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Jewish America Generational Divide

Friday, October 04, 2013

"Shalom on Szeroka street" from the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland. (Polish MFA/flickr)

An edited version of this segment aired as part of a best-of Brian Lehrer Show on Friday, November 29, 2013. The original conversation aired live on October 4. 

A recent Pew survey of American Jews found that there’s less identification with the Jewish religion, even as cultural ties remain. Jane Eisner, the editor of The Jewish Daily Forward who suggested the survey, shares her thoughts on this finding.

Guests:

Jane Eisner

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Comments [97]

Mordechai Czellak from New York City

Hi Brian, I love your show and I listen almost every day. Not too long ago you were asking what, new immigrants brought with us to America. I as a nice Jewish boy anly got with me my talis, tefilin and siddur. In 24 years I have a nice fully furnished apartment. I love America and came here not for economic reasons but to be part of the American proyect of Democracy. Love the principles on which de Union rests. Love American history and I uphold our very progressive and fair laws.

Dec. 21 2013 10:55 AM
Roberta Newman from New York

I think many people who identify themselves as Jewish probably do so for emotional reasons that they can't quite articulate. Jews don't like to identify themselves as a tribe (and this attitude has its roots back in the 19th century when Jewish intellectuals and bourgeois were determined to be accepted as white Europeans rather than be equated with anything so primitive-sounding as a "tribe.") But a tribe we are: membership depends on one's ancestry, though there are initiation rituals for those who want to join us by conversion. Jewish rituals are both religious and tribal. And tribal feelings can run very strong. We're all respectful of this when it comes to Native Americans or groups in Africa, but we get nervous about it when it comes to us because we retain that almost ancestral terror that we will be considered "Oriental," not white, and irrational.

That's why lots of secular Jews can feel so strongly that they are Jewish - it's emotional and doesn't, in the end, come down to choice or anything so lofty as being committed to social justice or being "culturally Jewish" (euphemism).

Nov. 29 2013 10:28 AM
Big Rob the actor from NYC

I did a bit of reading on this. Two thoughts come quickly: I think the drift away from the Bronze Age "sky-god" religions is a pervasive phenomena in the West and the Jewish part of that movement is just that, the Jewish part in that broad movement. And two: rumors of our demise as a people are once again, chronically premature. 3,300 years ago the Israelites wandered around in the desert for forty years in order that the idol-worshippers among us die out before the remaining worthy ones were permitted to enter the Promised Land. It was a big number. Culling of the flock, if you will. I think it is summed up best in Exodus 3:2 "The bush burned but was not consumed" and once again, as if to underscore, in Ecclesiastes 1:4-11: "There is nothing new under the sun."

Oct. 12 2013 01:29 AM
Aaron Ratner from Queens

@DTorres Ashkenazi and secular Judaism are not mutually exclusive. For example, I am an Ashkenazi Jew but consider myself an atheist. I am Jewish by heritage and was raised Orthodox but moved away from religious Judaism as a teenager and remained so into adulthood. I am technically Ashkenazi although I wouldn't use that label since I only identify as Jewish from a cultural perspective and don't really care for religion all that much. More and more of my friends are turning away from Judaism and religion in general which I think is great. In fact, in my circle of ten or a dozen friends, nearly all are secular (at least among friends). I even know of a secular group that has formed underground in a local synagogue. Religion is dying a slow and painful death and I for one could not be happier to see it happen.

@jgarbuz from Queen You are being extremely naive to believe that modern Jews are a tribe remotely as old as you believe them to be. The invented rule that one needs to have a Jewish mother to be Jewish is ridiculous and only true for just 10% of Jews (the number of Orthodox who hold by that rule). I was raised to believe that nonsense until I realized that no group gets to make the rules. If a group splits in two (and Jews have split many, many times over the years), which group gets to make the rules? The larger one? If that's the case then Reform and Conservative Judaism gets to make the rules and one can be Jewish if their father is Jewish. I think that religion is self-identifying and if you want to go with the tribe meme then being a descendant of any part of the tribe would qualify one as a member. But considering there is no genetic rule for being Jewish (despite what my rabbis in Yeshiva tried to make me believe) then I don't buy the tribe idea. (For the record, the "Cohen gene" is so common in the general population that it cannot speak to the uniqueness of a specific sect of Jews. I was only told that the gene existed, not that it was common among non-Cohanim.)

