He may not be “Jewish”, but he’s smart. Isn’t that close enough?
An article in Jewsweek has Tel Aviv artist Orit, praising the refreshing virtues of dating a non-Jew.
You see, the man she calls Chris was mature, genteel, and inquisitive. And thus it did not bother her that he was not Jewish.
She goes on to praise his good nature
Aside from that, he was a chivalrous mentsch, certainly more so than those secular Tel Aviv Jewish guys I dated, who were far more interested in my sexual expression than my Jewish expression. Chris’ genteel probably comes from his Southern Baptist roots, although he considers himself agnostic. Yet, we had long conversations about the state of the world, the nature of God, and the nature of man.
It’s interesting that she never draws the conclusion that dating a man raised in a religious setting of ethics and self-discipline, no matter what the religion, is likely to be a different experience that dating a man who grew up in secular Tel Aviv. But no matter.
The real fun comes in later. From the article’s half way point she begins to put the words “Jew” and “Jewish” in scare quotes, as if to make it seem ill defined or conceptual, or perhaps to distance herself from its meaning. She goes on to question what it means to be Jewish, or, I’m sorry, “Jewish” while providing no answers, except to try to correctly distance the definition from a purely racial one.
Now granted, these are certainly valid questions, and I agree with her statements that “maintaining the Jewish race for maintenance sake is not a value in and of itself” and “being born “Jewish” does not give anyone metaphysical or innate holiness or virtue”.
But then she tells us “Chris embodied many qualities we don’t discuss as Jewish values, but which should be: spiritual sensitivity, intelligence, creativity, and honesty. He treated people, particularly me, with respect and generosity” and thus, while they are no longer dating she will, “always think of Chris as a fine human being and a “good Jew” in [her] book.”
Is that not incredibly insulting to other peoples? As if the traits of other ethnicity’s are so deplorable that if you are a decent human being you must be, at least on some level, “Jewish”. While certainly spiritual sensitivity, intelligence and honesty are indeed Jewish Values, are they not also Christian Values? Buddhist Values? Pagan Values?
She then also defends her hypothetical right to marry Chris saying “That Chris wasn’t racially “Jewish” doesn’t make him less worthy to date or marry me”. First of all, Jewish isn’t a race, unless you are going by the Nazi definition. You can’t convert into a race (no matter how many white boys from the suburbs listening to gangsta rap may try). But more importantly, the fact that this defense is necessary implies that the standard thinking on why you should marry a Jew comes down to a question of worth. I don’t know about you, but I find that to be a little insulting.
To recycle a comment I wrote a long long time ago:
Being Jewish affects so much of my day, what I eat, where I choose to live, my community, my value system, where I will send my kids to school, where I blog, where I will give charity to, the things I get passionate about, my sexual ethics, the news I tune into, the books I read, my daily, weekly and yearly rhythm, and my world view that I know no one but another involved and committed Jew would be able to deal with it, share in it and live it with me.
If Judaism is important to you, that may or may not dictate who you marry. If Judaism is a vital and daily part of your life, it probably will.
I, for one, never had doubts that non-Jews are good people too (gasp!). As any rational person knows, it is not at all hard to find instances of non-Jews being better people than Jews. People like Orit, who mistakenly assume that being Jewish is nothing but a racial distinction often overcompensate for their mistaken belief by being equally as shallow in equating goodness with Jewishness. Being a Jew (unfortunately) doesn’t make you a good person any more that being a good person makes you a Jew.
Personally I think Orit just needs to find a better dating pool now that she’s back in Israel. Best of luck to her.