I bring this up because 1. Maybe you know somebody? and 2. The central question of this month’s issue is “What is Being Jewish,” and nowhere is your Jewishness more relevant than on the dating scene. We all want sis to find a “nice Jewish boy.” But what is a nice Jewish boy?
We know what “nice” looks like (kind and generous with a good earning potential). And the “boy” part is pretty self-explanatory. But “Jewish” is harder to define. My husband is a Jew by choice, and he’s definitely Jewish. So to my mind, a willing-to-convert non-Jew would suffice (again, maybe you know somebody?). Not everyone would agree.
Others define “Jewish” as strictly a by-birth designation, even if the Jew in question is an anti-religion atheist who wouldn’t know a haftarah from a hefeweizen. I personally think that narrowing the designation this way spells doom for the future of the Jewish people. But there is some validity to the argument that Jewishness is an ethnicity.
According to science, we are definitely kinda mostly all related to one another. Major genome studies have found common Middle Eastern ancestry in Jews from all around the world. Geneticists say that doesn’t quite qualify us as a race, per se, but it does make us a nation – albeit one that spans the globe.
And according to sociological studies, defining Judaism as strictly a religion is something that fewer Jews are actually doing. In fact, the oft-quoted Pew Study of 2013 found that nearly a quarter of Jewish people identify as “Jews of no religion,” a distinctly Jewish twist on the American trend toward secularism that implies a Jewish ethnicity and set of traditions distinct from a Jewish belief system. In other words, we might eat bacon and we might eat on Yom Kippur but we’d never eat bacon on Yom Kippur. Because, you know, we’re Jewish.
So we’re a loosely affiliated group of people with some common lineage and a core set of moral principles that differ when put into practice, if they’re put into practice at all. That doesn’t sound like a race or a religion. That sounds like a family.
Some of us are born into it. Some of us are here by marriage. Sometimes we’re here for each other. Sometimes we turn vicious. But in the end, when the bagels are set before us and the weaker-than-it-needs-to-be coffee is poured, we sit around the brunch table and feel a certain sense of being stuck with one another. Chosen People who wouldn’t necessarily choose to be with these people.
It sounds both horrifying and perfect – not unlike having your sister write a column that tells the whole world you’re single. I feel bad for sis. This must be humiliating. But, then, this is a Jewish publication, so we’re all family here.
And, also, maybe you know somebody?
Mayrav Saar is a writer based in Los Angeles.