We are all Jewish

We are all Jewish
: Douglas Rushkoff writes:

I got an email this weekend from Daniel Pearl’s parents, who are publishing a book called “I am Jewish,” after the Wall Street Journal reporter’s last words before being executed in Pakistan.

The idea is to get a bunch of writers and thinkers to reflect on this phrase, and what it means to be Jewish. They’re hoping that a diverse set of responses will allow some underlying commonality – and pride – to shine through.

It’s hard to know exactly how to respond. The effort, like the Daniel Pearl Foundation, is a way of transforming a heinous moment into the catalyst for positive thought, unity, and pride. But it’s hard for me to use the ‘rebound effect’ in this way. The “I am Jewish” that Pearl was forced to recite had nothing to do with being Jewish – except in that this word and supposed bloodline was something hated by the people who killed him. Of course, there are no Jews in Pakistan, so the hatred had to do with something else. Some idea about Israel or zionism. Most likely an imported form of anti-Semitism.

But how does one approach these words, “I am Jewish,” when they come in this context? How do they become a source of pride? Is tying this senseless murder to some sort of Jewish pride like turning the destruction of the Shoah (holocaust) into a righteous sacrifice?

Why should a collection of this sort by the parents of a murdered person cause me concern? Have I grown paranoid, or is there something amiss in this transition from bloodshed to inspiring reflection?

Rushkoff’s concerns are well-taken and though still unformed, well-said.

I see the challenge differently — in no small measure because I am not Jewish. I tried to write about this in a sermon I gave last month, aimed at the audience of a small Congregational church.

I have always wondered why Christian churches reject the rituals and thus heritage of our Jewish ancestry (and though I’ve never heard the reason why, of course, I fear one reason: anti-Semitism).

There is every good reason for us — Christians and Muslims — to celebrate Passover, for example, and to read Kaddish when we mourn (which I did in the sermon I gave on the first anniversary of 9.11). We should do these things because sharing these rituals will remind us of our common religious heritage; it will remind us that we are all children of God, descended of Abraham; it will build a bridge from worship to worship and people to people.

We are all Jewish.

I don’t mean this in a post-9.11-We-are-all-Americans way; it’s not just about solidarity.

No, I mean this in a more fundamental, connected, intimate way; it’s harder to kill your own.

We are all Jewish.

  • Liz

    Interesting and yes important question. Contrast with the taking up of Cassie Bernall’s profession of faith in the midst of the Columbine murders (and less famously, Rachel Scott’s targeting by Klebold and Harris in videos) as a rallying cry by Christian organizations — not only as an example of courage, but as evidence of persecution.

  • I wrote about the attempt to whitewash the specific Jew-hatred at the core of Pearl’s death, as a reaction to this Jewish Week article.
    Thane Rosenbaum get it – Rushkoff’s attempt to sit on the universalist fence is exactly what Pearl tried to do, and it didn’t save him. And what did he devalue or deny or throw away in his attempt to gain approval from those who were going to kill him for his specific heritage anyway?
    I seem to be on an anti-Rushkoff rampage, along with the folks at Protocols (all their Rushkoff post URLs are in a sidebar on the right) but everything the man says just annoys the crap out of me. He may be a professor of whatever but when it comes to thinking about Judaism he does the same thing as the Pearls: he tries to transform a very specific ethnic/cultural identity into universalist mush. Then he avoids responsibility for his own ambivalence by misrepresenting the Jewish community, Jewish history and philosophy, and doing a lot of adolescent whining about how nobody is “welcoming” him enough. Then he is surprised when the people who have made a commitment to improving the Jewish community and worked hard at it for years get pissed at him.
    I understand that in your hip, edgy, academic humanities milieu, Doug, it isn’t cool to be too Jewish, but, you know, deal with it. If you don’t want to be a Jew anymore, your privilege, but then this isn’t your question anymore, is it? If it is still your question, then ask yourself why it matters to you?

  • Jeremy

    Well, I don’t think it’s true.
    Is the God of the Old Testament the same as the God of the New Testament? No. If you don’t realize that, then you’ve missed the whole point of Jesus. If Jesus followed the teachings of Jehovah, instead of standing up to the people stoning the adulterous woman, he would have joined them. Time and time again, Jesus went against the old Jewish traditions because they weren’t right in his opinion. Did he ignore all of them? No, but he went against the ones he didn’t like.
    Is the God of the Koran the same as either god in the bible? He’s closer to the OT one, but is still somewhat different.
    What about people who aren’t Christian, Jewish, or Muslim? Do they not count as people?
    Like all labels, religion is divisive. But pretending differences don’t exist isn’t a real solution.

