The second leg to the footstool the Jewish people rest on is people hood. This is particularly intriguing because one of the fundamental questions people have is – who is a Jew? This goes to the heart of people hood. Some people think Jewish people are a race and some think we are a religion – well, both are true.
There are people that can lay their fingers on the generations of Jews they have descended from and then there are people like myself that are converts, that embrace the covenant God made with Abraham and thus enter the Jewish family. There are people that were raised Jewish but identify with the cultural things surrounded Judaism such as the food, languages (Hebrew, Yiddish, etc) as well as movies and music.
I’m always a little bit wary when someone tells me they have a Jewish ancestor. It’s been used as an avenue to convert me to their religious beliefs, it’s been awhile but that is a popular one. Another one some people like to use is the Jewish person who has converted to Christianity – they are now considered a “complete” Jew – by the Christians.
I’ve even heard that a vast major or adherents to mainline Judaism aren’t considered Jewish by branches of the Orthodox Judaism. So there occurs the infighting among who’s Jewish among our own ranks. I had a dear friend back in Iowa that’s father is Jewish – yet she had to go through the time of study and practice in order to face our conservative congregations Beit Din (court) in order to be considered Jewish. According to Jewish law, the line is passed down through the mothers. An aspect of Judaism that fascinates me since our religion is largely patriarchal – God is male, the covenant was given to a male, etc.
There are Ashkenazy Jews that come from Eastern Europe, Sephardic Jews that come from Spain and the Middle East, as well as Mizrahim that come from Africa. And then I have to laughingly add, there are the converts such as myself.
The interesting paradox is that the “average” Jew doesn’t care to categorize another Jew. I have quietly stated in the past that I’m a convert and have been gently admonished that it doesn’t matter how I got to Judaism, I’m home now and I belong.
And belong indeed, I do, to a people that have been all over the world and back again. A people that have been maligned, built bigger than life in popular imagination. A people that haven’t always lived up to their ideals but still tries anyway. But the thing that binds all Jews together is that we are Jewish and are responsible to one another and to the world through tikkum adam which is the partnership with God to heal humanity.