Why Jews, like everyone else, must resist the toxic allure of tribalism

Anna Lind-Guzik writes: My late mother was a shiksa — tall, strawberry blonde and Midwestern — and that’s often enough for other Jews to disown and dismiss me: “Oh, so you’re not actually Jewish.” No matter that my father sought refuge from Soviet anti-Semitism, first in Israel and then in America, or that his immediate family fled the Nazi invasion on cattle trains leaving Odessa. Never mind that my mother insisted on sending me to crunchy Jewish summer camp every year, and prepared a beautiful seder. Forget that it was my father, not my mother, who talked me out of a bat mitzvah ceremony.

The sad irony is that what matters to far too many of my fellow Jews is the “purity” of my blood. I cannot be married or buried as a Jew in Israel, for example, because those institutions are under the control of an Orthodox rabbinate to whom I’m irrelevant, at best. My only option to avoid discrimination is a full-blown conversion to Orthodox Judaism. Other options, including Reform Judaism, agnosticism and even atheism, are reserved for purebreds.

Though religious customs seek to deny me, I consider myself ethnically and culturally Jewish. I’m not alone. Intermarriage is a factor in modern Jewish life.

David Friedman did not arise in a vacuum. Equating Jewishness with political support for far-right extremism has been on the rise in Israel for years. Let’s not forget Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s twisted lies to increase last-minute Likud turnout in the 2015 election: “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing organizations are bussing them out.”

Many Jewish people of Russian origin share those politics, in large part because they hold a blanket hatred of the left, a residue of their understandable aversion to Soviet Communism. Criticizing the Israeli government can invite furious accusations of anti-Semitism, hurled against Jews and non-Jews alike.

How did it come to pass that right-wing politics and anti-Arab racism have come to define Jewish identity more than a love for humanity? When is it ever OK to negotiate in bad faith, as if the Palestinians were animals and therefore undeserving of peace? Have we not been on the other side of this equation before?

This is why I’m begging those of you unwilling to pledge loyalty to far-right politics to hear me out:

Jews, you are my people, but I cannot be a member of your tribe. It’s not just because the tribe will not accept me: It’s because I reject tribalism. [Continue reading…]

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