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Netanyahu Government Suggests Israelis Avoid Marrying American Jews
November 30, 2011 10:56 AM   Subscribe

The Netanyahu government has paid for US TV ads saying US Israelis will never understand what it means to be Israeli, and American Jews will lose their religion
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 (189 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh no. He's said too much.
posted by hal9k at 10:58 AM on November 30, 2011 [51 favorites]


According to a comment from a Jew at Balloon Juice, this has a lot more subtlety in Hebrew, or at least this sort of goading is much more within acceptable norms. Goldberg's take isn't inaccurate, but this exact message is generally perceived more as motherly nagging than as a declaration of cultural exclusion by Likudniks.
posted by fatbird at 10:59 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


So they are still free to marry American Non-Jews, right?
posted by spicynuts at 11:00 AM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


ERIC BANA'ED
posted by nathancaswell at 11:00 AM on November 30, 2011


Oh, I'm sure that'll go over well.
posted by crunchland at 11:03 AM on November 30, 2011


Goldberg's take isn't inaccurate, but this exact message is generally perceived more as motherly nagging than as a declaration of cultural exclusion by Likudniks.

Yeah, but Netanyahu ain't anyone's mother. That's the problem.




Yes i know that Netanyahu is a man you know what i was getting at already.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:06 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Racism? Xenophobia? Hyprocity? Surely something is amiss in the Israeli government!

I was against it at first, but I'm really glad President Gore cut funding to AIPAC when he did, all those years ago.
posted by griphus at 11:08 AM on November 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


(P.S. What was the name of the dude who wrote "White Christmas"? Was it Israel Isidore Baline, perhaps? Who's celebrating whose holiday, hmm?)
posted by griphus at 11:10 AM on November 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


ohnoes, zionists hate me, however will i survive.

more ground pork vareniki for me then
posted by elizardbits at 11:11 AM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's a Jewish Israeli Middle Eastern thing. You wouldn't understand.
posted by clvrmnky at 11:11 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm disturbed by this anti-Christmas message. I mean, it's the celebration of the world's most famous Jew. Jesus is even more famous than, like, Goldie Hawn. And come to think of it, why don't we have a Goldiemas?
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:11 AM on November 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


You know who else was misunderstood?
posted by Naberius at 11:12 AM on November 30, 2011


Racism? Xenophobia? Hyprocity? Surely something is amiss in the Israeli government!

I am shocked ... shocked!
posted by kafziel at 11:13 AM on November 30, 2011


Because Judaism=Zionism right?
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:14 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The post is kind of misleading… these appear to be for Israeli, not US, TV, and I think it kind of makes a difference. Also, 'US Israelis' ≠ 'US Jews.'
posted by mhz at 11:14 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Benjamin Netan-notyou.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:15 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


*buys the mods a round*
posted by entropicamericana at 11:18 AM on November 30, 2011 [33 favorites]


Yeah, but Netanyahu ain't anyone's mother.

He's, however, a son. Of something.
posted by Skeptic at 11:18 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but Netanyahu ain't anyone's mother. That's the problem.

Well, he is A mother, which is a bigger problem.
posted by timsteil at 11:19 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I recommend people actually read the Atlantic link in the FPP. This could be framed better than a one line summary.
posted by modernnomad at 11:19 AM on November 30, 2011


I just realized that the world's most famous (in the "popularity contest" sense of the word) living Jew may, in fact, be Adam Sandler and D: D: D:
posted by griphus at 11:21 AM on November 30, 2011


The post is kind of misleading… these appear to be for Israeli, not US, TV, and I think it kind of makes a difference.

They're for US TV, as it says at the top of the article.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:24 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's so easy to give to local Jewish charities. I don't, because they all help Israel also, and stuff like this is why I don't want to give my money to Israel. (See also: the takeover of religious sites by some other Jews who also don't think I am really Jewish. And, okay, maybe I'm not that religious, but there are a lot of people/women who honestly believe in Reform and Reconstructionism Judaism who are being told to fuck off at the Western Wall.)

This isn't surprising, or all that much different at heart than what's been coming out of Israel for a while now: Israel is the real home for real Jews, and we define who real Jew is.
posted by jeather at 11:24 AM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know who else was misunderstood?

Jeff Tweedy?
posted by mzanatta at 11:26 AM on November 30, 2011 [37 favorites]


It's so easy to give to local Jewish charities. I don't, because they all help Israel also, and stuff like this is why I don't want to give my money to Israel.

It's not a charity, but it may be more important: J-Street.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:28 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


this exact message is generally perceived more as motherly nagging

"You shouldn't call, you shouldn't write ..."
posted by octobersurprise at 11:29 AM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just realized that the world's most famous (in the "popularity contest" sense of the word) living Jew may, in fact, be Adam Sandler and D: D: D:

you'd rather it should be that shmendrick Kissenger?
posted by elizardbits at 11:30 AM on November 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


Israeli Jews will never understand what it's like to be an American Jew, or what our money means, so I don't share any of mine with them if I can help it.

And I lost my religion. Good riddance. There's nothing more Jewish than being an atheist.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:34 AM on November 30, 2011 [41 favorites]


This I don't need.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:35 AM on November 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


According to a comment from a Jew at Balloon Juice, this has a lot more subtlety in Hebrew, or at least this sort of goading is much more within acceptable norms.

That's interesting. I do wonder about the wisdom of trying to assess—or getting judgmental about—a message written by a particular culture intended for a particular culture. As someone who isn't part of that culture, I could be missing a lot of context and it seems a good way to end up with a mouthful of foot.

I hope it's not a derail, but as a point of curiosity stemming from the discussion above and the time of year: What would have to happen, for Jews to be able to "acceptably" participate in Christmas celebrations? I'm not talking about midnight mass, I'm talking about a pine tree decorated with lights, and stockings filled with little presents, and brats waking up at 6 am and running into their poor parents' bedroom. Red-nosed reindeer and snowmen and all that secular jazz. What would have to happen, to "acceptably" divorce Christmas from its supposed religious roots and have it acknowledged as the consumer holiday that many Americans treat it as?
posted by red clover at 11:35 AM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Christmas doesn't have "supposed" religious roots. It has actual religious roots.
posted by jeather at 11:37 AM on November 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm talking about a pine tree decorated with lights, and stockings filled with little presents, and brats waking up at 6 am and running into their poor parents' bedroom.

Either it would have to be the pre-"Hannukkah is an actual holiday we swear" days when exactly that happened, or they'd have to be raised in the Soviet Union. Seriously, we had Christmas -- including a magic fat man with a sack of presents -- except it was called "New Year's" and there were no angels on the tree. My friends and I still celebrate it and exchange presents and everything.
posted by griphus at 11:38 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whose the shiksa now?
posted by jadepearl at 11:39 AM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


What would have to happen, for Jews to be able to "acceptably" participate in Christmas celebrations?

All that is required is for the jew to go visit some christian friends on Dec 25th. I'm sure the jew would be happy for the same christian friends to participate by lighting one of the menorahs should they come over on the 27th of Kislev — they're guests after all, let them light the nice one from we bought in Germany on that trip.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:41 AM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


A little more detail: up until the 50s or 60s, American Jews celebrated Christmas as a secular holiday as part of cultural assimilation. It wasn't a Christian thing like Easter, it was an American thing like Thanksgivng.

Around that time the Jews In Charge (yes it's more complicated than that) realized what was going on and decided to elevate Hanukkah to a higher status than it actually was, and have it compete with Christmas so that Jews weren't celebrating what was, at its root, the celebration of our lord and savior some dude named Jesus Christ.
posted by griphus at 11:43 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


What would have to happen, for Jews to be able to "acceptably" participate in Christmas celebrations?

What would have to happen would be an alternate universe where neither the Spanish Inquisition nor the Holocaust every happened. I'm not defending Netanyahu here but there are deeply ingrained cultural traditions as to why Jews do not wish to give the appearance of having converted to Christianity. Reasons that one would have to be born a Jew to fully appreciate. I am these days an agnostic but I will not participate in Christian culture out of respect for the millions of my fellow Jews who were given the choice of being forced to convert to Christianity - or die, the vast majority of whom died. I still wonder what my grandparents would have been like but I really will never know because they were one of the ones who died.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:46 AM on November 30, 2011 [12 favorites]


Netanyahu Government Suggests Marrying That Goldstein Boy Who Is Attending A Very Prestigious Medical School In Massachusetts
posted by swift at 11:47 AM on November 30, 2011 [33 favorites]


That's me as a Cantor
That's me on the West Bank
Losing my religion

posted by smithsmith at 11:51 AM on November 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


A little more detail: up until the 50s or 60s, American Jews celebrated Christmas as a secular holiday as part of cultural assimilation.

I do not doubt that some Jews celebrated Christmas as a secular holiday during that period but I have grave doubts that a significant number of Jews celebrated it just 10 years after the Holocaust happened. I was a person who grew up in the 60's and clearly recall getting presents for Hanukkah but Christmas participation was out of the question. I also clearly recall being forced to stand in conspicuous silence while the rest of my grade school classmates recited The Lord's Prayer. I think your statement may be over generalizing perhaps.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:52 AM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Anything that can disrupt an established religion is always a net-positive for humanity.
posted by rhizome at 11:54 AM on November 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Christmas doesn't have "supposed" religious roots. It has actual religious roots.

Yes, but at least the followers of Sol Invictus and Jölföðr are polite enough to not take out TV ads admonishing their diaspora for mixing the Jesus stuff in with it.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:55 AM on November 30, 2011 [16 favorites]


My friends and I still celebrate it and exchange presents and everything.

Same. I'm perfectly content to have a non-religious Christmas with my Jewish friends -- it's still a great symbolic time for charity and forgiveness, and we have kasha varnishkas when we exchange presents in front of a tree. So the Catholic League and Board of Rabbis can go fuck themselves: I like Chrismukkah just fine, thank you.

I am these days an agnostic but I will not participate in Christian culture out of respect for the millions of my fellow Jews

Personally, I can't think of a better way to not participate in Christian culture than by making it non-exclusive to Christians.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:56 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love the differences between the first two answers to: "What would have to happen, for Jews to be able to "acceptably" participate in Christmas celebrations?"
1. "All that is required is for the jew to go visit some christian friends on Dec 25th". benito.strauss
2. "I will not participate in Christian culture out of respect for the millions of my fellow Jews who were given the choice of being forced to convert to Christianity" Poet_Lariat
posted by Blake at 11:56 AM on November 30, 2011


This is really appropos of nothing, but it reminds me of my favorite conversation ever that my Israeli mother-in-law had with my sister-in-law.