Oct. 07 2013 06:55 AM

For years, I worked and was friendly with, 2 Jewish women.
One was an Orthodox Jews woman, the other was Secular.
They were wary of each other.

The Orthodox Jewish woman, was co supervisor with me
We got along, and were friendly, even helpful towards
one another. She was always polite, courteous to everyone,
but didn't really engage in conversation with anyone,
except for me.
I never told her my true opinion,
about some of the things she talked about.

She would check even yogurt cups for Kosher symbols
before she ate from them, never brought in any dish and didn't
eat anybody else's home cooked anything.

The secular Jewish woman, Amy, she cared a great deal about her diet,
but didn't check anything for Kosher Symbols.

Amy introduced me to Bell Bates a health food store, near our job.
I learned a lot from Amy, about carbs and how to concentrate on
vegetables, fruits, look out for sugar, even hidden sugars in anything.

Amy always told me that she was a secular Jew and she also told me
from time to time that she was an Ashkenazi Jew.
Amy would point out, that Papir, my Jewish workplace friend,
was Orthodox and her tone sounded kind of off to me.

So eventually, after about Amy mentioning it for the upteemth time,
I looked up Ashkenazi, Secular, Orthodox just to get a grasp on
why this was important to her.

I discovered that there was a soft of a pyramid,
and the Ashkenazi Jews were on top, so that was what
Amy was trying to tell me.

Secular Jew was somebody that is not religious,
but still celebrates holidays.

Amy always told me, she was a secular Jew,
but when she had her daughter, she had a naming ceremony,
which she invited me to, out on Long Island.

Amy introduced me to Noam Chomsky, Norman Finklestein,
Benny Morris, she would explain anything I asked about.

Oct. 04 2013 03:26 PM
henry from md

@ illfg:
<...meanwhile stalin killed 20 million of his own people. you never hear russians talking about the stalin purges.>

If more Russians would honor the memory of the millions of their
fellow citizens brutally murdered by Stalinist thugs maybe just MAYBE there would be less tyrants like Stalin or Hitler etc and less genocides.

But that chance, slight perhaps, needs a more enlightened open minded perspective to perceive.

Oct. 04 2013 02:38 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Amy from Manhattan said:

> Edward, many Muslims do condemn attacks carried out in the name of Islam. But few media outlets cover it, so you pretty much to go looking for it. Have you searched for Muslim peace groups?

Really?

Where? Where? Where?

When have they demonstrated in Times Square against murderous Islamist attacks?

When has CAIR demonstrated against Islamist attacks against non-Muslims?

CAIR should be looking to protect Muslim rights, but CAIR has a responsibility to look to protect NON-Muslims from attacks by Islamists.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

Which Imam/Sheik in the US tells Muslims to not take the Suras/Hadiths so explicitly?

Oct. 04 2013 12:54 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Elizabeth Wilson from NYC said:

"As a board member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice"

Wilson? What was your family name originally?

Why did your family feel it necessary to change it to a more WASPish one?

Oct. 04 2013 12:45 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Edward, many Muslims do condemn attacks carried out in the name of Islam. But few media outlets cover it, so you pretty much to go looking for it. Have you searched for Muslim peace groups?

Oct. 04 2013 12:43 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Ask yourselves why Salman Rushdie is in fear for his life.

Ask yourselves why Phillip Roth is NOT in fear for his life.

Oct. 04 2013 12:36 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

BK from Hobroken

> Many people like like myself get tired of hearing from Jews about Jewish persecution and anti semitism (i am 38 years old so that kind of precludes me from holocaust atrocities).

You really think that anti semitism, murderous hatred of Jews, ended in 1945?

Ever hear of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamass, Hezbullah, Mohammed, murder of Daniel Pearl?

And if you think that Israels actions cause anti semitism by Islamists, why do Islamists hate Hindus, Christians, Bahais and the wrong kind of Muslim?

Considering the wealth of information available at your fingertips, you have no excuse for being so ignorant at 38.

