In “Children and grandchildren of a saved generation” and in “The offspring from a tortured generation finding the Word of God again” it was already mentioned that some Jewish children between the 1930ies and 1940ies were thrown in a world were their faith had to endure hardship and were they themselves had often no say at all in the religion they had to follow. As such, several faced in a way a sort of forced conversion.
Some of those converted ex-Jews in later years wanted to go back to the religion of their forefathers. Others could find only many contradictions in the Roman Catholic faith which was imposed on them and saw only a way out of that ‘farce’ by abandoning faith, becoming an atheist. Others were torn and could believe that there had already come a Messiah on this earth, but that it would not be the Elohim Who would have faked his death to save the people (which would be so if Jesus would be God, because God can not die). For them the non-trinitarian Christians were and are a solution. Though still they sat with the problem of their Jewishness. Several, convinced they came from a family from the seed of Abraham, wanted to feel and show that important connection with that patriarch. Though they did or do not like the name ‘Christian’ because in most parts of the world people would then consider worshippers of the Trinity which they detest.
Closed society or not open communities
In Europe one of the big problems with Jewry is that it is a very closed society, and with the bad developments the last ten years it has become worse.
At the American continent Jews and Christians got more mixed with each other as well as with non-believers or atheists.
Several Jews over-there became a product of American Jewish assimilation. Some also found the religiosity on a law pit and that way an intermarriage did not make such a great impact or difference in lifestyle.
In certain families we can find the members, for what we would call in Dutch ‘eating of two walls’ , having a foot in both camps. To no surprise we could find Christmas trees but also Hanukkah, people enjoying the taste of those typical Germanic foods (like bagels) and lox having chanukiahs and Kiddush cups on a shelf in a living room cabinet.
Looking at those mixed families we can wonder how much one or the other faith made or makes the fingerprint for their way of living. For some, these superficial expressions of identity, represented the full extent of their domestic Jewishness, like for Ben Lorber who works as Campus Coordinator with Jewish Voice for Peace, and lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Ben Lorber has written for a variety of publications including Haaretz, Al Jazeera, Jacobin Magazine, and blogs at doikayt.com and records music at narrowbridge.bandcamp.com. He watched the grainy ’90s home movies of his childhood in suburban Maryland and loves to see how his parents and grandparents stand over his brother and him as they light Hanukkah candles, in the dark kitchen of their middle-class home. He writes
I was 10, my brother 8. Our faces are lit by the candles while the dim outlines of two generations are faintly visible behind us. The voices of my late grandmother and grandfather, my mother and father, my brother and me, merge as we sing together: ‘Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha-olam…‘
Jewishness in America and Europe
Even as he traced the shortcomings of their generation, he cannot blame them for what has come of Jewishness in America. He was much more lucky to have been raised in a family which went to a synagogue. Here in Europe lots of the post-war era did not find that opportunity and in a way became estranged of Jewish life. Many brought up in a Dutch ,Flemish or French speaking family did not learn Hebrew, because that is not a language learned at our schools. In certain regions, like Antwerp they had more luck to stay in touch with Yiddish.
Those navigating the currents of post-war Europe as best they could I think there were not as many parents as in America who searched for synagogues or who did all they could, in ways large and small, to raise the children of Jewish death parents, with love and blessings, as Jews, into this time.
The American Lorber knows what it means and says
I can only offer to their generation, not anger for what was lost, but gratitude for what remains; not scorn, but tochecha (compassionate rebuke) for the shortcomings that, between then and now, have led our communities astray.
Eyes of different Jewish groups on the Kotel
This action made it very clear that in this half century past the Jewish groups have evolved in different ways, but are eager also to show a connection, like Christians may have their partnership as members of the Body of Christ, and should feel their unity in that Body (which is not the case I must say, between too much division and ego-tripping of the many churches).
Today we can find certain people who would like to be religious again. They have or had parents who are or were not religious, and did not have a strong connection to the many secular strands of Jewish politics and culture forged in the modern era. Basically they knew about the Jewish background. The lucky ones could find their parents doing more than others.
Looking for the Roots
And yet, even as we are united in condemnation of ultra-Orthodox fundamentalism, the liberal American Jewish world remains more divided than ever. Day after day, the establishment sounds the alarms- rates of intermarriage are skyrocketing, and more and more American Jews are publicly opposing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Many cease to identify with Zionism at all, as the rift between Israel and diaspora Jewry widens daily. For the establishment, the idea that masses of Jews are embracing intermarriage and abandoning Israel rings the death-knell of Jewish peoplehood in America. Such gestures, according to common-sense logic, threaten to dissolve the very ties that make a Jew a Jew.
Today many are perhaps looking more intentionally in the hope to find their own identity or come to understand their own Jewishness beyond and outside borders and walls and mechitzas, a Jewishness that is centred on inquiry, on learning, on wandering through land and people and politic.
Many Jews in America and in Europe may also wonder what Israel is doing against the commandments of God and how several have a mixed feeling about the moral obligation of Zionism and of anti-Zionism and the profound love for oneself and one’s Jewishness anti-Zionism takes and engenders.
A commenter to his article writes
I read this and I can imagine a revolutionary future where Jewishness isn’t forced into confines of ethnic nationalism and chauvinism (something it was never meant to be), but rather is allowed to become an identity of practice, liberation, and community.
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