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Positive identity

There is an article surfing the email trail at the moment.  Its called “Hatred is turning me into a Jew”.  I’ve received it no less than a dozen times from all the usual culprits.

The article is by Nick Cohen, a disenfranchised Jew by birth, who by his own admission is an athiest who has also never been exposed to Jewish culture.  His position is “that British Jews are living through a very dangerous period. They are the only ethnic minority whose slaughter official society will excuse”…..”As the struggle between theocracy and liberalism intensifies, I can see some being pushed into taking the same journey I have taken and finding their views towards Judaism and Israel softening as they realise that antisemitism helps drive the fascistic ideologies of the 21st century just as it drove the Nazism of the 20th.”

Mr Cohen’s powerful words are well considered.  He should be congratulated for his intellectual honesty. 

However I also found the underlying message to be troubling.  Jewish identity is a positive virtue, and resorting to a path of realisation or Jewish expression should never have to be motivated by fear or hatred.  Without knowing the extent of his engagement with Judaism, I’m willing to bet that all the finer qualities of Jewish philosophic thought and its unique lifestyle observances have yet to expereinced by the author.

I had a similar experience today in Perth.  I had been in a business meeting with a new customer.  He lives in the hills of the Swan valley.  He had a Jewish father, but a staunchly religious Baptist mother.  His religious views were shaped by a Christian education, and he had never explored Judaism as an alternative.  However his name identifies his paternal Jewish ancestry, and recently, not for the first time, he was accosted as a Jew in a verbal anti-semitic attack.  This was enough for him to read a little more about Jews and identify the unexpainable racial hatred that history has consistently levied towards the Jewish people.  So too, hatred is turning him into a Jew.

There are many different doors to Judaism.  It is hard to see the positive in all of them.  However great changes can come from dire circumstances.  If someone put’s their proverbial foot into the door of Jewish thought, for either the right or wrong reasons, this is an opportunity.  It is a moment that can lead to personal development and discovery.  You cannot possibly see what is behind the door when there is nothing more than a small gap to barely peer through.  However that door can also be kicked open and reveal a world that you never knew even existed. 

I fervently hope that hatred is never the cause that leads anyone to awaken and explore the deeply meaningful lifestyle of a Jew.  However anti-Semitism is a sad reality of the modern world.  If you want to understand it, read about Jewish history.  And if you read about Jewish history, then you will no doubt become quickly aware of the great timeless virtues of Judaism itself.

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