Oct. 04 2013 12:33 PM
Amy from Manhattan

John A: Yes, some (don't know how many) synagogues/temples do have a sliding scale for membership rates. And I should have said before that I don't know of any where you have to be a member to go to services (except for the High Holy Days), but if you do want to join, that can be expensive.

dboy: Actually, I *have* heard of "modern Christian" & "modern Muslims." There's even a Meetup group for progressive Muslims. As for "defining," that sounds like what you're doing.

Oct. 04 2013 12:31 PM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

@Becky-

Always the victim role, eh?
Look back at the anger in your posts ... racism, racism, racism....even when it is about other groups.
(...and you never "strike a nerve", kiddo.)

I feel sorry for you.

Oct. 04 2013 12:27 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

For all the JINOs, (Jews In Name Only) who are embarrassed by Israels treatment of "palestinians",

ask yourself why aren't there Muslims who publicly beat their breast over Islamist atrocities committed daily all over the world.

For instance, there is a group calling itself the "Jewish Voice of Peace".

Where is their sister group "Muslim Voice of Peace"?

Oct. 04 2013 12:22 PM
adrienne from UWS

It's really disturbing to me how negative these comments are, and ignorant. Many straw man ideas. There is a lot of "space" between the conventional argument I hear in this broadcast (atheism or culture versus god or Jewish practice) if you have the imagination, which I can see from this argument that most do not.

It might be that "Pop Culture" has just taken over every bit of American Life, and intellectual commitment or "Old Books" besides just some crazy ideology, is Passe. This terrible trend effects all of us. Especially the poor and minorities. Again, why just one or the other, why not a synthesis?

Oct. 04 2013 12:19 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

The interesting is that racial antisemitism in Germany powerfully arose just as German Jews were assimilating, converting to Christianity and intermarrying with Germans as never before. Karl Marx's parents converted to get jobs in the German civil service. Disraeli took baptism to be able to take a seat in the English parliament. Jews were converting and intermarrying ,and suddenly RACIAL antisemitism arose. The mask had been torn off. That antisemitism was really more race-based than religion-based. Hitler finished it off. The idea that Jews could assimilate themselves out of their isolation and hatred proved to be another baseless hope.

Oct. 04 2013 12:04 PM
BK from Hoboken

@jade
I don't like any religion, so I guess that technically makes me an anti-Semite. As for a lot of the complaints of anti-semitism, I think it is a self reinforcing issue. Many people like like myself get tired of hearing from Jews about Jewish persecution and anti semitism (i am 38 years old so that kind of precludes me from holocaust atrocities). That then makes me want to tell you to shut up, which in turn makes me an anti Semite. Lastly, you can add Jews to the list of small but outsized political power in this country, right next to the NRA. This also makes people angry, and when they complain they are labeled anti-Semitic.

Oct. 04 2013 12:00 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

I've been using Slackware since 1994. ;-)

Oct. 04 2013 11:59 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Becky

The main thing is that you're saved Becky. That's what counts, not my salvation.

Oct. 04 2013 11:59 AM
Amy from Manhattan

illfg, the word "anti-semitism" was 1st used by German politicians in the late 1800s as the name of their political platform. It meant discrimination against "the Jewish race"--Jews as an ethnic rather than a religious group, meaning that Jews couldn't escape persecution by converting to Christianity. There weren't many Arabs in Germany or other Western countries at the time, so the *original* term was in fact meant to apply only to Jews. It was not "usurped."

Oct. 04 2013 11:56 AM
The Truth from Becky

Nothing like a brisk discussion on race and politics to get your dander up early in the morning! Thanks Brian!!

Oct. 04 2013 11:51 AM
The Truth from Becky

@JGBuzz - I am glad they offered you the opportunity to be saved.

Oct. 04 2013 11:49 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

socialism is the opium of atheists.

Oct. 04 2013 11:47 AM
The Truth from Becky

MARTIN, MARTIN, MARTIN an "AA" like me? Struck a nerve did I..you are still a dumb racist. Waahh, wahhh, wahhh whut about when we marched for you in the civil rights era...lol you're a clown. lol

Oct. 04 2013 11:43 AM
brooklyn resident

I was raised with an important saying. "Israel, the Torah, And G-d are one.

The way I was taught to understand that statement is, that each Jew has a soul which is a literal piece of G-d. We all crave to join our souls together and join our source, G-d.

