Wednesday, November 24, 2010


My sister is married to a Catholic.
My first cousin is married to a Muslim.
My second cousins: one married to an Episcopalian, one to a Russian Jew who hates Judaism and Jewish culture, one dating an Irish Catholic, one dating anybody as long as they're not Jewish...

It is somewhat ironic that the people in my parents' generation in my family emigrated from the Soviet Union, so they can freely be Jews in America, yet America seems to be the undoing of their Jewishness.


Anonymous Nechama said...

I don't think America is the undoing it of their Jewishness, I think it is the lack of confidence in their Jewishness among the parents of the immigrant generation. As a result, the kids they raised in America are all too often raised without a solid Jewish foundation. One of the things that I am thankful every Thanksgiving (and every day) is that my parents not only brought me to this country, but also gave me more than they themselves had when it came to Yiddishkait and Judaism. Clearly your parents did the same since you have found your way back to the religious foundation of your grandparents. Nobody is brother who was very young when we came to this country and who was very involved in Jewish communal life from an early age married a girl who converted at a reform temple just to marry all 4 of his kids are likely to have "who is a Jew" issues... There is no perfect anything...but we simply must keep on trying to do the right thing. Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2010 2:13 PM  
Blogger billoo said...

That was really interesting, E-k. Even more so to hear your views: do you really feel that that's happening?

[I know some of my family & friends living in the States and Britain feel the same about their Muslim identity]

have you read this:

November 26, 2010 9:52 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...


I didn't mean to say that this is America's fault. In my opinion, it is the fact that the Jewishness of my parents' generation was defined by the anti-semitism and exclusion they faced in the Soviet Union as well as that particular culture of the Soviet Jew. Having come here, they could not fit in with the totally foreign American Jewish culture, and they had very little positive reasons for being Jewish.

I could not blame my sister and my cousins for not marrying Jews. Given the fact that Jewishness played absolutely no part in their adult lives, it would be ridiculous for me to tell them that they should not marry their spouses just to marry Jewish.

November 29, 2010 7:23 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

I am not sure what you are asking - do I believe that my family is basically losing its Jewish identity? Absolutely - that is indisputable. Do I believe that America is the problem? See my answer to Nechama above. Namely that it is not that America is doing something to assimilate them, it is that without an opposing cohesive force, there is nothing meaningful to keep them Jewish in America.

Regarding the article,I don't typically read the NYT, so I'd not come across it before. It seems fairly accurate in describe the state of affairs. In many ways it is describing a similar issue as what I've been talking about here. Having grown up in the American land of milk and honey, without the depradations of anti-semitism and exclusion from the mainstream, the current crop of American Jews feel no motivation to cluster around Israel. The Orthodox of course have a purpose and a drive which gives them a cohesive rallying point.

November 29, 2010 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, e-k. Yes, I was asking more generally if you thought that that was happening (not just to your family) and what the reasons were. I think the more difficult thing would be to define one's identity in a positive way-if indeed one cares much about such things.

I see the opposite problem happening in Britain (well, at least London)... This need to reassert one's identity as a muslim against some sense of Britishnes or 'secular values'. All a bit reactionary, really.

November 29, 2010 7:39 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Well, there is a similar movement that has been happening the the American Jewish community - people becoming Orthodox Jews. Probably same motivations - a sense of community, an explicit purpose. I would not say there is 'radicalization' happening, although definitely a very conservative (non-liberal) outlook on life.

This kind of stuff seems to swing like a pendulum, in my opinion. Or mayeb it is dialectical, if you want a more hegelian bent.

November 29, 2010 9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, that's very true, e-k: we're just on the down swing at the moment and therefore we tend to see things in an overly pessimistic way and as if this was something fundamentally new (excuse the pun).

November 29, 2010 9:48 PM  

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