an American?" I don't push much of a hard line on any of the competing definitions, but privately, I sometimes can admit to myself that we're losing (if "we" have not lost already: my troubled use of the collective pronoun "we" as exhibit A) what was exceptional about America. When faction flourishes, collective identity becomes impossible. In America, this question and its consequences have long been part of the national discourse.

Now it looks like Judaism is undergoing a similar struggle for identity. What does it mean to be Jewish? And just as important: who gets to say? The article in the New York Times today was, predictably, very much against the current effort underway from within Israel to stabilize and authorize Jewish identity. But then, there aren't very many observant Orthodox Jews writing for the Times, I suspect.

I guess I just love the honesty that this discussion forces. We have handled it poorly in America, especially within academia, I think. Rather than admit that "diversity" leads to dissolution of identity, we have hawked the line about diversity as if it were a panacea, ignoring the problems that result. However the issue turns out within Judaism, I give credit to the rabbinate for raising the stakes so high, and so publicly. They very well may alienate 85% of the now-Jewish world, but at least they'll know what it means to be Jewish. But then, I'm not altogether sure that such a result is really worthwhile--?

Is it "racist" to say that your mother has to be Jewish for you to qualify? What if America passed legislation to the same effect? And finally, does it matter whether we have clear identities, or not?

15 comments:

陳倩江陳倩江 said...

欣賞你的作品是我最近生活的動力~Go..................................................................

建佑建佑 said...

道歉是人類一定必要的禮節..................................................

俊宏淑松 said...

在莫非定律中有項笨蛋定律:「一個組織中的笨蛋,恆大於等於三分之二。」. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

sh林aronr宏oge嘉rs said...

有趣有趣~還ok的啦(。・`ω´・)............................................................

Monica said...

Eh. To be Jewish means to struggle indefinitely with what it means to be Jewish. G-d forbid we ever imagine that we have discovered an answer that isn't, by nature, dynamic.

吳婷婷 said...

大師手筆﹐果然不凡............................................................

吳林怡廷佳宇 said...

如此活躍的文字, 妳好棒哦! ............................................................

Casey said...

what the hell's going on on this comment page?

翔馨陳陳翔馨陳陳 said...

Learning makes life sweet.......................................................................

木楊楊堯木楊楊堯 said...

Learn wisdom by the follies of others.............................................................

家唐銘 said...

一個人的價值,應該看他貢獻了什麼,而不是他取得了什麼....................................................

家唐銘 said...

良言一句三冬暖,惡語傷人六月寒。......................................................................

Wishydig said...

asian fetish.

Casey said...

Am I huge in Taiwan or something?

Wishydig said...

do you have comment moderation set for posts older than 2 weeks? sometimes that helps.