  • a good friend of mine was a jehovahs witness
    and the respect she had as a witness for the jewish faith was staggering
    i did not know much about the jehovahs witness religion except that they rang my bell early in the morning and bothered me
    she explained that her particular brand of christianity was bent on old world accuracy it went back to the original christianity
    for example they do not celebrate christmas
    as this was not an original holiday
    and it does not fall on christ’s real birthday
    and they do not respect parts of christianity that were absorbed into the religion later on
    because of this they do oddly have more respect for the jewish religion
    as far as accuracy than many christian sects
    i found that amazing
    i mean that certainly is a fundamentalist
    extreme religion i would have expected them to be anti-semetic to say the least
    it got me thinking
    how can christians be anti-semetic when their entire religion begins with the old testament
    and how can moslems
    we all start at the same source
    we should all be thinking of each other
    not as the same
    or as the opposite
    but as peers in some way
    and there is only one god
    according to all these religions
    we all worship the same god
    its just different books
    and different interpretations
    written by men
    not gods
    that make us differ
    if an extreme
    fundamentlist christian sect
    like the witnesses can have respect for judaism
    why cant we all
    i am jewish
    that statement does in fact mean a lot
    because in certain times and in certain places it an get me killed
    well i am jewish
    and proud
    and sorry that there is so much blatent anti-semitism in this world still in the year 2003
    its time to move on
    if not love each other
    at least respect each other

  • Chris Josephson

    Many early Christians viewed themselves as just a Jewish sect and did celebrate the Jewish holy days, feasts, etc.. After all, they were all Jewish. Today you will find many Messianic Churches incorporating Christianity’s Jewish roots within their congregations. Some non-Messianic as well.
    As to the reason Christians don’t use the rituals of their Jewish heritage, I believe it stems more from a belief that the rituals were a foreshadowing of Christ. Christ fulfilled what the rituals were meant to convey so there was no need to continue the rituals. Actually, there was quite a disagreement (see the New Testament) about what laws, rituals, etc. the early church needed to incorporate.
    It’s wonderful many churches, primarily due to the influence of Messianic Christians, are starting to celebrate Christianity’s Jewish roots.
    I’ve found greater meaning in communion and the atonement (Good Friday and Easter) by partaking of the Jewish celebrations with Messianic Christians.
    Jews, Christians, and Muslims do have a common root. However, since all the early Christians were Jewish and not Muslim I can’t see Christians celebrating Muslim holy days and feasts in the same way as Jewish ones. That isn’t to say Christians have nothing in common with Muslims, but it isn’t the same as what Christians have in common with Jews.
    For example, Christians do believe: “Hear oh Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is One”. Christians can say this and not violate their faith because it affirms their faith as well as it does the Jews. Can’t think of much Chrsitians could affirm as far as Muslim belief goes. Certainly couldn’t state anything about Mohammed because it goes contrary to Christian belief.

  • Yehudit

    “If Jesus followed the teachings of Jehovah, instead of standing up to the people stoning the adulterous woman, he would have joined them. Time and time again, Jesus went against the old Jewish traditions because they weren’t right in his opinion.”
    This is a false stereotype about both Jesus and Judaism, i.e. “Judaism-law, Christianity=love.” You have to skip over a lot of passages from both Hebrew and Christian scriptures to promote this stereotype. As Hillel said: “Treat others as you would want to be treated – all the rest is commentary. NOW GO AND LEARN.”
    “For example, Christians do believe: “Hear oh Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is One”. Christians can say this and not violate their faith because it affirms their faith as well as it does the Jews. Can’t think of much Chrsitians could affirm as far as Muslim belief goes.”
    Just FYI, from both the Muslim and Jewish POV, Islam and Judaism are both monotheistic, but Christianity isn’t, because of the 3-in-1 idea, and also the idea that a human could become divine. It is halachically acceptable for observant Jews to worship in a mosque, but not in a church. From what you say the Christian interpretation is different, but that’s how strict Jews and Muslims see it.