July 16, 2005

Speaking of Ignorance

It makes me crazy to hear/read people explain Judaism from positions of ignorance, especially those who call themselves former Jews. I am speaking of those who claim to have converted to some other religion, now I admit to being more irritated by those who have been sucked in by the evangelicals.

I am not fond of missionaries. I am not a fan of their witnessing and or their targeting of Jews and I am not willing to tiptoe around this for fear of pissing them off. I am entitled to my anger and disappointment in the lack of respect that they demonstrate for others. I cannot buy the excuse that religion dictates that they use religious terror to target others for conversion, but I digress.

The real point of this rant is found in the opening paragraph and here is where it stems from. Judaism offers a rich tapestry of traditions and rituals. There is a seemingless endless amount, so much that it is not uncommon for many people to have at best a very limited understanding of why certain things are done.

It goes beyond simple explanations where we say this is done because we follow the practice of Beit Shammai or Beit Hillel. It is beyond categorizing as being the practice of Chasid or Mitnagdim and it extends beyond terms like Orthodox or Reform.

Within that last paragraph I only fainted touched upon the myriad possibilities of hundreds of interpretations of liturgy and ritual. So it is not surprising that there is room for misunderstanding about what we do and why. But all too often in my experience someone has asked a question about why we keep Kosher/Shabbos or any number of other things only to have their question answered by someone who really doesn't have much of a background or education.

And so often these questions are so poorly answered. It makes me a little sad as well as the aforementioned anger because it just doesn't have to be like that.

I think that one of the challenges we face is that there are so many Jews who are unaffiliated and either uneducated or poorly educated. Just to clarify, I don't think that a lack of affiliation has to equate to a lack of education, but the two often work in conjunction.

And I would argue that one of the reasons for a lack of affiliation/participation is the lack of education and understanding about why we do what we do. This is a key area that needs to be addressed in some way or other.

It is one thing to decide that you do not want to keep Kosher, Shabbos etc when you are educated about them and have a made an educated decision not to observe them.

To continue my rambling rant I find it interesting that some people are so quick to denounce various rituals and practices yet do not know much about them. In particular I am referring to the comments a blogger made on a different blog in which he claims to have been liberated from Judaism by his conversion. The remarks he made about Judaism just made it so clear that he never really understood what he was a part of and I am sorry for that.

It is always possible that someone with a solid Jewish education and background could decide to leave and some have. That would still make me sad, but not in the same way.

End of rant.

4 comments:

Z said...

I really like this post of all the ones you have made on the topic. You very clearly hit on what it is to BE a Reform Jew or a Conservative Jew or for that matter an Orthodox Jew, and that is EDUCATED CHOICES. I have little respect for the individual who blindly follows or who does it just because it was done before. Understanding why we do what we do enriches the experience and deepens our relationship with G-d. Regardless of how we do it or the fact that we've done it "forever", growing up and getting past that child's perspective of G-d and religion requires a bit more of the thought process. And you're absolutely right, rejecting something without fully understanding it isn't really a choice. It's a tantrum.

Jack's Shack said...

Hi Z,

Blind allegiance is kind of scary to me. I have a hard time understanding it.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. I will go even further to discuss interfaith marriage. What upsets me the most is when children are involved and the parents decide not to really educate and instill strong Jewish values because they want them to decide for themselves. Pleeze..1st -they are children; 2ndly, we live in a Christian world with very little real Jewish influences around us to even remotely make that suggestion even. There are churches on every street corner, Sunday morning tv and radio shows, Christmas, Christmas and Christmas! I think it's very important to provide for them every opportunity to develop a strong foundation and only then can they really make such a decision. Saying that, if a Jew is educated in all aspects of history, law, traditions, etc, and then decides to married someone who is not Jewish, I have faith enough that person won't desert Judiasm or let their children grow up ignorant (maybe I am being nieve.)

Two quick stories..I made a Jewish reference to a co-worker whom I assumed was Jewish. He didn't know what I was referring to, so I asked him if he was Jewish. His response both sadden and infuriated me...in almost an embarassed and apologetic way ...he said yes, BUT by birth.

When I read the first line of this post, I instantly thought of my sister. She hasn't a clue about Judiasm, but insists to "teach" Jewish laws and customs to all her Gentile friends. I have long given up trying to tell her to stop making a fool of herself, but even more, misleading others with her ignorance. She doesn't get it that they will take what she is saying and then pass it on because they got their information straight from the source...a Jew.

Jack's Shack said...

Hi Anonymous,

I am somewhat sad to say that I know what you are saying.