Jewish Americans or American Jews

How we have managed to retain our roots and embrace change?.

Comments (19)

(19) Yossie, March 18, 2008 3:47 PM

Progress somehow leaves Torah behind

I agree with you that Torah is what keeps us Jewish. However, it seems that the vast majority of people who make it in the outside world as doctors, scientists, artists,etc. usually do NOT hold on to Torah. Why is that?

(18) Yehuda Draiman, February 5, 2008 7:50 PM

The most important thing in life

It is imperative that the Jewish people will maintain their Jewish identity and denounce assimilation. The Jewish tradition has survived for thousands of years due to our non-assimilation. Let us keep it that way, or else we are on our way to extinction. The World today has basically abandoned family values and morality. It's all about keeping our Jewish lineage, bringing up Jewish children. And you just can't do that by marrying out. The silent holocaust is a phrase that is used to describe - Certain Jewish communal and religious leaders have used this term when they describe the assimilation and intermarriage of Jews with gentiles. PS For Jews, "marrying within the faith" isn't a cultural preference or prejudice. Rather, it is one the commandments G-d gave us at Mount Sinai. It dates back to Abraham telling Eliezer, his servant, not to find a wife for his son from the Canaanites.

As Jews, we have a unique identity that is connected to our purpose in the world. We are the "chosen people." We were chosen to propagate the ethical monotheism of Judaism. In the words of Leo Tolstoy: "The Jew is that sacred being who has brought down from heaven the everlasting fire, and has illumined with it the entire world... The Jew is the pioneer of civilization. The Jew is the emblem of eternity." We were chosen as a permanent protest group against idolatry and immorality. Intermarriage is therefore antithetical to the Jewish purpose and to the Jewish identity. Someone who understands this will obviously choose a partner who is likewise committed. Otherwise, it's entering a relay race, but choosing a partner who's running towards a different finish line.

Whom you marry affects every single aspect of your life. It affects your community. It affects your children. It affects all future generations. The Jewish home is the single most important establishment in Jewish life. It outweighs any synagogue or temple, even the Holy Temple built by King Solomon. By marrying a non-Jew one thereby ends over 3,000 years of Jewish continuity, effectively cutting oneself and one's offspring off from what it means to be Jewish.

(17) Rachel Garber, February 5, 2008 5:21 PM

This has always been a part of our history

I've heard this discussion before, as if it were new. But I seem to remember that the identity of our country has always preceded our religion/ethnic idenity. I have never heard of Russians, Poles, Germans, etc, called Jewish Russians, Jewish Poles, or Jewish Germans, why is it that there is a problem calling ourselves American Jews. We refer to French Jews, Egyptian Jews, British Jews, so I can't see why we Americans can't be American Jews. Not to make to fine a point of it, but the same is true with translating the Siddur into English. It has frequently been translated into other languages, yet when it was translated into English, there is a big dust up. Why is it ok to have a Spanish Siddur and so on, yet the Siddur translated into English has everyone upset.

(16) D, January 21, 2008 12:26 PM

Israel is our ideal place to live

I definately agree with Rabbi Salomon that one is first a Jew and then an American. I also agree that Jews who grew up in America should be thankful for how the American government has treated them (as I am, having lived in America for 18 years before making aliyah).
However, the same Torah that was given to us by G-d, the Torah which helped the Jewish nation achieve everything that it has up until today, also tells us of the mitzvah of living in Israel, our true home. We must realize that while we may be treated very nicely in America, it is not our real home and it is not the ideal. Just as Jews got very comfortable in Germany before the Holocaust, we have to realize that while at this moment in time Jews can live a safe life in America, this is not guaranteed to last forever.
We all have to realize that Israel is our true home. A jew cannot live a complete life outside of Israel. Only in Israel can one literally feel G-d's constant presence and involvement in every single move that one makes. Only in Israel can one observe the mitzvot ha'tluyot ba'aretz (the mitzvot that can only be observed in the land of Israel). Israel is the most holy and special place on the planet and one must always remember: kol makom she'ani holech, ani holech l'eretz yisrael (every place I go, I am going to Israel).