MIL: Oh, dad met a young man he thought you would like.
SIL: UGH. Is he Jewish?
MIL: I don't know.
SIL: What's his name?
MIL: Moishe Ben Yakov.
posted by mothershock at 11:56 AM on November 30, 2011 [80 favorites]


Jesus Christ.
posted by zarq at 11:57 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Christmas doesn't have "supposed" religious roots. It has actual religious roots.

Yes, but not the ones that are forced upon it. I'm pretty sure decorating trees, Yule logs, and Santa Claus were not in the Bible. Notably, non-Christian nations like Japan and Korea also celebrate Christmas.
posted by explosion at 11:58 AM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


This ad made me laugh a lot. My mother was raised exceptionally religiously (a Brooklyn yeshiva girl), but married my essentially-atheist father and raised me pretty much religion free. When I was four or five, my great grandmother called to wish us all l'shana tova and a happy Rosh Hashanah. She asked to speak to me, and asked if I knew what holiday it was. "Labor Day!" I responded proudly.

The next week, I got a book entitled "Jewish Days and Holidays" in the mail.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:59 AM on November 30, 2011 [12 favorites]


Speaking as an American Jew and a lifelong Zionist, I am truly pissed off and offended by these. I guess this particular iteration of the Israeli government has forgotten that Israel is supposed to be a homeland for Jews, not just Israeli Jews. The message that we U.S. Jews just don't get what it means to be Israeli (or, judging from the little girl depicted, Jewish) couldn't be more rejecting.

I'd point out that Jeffrey Goldberg is one of the best friends Israel in general and this government in particular has in America. How ironic that it is he whose final comment about these ads is: The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid (and what a great show you put on at the AIPAC convention every year!) but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters.

I guess I should 't be surprised this government can and does step hard on the toes of its own friends. (Probably with money from US supporters at that.)
posted by bearwife at 11:59 AM on November 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


griphus: "A little more detail: up until the 50s or 60s, American Jews celebrated Christmas as a secular holiday as part of cultural assimilation. It wasn't a Christian thing like Easter, it was an American thing like Thanksgivng. "

Errrr.... perhaps secular Jews did this? My great-grandparents, grandparents and parents did not. Neither did my wife's family.
posted by zarq at 11:59 AM on November 30, 2011


up until the 50s or 60s, American Jews celebrated Christmas as a secular holiday as part of cultural assimilation

Wait, we stopped?
posted by RogerB at 12:00 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, but not the ones that are forced upon it. I'm pretty sure decorating trees, Yule logs, and Santa Claus were not in the Bible. Notably, non-Christian nations like Japan and Korea also celebrate Christmas.
posted by explosion at 11:58 AM on November 30 [+] [!]


In Japan, they call Santa "Annual Gift-Giving Man."
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:04 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Commentary Magazine goes into further detail:
The fact that many Israelis have left the Jewish state to find new homes and opportunities in the United States has long been a source of tension for Jerusalem. In the past, some Israeli leaders, such as the late Yitzhak Rabin, castigated emigrants as being little better than traitors. Attempts to shame them into returning failed as have more recent efforts aimed at enticing the yordim (as they are known in Hebrew) with more positive messages. But as cable’s The Jewish Channel reports in this video, the country’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, which is responsible for promoting aliyah or immigration to the country, has taken a new tack in an effort to get some of what is estimated to be as many as 600,000 former Israelis living in the United States to come home.

The Ministry has created a series of commercials that are airing on cable channels likely to be watched by the Israelis that warn them they are losing their identity by staying in the United States. This is standard fare from a Zionist point of view, but one of the ads goes a bit further than the others and seems to be warning about the perils of Israelis marrying American Jews. If so, a government agency whose premise is supposed to be one that reinforces Jewish identity may be sending a message that contradicts that theme.

....

But the third [ad] shows the plight of a young ex-Israeli with a boyfriend whom we may well assume to be Jewish (as Ben Smith of Politico does in a blog post) because we are not told otherwise. In the ad, the woman is commemorating Yom Hazikaron — Israel’s memorial day — but her partner doesn’t understand its significance and, the narrator reminds the audience, he never will.

It’s one thing for Israel to try and convince expats to come home lest they assimilate into a foreign culture. It’s quite another to send a message that hooking up with an American Jew will cause them to lose their secular Israeli identity. It’s true that many expats view themselves more as Israelis rather than Jews and fear losing their connection with the Hebrew language and the secular culture of the state more than ties with their nominal religion. But a message that seems to reinforce the notion that Israelis and American Jews have nothing in common runs contrary to the whole concept of Zionism, let alone traditional Judaism, and not to mention the political needs of a country that relies heavily on American Jewish support.

posted by zarq at 12:04 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Errrr.... perhaps secular Jews did this?

That's probably it. Also I'm starting to think the apex was in the early 50s rather than the 60s. Or I'm compeltely wrong but fuck if I'll cop to that.

MIL: Moishe Ben Yakov.

After my mom died, I was going through her documents, and found her Soviet birth certificate, wherein her father's race was marked as "Russian" rather than "Jewish." I asked my aunt about it and she replied that a lot of Jews claimed to be Russian to avoid anti-Semitism. I was not entirely convinced.

"What does it say his name is?"
"Avraham."
"..."
posted by griphus at 12:07 PM on November 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Christmas doesn't have "supposed" religious roots. It has actual religious roots.

Saturnalia, you mean?
posted by goethean at 12:08 PM on November 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


Christmas doesn't have "supposed" religious roots. It has actual religious roots.

Yeah, but they're in Mithrasim, not Christianity.
posted by spaltavian at 12:09 PM on November 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


Jesus is even more famous than, like, Goldie Hawn.

Please someone make a Last Supper with Goldie Hawn in place of Jesus.
posted by odinsdream at 12:09 PM on November 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


My mother was raised exceptionally religiously (a Brooklyn yeshiva girl), but married my essentially-atheist father and raised me pretty much religion free. When I was four or five, my great grandmother called to wish us all l'shana tova and a happy Rosh Hashanah. She asked to speak to me, and asked if I knew what holiday it was. "Labor Day!" I responded proudly. The next week, I got a book entitled "Jewish Days and Holidays" in the mail.

I have the flipside of that story -- I have an aunt and uncle who settled on Long Island, and the best daycare in their town was connected with the local synagogue.

The Thanksgiving my youngest cousin was three, she very excitedly ran to greet my Grandparents when they arrived for Thanksgiving dinner, and telling them, "Nana! Grandpa! Guess what! Last week at day care they picked me the Sabbath Queen for the week and I got to hold the Torah and everything!"

....Did I mention my entire family is Catholic?

(My grandparents just put on big smiles and said "well, that's nice, dear," then subtly looked up at my aunt and asked, "Sabbath Queen IS a good thing, right? It is? Good.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:10 PM on November 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


No big deal...more to the point: why do so many Israelis leave their country? It is NOT because of fears from Arab neighbors.
posted by Postroad at 12:11 PM on November 30, 2011


I am not saying that in other cultures, Christmas is not purely secular. I certainly don't know enough about Japan to comment. But in North America, mostly it isn't. It's all well and good for people whose families were Christian but are not religious or even atheist now to say that Christmas is totally secular, how dare people find anything religious in Christmas, but they're using a significant amount of privilege when they assert, incorrectly, that Christmas is secular and religion-neutral.

I know Christianity stole a lot of stuff from other cultures, but honestly, after a few hundred years you can call it Christian.
posted by jeather at 12:12 PM on November 30, 2011


Poet_Lariat: " I'm not defending Netanyahu here but there are deeply ingrained cultural traditions as to why Jews do not wish to give the appearance of having converted to Christianity. Reasons that one would have to be born a Jew to fully appreciate. I am these days an agnostic but I will not participate in Christian culture out of respect for the millions of my fellow Jews who were given the choice of being forced to convert to Christianity - or die, the vast majority of whom died. I still wonder what my grandparents would have been like but I really will never know because they were one of the ones who died."

From a religious perspective, my understanding is that there's actually a Talmudic injunction against imitating Gentile customs, that probably extends from the prohibition against idolatry. So celebrating Christmas, complete with manger and statues is probably out, too.

Like any good Jew, I celebrate Christmas by ordering Chinese food. /small>
posted by zarq at 12:13 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Please, all of you, don't make trouble!
posted by tommasz at 12:13 PM on November 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: " The Thanksgiving my youngest cousin was three, she very excitedly ran to greet my Grandparents when they arrived for Thanksgiving dinner, and telling them, "Nana! Grandpa! Guess what! Last week at day care they picked me the Sabbath Queen for the week and I got to hold the Torah and everything!""

Heh. That's awesome. :)
posted by zarq at 12:15 PM on November 30, 2011


What would have to happen, for Jews to be able to "acceptably" participate in Christmas celebrations? I'm not talking about midnight mass, I'm talking about a pine tree decorated with lights, and stockings filled with little presents, and brats waking up at 6 am and running into their poor parents' bedroom. Red-nosed reindeer and snowmen and all that secular jazz. What would have to happen, to "acceptably" divorce Christmas from its supposed religious roots and have it acknowledged as the consumer holiday that many Americans treat it as?

There are lots of Jews who do that. I'm an atheist who does that. I think any cultural tradition is to some extent up for grabs in that way. After all, the various pagan rituals that feed into the Christmas rituals were, presumably, adopted by primitive Christians in much that spirit (hey, this tree thing is FUN!--let's keep participating in that but, you know, not go along with any of its religious significance).
posted by yoink at 12:15 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Friday night and the lights are low
Looking out for a shul to go
...
Sabbath Queen
Young and sweet
Only seventeen
posted by griphus at 12:16 PM on November 30, 2011 [14 favorites]



The ads are rather heavy handed, and it is insulting to those of us who grew up in the '60's planting damn forests in Israel that somehow our Jewishness is in question.

For those of us who are 4th generation, we have a lot of baggage. Our Grandparents wanted to assimilate and went to some great lengths to do so. My mother was agog over a group of rabbis who wanted to get rid of a Christmas display in an airport. "Why are they making a fuss?" Her thought was that we shouldn't be bringing attention to ourselves.

