Image: Person w/ name tag, “Mr. Know-It-All.” (Rob Byron/Shutterstock)
I just had a conversation online with a very nice gentleman. He had been given a bunch of misinformation by a Self-Appointed Jewish Misinformer (SAJM.)
The question in this case was, “Can a person convert to Judaism?” The SAJM answered, “No, a person has to be born Jewish.”
It happens that I had that same conversation many years ago, with another SAJM. There was no reason to doubt this person, so instead of converting early in my twenties, I converted at age 40, after a better-informed Jew told me that the previous answer was bunk. I lost almost 20 years of Jewish living to that Self-Appointed Jewish Misinformer.
SAJM’s do a lot of damage to Am Yisrael (the People of Israel.) They spread all kinds of misinformation, for instance:
- “If you have a tattoo, you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery.”
- “There are no Jewish alcoholics.”
- “Converts aren’t REALLY Jewish.”
- “There is no domestic violence among Jews.”
- “If you see a black Jew, they must be a convert.”
- “Converts cannot become Israeli citizens.”
NOTE: ALL OF THE STATEMENTS IN THE LIST ABOVE ARE UNTRUE! If you want to learn more about them, click the link for each UNtrue statement.
Sometimes misinformation (or even information, poorly delivered) can be cruel. For a real-life example, read “my teacher said im not jewish.”
How not to be a Self-Appointed Jewish Misinformer:
- Refer questions of Jewish identity or status to a rabbi. If you want to show off, offer the questioner names and contacts of several rabbis.
- If you thought you learned it somewhere but you can’t remember where or from whom, at least look it up before you reply.
- Remember that there is great diversity in Judaism. Not everyone is from your shul, your movement, your particular Jewish heritage. Even for rabbis, not all answers apply to all Jews!
- Remember that humility is a virtue, and teaching error is a sin.
Don’t be a Self-Appointed Jewish Misinformer! By making appropriate referrals, looking things up, and remembering the vast variety in Judaism, you can contribute to the Jewish world.