Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm Probably Opening a Can of Worms ...

I'm about two seconds away from throwing myself into oncoming traffic. Okay, not really, but in my head it sounds like a marvelous end to my current project: editing a book manuscript. I'm such a kvetcher, but the amount of incredibly poor writing that exists in the world makes me want to cry. At this point, we're so reliant on technology and spell check and every other fancy widget out there that it's completely hopeless to assume that man will learn grammar or how to properly compose a sentence or not split an infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition. But I digress. (Yes, it's okay to start a sentence with "but." And to put the punctuation inside the quotation mark. Wanna fight about it?)

At any rate, I'm here right now to discuss something that I came across in said editing project: the idea of the Jew by choice being someone who is a born Jew but that chooses not to completely dilute their identity completely into the secular, American (or whatever country you choose) persona. It's a really controversial topic (at least, it used to be) in the convert community, and I even spent some time discussing it with people at a former blog project of which I was a part.

Here's my opinion: if you're a born Jew, if your mother is Jewish or however you want to look at it genetically (patrilineal, etc.), then you're Jewish. You don't choose it, you just are. Few peoples in the world actually view the genetic/ethnic/etc. background of someone as defining who they are. You don't have to go through the conversion process, the irritation, the frustration, the not belonging, the years of confusion and a non-Jewish upbringing and the repercussions of not having those Jewish memories, etc. Even the most secular Jews-by-birth manage to have a latke or light a menorah or visit a synagogue. Maybe I'm too hardline? It's probably one of the few things I really am a hardass about. If you're born a Jew, you're a Jew, whether you choose to be religious/observant/shomer mitzvot, is a whole other story. Either way, you're Jewish.

This is a much bigger debate than I care to get into here, but let's just scratch the surface. Can a born-Jew be a Jew by choice?