My friends are shocked to discover that I know all of the words to all of the Christmas songs, even the second verses. Why? I sang in school choirs and for all the talk of separation of church and state, through my entire schooling I sang the soprano solos in the Christmas Pageant. (Or the descant, it depended on how high they needed someone to go.)

What was comfortable in post-second world war America is now uncomfortable in second millenium America. My cousins, who are 15 years younger than I am are WAY more religious than we are. I attribute that to her maternal Grandparents being concentration camp survivors. That would probably color anyone's attitudes towards religion.

Sure, I rolled my eyes when my cousin tortured the waiter to ask about what the meatballs were made of (I kept my mouth shut when she ate her 100% beef meatballs with 100% milk mozzarella cheese) but at the end of the day, we each decide how we want to honor our heritage, our religion and our citizenship.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:19 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was genuinely taken aback on a trip to Jerusalem, where I was staying (over Christmas - it's a good place to replace that madness with one quite different) in an impeccably middle-class suburb, to see graffiti on the bus stop which was a Christian cross and the word Shoah. Was also a bit discomforted while shopping to see handwritten notes in the shop windows "We welcome our brave tourists", but that's another story.

I'm a goy with a great love and appreciation of Jewish culture, and it is hard, often, to remember that all my Jewish friends have had great gouges torn from their families in living memory by the mutant machinery created by people much closer to myself than to them. I fear for Israel, that those wounds may not have healed well.
posted by Devonian at 12:19 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


America sends Israel fighter planes, attack helicopters, artillery pieces, and missiles. It's Christmas that's the dangerous influence?
posted by Nahum Tate at 12:20 PM on November 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


But in North America, mostly it isn't. It's all well and good for people whose families were Christian but are not religious or even atheist now to say that Christmas is totally secular, how dare people find anything religious in Christmas, but they're using a significant amount of privilege when they assert, incorrectly, that Christmas is secular and religion-neutral.
"Privilege" Really?

Christmas was actually banned in lots of places in the early U.S for being unchristian (read: Popish). There isn't anything about it in the bible, and Jesus was supposedly born in June. The popes couldn't stop people from celebrating earlier annual festivals on and around Dec 25th so they just decided to plant their holiday there, with the same things (trees with candles in them, gift giving, and so on)
posted by delmoi at 12:20 PM on November 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm talking about a pine tree decorated with lights, and stockings filled with little presents, and brats waking up at 6 am and running into their poor parents' bedroom.

The Christians stole the tree and gift giving ideas - not the other way around. I too am an atheist who enjoys these things. The tree and gifts, as far as I'm concerned, are a leftover pagan tradition and therefore an areligious activity that should be enjoyed by all with no guilt or criticism.

Israel: HAWAAAAAAAAAAD!
Howard: WHAT MAAAAAAA!
posted by jimmythefish at 12:23 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's nothing more Jewish than being an atheist.

This is where I urge everyone to see The Believer.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:23 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Will this get Pat Robertson raving about The War on Christmas again? That's my favorite part of the holiday season.
posted by clarknova at 12:26 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Christmas was actually banned in lots of places in the early U.S for being unchristian

The Christians were also attacked by the Romans, so how dare we talk about Christian privilege in the context of the US and Canada in the 21st century.
posted by jeather at 12:27 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


The tree and gifts, as far as I'm concerned, are a leftover pagan tradition and therefore an areligious activity that should be enjoyed by all with no guilt or criticism.

Pagan traditions are areligious? I'm sure Zeus and Odin and all them would be surprised...
posted by Jimbob at 12:28 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm an atheist who was raised Jewish and I'm born on Christmas day. Can someone tell me what I'm allowed to celebrate?
posted by brevator at 12:28 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking as an American Jew and a lifelong Zionist, I am truly pissed off and offended by these.

All politics is local, and as an American, you ain't local. But consider the irony- here are Israeli Jews telling you that as an American Jew, you aren't authentically Israeli enough, even though as a Zionist, you probably pride yourself on being more authentically Jewish than other non-Zionist American Jews.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:28 PM on November 30, 2011


Can someone tell me what I'm allowed to celebrate?

Arbor Day. But don't make a fuss.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:29 PM on November 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've always felt anyone who uses the word "privilege" in that context has enough "privilege" to have received the kind of education and live in the kind of culture where you're taught to use the word "privilege" like that.
posted by Jimbob at 12:29 PM on November 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


(P.S. What was the name of the dude who wrote "White Christmas"? Was it Israel Isidore Baline, perhaps? Who's celebrating whose holiday, hmm?)

Alllan Sherman *swoon* wrote a parody that was a Jewish summary of "My Fair Lady" (With a Little bit of Lox, Get me to the Temple On Time...etc.) For its introduction, he said, "You know, I always wondered what it would be like if all the great Broadway musical writers were Jewish. [pause] Which they were."
posted by Melismata at 12:30 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Daddy, Daddy, what did you do during the War on Christmas?"

"Let's just say that every time I walk into a WalMart I can hear the screams and smell the pepper spray....now let me see you set that boobytrap in the chimney like I showed you last year."
posted by yoink at 12:30 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


red clover: " I hope it's not a derail, but as a point of curiosity stemming from the discussion above and the time of year: What would have to happen, for Jews to be able to "acceptably" participate in Christmas celebrations? I'm not talking about midnight mass, I'm talking about a pine tree decorated with lights, and stockings filled with little presents, and brats waking up at 6 am and running into their poor parents' bedroom. Red-nosed reindeer and snowmen and all that secular jazz. What would have to happen, to "acceptably" divorce Christmas from its supposed religious roots and have it acknowledged as the consumer holiday that many Americans treat it as?"

Speaking solely for myself as a religious Jew, why should I need to coopt what are clearly another faith's religious traditions and re-purpose them? Christmas is not a secular holiday to Christians. Why should I pretend it isn't?

There are a number of Christian organizations, such as the so-called Messianic Jews, or Jews for Jesus, that do this. They coopt our religious traditions and distort them. Which would be fine, if they weren't also declaring themselves the "real" Jews, proselytizing to us and trying to convert us. To Christianity.

Thanks, but no thanks. If I wanted to celebrate Christmas, I'd do it properly and convert.

Bunny Ultramod: "There's nothing more Jewish than being an atheist."

I beg to differ. There's nothing more Jewish than being an agnostic. :)
posted by zarq at 12:32 PM on November 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


I love the differences between the first two answers ....

Meh, between two jews we should have been able to come up with more than just two positions.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:34 PM on November 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


Please someone make a Last Supper with Goldie Hawn in place of Jesus.

yes, but you have to call it the Bissel Nosh.
posted by elizardbits at 12:35 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


My grandmother's maiden name on the American side of my family is "Mizener" and there are other reasons I suspect we may have had secret Jewish roots in that wing of the family... Does that mean my son shouldn't be allowed to date a nice Israeli Jewish girl when he gets older under the precautionary principle? Or I guess he wouldn't count since his mom's Irish/Italian? Keeping my ethnic purity tests straight is getting so tough these days...
posted by saulgoodman at 12:35 PM on November 30, 2011


At the end of the day, what this is all about is: Tribalism. And it gives me a headache.
posted by cool breeze at 12:36 PM on November 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeah, well my tribe's tree is more festive than yours, so stick THAT in your pipe and smoke it.
posted by griphus at 12:39 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile:

Israel is releasing millions of dollars in withheld tax revenue to the Palestinians. a decision which right winger Avigdor Lieberman is of course, denouncing. Israel had refused to send the funds, which reportedly make up 30% of the PA's budget, after the Palestinians' lobby for UN recognition last month.
posted by zarq at 12:42 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


saulgoodman, these ads are about the purported perils of engaging with American Jews. The question of intermarriage is a whole other conversation.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 12:43 PM on November 30, 2011


Notably, non-Christian nations like Japan and Korea also celebrate Christmas.

There are (admittedly according to Wikipedia) around 15 million Christians in South Korea out of a population of 48 million. They may not be a "Christian Nation," but they're not exactly a non-Christian one either.
posted by Jahaza at 12:51 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Netanyahu, I can't stand him. He's a liar.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:51 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Arbor Day. But don't make a fuss.

I had to stop celebrating Arbor Day after The Happening came out. Fuck those trees. They can go to hell.
posted by Naberius at 12:52 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am not saying that in other cultures, Christmas is not purely secular. I certainly don't know enough about Japan to comment. But in North America, mostly it isn't.

I agree with you that Christmas is not "secular and religion-neutral". It's clearly a Christian thing, though it borrows from other traditions. That said, just 51% of respondents to this Gallup poll said that Christmas was "strongly religious" (note that this is up from 20 years ago, when it was only 40% -- strange, if you assume that the "roots" of Christmas are religious), and only 62% attended religious services on Christmas Eve/Day... whereas 93% reported exchanging gifts and seeing family. These secular Christmas traditions were nearly universal ("even among those who say Christmas is a strongly religious holiday to them, many of the secular traditions are just as common if not more so than the religious ones.") Likewise, while 81% of Americans are Christian, only 12% of Americans listed "Religious faith/season to celebrate Christ" as a reason why Christmas in 2008 would be happier than prior Christmases. For almost 40% of respondents, the best thing about Christmas was seeing family.

Or, in short: Though it has Christian underpinnings, the Christmas holiday is celebrated nearly universally by Americans, including 80% of non-Christians. Part of the reason for this is Americans' widespread involvement in nonreligious aspects of Christmas, including exchanging gifts and getting together with friends and relatives.

I don't think it's "privilege" to point out the fact that Christmas is essentially two holidays -- a secular one and a religious one -- and that the former is more widely celebrated than the latter.
posted by vorfeed at 12:53 PM on November 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Netanyahu, I can't stand him. He's a liar.
posted by ZenMasterThis



'You're sick of him, but I have to deal with him every day...'
posted by Keith Talent at 12:54 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm an atheist who was raised Jewish and I'm born on Christmas day. Can someone tell me what I'm allowed to celebrate?

Festivus. Start training for the feats of strength now.
posted by aught at 12:57 PM on November 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


US (Jews) will never understand what it means to be Israeli, a

Wi nöt trei a höliday in Israel thi yer?

See the löveli lake

The Wönderful telephöne system

And mani interesting furry animals
posted by three blind mice at 12:57 PM on November 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't think it's "privilege" to point out the fact that Christmas is essentially two holidays -- a secular one and a religious one -- and that the former is more widely celebrated than the latter.