G-d also put his essence into the Torah. It is a physical manifestation of G-dliness. It was given to us as a source of life, a guide to living a life connected to G-d.

As a religious Jew it saddens me that so many Jews no longer value Torah learning, and Torah observance. I am heartened though that we still exist. That we value compassion, morality and equality among people.

I would venture to challenge those completely unaffiliated to just try doing a mitzvah, or sending a prayer, or learning some Torah. It might give their lives a feeling of being connected to one's source.

Oct. 04 2013 11:43 AM
Elizabeth Wilson from NYC

As a board member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, a NYC-based social justice organization focusing on domestic issues, I can say that there are thousands of members and supporters who identify political activism as part of our Jewish heritage and identity. This strong Jewish strand of struggling against oppression and fighting for justice speaks to a cross-section of religious, secular, and cultural Jews who are active members. We are currently working on the domestic worker's rights and with the Campaign for Police Reform. www.jfrej.org.

Oct. 04 2013 11:39 AM
Jim

@jgarbuz

Your mother was correct about people and their judgements. We are all at risk of being labeled as something with which we do not identify. But I think, more often than, not people telegraph their self-identity to those around them -- and within a fairly narrow scope.

Oct. 04 2013 11:38 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Elsie

My mother barely survived the Holocaust but never gave up her belief in God to the day she died. She lost her 4 year old son, my grandmother shot to death in the ghetto of Boremel in the escape attempt, her two brothers who had been taken away "for work detail" and never returned. Her first husband. The whole family in Europe wiped out. And yet, never gave up her faith. She was a rock. A simple Jewish girl from the shtetle, but a beauty though. The most beautiful girl in her town. Maybe that is why she was taken in and saved? I always wondered about that.

Oct. 04 2013 11:36 AM
john from office

Shelly, I married a jew. I love and respect the jewish people. But, I notice the obvious.

Oct. 04 2013 11:34 AM

@jade - antisemitism? LOL! a usurped term that actually by definition applies to ALL semitic peoples, which include palestinians amongst others.

Oct. 04 2013 11:33 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

"Jew[s] are the most self promoting people on earth."

Ouch, John - is there an ethnic group you like?

Oct. 04 2013 11:30 AM
Elsie from Brooklyn

I am a Jew by birth and an atheist by choice. Frankly, it's hard for me to understand why anyone would believe in a god after the Holocaust, let alone pray to a god that allows such things to happen to his "people".

Beyond my own feelings about god and religion, I frequently find myself on the other side ethically of practicing Jews today. First, I find Israel's behavior appalling and completely antithetical to Jewish ethics. Why would I sign onto militarism as an expression of spirituality? Second, as a woman, I find the proliferation of orthodox Jews in NYC deeply unsettling. Why would I align myself with people who deem that women exist for the sole purpose of child rearing?

I really don't know why we are still talking about fairy tales like god and religion in 2013. Perhaps if people felt more in control of their lives, they wouldn't be so susceptible to all of this voodoo. Nevertheless, I am also deeply aware of the fact that antisemitism is alive and well today (the posts here give ample proof), and that my heritage will be counted against me whether I feel aligned with it or not. It is a no win situation.

Oct. 04 2013 11:29 AM

@ john from office - exactly, meanwhile stalin killed 20 million of his own people. you never hear russians talking about the stalin purges.

Oct. 04 2013 11:24 AM
pliny from soho

what about loving Art
a lot of Jews actually buy paintings

Oct. 04 2013 11:23 AM

@Jenna from UES - absolutely. it amazes me sometimes how jewish centric this station is. starting to rethink my monthly sustainer contribution.

Oct. 04 2013 11:20 AM

Lots of "defining".

Oct. 04 2013 11:20 AM
Shari_AZ from AZ - MS in the SW

If a Jew is as a Jew does -- Eric Cantor is an Orthodox Jew!!!

Oct. 04 2013 11:18 AM
John A

Is it reasonable to expect that some synagogs would socialize their attendance fees for the poor? Hope many do.

Oct. 04 2013 11:17 AM

When has ANYONE heard anything similar for ANY other religion in the world?!?!

"Modern Jew."

absurd.

