Jewish Topics Outside the Ghetto

Am I Jewish Enough?This past week, on another blog, someone raised a question about me being Jewish because the topics I address aren’t “Jewish enough” for them. They seemed to feel my topics are more “Christian” than Jewish. I guess I didn’t realize that Jews are ideologically ghettoized and therefore, limited to certain topics. I was under the impression that we can talk about anything we want. It is true that some of the things I write about address issues in Jewish-Christian relations, but that is because I think they are important for communication and mutual respect. Michael Wyschogrod, an Orthodox Jewish scholar and theologian directly addresses issues of Christian theology and philosophy without his Jewishness being questioned. I see no reason I can not do the same.

When I write on ethical issues, it should be noted that ethics are very much a Jewish subject. Proverbs address ethical behavior as well as the Prophets, the Torah, and Rabbinic literature. When I wrote about honoring our parents, I thought that was a Jewish issue, since its part of the ten commandments. When i wrote about gentile conversions to Judaism, I thought that was a Jewish topic as well. Certainly the topic of my son’s Bar Mitzvah was a Jewish topic. What did I write that calls my Jewishness into question?

The notion that if I am not addressing issues of Kashrut or Tefillin or the Parsha of the week it somehow is less than Jewish, is wrong. Jews have been living outside the ghettos for centuries and have contributed to every area of study. I address any topic that interests me, and speak to it from my own perspective, which is the point of my blogging. People can like or dislike my point of view, and that is fine, but my goal is not to instruct or convince, but to make people think about a point of view other than their own. Whether they accept it or not is their business, not mine.

There are many non-Jews who write on Jewish issues and they are not mistaken for Jews because they address issues related to Jews, but if I write on a topic perceived by some to be outside the boundaries of what some people consider “Jewish topics,” my Jewishness should not be called into question. No one who has ever met me has mistaken me for a non-Jew.

The real problem is not the topics I choose, but the topics some people consider to be Jewish. We should not be limited by what other people think. I was once at a Jewish conference with some Christian visitors who apparently had never been around Jewish people before. I don’t think they believed Jews have horns, but they were limited to stereotypical notions of what Jews looked like. An Orthodox Jewish man was there, who happened to have red hair. The non-Jew looked at him wide-eyed and told him that he had never seen a red-haired Jew before. I bit my tongue so I wouldn’t say anything inappropriate, and the Orthodox man just looked at him and said, “now you have.” I was offended by the bumpkin’s ignorance, but let it go. My grandmother was a redhead, as is my nephew. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov also had red hair. Jacob’s brother Esau had red hair as well. The point is not hair color, but preconceived ideas of what is and what is not Jewish. Maybe you never heard certain topics addressed from a Jewish perspective. There was a time when people said they never heard of a Jew who believed in Yeshua. Many thousands have.

Michael Wyschogrod called himself a Jewish Barthian, and met with the renowned Christian scholar Karl Barth. Barth said to him that the difference between Christians and Jews, was that Jews have the promises of God and Christians have both the promises and the fulfillment. Wyschogrod said from our understanding as Jews, if you have the promises of God, you also have the fulfillment. Barth said he never thought of that. It is altogether possible that if you read something on my blog that you never thought of as Jewish, your boundaries are being challenged. If that is the case, maybe you should rethink your boundaries.

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5 thoughts on “Jewish Topics Outside the Ghetto

  1. Nice post. Last week I watched this little Youtube video where Leonard Nimoy shared the Jewish (ethical) foundation of Star Trek. It was short and engaging. I just found this quote, “Still, personally, I was more taken by the perpetually calm, thoughtful, and withdrawn rabbi, who would be (of course) Mr. Spock, the starship’s first officer. He hailed from the planet Vulcan, and came from a race of people whose philosophy, lifestyle, and very essence of being demanded logic. This, to me, seemed like the essence of Jewish thought–or, at least, my eight-year-old representation of Jewish (or, at least, Maimonidean) thought: that logic was the backbone to the universe, a clean, crisp and ordered hierarchy through which problems would be solved, differences mended, and harmony achieved.” Jews will not change this world by having a focus on tzitzit, etc. They will change the world through the adherance to the ethics that Torah demands. Keep up the good work.

  2. I saw that comment. Just keep blogging – we need more Jewish bloggers, especially those who speak their mind and challenge status quo. The topics on your blog are more “Jewish” than most of the other so called “messianic” bloggers out there. The ironic thing is, you are a Jew – unlike the detractors themselves.

  3. Hey guys, I assume the comment Dr. Schiffman is referring to is here, where James Pyles asked,

    “Can anyone enlighten me as to who Dr. Schiffman is? He seems to write from the perspective of a traditional Christian, but a quick scan of his blog says he writes about Jewish topics. Confused.”

    I don’t think James meant any ill feelings here — I had linked Dr. Schiffman’s post on the Church and the Jews, which probably induced the comment asking what perspective you’re writing from. I didn’t interpret it as a negative slam on your posts being too Christian, and that probably wasn’t James’ intent.

  4. Thanks for the input Judah. I wasn’t offended by his remarks, just surprised. His comments gave me an opportunity to address the issue of what constitutes Jewish perspective. I didn’t think he was Jewish, because most Jews are open minded enough to handle topics on a variety of issues. Please don’t take my comments as defensiveness. They were not intended that way.

  5. I definitely appreciate the “real world” topics that i find here.

    “most Jews are open minded enough to handle topics on a variety of issues.”

    I feel like the wider christian world would do well to follow this example.

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