As long as you agree that the secular Christmas is secularly or culturally Christian (depending on your preferred terminology), I have no argument with this. Other people might also celebrate it, and I wouldn't be surprised if eventually it was entirely divorced from its religious roots, but we're not there yet.
posted by jeather at 12:59 PM on November 30, 2011


After my mom died, I was going through her documents, and found her Soviet birth certificate, wherein her father's race was marked as "Russian" rather than "Jewish." I asked my aunt about it and she replied that a lot of Jews claimed to be Russian to avoid anti-Semitism. I was not entirely convinced.

"What does it say his name is?"
"Avraham."
"..."
posted by griphus at 3:07 PM on November 30


Again, do you see the irony of that? A lot of Jews, who lived in Russia, who were born in Russia, who had children born in Russia, who spoke Russian, ate Russian food and enjoyed Russian culture claimed to be Russian to avoid anti-Semitism, but retained some characteristic that would also them to exclude themselves from that group (in your example, his name, which proves to your aunt that he was actually Jewish. If his name was Vladimir instead, would he then not be Jewish?)

In other words, on the one hand you had the crazy Soviet government that considered this particular group of Russians not to be authentically Russian, and on the other hand, you had the members on that group justifying what they considered to be lying on that form to avoid the persecution...even though checking the box for Russian is factually correct.. And if you are doing something to avoid persecution, chances are, they'll find something else to persecute you for.

This is the kind of contorted self-deception cleverer-than-thou argumentation that trips minorites up for centuries. The minority has to second guess the government's intentions, lie to them as carefully and innocuously as possible, but then also retain some latent proof of their minority status, which ironically is precisely the evidence that the majority will use to prove that you lied to the government. "You expect me to believe that you are Russian, Avraham?"

The correct answer for everyone in Russia when confronted with the question of "Are your Russian or X?" is to answer "I'm Russian, comrade, what the hell are you? Oh, you are an armed Russian, I get it."

Because that's really what we are talking about here. The only reason people anywhere go through these cryptic ethnic and semiotic codings is because they fear for their lives. To this day, the smartest thing the founders of the US did was allow civilians to keep arms. Why don't you go to South Central and ask the Crips if they are black or American? Because they will shoot you in the face immediately.

"Am I Russian? Why comrade, of course I'm Russian, just like you and Weinberg and Galifianakis and Chen and everyone else. But I'm afraid my Glock is still very Austrian and very loaded. So piss off my lawn and take your shitty Lada with you. And don't forget your precious form, stupid."
posted by Pastabagel at 12:59 PM on November 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


...that this is up from 20 years ago, when it was only 40% -- strange, if you assume that the "roots" of Christmas are religious...

The roots may be, but the idea of the average American being openly, vocally and strongly religious as a positive trait is relatively new. Back in the day, the Coca Cola corporation had more influence on Christmas than Jesus did. Santa Claus, the guy who lives at the north pole with the elves and reindeer so on, was a 20th-century creation and popularized by commercial sources, sharing no more in common with the Saint Nicholas myth than a basic job description.
posted by griphus at 1:02 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


saulgoodman: "Does that mean my son shouldn't be allowed to date a nice Israeli Jewish girl when he gets older under the precautionary principle? Or I guess he wouldn't count since his mom's Irish/Italian? Keeping my ethnic purity tests straight is getting so tough these days..."

A story for you: while my wife and I were dating, I had a somewhat lighthearted argument in a restaurant with my then mother-in-law to be about my dating history and level of religious observance. My wife was the first Jewish woman I'd ever dated. I had only rarely stepped foot in a synagogue since my bar mitzvah. At the time I was beginning to assess Judaism again as an adult. My provincial mother in law was having a difficult time believing that I had "turned my back on my religion and the community." Worse, that I had exclusively dated non-Jews until I'd met her daughter. Finally, she incredulously passed the outrageous comment that her children would "never have had so little respect for themselves and their family as to have dated a non-Jew." I was floored.

At that point my wife blurted out, "Oh please, Ma! I dated a guy named Noel! What are you talking about?! Don't be ridiculous!" And my father in law, who had been watching the entire conversation without saying a word, did a total spit take and burst out laughing.

Different sects of Judaism would treat your son differently. And yes, there really are American and Israeli Jews who would say that they wouldn't want their daughters dating your son because he's not Jewish. I would characterize them as being on the much more observant end of the spectrum. I think it's an insane, wrong-headed attitude to have, but I still... I can empathize with their fear in one way: many religious (non-Reform) Jews are very, very concerned about assimilation and intermarriage. It's hard to look at the dwindling numbers of Jews and not be worried, if you're hoping the religion will thrive without becoming overwhelmingly backwards and fundamentalist.
posted by zarq at 1:15 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pastabagel, your comment is a wonder to behold. I salute you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:18 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


But I'm afraid my Glock is still very Austrian and very loaded.

Ah yes, without those second amendment remedies we'd all be Russian.
posted by three blind mice at 1:22 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


This most certainly won't wendell.
posted by Freen at 1:23 PM on November 30, 2011


Ah yes, without those second amendment remedies we'd all be Russian.

WOLVERINES!
posted by zombieflanders at 1:24 PM on November 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


I can (sort of ) understand a commercial aimed at expats by a goverment fearful that those expats will stay expat and lose their identity. But the first commercial, where the woman mourns on holocaust remembrance day while his clueless (probably) Jewish boyfriend is, um, clueless is beyond the pale. After all, Jews who aren't Israelis had ancestors die in the holocaust. Grandparents, great-aunts and uncles with a veil of sadness and a tattoo on their arms? Yet just by not being Israeli, somehow no American Jew would understand, oh, Auschwitz! Guess me listening to my grandmother, who lost all her family except for one sister because they didn't have the good sense to run off with the boy from the wrong side of the tracks doesn't count. (Grandma and grandpa ran off and went to Cuba, then Brooklyn, great-aunt went to Buenos Aires. Everyone else stayed in Lithuania. Everyone else died.)

It makes me want to scream, "Yo, Dafna, if it weren't for us diaspora Jews, you'd be speaking Arabic and celebrating Eid right now!!!"
posted by xetere at 1:36 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


What would have to happen, to "acceptably" divorce Christmas from its supposed religious roots and have it acknowledged as the consumer holiday that many Americans treat it as?

...

Christmas doesn't have "supposed" religious roots. It has actual religious roots.

Meh. The former scenario happened a while ago. I don't like Christmas but my brother does, and he's the one that made our mom stop taking us to Sunday School (when he was 7 - one of the best things you ever did for me, bro!).

I try to merge Christmas into the Winter Solstice, since that's something I can get down with. I purposely say "Happy Solstice" to everyone who wishes me "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas."

But no. Modern Christmas has most of its roots in pagan celebrations, not Christian celebrations.

And it doesn't have to be a consumer holiday. Peace, love, and the start of longer days are enough for me. Maybe a little egg nog, if it's spiked.

A little more detail: up until the 50s or 60s, American Jews celebrated Christmas as a secular holiday as part of cultural assimilation. It wasn't a Christian thing like Easter, it was an American thing like Thanksgivng.

I know plenty of Jews, Hindus, and Muslims who celebrate Christmas (OK, OK, maybe not plenty, but at least one family of each). Only the Jews have to hide it from their parents.

I know Christianity stole a lot of stuff from other cultures, but honestly, after a few hundred years you can call it Christian.

Oh no you don't.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:47 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


But the first commercial, where the woman mourns on holocaust remembrance day while his clueless (probably) Jewish boyfriend is, um, clueless is beyond the pale. After all, Jews who aren't Israelis had ancestors die in the holocaust. Grandparents, great-aunts and uncles with a veil of sadness and a tattoo on their arms? Yet just by not being Israeli, somehow no American Jew would understand, oh, Auschwitz! Guess me listening to my grandmother, who lost all her family except for one sister because they didn't have the good sense to run off with the boy from the wrong side of the tracks doesn't count.

Yom Hazikaron is not a holocaust remembrance day, it is Israeli's version of the U.S. Memorial Day. I believe (per WP) that it's to honor Israeli servicemen and servicewomen killed in in the line of duty and victims of terrorism. FWIW.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:49 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


As long as you agree that the secular Christmas is secularly or culturally Christian (depending on your preferred terminology), I have no argument with this.

Well, no, I don't agree. The secular Christmas has very little to do with the religious one -- our most widespread Christmas traditions (gift-giving, Santa Claus, Christmas dinner, the focus on children and family rather than community and churchgoing) come from Charles Dickens and the Coca-Cola Company, not the Church. They are not secularized religious traditions, they are secular traditions invented more-or-less out of whole cloth, in order to popularize a different religious holiday which was unfashionable at the time, and would be unrecognizable to most Americans today. If not for Gift-Giving Family-And-Friends Day, chances are that most Americans wouldn't even celebrate Christmas today, much less as a religious thing.
posted by vorfeed at 1:50 PM on November 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


"I'm an atheist who was raised Jewish and I'm born on Christmas day. Can someone tell me what I'm allowed to celebrate?"

Brevatormas, of course.



On the whole secular-vs-religous nature of Christmas, I'm an atheist who celebrates the holiday so it's secular for me. Any Jewish friends who want to stop by on the 25th are welcome.
posted by tdismukes at 1:59 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pfff! Everyone knows that Jon Stewart is the US's most important Jew!
posted by darkstar at 2:01 PM on November 30, 2011


And yes, there really are American and Israeli Jews who would say that they wouldn't want their daughters dating your son because he's not Jewish.

It's also my understanding that my dad--if my grandmother was in fact ethnically, if not observantly, Jewish--would be considered ethnically Jewish by a lot of orthodox Jews, leading to the awkward situation where my piece of crap, Southern conservative, white trash estranged dad might be considered good Jewish husband material, while my son and I would not, despite our being in my estimation much nicer people. (I guess it is in some small way comforting that Netanyahu doesn't want my dad in the family either, though.) But, sheesh. How confusing it all is.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:04 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know Christianity stole a lot of stuff from other cultures, but honestly, after a few hundred years you can call it Christian.

Coincidentally, that's almost exactly what the Muslims said about Israel.
posted by Sparx at 2:07 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seriously. What are most prevalent features of Christmas for celebrants? Tree and presents.