Oct. 04 2013 11:17 AM
Amy from Manhattan

For all the people posting putdowns, I'm a Conservative (but not conservative) Jew & I'm observant. You've seen the kind of things I've posted here over the years. Do you think I'm crazy or delusional? What kinds of assumptions are you making? Are you questioning everything I've ever said here now that you know I'm religious? Maybe it's time you questioned your stereotypes.

Oct. 04 2013 11:17 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Truth from Becky

I lived in Israel for ten years, and my only friends were Christian missionaries, and particularly a Jewish convert to Chrisitiany. I learned so much from them about Christianity over those ten years. They nearly baptized me, in ISRAEL of all places! They still live there today and raised 5 beautiful Christian kids all of whom have served in the IDF.

But they just wanted to save me. They wanted me to accept Jesus in my heart and be baptized. i wouldn't do it for one reason.My mother was saved by true Christians in Poland, at unbelievable risk to themselves. But of course, they naturally asked my mother if she would accept baptism an come to Christ. And my mother, who had lost her child and whole family, told them that she'd rather be turned over to the Nazis.

So mainly out of love and respect for her, I would not take baptism regardless, even if I did believe in my heart that Jesus was the Moshiach.

Oct. 04 2013 11:16 AM
Jane from Brooklyn

So what you're saying is that all those assimilated Russain and German Jews who were not religious, but killed by the Nazis nevertheless, were not Jewish?

Oct. 04 2013 11:16 AM
The Truth from Becky

@JADE - are you insane or maybe this is your first time on this site, comments are made against other minority groups all the time.

Oct. 04 2013 11:15 AM

@jgarbuz from Queens - all ny jews want to be italian ;)

Oct. 04 2013 11:14 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Becky,

If you don't think that most Jews are liberal ... or don't know the role of Jews in the civil rights movement to helped AA like YOU ... then you are even dumber than your usual posts would lead us to believe.

Oct. 04 2013 11:13 AM
john from office

WNYC has a jewish segment on daily. Jew are the most self promoting people on earth. The Nazis created the perfect environment for this. How many movies, books articles whatever have there been about the Holocaust??

Oct. 04 2013 11:13 AM
The Truth from Becky

My opinion and experience is that Jews are they are the most racist, segregated people ever, right behind the rednecks in the south (look below for some examples) Their youth are just simply not aligning with the mentality of that older generation in the 21st century.

Oct. 04 2013 11:13 AM

"Can't afford to be a Jew?"

Now, that's funny!

Oct. 04 2013 11:12 AM
Brenda from NYC

Re: Tithing = synagogue dues. You'd have to tithe $100 every single week for that to be true

Oct. 04 2013 11:11 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The current caller is wrong about having to pay to go to synagogue services (except for Rosh HaShanah & Yom Kippur in most--but not all--of them. Aside from that, anyone can walk into any Jewish service w/out paying.

Oct. 04 2013 11:11 AM

RELIGION: JUST SAY NO!

Oct. 04 2013 11:11 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

How about next week we talk about Italian identity for a change? Why is Italian identity always either defined as something to do with food, or something to do with organized crime. When are we going to have a full segment on what it means to be Italian in America today. If I could be born again, I'd choose to be born Italian rather than Jewish.

Oct. 04 2013 11:10 AM
Mandy G from Carroll Gardens

A Christian friend recently commented that she was off-put by how many Jews she's met lately who define them selves as agnostic. I thought she was pulling from a rather limited sample, but this piece is making me realize she might be right.

I was raised conservative (conservadox?) and feel that while your association and identification with Judaism can mean any number of things, a relationship with God, no matter how you define it, is at the core of that. I was surprised that it seems so many people don't see it that way.

Food for thought...

Oct. 04 2013 11:08 AM
Ruben Safir from Brooklyn

This reporter is so far off her rocker it is pathetic. She starts with a highly ideological perspective and then proves it.

Oct. 04 2013 11:08 AM
Vendi from Ridgewoood

Despite what the "media" says Romney and Obama had the SAME EXACT stance on Israel. It is UNFAIR and UNTRUE for you to continually perpetuate those lies.

Oct. 04 2013 11:08 AM
jade

Wow. So much anti-semitism on this page! NPR/Brian Lehrer! This is really distressing.

I came to make a comment about how I feel about being a jew, but this ANGERS me.

