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09 February 2008 @ 03:18 pm
Just a last word before I leave  
I was raised Jewish and Catholic, until my Jewish father converted to Catholicism and expected me to abandon the Jewish part of my identity along with him. I was forced to attend Catholic services and to be confirmed in the Church, even though I was starting to find the Church politically and religiously stifling. After leaving home, I settled on Quakerism as a religion I could deal with, but have always felt a connection to Judaism as well, because it became part of my identity early in life. Since then, I have felt out of place in both Christian and Jewish circles because I can't feel "completely" one or the other. I've even been quite harshly rejected, often by Jewish groups, because I can't be "part Jewish" and because traditional approaches to Judaism say that 1) I'm not Jewish because my mother wasn't, and 2) Judaism is the One Way and is incompatible with following any other religion, especially not Christianity.

When I saw the last post, my first response was to agree that praying for Jewish conversion is antisemitic, and that we should assume no group is inherently more whiny than the other, so when Jews say they're bothered by something, it should be taken seriously. I later also said that I didn't think ANY ethnic or religious group, including Christianity, was inherently special or kind, and explained that I didn't consider myself "special" as an ethnic Jew or as a Christian. This was in response to someone saying that the Jews he knew were nice to him; I wanted to point out that out-group members are often a lot nicer to you than in-group members, it's not something special about that group but in fact a result of the fact that NO group is special. It bothers me almost as much when someone says "Jews are nice" as when someone says "Jews are mean." Apparently this was enough for a moderator to accuse me of being a Dominionist in disguise, even though my profile suggests otherwise, even though I said that I didn't think Christianity was special, even though I explicitly denied it. Apparently only Dominionists think that no group is special.

How ironic is it that a comment, originally motivated by someone acting surprised that "outsiders" like Jews would be kinder to them than Christians, would lead to this. I learned from my life that my "own people," whatever they are, are not likely to be particularly kind to me. This includes Jews, Christians, and, apparently, even others who are recovering from religious abuse. There are Dominionists that have been kinder to me than this community.

Considering my original comment that people should take it seriously when a group gets offended by your behavior, it's also ironic that, when I complained that I (and most Jews) considered the concept of "essential Jewishness," when employed by non-Jews, antisemitic, I was ignored. And "schooled" on what it meant to be Jewish, by someone with only second-hand knowledge of the religion. Because apparently members of the Jewish community have no right to say what they consider offensive without being labeled the Enemy.

I have no safe spaces. I have no home. The conservative Jewish community ensured that, the Roman Catholic community ensured that, my own family ensured that, and now this community is as well.
Michigan Blackhawk: kill bill--gogonesmith on February 10th, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)
The only problem with that is that it rests on the assumption that someone who is raised in a religion is automatically more knowledgeable, and that isn't true. One can be raised in a faith and have far less knowledge about the history or specifics of scriptures or traditions than someone who has studied the religion intensely. And frankly it's a little arrogant to assume that just because you were raised Jewish, then your authority supercedes everyone else's.

I was raised a Lutheran Christian and later joined the Episcopal church, and I know lifelong athiests who know far more about the Christian faith than I do because they've read and studied more than I ever did.

EDIT: Just to be completely clear, I'm not condoning any dismissals or "you don't know what you're talking about." My point is that being raised in a religion does not make one a de facto expert. There will always be someone else who knows more and has read more--but that's true for everything.

Edited at 2008-02-10 05:39 pm (UTC)
one of those feathery maniacssammka on February 10th, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC)
It's still not "just as anecdotal." His claim to expertise was "having talked to Jewish people at length." Not intensive study of the religion. I've talked to Jewish people at length all my life. They're my family and community. I would never dare to tell other people what their religion was all about unless I'd spent a lot more time learning about it than simply "talking to others at length." If my understanding conflicted with theirs, I'd qualify and say "the people that I've talked to all said...."

If it helps, I also ran pretty much everything I said by other Jewish people. The guy is just wrong. I also felt particularly provoked by the fact that not only did he start schooling me me on my own religion, but he also assumed, simply from my use of the word "chosen," even in combination with my identification with the religion, that I understood it in the "slanderous" way in which it is "generally understood," whatever that is, instead of the way that Jews actually understand it. He was actually mostly correct about how Jews actually understand it, it's just that he was wrong in that 1) it's still not a value-free term, and 2) when your birthright is a solemn responsibility, that counts as "chosen" for the purposes of what I was talking about.
Michigan Blackhawk: kill bill--gogonesmith on February 10th, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC)
Well, I don't claim to know the particulars of your discussion because I know extremely little about Judaism. The problem with discussions like these is religion is very interpretive, and even one faith has many different subsects who will interpret things differently, so even "talking to other Jewish people" doesn't mean one person is right over the other. I can talk to "many Christian people" about a subject, but if I speak only to Baptists, then the answers might still be "wrong" to Methodists or Lutherans. Which means that one person's "understanding" will still be "wrong" to another person.

It all comes down to who is the final authority, and it's never one's narrow experiences with just a few people. This goes for both sides.

one of those feathery maniacssammka on February 10th, 2008 06:07 pm (UTC)
I don't have "narrow experiences with just a few people."

Also, mainstream Judaism, in America, has only three movements: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Orthodox and Conservative Judaism are pretty easy to characterize because while groups may vary in the details of how they interpret law and theology, on a basic point like "what does it mean to be the chosen people?" and "Is G-d the only god?" they are overwhelmingly unanimous. Reform Judaism is harder to characterize but still I'd say the vast majority of Reform Jewish people agree on this point as well. This is a really basic characteristic of the religion, and just as Baptists, Calvinists, Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists all believe that there's one God (or trinity) and Jesus died for the sins of mankind, pretty much every Jewish tradition holds that there is one God and the Jews are his chosen people, whatever you end up deciding that means (some, for instance, would say that God could make covenants with other groups and that Jews are therefore not uniquely chosen, some say that they're "chosen" but have lost God's protection by breaking the covenant, some say that they're "chosen" and thus have the responsibility of acting as an example to others, etc.).

And like I said in the threads, there are Jewish pagans (and Jewish Universalists and Jewish atheists), but Jewish paganism is so marginal to the religion that you simply can't take their views and use them to characterize "Judaism," any more than I can use the views of Christian pagans to characterize "Christianity." You're way more likely to find a shul that caters to Jewish atheists than one that caters to Jewish pagans. This is why I confined my approach to mainstream Judaism, you know, the kind that the vast majority of practicing Jews follow.

You're really stretching to find something wrong with my arguments here.
one of those feathery maniacssammka on February 10th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
You could find pretty much all that I've said on Wikipedia.
one of those feathery maniacssammka on February 10th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
Or any web site about Judaism.
SwissCeltswisscelt on February 10th, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC)
Sammka, what did you mean by this comment?

"(even though Jews, ironically, think that paganism is incredibly wrong)"

Seems to me that you were not merely asserting your own knowledge of Judaism. It seems that you were going beyond that, and insinuating that no Jew would have anything to do with Pagans. But I'd like to read what you meant by that.
one of those feathery maniacssammka on February 10th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
Like I said, not applicable here, and there was no reason for anyone to think it is. You said that my experiences were "just as anecdotal" as merely having talked to some Jewish people at some point. That's not true.