Both Christian and the Secular celebrants pretty much all have trees and presents at Christmas. Only the Christians have Christian elements (which are ... going to church? saying prayers? honestly, I can't think of many Christian parts to Christmas... ah, nativity scenes and hymns!) in their celebrations.

"Christmas as it is celebrated in America has just two Christian elements: nativity scenes and Santa Claus." - Putting Christ Back in Christmas: Is Jesus the Reason for the Season?

lolz.

The Real Saint Nicholas

"In the most famous story about his life, he threw bags of gold through the windows of three girls about to be forced into lives of prostitution."

Also, aren't there a fair number of Christians who don't celebrate Christmas (i.e. Jesus wasn't born in December, etc.)?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:10 PM on November 30, 2011


What would have to happen, for Jews to be able to "acceptably" participate in Christmas celebrations?

All that is required is for the jew to go visit some christian friends on Dec 25th.


Well that is totally fine. If you are participating in someone else's celebration, no biggie.

It's the Christmas trees in their own houses that my Jewish friends have to hide from their parents.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:11 PM on November 30, 2011


Everyone knows that Jon Stewart is the US's most important Jew!

You missed it. James Franco passed him in the rankings after the Oscars.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:14 PM on November 30, 2011


BBC has a good summary of Christmas history.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:15 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The most famous Jew is Harrison Ford.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:16 PM on November 30, 2011


mrgrimm: " It's the Christmas trees in their own houses that my Jewish friends have to hide from their parents."

Tell them to just say they're celebrating Tu B'shevat a couple of months in advance. :D
posted by zarq at 2:16 PM on November 30, 2011


Ah yes, without those second amendment remedies we'd all be Russian.

Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:20 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


The most famous Jew is Harrison Ford.

I almost picked him, but Indy IV blew (I heard) and really, Cowboys and Aliens?

Then I was thinking Woody Allen (and I actually do think he is the most famous U.S. Jewish person commonly identified as Jewish).

Then I thought about Bob Zimmerman, and I totally never even knew (I'm not a fan) that he had a born-again conversion to Christianity. It figures, I suppose ...
posted by mrgrimm at 2:22 PM on November 30, 2011


ZenMasterThis: " Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership."

*facepalm*

Subtle.
posted by zarq at 2:23 PM on November 30, 2011


Bob Dylan.
posted by Jimbob at 2:23 PM on November 30, 2011


And I lost my religion. Good riddance. There's nothing more Jewish than being an atheist.

Except perhaps for being a Buddhist.
posted by acb at 2:27 PM on November 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Albert Einstein?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:31 PM on November 30, 2011


He's dead.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:35 PM on November 30, 2011


Since marrying someone who's (at least culturally) Christian, I've had to give up grabbing Chinese food on Christmas Eve with a few other non-Christian friends.

Mmm. Peking Duck and an entire restaurant filled with Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and misanthropes. The people watching was fantastic.
posted by miyabo at 2:37 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


All politics is local, and as an American, you ain't local. But consider the irony- here are Israeli Jews telling you that as an American Jew, you aren't authentically Israeli enough, even though as a Zionist, you probably pride yourself on being more authentically Jewish than other non-Zionist American Jews.

Pastabagel, this comment is indeed a wonder to behold but I am going to deconstruct it a bit if I may.

First, as an American, I am as local as can be. Being a supporter of a Jewish State (that's what Zionism means) doesn't make me one whit less a US citizen and locally rooted.

Second, these ads are actually telling me I am someone who doesn't understand Israel or even Judaism because I'm American -- not because I'm an American Jew. And that irritates the heck out of me because American or not, I understand both Israel and my own religion very well indeed. Plus Israel is the LAST country that should be indicating that Jews anywhere "just don't understand."

Third, of course I don't pride myself on being more authentically Jewish because I'm a Zionist. The supposed lack of religious belief or practice by many Zionists -- including Israelis -- is something of a jokey stereotype. Indeed, many devout Jews think Zionism is wrongheaded, even heresy, because good Jews know the messiah must arrive before any legitimate Jewish homeland can be established.

And so ends my little discussion of this comment.
posted by bearwife at 2:38 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am not saying that in other cultures, Christmas is not purely secular. I certainly don't know enough about Japan to comment.

In Japan, Christmas is HOT DATE (and KFC) NIGHT!

Just don't wind up the Christmas cake!
posted by nicebookrack at 2:44 PM on November 30, 2011


I'm an atheist who was raised Jewish and I'm born on Christmas day. Can someone tell me what I'm allowed to celebrate

Are we talking before or after you've inaugurated the thousand years of peace?

I'm surprised Goldberg doesn't refer to the fact that many more Israeli Jews are sending their kids abroad because they think war is coming (according to an NYT story I now cannot find).

That's what these ads are designed to counter, in my opinion.
posted by jamjam at 2:51 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey Israel! Stop doing real bad things supposedly in my name and then we'll talk. Until then, you can't fire me, 'cuz I quit.

<3 an American Jew
posted by threeants at 2:54 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


From the article:

> These government-sponsored ads suggest that it is impossible for Jews to remain Jewish in America.

What bullshit. Israelis are here in the States partly because it's far easier to be Jewish here than in any other country outside of their homeland.

As an American Jew, the ads are an insult. Ads like this could send many liberal American Jews, the majority of which otherwise support the nation in spite of the growing hatred towards it among their peers, over to the extremely vocal anti-Israel camp.
posted by elmwood at 2:58 PM on November 30, 2011


A followup: how "Israeli" can many of the country's citizens be when they come to the United States to sell Dead Sea salts on Friday night during the Christmas shopping season in this nation's thousands of shopping malls? Please, Israel - can't you take those citizens back instead?
posted by elmwood at 3:02 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's a thought experiment.

Suppose that we knew for certain that Israel was going to have a war with Iran in the near future.

How would we interpret these ads in that context?
posted by Anything at 3:17 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's dead.

Nevermind, I missed the switch from Jesus (dead) to most famous (living) Jew.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:30 PM on November 30, 2011


I don't entirely love American political culture, but the piece de resistance for me is separation of church and state.

Clearly, this principle has not been adopted by all societies - more's the pity.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:41 PM on November 30, 2011


At the end of the day, what this is all about is: Tribalism.

... is actually an accurate description. Judaism isn't really a religion (witness all the people here in this same thread who are proud to affiliate as Jewish and possibly more proud to have no ties at all to the religious tenets of the faith). And it's not really an ethnicity (witness the comments about who is and who isn't a Jew according to Jewish law). Judaism is, technically, a tribe. You can't wake up one day and decide to be Navajo, and you can't decide on your own that you meet the qualifications of being a member of the Jewish tribe just because you feel haimish. As far as Jewish law is concerned, to be a member of the tribe, you have to have a Jewish mother. But there is also a religious aspect - while not believing in G-d is not considered a particularly awful offense, actively accepting another faith is. To saulgoodman's point that his white trash estranged dad might be considered good Jewish husband material, while my son and I would not, despite our being in my estimation much nicer people. - that's not actually true. No one would be considered good Jewish husband material who wasn't a good Jewish husband - it's just that his father might not have to convert to have a religious ceremony, where he would. If you don't want to be Jewish, don't be. If you want to be, conversion is fully accepted by almost all groups of Jews - exceptions exist, but they run counter to centuries of Talmudic teaching. If your father - and your mother, and you - have no interest in being Jews, then why raise the quibble? No one is being forced to be a practicing Jew who doesn't want to.

Groups like the so-called "Jews for Jesus" create an interesting wrinkle, because pretty much never before in the history of the Jewish race (at least since the diaspora), was it seen as positive or desirable to be Jewish regardless of faith. In the past (and still today in many countries), being Jewish was an invitation to be ostracized, discriminated against, and even killed. People who didn't believe generally converted to Christianity or Islam at the first opportunity, or drifted away and posed as the prevailing cultural ethnicity if it was possible - many did so simply to make a living. During the Spanish Inquisition there were secret converts in Spain who pretended that they were Christian while still practicing Judaism in private - who were murdered if they were caught. When the Pale of Settlement in Russia was designated as the only area where Jews were allowed to live, and then reduced even further in size, the hope that a third would emigrate, a third would convert to Christianity, and a third would die. That people still chose to remain Jewish despite knowing they would be slaughtered for it is amazing - why not just say you were a Jew for Jesus, if that was a viable religious option? Because no one would have accepted that as a thing. Being "Jewish" was entirely negative.

A generation ago you didn't have people saying "My mom is Catholic and my Dad is Jewish, why can't I be Jewish if I want to?" Their parents would have known when they got married that it would be an issue for their kids - and they didn't care. If you don't believe in Judaism, what difference did it make if your kids were or weren't Jewish according to the Talmud? But it turned out that was short-sighted, as their kids, it turned out, sometimes do care about it. Which led to the U.S. Reform Movement's decision to accept patrilineal descent - which is now being challenged by young Jews who don't want to have to abide by the "rules" of patrilineal descent and say, not celebrate Christmas.

I think these ads are offensive, as a religious American Jew and a Zionist. But I can't help but marvel at the way this thread is progressing - a large contingent (possibly even a majority) of opinions from non-religious American Jews who actively oppose Israel as a Jewish state, arguing, essentially, how dare they suggest that if a Jew lives in America, he will become nonreligious and not care about Israel? - while simultaneously sounding genuinely baffled at why having a Christmas tree would be a problem for a Jew. To me it sounds like - if the participants here are at all representative of American Jews in general - the ads are probably also correct in what they're saying. In which case, you would think the response to this would be "so what?", not outrage that some people still dare to care about Jewish continuity as a religion and not just as an ethnic marker that Hitler would have put you in an oven for, regardless of whether you or Jewish law considered you Jewish or not.

For the people that consider Judaism a religion - and by this I mean all religious Jews, regardless of denomination - this is a huge issue. Patrilineal Descent wasn't proposed by Reform Judaism as a way to make more people Jewish - it was accepted to try to stanch the flow of people out of Judaism by giving them another loophole to stay. But it isn't working - instead it is just creating more Jews who sprinkle their conversation with yiddishisms or food references but otherwise act like, feel like, and identify entirely with non-Jewish culture. That's their choice - Jews have been leaving Judaism ever since Judaism began (Jesus was just one noteworthy early example), and will certainly continue to do so no matter what ads preach. But people have been disparaging Jews for clinging to Judaism for equally as long - it's just that those people were usually anti-Semites or members of other religions hoping to win some souls - not other Jews who are happily calling themselves Jewish despite having Christmas lights and eating bacon and never (for example) stepping foot in a sukkah in their life.