WOuld you dare make such comments about blacks or hispanics?

What I wanted to say was that jewsish organizations are very family oriented, and that as single person I find organized judiasm very unwelcoming.

Oct. 04 2013 11:07 AM
Zach from Brooklyn

How do you square Jewish concern for the oppressed with conservative Jewish support for Israel's attitude re the Palestinians?

Oct. 04 2013 11:06 AM
Jane from Brooklyn

I grew up in Ukraine in a non-religious family, but was told many times that I was Jewish by people around me including children at school, mostly in antisemitic ways. I think that anti-Semitic experience made many Jews who were not religious try to stick with 'their own people', but it also made some of them want to assimilate, and be judged by who they are as individuals. I personally went the second route, although I do identify as Jewish

Oct. 04 2013 11:06 AM
The Truth from Becky

JGBUZZ - stop spouting off ignorance..you can't just "become" a Christian, there is instruction and order in doing so you CAN however receive Christ in "5 minutes" to use your words.

Good Advice for JGBUZZ - "It is better thought a fool and say nothing than to open your mouth and remove all doubt"

Oct. 04 2013 11:06 AM
doxiee from Tribeca

As my father once said,

"we fought for the Kaiser in WWI, we changed our names, converted to Christianity, became Communists, married Christians and when the Nazi's come, we'll still be Jews".

Oct. 04 2013 11:05 AM

Geeezus, isn't there something relevant to put your energy into?

Oct. 04 2013 11:05 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Promoting "social justice" - haha: aka Marxism, Atheism, Bolshevism, Menshevism, Trotskism, Anarchism, Radicalism, Civil Rights, Feminism, Liberalism, Progressivism?

I think "Martin" JG, and the New York Post editorial board, just spat up their morning coffee.

Oct. 04 2013 11:05 AM
Ben from New York Area

I think this is an interesting study, but draws conclusions too quickly.

I, for example, was raised in a culturally Jewish home but without religious practice. I do not believe in God and believe religion is largely quite silly, but I consider myself Jewish.

I married a Jewish woman and we are raising our children Jewish. We belong to a temple and our children go to Hebrew school (though I did not).

Thus I wouldn't automatically assume that those who are culturally, not religiously, identified will therefore "assimilate" somehow.

Oct. 04 2013 11:04 AM
leanne from manhattan

I'm 54, and have identified as atheist-Jewish for years. (Well more like "New Yorker-woman-atheist-Jewish"). It has nothing to do with religion or believing in God. I'm proud of our toughness, our talents, our history of humor and argument, our love of words. But, btoom line I think it's this: the Nazis -- and many other groups in history AND in the present -- would have killed me and my family for it. I'm Jewish.

Oct. 04 2013 11:04 AM
Mich from NYC

It is important to us that our son practice Judaism in some way, as his father and paternal ancestors are Jewish, but we decided not to circumcise him at birth. Our son's grandfather is abhorrent about this, though in the decade that I've been part of the family, none of us ever take part in the high holy days! Why is it not OK to preserve our baby's penis, but OK to miss Passover or other religious events?

Oct. 04 2013 11:04 AM
Bennett Muraskin from Parsippany, NJ

Brian,

Your dad is a member of a humanistic Jewish organization in Queens, so you know what it means to be a Jew by culture not by religion.

Jane,

The Forward is closely related to the Workmen's Circle, a secular Jewish organization dedicated to social justice and Yiddish culture. So you also know what it means to be a Jew by culture and not by religion.

Oct. 04 2013 11:03 AM

Religious people are crazy.

Oct. 04 2013 11:03 AM

I can still consider myself Jewish, although I do not believe in any higher power, because Judaism doesn't require that. It's far more important that you live an ethical life, which is very important to me.

That, and the food. Basically, as far as ritual goes, we're Culinary Jews.

Oct. 04 2013 11:03 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Thank *who*, Nick?

Oct. 04 2013 11:01 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Jews are a tribe, like the Navajo. Like the Celts. Like the Scots. Like the Ibo. What is so tough to understand? Tribal identity is as natural as being born. It is delusional, but most things in life are delusions. The truth is, you're born alone and die alone. Still, people want something or someone to believe in. They want some "extended family" or something they think they belong to. It's just as natural as a tribe of lions or hyenas or a flock of birds.

