Monday, October 22, 2007

"Identity Soup" ... ummm, ummm ....

Original posting on my Yahoo 360 blog Wednesday June 13, 2007 - 02:07am (CDT)

Referencing this post to my Googlegroup, entitled My reply to Dvorak Uncensored, "Identity Soup - Intolerance or Tradition" ...

Fiendish French oppression in action!Yes, this mishling is feeling more than a little embarassment, that the embarassment is connected to a part of his heritage, and it's not the French part, right now. In the past, I have heard arguments that "Jews are intolerant, too, man", and when I've heard them, have generally had little difficulty rebutting them. Consider the fact that an integral part of the process of conversion to Judaism is the attempt on the part of the rabbi to try to talk the would-be convert out of converting - if one harbored any desire to impose one's religion on another, would one do that? There would, in fact, be no conceptual basis for such a desire on the rabbi's part. Jewish Law is tribal law, something that comes out of a covenant between G-d and Israel, not something that is thought of as representing any sort of categorical imperative, binding on everybody, everywhere - and if He wished to establish a different covenant with another nation, who would we be to tell the King of the Universe that He could not?

Judaism has been, with what until recently I would have called a logical inevitability, very much a live and let live kind of religion. There are very real demands made of those who would follow it, but these have not been demands that we have made of anybody other than ourselves, aside, of course, from that which is properly part of the moral law. "Thou shalt not kill" ("kill" in the sense of murder) is a good thing to be evangelistic about, but one really isn't about to see a group of Hassidim lobbying to have the banks shut down on Saturday, as passionate as they are in their own personal commitment to Jewish Law, including that part of it that deals with doing business on Shabbes, and the non-Orthodox would be even less inclined to make the sacred secular, in such things. So why would I be embarassed, when tradition would seem to give me so much reason to be proud of the Jewish people, as I almost always have been in the past?

Because lately I'm seeing a number of Jews, younger ones apparently, act in a manner that strikes me as being screechingly, shrilly un-Jewish in its intolerance. In the post I link to, I talk about an incident in which the distribution of a very French soup, one that seems very much like something my Eastern French grandmother would have made, was being forcibly halted by government action because the soup was made from pork, and thus was unsuitable for Muslim and Jewish poor people. Generally speaking, such things have produced a shrug among Jewish poor people - we all know what the United Jewish Appeal is. Jewish communities have created their own relief efforts for years, and we've understood the need to take care of our own. Certainly, one didn't see Jews arguing that kashrut should be imposed on the goyim, because a Jew might wander into one of their soup kitchens.

Until recently, that is, and I hope this is just a few crazies I'm hearing from, and not the start of a new groundswell. "The fact that this is being called identity soup says it all" has been the refrain from a number of allegedly Jewish posters, who have seriously argued that any attempt to maintain a French cultural identity would be inherently intolerant and racist!!! I've seen allegedly Jewish participants in discussions seriously argue in support of a demand that I had apparently wrongly assumed to be purely the work of some of the fringe elements of the Muslim community a la Al Quaeda, seriously arguing that French food had to be made kosher and halal, and that traditional French food should not be suffered to be served in France.

Note the use of the word "allegedly". On the Internet, nobody knows that you're a dog, as the saying goes, but then again, I've encountered some of these same sentiments offline, where I've been much more certain of who was what, and it is deeply disconcerting. This is not a matter of saying "why aren't Jews better than everybody else", this is a matter of wondering, out loud, how one can find a good number of them embracing an evil so clearly at odds with their own religion. Consider what we celebrate on Chanukah - the preservation of Jewish ways against the efforts at forced homogenization on the part of the Graeco-Syrian rulers of Israel during the Hellenistic era, a much earlier era's version of globalization. Consider what has always been said of that celebration - that we celebrate, not just our own people's freedom to maintain its identity as a people and preserve its own ways, but that of every people to do likewise.

This real tolerance goes back deeply into antiquity. Consider, for example, what did not happen when David conquered the Moabites, et al. He did not forcible Judaize his new vassal states. All that made them who they were was accepted, within reason. That was his way, and it is ours, so who are these haughty children we have produced who would presume to tell a modern people - the French - who they have the right to be, demanding that they surrender their very existence as a distinct culture, and what excuse can they find for such outrageous arrogance, in a background that has for so long pointed people away from that particular brand of arrogance?

Do you see why I am embarrassed and uncomfortable? When the youngest contingent of adult Jews in my midst can be seen producing more than its share of narrowminded, culturally intolerant idiots, there's an awkward question that arises - who is in the community that raised these disappointing children? Perhaps I have just had bad luck offline and encountered a string of young people far worse than the actual norm, and certainly I can't deny that I seem to be some kind of magnet for the worst elements of society, but if this sample of the local Jewish youth that Life has brought into my presence is not so very atypical? If so, then I can't sit back at a comfortable distance thinking "wow, did those people foul up", without wondering if maybe I was one of the people who fouled up and horrifically so, if these are the values we're passing along to the next generation coming. How did they become the heavies, these young people of ours, and where did we go wrong, as their elders? Let's apply a little logic - if one was never a dissident in one's community (I know I wasn't), and the community starts tilting in a strange and bad direction, how logical is it to think "oh, it's those other people who did that, surely not me"?

Yes, I'm childless so far, unless one of my ex-girlfriends has a surprise for me, but you know what a shul is like - every adult becomes an influence, so who can truly say "it's not my responsibility"? But I can honestly say that I'm baffled, and more than a little concerned.

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