What I do find interesting is that it's predominantly the secular Israeli Jews who are leaving -- using a religious message to try to keep them there seems destined to fail. And if it does fail, and Israel is suddenly left with a majority of religious crazies, the people who supported creating these ads would probably be pleased as punch. So hmm.
posted by Mchelly at 3:48 PM on November 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


Finally what we have are example of tribalism, class, group pride...but for me, the sheer amount of comments on this boggles my mind.
posted by Postroad at 3:58 PM on November 30, 2011


I'm still trying to figure out just what the fuck Pastabagel is talking about.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 4:03 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


But I can't help but marvel at the way this thread is progressing - a large contingent (possibly even a majority) of opinions from non-religious American Jews who actively oppose Israel as a Jewish state, arguing, essentially, how dare they suggest that if a Jew lives in America, he will become nonreligious and not care about Israel? - while simultaneously sounding genuinely baffled at why having a Christmas tree would be a problem for a Jew.

Perhaps this is because these ads are assuming, as you seem to, that orthodoxy and Zionism are essential tenets of being a Jew.
posted by kafziel at 4:03 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


There appear to be three advertisements. They all end with a suggestion to visit the Israeli Ministry of Absorption website, which is where I found the third ad.

The first advertisement is titled "Before Chanuka turns into Christmas" and the voiceover at the end says "They'll always be Israeli ... but their kids won't. Help them come back to Israel." The second is titled "Memorial Day" and the voiceover says "They'll always be Israeli, but their kids won't always know that means. Help them come back to Israel." The third is titled "Before 'Abba' becomes 'Daddy'" and it has the same voiceover as the first: "They'll always be Israeli ... but their kids won't. Help them come back to Israel."

The first thing to note is that none of them actually say anything about Judaism. Even the Christmas one is about a cultural thing - Chanuka is really big in Israel. I wouldn't really be upset if the ads really were about maintaining Jewish cultural identity, but they're not.

Jeffrey Goldberg says "I don't think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads." He probably hasn't hung around Israelis very much. I recall begging some backpackers to please let me wash raw vegetables in bottled water before we ate them. Their contempt was palpable - so what if the tap water clearly came from an adjacent lake in which clothes were washed and buffalo were watered. Only an effete Westerner would be too cowardly to face Nepali intestinal flora unaided.

Also, I know a lot of expat people from the USA. Believe it or not, many of them are really upset that their kids won't appreciate USAn culture. Their grandparents do things like send them Little League shirts and cheerleader outfits - seriously. It's often little things that bother them the most - the way they pronounce "zed" rather than the fact that they can't name the three branches of government. The USA doesn't think of itself as a little country vulnerable to migration deficits, but if it did, I guarantee you guys would be running the same sort of ads. Except yours would be about baseball and hotdogs and pumpkins on Halloween.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:32 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, well my tribe's tree is more festive than yours, so stick THAT in your pipe and smoke it.

There's a tree under there? Oy, what a shvitzer.


I kid. It's very nice.
posted by Amanojaku at 4:42 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Miyabo: I have been converted by my atheist Jewish husband to the traditional Jewish Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant. Since our kids are grown and not always here for holidays, and I don't like to cook and love Chinese food, it is the perfect solution. I am Catholic and sing in the choir at Midnight Mass, but the next day, its Chinese! And yes there is always an interesting mix of people there.
posted by mermayd at 5:08 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Growing up I was taught that we celebrated something very different than Christians, despite having a tree and presents on Dec 24th. In my teens I learned the religious origins, but it remains a thoroughly secular celebration for me and my loved ones. I'm kind of dissapointed, however, that Judiasm isn't the dominant religion in America because then it would be easier to justify a full week of vacation.
posted by PJLandis at 5:24 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mchelli, I think it's pretty obvious why a large group of perfectly well defined Jews would object to the implication that they're insufficiently Jewish. Fine: insufficiently Jewish to be Jewish Israelis, but clearly: insufficiently Jewish.

Why do progressive or secularized Jews care? Because a provincial buffoon is making a mess and rubbing their noses in it.

Provincialism is provincialism. The only remarkable thing about this is the willful stubbornness required to see more-secularized Jews as a novel and existential threat to Judaism.

(I'm certainly no expect here - but I think your characterization of patrilineal descent is slightly odd. Personally, I find the idea of exclusively matrilineal descent rather ridiculous, and I'm under the impression at least that by the numbers in North America, this is the mainline of current Jewish thought.)
posted by ~ at 5:24 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, well my tribe's tree is more festive than yours, so stick THAT in your pipe and smoke it.

There's a tree under there? Oy, what a shvitzer.


I think my tribe's festive 'tree' is more of a festivus pole, English English English from when the Earth was cooling to about now. Unless you want to make the bits that came out of the coal counties their own branches...

But on to what I wanted to ask, what is a schvitzer?
posted by Slackermagee at 5:46 PM on November 30, 2011


I specifically said "by this I mean all religious Jews, regardless of denomination" - A Reform Jew can absolutely be considered religious, even devout, without adhering to Orthodoxy. Commitment to zionism - which does not have to translate to commitment to the current Israeli government - is a central tenet of all branches of Judaism. A love for and desire to return to Israel, the land, is fairly close to the center of the faith - even if you don't actually choose to live there or agree with Israeli policies or politics. Someone who doesn't believe in Judaism as a faith system - who doesn't keep any of the tenets at all, to any degree, whether through laziness or active disbelief or outright disagreement (which are all valid and popular opinions - I am not judging) - is not someone who can say that their personal opinion represents Judaism, no matter how many people share it. Only that it is their opinion.

I'm sorry, but I prefer to take the opinion of religious Jews (yes, even Reform religious Jews) about what makes someone Jewish over Hitler's definition - that anyone who has one Jewish grandparent counts, even if they don't believe and don't choose to affiliate in any way. Even if it may currently be the prevailing popular opinion in America.
posted by Mchelly at 5:54 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mchelly: "Patrilineal Descent wasn't proposed by Reform Judaism as a way to make more people Jewish - it was accepted to try to stanch the flow of people out of Judaism by giving them another loophole to stay. But it isn't working - instead it is just creating more Jews who sprinkle their conversation with yiddishisms or food references but otherwise act like, feel like, and identify entirely with non-Jewish culture. "

Um... I really do appreciate most of your comment and it's possible I'm misreading you here, but I do have a few friends who are religious reform Jews (and have a cousin who is reconstructionist) who would take tremendous offense at this characterization. If you're not a practicing Reform Jew, please be very careful about describing them as "identifying entirely with non-Jewish culture."
posted by zarq at 5:55 PM on November 30, 2011


Slackermagee: " But on to what I wanted to ask, what is a schvitzer?"

In German, the word literally means someone who sweats.

However, I've heard my in-laws use it in a more subtle way: a person who grabs undeserved credit for work done on a project. No idea if that's an "approved" definition.
posted by zarq at 6:04 PM on November 30, 2011


I disagree, Mchelly. Speaking for myself, and perhaps other secular American Jews, Judaism is a culture much more than a religion. When I look at my mother's family who came here at the turn of the 20th century, the common denominator is not that they are Russian, or Polish, or Latvian, or Ukranian. The common denominator is that they are Jewish. And when I participate in important family rituals like going to a seder at my aforementioned great grandparents, or lighting the menorah that my other great grandfather made, or saying kaddish, or any other sort of thing, I am honoring my culture. I don't believe that G-d did this or that, and I don't believe that keeping kosher would make me a better person, and I don't believe any number of things. I can barely read Hebrew anymore, despite my several years of Hebrew School, and I didn't get bat mitzvahed. But when I sing Dayenu with my aunts and uncles or eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah or think about the ways I've wronged people and the ways I could make it right on Yom Kippur, I am doing it for the cultural connection with the scattered bunch of other people who are better Jews than I am, who wrestle with beliefs in various ways, etc. etc. My great great grandparents were Jewish before they were from the complicated Eastern European mess of countries, and it'd be even more disingenuous for me to strongly identify with Russians or Poles.

I don't know that Godwinning secular Americans who identify with their Jewish heritage really does much to improve the tenor of the conversation.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:29 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nethanyahu is by far a greater threat to the long-term viability of Israel than Hamas, the Palestinians, and Iran combined.
posted by bardic at 6:35 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Personally, I think a shared shared belief system, cultural heritage and historical narrative uninformed by faith can very happily be said to represent Judaism. I understand that you disagree. I , and the majority (I suspect) of north american Jews will console ourselves with the time saved by not keeping and cleaning separate sets of cutlery.

(And really, could we leave Hitler out of this? On the one hand, he's a bit of a conversation stopper. And on the other hand, I find what you're saying just a hair shy of utterly repellant. I'm not sure why you're so keen to exclude from Judaism those that he included.)
posted by ~ at 6:40 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Or, or postview, what ChuraChura managed to convey with much less spit flecked.)
posted by ~ at 6:59 PM on November 30, 2011


Hey zarq, I think you must be misinterpreting me. The cultural-only Jews I'm referring to aren't people I would characterize as religious / Reform. They're the counterpoint. People who may have a personal affiliation with the history and the food and the artistry and traditions, but no desire to participate - the ones who happily intermarry with a judge or even a priest because "hey, it's important to her and I don't care," and raise kids who maybe feel the same way, and whose grandkids then go on to say "I think my grandfather was Jewish, I'm not anything." And I don't have a problem with that decision on a person to person basis. Everyone is and should be free to make their own decisions about faith. But to actively not care and then turn around and dictate what religious Jews (of any stripe) "should" believe - that is offensive to me.

Meanwhile, if you can't bring Hitler into a conversation about Jewish continuity without being accused of "Godwinning," I am completely speechless.
posted by Mchelly at 7:21 PM on November 30, 2011


People who may have a personal affiliation with the history and the food and the artistry and traditions, but no desire to participate - the ones who happily intermarry with a judge or even a priest because "hey, it's important to her and I don't care," and raise kids who maybe feel the same way, and whose grandkids then go on to say "I think my grandfather was Jewish, I'm not anything."