Oct. 04 2013 11:01 AM

zzz.

Oct. 04 2013 11:01 AM
Fred from UES

Jews are not completely "liberal." The idea that all Israeli policy is never up for debate is a neo-conservative point of view.

Oct. 04 2013 11:01 AM
The Truth from Becky

Jews care about other minorities? Jews very liberal? Embellish much?

Oct. 04 2013 11:00 AM
Nick from UWS

What is this woman talking about? You don't need to be Jewish to "remember the Holocaust", or have a "high moral standing".

Oct. 04 2013 11:00 AM

Next week can you do a segment on living in New York and not being Jewish and how annoying it gets hearing so much about being Jewish?

Oct. 04 2013 11:00 AM
Jared from Forest Hills, Queens

Jewish segment: We don't sacrifice animals anymore. We don't stone people for working on the Sabbath. Why do we still circumsize?

Oct. 04 2013 11:00 AM
Paulo

Perhaps they should consider the Society for Humanistic Judaism if they want a community that keeps the cultural aspects without God.

Oct. 04 2013 10:56 AM
Nick from UWS

This has nothing to do with "Jewish practices and identity". This has to do with people becoming less delusional, less willingness to be delusional, and more realistic. Finally. Thank God.

Oct. 04 2013 10:56 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Jim

Most German Jews defined as Germans of the "Mosaic persuasion." But the ethnic Germans never accepted Jews as being true Germans. Hitler came as a shock to German Jews. After 1700 years, these German Jews thought they were Germans!

As my mother, a holocaust survivor told me, "It doesn't matter what you think you are, others will tell you what you are."
I still think it holds true.

Oct. 04 2013 10:54 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

" Science has discovered that we exist in a random, meaningless, purposeless, utterly uncaring multiverse, and that is a hard bone for many to come to terms with.

We want to believe that our existence has some meaning, but it doesn't. That is why religion continues to exist regardless of all evidence to the contrary. Unless and until science can solve the problem of death and immortality."

Well said..JG, once in a while you get it right. I would throw in science's pre-cursor, philosophy in replacing religion's answers to our existence.

Oct. 04 2013 10:54 AM
Jim

@jgarbuz

A tribe that one can join? Like the Crips or the Bloods? Why must everyone identify themselves so narrowly... Geez.

Oct. 04 2013 10:49 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Jenna

Only because Jews are such a large percentage of NPR listeners and NPR supporters. It's not rocket science. It's bottom line business to cater to your customers to a certain extent.

Oct. 04 2013 10:47 AM
John A

I note here, in case it doesn't go on air, that two of the four most prominent atheist leaders, Sam Harris and Lawrence Krauss are of Jewish decent. (And very popular with college kids)

Oct. 04 2013 10:45 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To dboy

Religion is "ridiculous" only because science over the last century or so has answered most of the questions that for tens of thousands of years, humans have wondered about and could not explain other than by "supernatural" explanations.

Still, science gives no hope.Science has discovered that we exist in a random, meaningless, purposeless, utterly uncaring multiverse, and that is a hard bone for many to come to terms with. We want to believe that our existence has some meaning, but it doesn't. That is why religion continues to exist regardkess of all evidence to the contrary. Unless and until science can solve the problem of death and immortality.

Oct. 04 2013 10:45 AM
Jenna from UES

If you listen to WNYC, the Jewish population would be around 90%. Not a day goes by when they are not covering a Jewish-centric story concerning, Israel, anti-antisemitism, cooking on and on.

Oct. 04 2013 10:39 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Anyone can become a Christian or Muslim in 5 minutes flat, so no wonder there are so few Jews. The fact that there remain any at all is amazing. If Jews could convert others as easily as Christians or Muslims can, there might have been hundreds of millions of Jews. But how would they fit into a tiny country like Israel? Clearly, it was always meant for Jews to be a very small but self-selected tribe.

But then, there are "indians" who refuse to leave their reservations to go make money in the big cities of America. Half of "indians" have chosen to remain on their tribal lands despite poverty, because they want to remain who they are. I respect those who refuse to surrender their native identities just to please the majority.

Oct. 04 2013 10:36 AM

Religion is ridiculous.