(15) Anonymous, January 19, 2008 9:19 AM

I am an American Jew

America is my country. Being Jewish and practicing it is my religion. Although I am proud of and donate to Israel causes my first allegiance is to my country of birth who allows me to be and do anything I lawfully want without

(14) Annette, January 17, 2008 9:42 PM


I would have thought you would call yourself 'primarily JEW - period'.
Didn't we just learn a few parashas ago about the self destruction brought upon ourselves everytime we associate with belonging to another land?

(13) Anonymous, January 17, 2008 6:13 PM

Thank you Judy

A lot of Jews of color were offended by that slip up too. Jews of color aren't secondary Jews, and many of us consider our Jewish beliefs before racial concerns. Just because someone is black and Jewish doesn't mean that they necessarily the ethos of the rest of black America. We aren't the "go to people" on black culture.

The Ashkenazi community has a lot of growth to attain on this subject. Jews should treat their fellow Jews with respect, not like pariahs within their own community. I think the author of the article lost sight of that.

(12) Anonymous, January 17, 2008 10:52 AM

Melting Pot vs Mosaic

I am a Jew born in Canada ie a "Canadian Jew". Canadian is the adjective modifying the noun Jew.

The way to think of it is like Michael Porter wrote in his classic social science textbook when he compared the American "melting pot" with the Canadian "mosaic".

The best illustration of this is of course hockey.

Last month there was a tournament held between teams from the Japanese, Greek, Irish and Jewish community center teams. I don't remember who won. I do recall the Jewish team did not play on Shabbat and that this type of activity was totally acceptable, since each of groups respected the others having their own identity separate distinct from their Canadian citizenship.

Sure, we have the same issues of intermarriage and assimilation, but the pressures are different than in the US. Canadian society is extremely tolerant and actually proud of this multicultalism, sometimes to the point of ridiculous political correctness.

Large cities like Toronto are still expanding and groups like Aishe and Chabad are actively doing outreach in new suburbs to keep Torah accessable to Jews.

(11) Rosen, January 15, 2008 10:41 PM

timeless Torah

As long as there are Torahs in the synagogues across the US, Israel, and elsewhere, Judaism is set to thrive, because Torah is sound and timeless. What better scripture is there that talks about the beauty of wisdom and life than the Torah? Jews are indeed a timeless people themselves, because many of them have the instinct to not give into too much assimilation or intermarriage. As Rabbi Soloman said a few weeks ago on whether Jews are smarter, "The Jews have a kind of mutation in their brains for intramarriage." - i.e. marrying Jewish.

(10) Anonymous, January 15, 2008 2:06 PM

Ken ken, Yehoshua for crossing us over into the holy land. Meah achuz.
This video is true in spite of the fact that here we are, but it certainly is not the ideal to aspire to. This week's parsha finds Bnei Yisrael leaving their galus behind and heading towards Artzenu Ha'kedoshah. Ken tihiyeh lanu...

(9) judy, January 15, 2008 1:59 PM

Well stated...agreed...however...

An amusing juxtaposition to Sunday's "Minority" aticle which began, "A young African American who happens to be Jewish," rather than, "A young Jew who happens to be African American." American Jew...or Jewish American? hmmmmm.

(8) Anonymous, January 15, 2008 11:36 AM

Cannot agree any more to all that is written by Mr. Yehoshua Cirt. What many people here in America tend to forget is that we only have one home---and the U.S. is not it!

(7) stuart avraham minsky, January 15, 2008 11:32 AM

i greatly disagree i am a Jewish American & my Judaism comes 1st that's why our people are getting wateder down. even Reforms Jews allow gay marriages which is against Torah we've watered down so much of our Judaism that people don't pray,don't know the Sh'ma don't pratice our faith.your Judaism should always come 1st before anything else WE ARE JEWISH AMERICANS NOT AMERICAN JEWS!!!or history will repeat it's self right here in this land. Jews 1st!!