I long for the day that this is true for billions and billions of people, regardless of the faith of their grandfather.
posted by modernnomad at 7:31 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


The problem for me in your comment is that " I prefer to take the opinion of religious Jews (yes, even Reform religious Jews) about what makes someone Jewish over Hitler's definition - that anyone who has one Jewish grandparent counts, even if they don't believe and don't choose to affiliate in any way" takes away an awful lot of nuance from the conversation. Either you're properly religious or, if you're secular without clear matrilineal descent and still think of yourself as culturally Jewish, you're being like Hitler.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:32 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


From the Boston Globe: Israel to Boston: We want our citizens to return to their homeland
Ads use emotion and guilt to lure those who’ve lingered in the diaspora to return to their Jewish roots
As I said above, I think this is a misreading: the ads are about returning to Israel. They even link to an Israeli government website offering help in re-acculturation and apparently some help with expenses. They've got little or nothing to do with Jewish observance.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:44 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mchelley, I suppose I am a good example for you then. Indeed I do have children that merrily and happily (as appropriate) observe two sets of religious holidays. I'm not sure on what basis you'd claim that I do not 'participate'. I haven't said much about it. Does it require theistic belief? If so, I'd understand your point but respectfully disagree - as would a number of Jews, Reform and otherwise.

I'm not sure why you think you're being told what to believe, except insofar as I'm questioning your assumption of privilege to assign and revoke Jewishness. (Just to be clear: I fully endorse the Jewishness of Jews who happen to believe in G-d, despite being mildly embarrassed by it.)
posted by ~ at 7:49 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Parodies of the “Christmas” Videos
They will always be Israeli. Help them go back home.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:55 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you for posting that link, Joe in Australia. I walked by that billboard a few weeks ago and was wondering if somewhere in Tel Aviv a big sign was up saying "You're More Likely To Live Here"...
posted by phoenixy at 7:58 PM on November 30, 2011


Also, this is kind of the opposite side of the coin of Peter Beinart pointing out that American Jews don't identify with the state of Israel any longer. They simply don't want to (or can't) identify with a rogue nation.

This is a problem for you Bibi, not something you want to fan the flames of.

You can shit all over Obama all you want, but he hasn't stopped sending you the checks you so desperately rely on. At least for now.
posted by bardic at 8:27 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was raised Methodist. These ads make me want to go out and find a nice Jewish boy and have lots of babies whom we raise to celebrate both Kwanza and Samhain.
posted by artemisia at 9:01 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to a comment from a Jew at Balloon Juice, this has a lot more subtlety in Hebrew, or at least this sort of goading is much more within acceptable norms.

Funny how that works.
posted by formless at 10:55 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, I know a lot of expat people from the USA. Believe it or not, many of them are really upset that their kids won't appreciate USAn culture.

Interesting. I live in (and grew up in) expat communities and it was always the Americans obsessed with replicating American things for their children. The Dutch and English expat communities with which I was more closely affiliated didn't do anything of the sort.
posted by atrazine at 11:13 PM on November 30, 2011


Joe, the best part of the parody videos for me was that the Israeli guy basically acts like exactly like a Lebanese or Palestinian guy of the same age...
posted by atrazine at 11:16 PM on November 30, 2011


Bunny Ultramod: "There's nothing more Jewish than being an atheist."

zarq: I beg to differ. There's nothing more Jewish than being an agnostic. :)


I say there's nothing more Jewish than arguing about it! :D
posted by vasi at 11:17 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Netanyahu should know all about what America does to Israelis. He lived in Pennsylvania! Where do you think he learned such nice English?

Reading Wikipedia, I found this little tidbit:
In April 2011, the Israel State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, announced an investigation into Netanyahu's travel at the expense of private businessmen, mainly American Jews.[9]

So, however dangerous it might be to live in America, apparently taking money/favors from American Jews is just all fine and dandy. Or is this campaign a smokescreen for some underhanded dealings?
posted by Goofyy at 12:53 AM on December 1, 2011


You guys *have* heard of Jewish guilt right? What's so surprising about the Jewish Mother(land) trying to guilt-trip her children to visit more?

Kidding aside, as an Israeli-American these leave me with a pretty bad taste in my mouth. Both the videos aren't really aimed at people like (mid-20s, been here for long enough that I'm a dual citizen), but seem to be for recent expats to pressure people who have been here longer, and in particular to target young people: those who can feel a yearning for an unknown native land, an identity they feel they were robbed of, or for a combination of nostalgia and patriotism.

The speculation by posters up-thread about this being related to potential future war don't ring too falsely for me.
posted by anateus at 2:54 AM on December 1, 2011


miyabo: "Since marrying someone who's (at least culturally) Christian, I've had to give up grabbing Chinese food on Christmas Eve with a few other non-Christian friends."

Oh my gosh, me too. And I miss it so much! Why does Chinese food taste so much better on Christmas Day?
posted by Deathalicious at 4:08 AM on December 1, 2011


I'm arriving at this late after some surprisingly heated debates with Jewish friends on facebook about all this. And it really makes me think about the ways in-groups discuss "dirty-laundry" issues within the group and how those same people discuss them with the out-group. Fascinating.
Anyway-do the videos offend me? No. Offense isn't the right word. I find them problematic, but unsurprising.
Israel is this little nation with huge myths (I use the phrase in the "origin story" sense, not the "fairytale" sense) of the pioneer [halutz] who built the country with his/her sweat and blood and is rooted in the land. Rooted. It's a part of the mythos of Israel. When you move TO Israel as a Jew, you're making aliyah- literally, going up. When you leave Israel for the diaspora, it's called making yerida, literally "going down"-and the connotation of the word is not so nice.
In Israel, when you go anywhere outside of israel [vacation, work, whatever] you're going to CHUL, a hebrew grammar acronym-y thing for "chutz l'aretz"-literally "outside THE land". Esentially, another part of the Israel-myth is that there is HERE and everywhere else.
So, its unsurprising that the government would produce such videos. They've used an over the top, inflamatory story-line in order to say, "STAY HERE"-you are rooted here, leaving means you're giving up on your family."
You'll note that none of the videos are about not marrying American-born Israelis-because it's not about the American part-it's about location. I'm not saying that's good or bad, I just think that the focus on "don't marry American Jews" is sort of misplaced. The videos are about staying rooted to the land and continuing to grow and strengthen Israel-and leaving is seen as deserting. They're choosing to play on the emotions of Israelis related to loss-of-culture, but it's about the land.
posted by atomicstone at 8:32 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


On this totally other subject of Christmas and Jews:
I give you: There's No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein
posted by atomicstone at 8:39 AM on December 1, 2011


Personally, I find the idea of exclusively matrilineal descent rather ridiculous, and I'm under the impression at least that by the numbers in North America, this is the mainline of current Jewish thought.

Seriously. What is up with that?

"A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism."

Not trolling/Godwinning, but why just mom? (I read that link but still don't quite get it.)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:01 AM on December 1, 2011


mrgrimm: " Not trolling/Godwinning, but why just mom? (I read that link but still don't quite get it.)"

Because it's easier to identify what womb a baby came out of than its father. If you know who has given birth to a baby, you know its maternal genetics. Without DNA testing, it is not possible to guarantee who a person's father might be.

Also, "Mainline Jewish thought" is sort of a slippery slope when it comes to the matrilineal descent question.

In the US, the Reform movement outnumbers both the Conservative and Orthodox movements, and the Reform movement accepts both matrilineal and patrilineal descent. Current numbers are estimated, but amongst religious Jews the count is something like 7-12% Orthodox, 35-40% Conservative and 40-45% Reform, with the rest either choosing no sect at all, or a small minority choosing a non-mainstream religious sect, like the Reconstructionists. If you add the numbers of Conservatives and Orthodox together, they *might* slightly outnumber the Reform. But they might not. So it's hard to say if the majority accept matrilineal and/or patrilineal descent.

To dig ourselves a deeper hole:

Orthodox and Conservative Jews say that if your father was Jewish but your mother was not, you're not automatically Jewish.

So there are a bunch of people who self-identify as Reform Jews who are not recognized as Jewish by either the OU or the USCJ. So are they Jewish? Depends on whom you ask. Did they go through a conversion process that the other sects consider acceptable? If not, should they be included in population counts? How should the other sects treat them? The more questions you ask, the more complexities arise.

This actually causes a lot of tension between the sects, but especially for joint programs and projects, and for pluralistic organizations who are trying to appeal to all Jews without excluding anyone. (I've brought this up as an example before.)

Can open. Worms everywhere.
posted by zarq at 9:30 AM on December 1, 2011


Orthodox and Conservative Jews say that if your father was Jewish but your mother was not, you're not automatically Jewish.

They also don't recognize Reform conversions, which means they don't recognize me, my Bar Mitzvah, or the only cultural identity with which I was raised to self-identify.

As far as I'm concerned, "the beards" can all kiss my circumcised putz and go back to swinging chickens over their heads, pre-tearing individual servings of toilet paper, and arguing about whether or not lathering their soap is permissible during Shabbat.

It all reminds me of the possibly apocryphal story about Goebbels' attempt to recruit filmmaker Fritz Lang (who had been banned at this point) into making propaganda films. Lang objected that his mother's parents were Jewish, to which Goebbels replied, "We'll decide who's Jewish!"
posted by snottydick at 10:17 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is the little girl in the Christmas video supposed to have been born in Israel and moved recently to America with her parents or is she supposed to be American-born (I'm having a hard time gauging her accent). If it's the latter, the fact that she appears to speak fluent Hebrew should be enough to comfort her grandparents since it would separate her from like 99% of the other Jewish kids in America (I was sent to religious school for 13 years and the only Hebrew I retained was "Hello", "Good Night", "In the classroom" and "I want to fuck you")

It's the Christmas trees in their own houses that my Jewish friends have to hide from their parents.

Imagine the awkwardness when I posted pictures on Facebook of my son with the Passover Hare.
posted by The Gooch at 10:18 AM on December 1, 2011


As far as I'm concerned, "the beards" can all kiss my circumcised putz ...

posted by snottydick at 10:17 AM on December 1 [+] [!]


Finally a chance for me to do this: EPONYSTERICAL!
posted by The Gooch at 10:24 AM on December 1, 2011


Mchelly: "Hey zarq, I think you must be misinterpreting me. The cultural-only Jews I'm referring to aren't people I would characterize as religious / Reform. They're the counterpoint. People who may have a personal affiliation with the history and the food and the artistry and traditions, but no desire to participate - the ones who happily intermarry with a judge or even a priest because "hey, it's important to her and I don't care," and raise kids who maybe feel the same way, and whose grandkids then go on to say "I think my grandfather was Jewish, I'm not anything." And I don't have a problem with that decision on a person to person basis. Everyone is and should be free to make their own decisions about faith. But to actively not care and then turn around and dictate what religious Jews (of any stripe) "should" believe - that is offensive to me.