Oct. 04 2013 10:31 AM

Who cares?

Oct. 04 2013 10:31 AM
BK from Hoboken

Alex - you probably are referring to the high numbers of births coming from the most orthodox of Jews. Israel now has the highest birth rate of any industrialized country. Sometimes when I see an orthodox family with 6 kids under 8 years old, and a similar situation in many Muslim counties, I wonder if it a big demographic war to "win" the holy lands!
Thank you to Rational People for summarizing my thoughts perfectly.

Oct. 04 2013 10:27 AM
Oscar from NY

Whenever ppl label themselves Christians Muslim Jews I get happy because they give me a chance to explain to them that Im also special to The Lord and that he has chosen me as his apostle and that he has given me powers to talk truth about our god, but as soon as I say this they all scramble like cacoroaches and run for cover, so to me every single living thing are the same, no one better or worse .. They all live in my mind..

Oct. 04 2013 10:27 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ jgarbuz from Queen

"a very gruesome and unwelcoming test of their sincerity"

Oi, gevald you ain't kidding, any man who would undergo circumcision as an adult has more than proved his sincerity. How long after passing do you get to make the jokes?

Oct. 04 2013 10:24 AM
Alex from Brooklyn NY

Can we talk about how the opposite is true in the WNYC's listening area. Orthodox Jewish population in New-York and New-Jersey is actually growing fast.

Oct. 04 2013 10:09 AM
jgarbuz from Queen

Yes, Mr.Bad, it's all extremely simple, but as usual made complicated by the ignorant.

Jews are a TRIBE. Not a race. Not simply a religion. A tribe. And like any other tribe there are ancient rules of who belongs to it, and who does not. Just like there are rules as to who is a Navajo or who is an American citizen. Only two ancient definitions of Who is a Jew:

(1) a person born to a Jewish mother, and can prove it; or

(2) a person not born as a Jew, but who like Ruth in the Book of Ruth, has chosen to become part of the Jewish nation and has managed to pass a very gruesome and unwelcoming test of their sincerity of their desire, which some call "conversion" but I believe is more like naturalization Like becoming a citizen of the Jewish tribe, not unlike becoming the citizen of the United States. Such people will be expected be even more fastiduous in keeping the 613 commandments than someone who never asked to be born a Jew.

Someone who was born a Jew can say that he or she never asked to be born a Jew, and does not want to keep the strict and tedious Jewish law. However someone who wants into the tribe, is expected by the Rabbinate to be more law abiding. The Rabbinate in Israel is the final authority in determining who is a part of the tribe, and who isn't.

Oct. 04 2013 10:08 AM
john from office

This segment will generate tons of comments. OY VEY!

Oct. 04 2013 10:04 AM
Rational People from everywhere

This is just part of the greater trend of all Americans getting smart and realizing that believing in books written thousands of years ago is just plain crazy.

To think that there are still rational adults out there who believe in ghosts, superpowers, and some kind of after death Wonder Land is just beyond me. Many people may look at Scientologists as crazy cult members. It's absolutely no different than any other religion. They all make equal nonsense.

When these religious texts were written the world was flat, and Earth was the center of the universe. Can you image? Can you image how these myths have been sustained? And when people started saying "The world is not flat" they were considered crazy.

Please live your life right. Be kind to other people. And stop believing that the only reason to do so is because a Superman living in space is watching you. Be nice because you are nice. Help people because you want to help people. Take care of your family because you love them. Do these things because you want a better world, not out of fear of eternal imaginary punishment.

Oct. 04 2013 09:58 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Could it be that the intentional conflation of Jewish identity with Israeli identity (for political purposes) by right wing jewish groups has created a cultural divide between American Jews who value their culture and religious heritage but don't want to be associated with the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine and the war crimes associated with that regime?

Brace yourself, JIDF Incoming....

Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan &

jgarbuz from Queens &

Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights &

Oct. 04 2013 09:45 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

LOL, who knew?

Duh!
In this culture of hostility to religion by the elites (except Jihadism, of course) every traditional religion is losing young membership. (Global warming is the new religion.)

To quote that old saying:
“JEWS ARE JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, ONLY MORE SO.”

Jews are doing just fine.
The reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated.

Oct. 04 2013 06:55 AM

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