Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al

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Jewish identity link

So Naomi Chana has been one of my favourite bloggers since before I was on LJ. (Addendum 19.02.05: There's an LJ feed of her blog at baraita; thanks to beckyzoole for pointing that out.) She's incredibly erudite but wears her scholarship lightly and is a joy to read. The other reason I like her is that she talks about an approach to Judaism much like mine (or rather, like the way I would want my Judaism to be if I were a fraction as knowledgeable and dedicated as she is). And there aren't many people who are doing Judaism this way, and even fewer who talk about it.

Her latest post on Tending Towards Orthoclasis is wonderful. I want to print it out and distribute copies across the whole Jewish community and the whole interfaith world. So I'm making a start by linking to it here. Naomi Chana explains succinctly the real relationships between the different Jewish denominations, without the patina of propaganda that distorts the picture from all sides. Some of that post is specific to America but most of it is applicable here too.

The tacit assumption that Orthodox Judaism is the only authentic or "real" Judaism, as Naomi Chana puts it, is an awful meme which is incredibly pervasive. Naomi Chana lists a lot of the people who are subject to this, and she's quite right that Orthodox people being snobby is one thing, but the real problem is Progressive people who also buy into the Orthodox mythos and define themselves negatively.

The one thing I'd like to add to Naomi Chana's post is that this meme is also pervasive in (formal and informal) interfaith circles. I mean, it's totally excusable that people who aren't Jewish in the first place may be a little confused by Jewish community politics, fair enough. But I can't tell you how much it annoys me when well-meaning people say, 'But of course, you're Reform so it's not surprising that you're open to other religions, if you were a real Orthodox Jew you wouldn't be here doing interfaith stuff.' (Christians get this too, this ridiculous idea that the "real" Christians are the fundamentalist Evangelicals who think everybody's hellbound apart from them.)

The trouble with arguing against that misconception is that it's actually two misconceptions. The first one is that Orthodox people are opposed to interfaith and tolerance. It's true that Progressive people are demographically more active in interfaith, but that's a matter of priorities rather than an indication that Orthodox people have a problem with dialogue. So at the same time as defending Orthodox Judaism against the charge of intolerance, I'm also defending Progressive Judaism against the charge of inauthenticity. I don't want to claim that religious tolerance is a genuine Jewish value because Orthodox Judaism happens to share that value; Progressive values are Jewish values, (and not a 'dilution' of 'real' Judaism with secular culture). But it's also important to correct the false assumption that Orthodox Judaism is necessarily intolerant.

Anyway, if you're at all interested in Jewish identity, go read Naomi Chana's post.
Tags: jewish, linkies

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