AHHHHH! Okay, you're right. I misinterpreted you. My apologies. This makes total sense. I feel the same way about it.

There's an old saying, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." I've tend to think its "don't tread on me" attitude is very Jewish. Most Jews probably have no problem with anyone believe (or not believing) what they want, as long as their beliefs don't infringe on us or anyone else. No one should be forced to follow someone else's religious beliefs, including ours.
posted by zarq at 10:27 AM on December 1, 2011


snottydick: "Orthodox and Conservative Jews say that if your father was Jewish but your mother was not, you're not automatically Jewish.

They also don't recognize Reform conversions, which means they don't recognize me, my Bar Mitzvah, or the only cultural identity with which I was raised to self-identify.

As far as I'm concerned, "the beards" can all kiss my circumcised putz and go back to swinging chickens over their heads, pre-tearing individual servings of toilet paper, and arguing about whether or not lathering their soap is permissible during Shabbat.


So. I'm a Conservative Jew. I don't have a beard. I don't pre-tear toilet paper or whatever. However, I am a member of a shul whose rabbi would probably say you're not Jewish according to Conservative Judaism, if asked.

I don't think it matters, and I think that self-identity is of primary importance. Those of us who are not Reform are not all of a piece.

On the other hand, if say, you were to try to be religiously active in an Orthodox community, I wouldn't think it wrong for them to ask you meet certain more stringent requirements if you were to say, want to be married in an Orthodox ceremony. Just as I would be, in your place. Respect goes both ways.

It all reminds me of the possibly apocryphal story about Goebbels' attempt to recruit filmmaker Fritz Lang (who had been banned at this point) into making propaganda films. Lang objected that his mother's parents were Jewish, to which Goebbels replied, "We'll decide who's Jewish!""

Here's the difference:

As Jews get to decide this stuff and we get to what is appropriate to us without having the decision imposed upon us by outsiders. In my not so humble opinion, that's where the Nazi analogies pretty much fall completely apart. We, and only we, get to talk about this stuff and debate it and argue about it and come to our own conclusions. So if one group of Jews comes to a conclusion about us that we disagree with, I'm sorry, but that's really, REALLY not the same thing as having a bunch of Nazis mark us for the concentration camps.
posted by zarq at 10:43 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another wrinkle worth pointing out about patrilineal descent - it's not as cut-and-dried as "if your father is Jewish, you're Jewish". This is the CCAR (Reform Rabbinate's) decision:

"This presumption of the Jewish status of the offspring of any mixed marriage is to be established through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith and people. The performance of these mitzvot serves to commit those who participate in them, both parent and child, to Jewish life.

Depending on circumstances, mitzvot leading toward a positive and exclusive Jewish identity will include entry into the covenant, acquisition of a Hebrew name, Torah study, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and Kabbalat Torah (Confirmation). For those beyond childhood claiming Jewish identity, other public acts or declarations may be added or substituted after consultation with their rabbi."


Being born Jewish isn't enough if it's just your father - you have to be raised as a Jew, according to the opinion of the Reform community. Otherwise, you would have to convert, the same as anyone with two non-Jewish parents.

This is because even the loosest denominations of Judaism are still rules-based, not anything goes. Every Jew is considered to be entitled to form his or her own opinion based on the same sources. But there are sources which are where the rules are coming from, and you don't get to make something up just because it feels right and assume it will have equal weight as a rabbinic board's opinion - even if you affiliate with Reform.

It may not make sense - but if you wanted to make a list of things about Judaism that didn't make sense, the membership requirements are just the tip of the iceberg.
posted by Mchelly at 11:28 AM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


On this totally other subject of Christmas and Jews:
I give you: There's No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein


Possibly related previously.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:32 AM on December 1, 2011


Mchelly: " Being born Jewish isn't enough if it's just your father - you have to be raised as a Jew, according to the opinion of the Reform community.

Otherwise, you would have to convert, the same as anyone with two non-Jewish parents.


Yes. Exactly. Thanks very much for mentioning this. I should have done so, especially in my response to snottydick.

Additional information from the Union for Reform Judaism:
Q: If a Jewish man marries a non-Jewish woman and they have a child, would the Reform movement consider their child to be Jewish?

A: "The Reform position on this question, referred to as Patrilineal Descent, is often misunderstood. What we say is that child born of one Jewish parent, whether it is the mother or the father, is under the PRESUMPTION of being Jewish, but that his/her Jewishness must be activated by "appropriate and timely" Jewish acts. It is not enough to simply be born to a Jewish parent. For a boy, one such act would certainly be brit milah. Without that, one might question this child's Jewishness. If, on the other hand, the family celebrated Jewish holidays, educated the boy, had him become a Bar Mitzvah, etc., in other words, if the child is being raised exclusively as a Jew and was not baptized and is not being given a formal or informal Christian education, then we would consider him Jewish - just as an orthodox Jew would consider a boy born of a Jewish mother to be Jewish even if he had not been circumcised.

Another way to put it is like this: we consider a person who acts and identifies as a Jew to be a Jew, a definition we find happier than a sort of blood-line/racial definition (especially after the Holocaust).

By the way, when the Reform movement debated this years ago, scholarly papers pointed out that in the Bible the line ALWAYS followed the father, including the cases of all those heroes, like Joseph and Moses, who married into non-Israelite priestly families."
posted by zarq at 3:01 PM on December 1, 2011


In a funny coincidence, the BBC has been running a series on British people giving up on life in Australia, with some former migrants engaging in healthy self criticism. Apparently Australia is "harder and very consumption-oriented while people are more tense and noticeably less optimistic. There is also a wider social divide ..."

Who knew.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:56 PM on December 1, 2011


Protestant Jews and Catholic Jews -- why Israelis and American Jews Don't Understand Each Other by Rabbi Charles Arian

Well worth reading.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:15 PM on December 1, 2011


Apparently the ads have been pulled.
posted by modernnomad at 8:06 PM on December 2, 2011


But on to what I wanted to ask, what is a schvitzer?

However, I've heard my in-laws use it in a more subtle way: a person who grabs undeserved credit for work done on a project. No idea if that's an "approved" definition.

Way belatedly: yeah, what zarq said, basically: a show-off or an attention-grabber (to my understanding).
posted by Amanojaku at 9:37 AM on December 6, 2011


Followup: How Israel Can Stop Alienating American Jews - Jeffrey Goldberg
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:20 PM on December 6, 2011


As Jews get to decide this stuff and we get to what is appropriate to us without having the decision imposed upon us by outsiders. In my not so humble opinion, that's where the Nazi analogies pretty much fall completely apart. We, and only we, get to talk about this stuff and debate it and argue about it and come to our own conclusions. So if one group of Jews comes to a conclusion about us that we disagree with, I'm sorry, but that's really, REALLY not the same thing as having a bunch of Nazis mark us for the concentration camps.

Of course it's not the same thing, but here's how it IS relevant. As the law stands currently, I would not be allowed refuge in Israel in the unlikely event that American Jews were to face a similar threat of extermination. I do not meet the necessary criteria for Jewishness.

Nevermind the fact that secular Jews were instrumental in creating the whole Zionist movement in the first place and that Haredi communities in Israel opposed it from the start.

Do I think that the Israeli government would bend its rules for folks like me? If it happened today, I think it would regard me as part of a Jewish family and cut me some slack. If Israel keeps going down the path its on, then maybe not in the future.


But there are sources which are where the rules are coming from, and you don't get to make something up just because it feels right and assume it will have equal weight as a rabbinic board's opinion - even if you affiliate with Reform.


Actually, the whole point of Reform Judaism is that it doesn't regard the law as binding.

In any case, in terms of my beliefs, I'm a purely secular Jew and a spiritual agnostic.
posted by snottydick at 8:48 AM on December 7, 2011


"As the law stands currently, I would not be allowed refuge in Israel in the unlikely event that American Jews were to face a similar threat of extermination. I do not meet the necessary criteria for Jewishness."

Unless you've since claimed another religion besides Judaism, this is not the case. The Law of Return exists independently from the decisions of the Israeli rabbinate and was updated by Golda Meir's government to specifically accept anyone who would have been persecuted under the Nuremberg Laws:

"4A. (a) The rights of a Jew under this Law and the rights of an oleh under the Nationality Law, 5712-1952***, as well as the rights of an oleh under any other enactment, are also vested in a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion. "

Definition
4B. For the purposes of this Law, "Jew" means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion." (link)
posted by Mchelly at 11:41 AM on December 7, 2011


Snottydick: Reform conversions are recognised as being Jewish for the purposes of the Law of Return. In fact Israel has applied a very loose standard of "being Jewish" for the Law of Return: the Beta Israel are almost certainly not Jewish by descent, but their strong sense of Jewish identity probably swung the decision in their favor. Also, as Mchelly pointed out, children, grandchildren and spouses of Jews are also eligible so you're covered in any event.

Finally, the Law of Return is about citizenship, not residency. According to the UNHCR Israel presently has around 31,000 non-citizen refugees, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and presumably people who are ineligible for citizenship under the Law of Return. I can't imagine that anyone actually persecuted for being Jewish would get turned away.

Mchelly: the exclusion is for Jews who have converted to another religion, not for non-Jews who are claiming under the Law of Return via their relationship to someone Jewish. This exclusion was inspired by the Brother Daniel affair, in which a Catholic monk claimed the right to immigrate under the Law of Return as a Jew. The case reached the Israeli Supreme Court (which rejected his claim) and it was subsequently formalised into law. I suspect his claim was motivated by theological or religious principles and not a desire to save time filling out forms: he subsequently applied for and received citizenship through normal channels.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:11 PM on December 7, 2011


Thanks for the clarification.

One more I just caught: The Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative Movement) weighs in (the comments are also interesting)
posted by Mchelly at 4:37 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Downfall video
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:12 AM on December 9, 2011


Thanks for the clarification.

Indeed. I guess I spend too much time listening to close-minded Orthodox types who tell me things that aren't true.
posted by snottydick at 10:46 AM on December 9, 2011


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