Image: Annoyed woman with steam coming out of her ears. (Pixabay)
Lately I’ve noticed an uptick of comments and questions from gentiles that come in the general format:
“Why aren’t you Jews conforming to my ideas of how to be Jewish? Doesn’t that make you a bad Jew?”
Usually they are folks who seem to have read the King James Version of the Bible, and nothing else, and they are bothered that the real live Jews around them aren’t acting like Biblical Jews. Alternatively, they’ve picked up some of the antisemitic tropes about Jews, and they want to know why we don’t act in accordance with those tropes. Or — a third, friendlier possibility — they’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof or Yentl and want to generalize from those Hollywood musicals.
Biblical Judaism is not Rabbinic Judaism. Since the Romans destroyed our Temple in the year 70, Judaism has gone through some massive changes. We don’t sacrifice animals (no Temple!) and the Kohanim, or priests, do not make their living running the sacrificial cult any more. Our clergy are rabbis, who are primarily teachers, and cantors, who are experts on worship. If you want to know more than that, I recommend a good book or a Basic Judaism class.
Antisemitism is a bunch of bad information with a hateful agenda. A lot of it is lies, a lot of it is misinformation or twisted information, and it’s hateful. Again, if you want to learn about us, read a good book or take a class. If you want to learn a little about antisemitism, here’s an article.
Fiddler and Yentl are fantasy. So is most of what Hollywood releases on every subject, for that matter! Watching The King and I is entertaining, but it is not a good way to learn the history of Thailand. It gives you a fantasy about a snapshot in time – a particular monarch and his court in the 1860’s, through the lens of 1956 Hollywood. Most movies that include Jewish information – and there are a lot of them! – have some accurate info and some that is sadly inaccurate. If that interests you, check out my website Rabbi At the Movies, where I try to sort the real from the fantasy and the accurate from inaccurate.
Jews in the 21st century are a wildly assorted lot. Some are religious, some not. Some are traditionally observant, some not. Some are educated, some aren’t. Some are Zionists, some aren’t. Some are capitalists, some aren’t. Some are good with money, and some aren’t. Some are smart, some aren’t.
I love a good question, and I love to teach. Bring me genuine curiosity, and I’ll sit and chat all day. But: lecture me on how to be a Jew, when you clearly know nothing about it, and I will get pretty cranky, pretty fast.
Shavua tov, y’all. Have a good week.