(6) sharona, January 14, 2008 5:15 PM

re to Yehoshua

Yehoshua, I agree that we should desire to go back to our homeland. One thing we should keep in mind though is that we should each try to improve ourselves before we decide to move. Our actions, whether we do a mitzva or aveira, bring about spiritual energy, either positive or negative, depending on the action.
In the holyland though, the spiritual energy from our actions is amplified and enhanced, and so the positive energy from the mitzvos we do there (those b/t person & person, & those b/t person & G-d) is amplified. However, on the downside, the negative energy from the aveiros we do there is also amplified. - This is something we should all be aware of.
I pray that we Jews unite in Torah and come home to Eretz Yisrael

(5) Yehoshua Cirt, January 14, 2008 7:51 AM

I really must reply to what the Rabbi said...

Of course it's correct to say that the Torah guides us through every situation. And like you say, "We can be part of the culture." But of course that is not the ideal and this is especially evident today. I strongly disagree with Jews who justify their being in the diaspora (unless they can find real halahic justification). The Mesheh Hohmah wrote long before the holocaust that: "if you start acting as if Berlin is Jerusalem, a STRONG WIND will come and tell you it's time to go on home."
The Torah itself says that "From ZION goes forth the Torah." No complete Jewish life or influence is posible except in Eretz Yisroel. And today it's just so easy to get here and live here. Read about the trials and tribulations of Jews throughout the generations who made immense struggles to get to the Palace of the King here, and how hard it was to mannage. Believe it: hardly a problem today.
So much assimilation in America--it would seem to me that Jewry is dying.
Truly a Torah Jew's place in the world today is only HERE in Israel and the holy books say that this is HaShem's will.
I am obviously upset at any justification of the Jewish presence in the diaspora. It had its purpose, and it was HaSehm's will. But today the diaspora is on the way out and this should not surprise us. Did a Torah Jew ever consider the diaspora- even if it was Berlin-- even if it is America-- a an ideal let alone permanant? The Torah in the diaspora may be likened as a tool to insure survival. However-in the Holy Land, it is a manifistation of HaShem's desire to reveal Himself by means of His holy people. Not just an abstract entity floating above time and through impure nations. But as a real people keeping (not just studying) the Torah in its natural setting= as one. Most of the mitvahs are meant to be kept in Israel! A light unto the nations is an ideal to be realized only in our natural environment.

(4) s, January 13, 2008 7:57 PM

good point

I agree that can and should stay strong in our heritage while also embracing technology, medicine, music & art etc.

(3) s, January 13, 2008 7:24 PM

great message

I saw some of that documentary, it was interesting.

This is truely an amazing open miracle. We have survived in many different places through out history, with the help of G-d and the Torah He gave us. And it's our job to keep it up and continue on. We've seen what happens when people let go, the numbers dwindle. We need to hold on and stay strong. - We can do it with determination and continued effort.

(2) Rachel Garber, January 13, 2008 7:05 PM

Jew has always followed the name of the country

I applaud the rabbi's comments, would that he carried the message to Israeli Jews.
I've noticed that people make a big deal of the fact that we call ourselves American Jews rather than Jewish Americans, as other ethnic groups do. We have always identified ourselves by the country we resided in, this is nothing new. Remember, Polish Jews, German Jews, Russian Jews. Why is it a shande to call ourselves American Jews. What we really need to concentrate on, is not what we call ourselves, but whether we follow Torah.

(1) Ross, January 13, 2008 8:01 AM

American on the Roof

It's great that there are warm and understanding people who make it almost a career talking to Jews who still have only attatched to them some threads of "traditional" rituals, like not eating bread on Passover or lighting Hannukah candles, and convincing them that it's not just a "nice tradition" that old-fashioned grandpa used to do, but MEANS something. MEANS soimething? Bar Mitzvahs mean something? Not playing a ballgame on Yom Kippur means something? Without Torah to fill in the missing pieces, even these last threads just fade away.


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