Monday, September 6, 2010

Stranger in a Strange Land

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, I am reflecting on my choices this past year.  One of the choices I made this year (as I have for the last 10 years) was to be Jewish.  "What?", you say.  "You are Jewish, what's the choice?"  For many years I chose not to be Jewish.  The Judaism I was taught as a child did not appeal to me, seemed contradictory and archaic, and my study of other religions led me to the same conclusions about them.  So, I did not practice the rituals of Judaism.  Besides, it's hard to be Jewish in most of America and most of the world.  You laugh, but no matter where we are outside of Israel, New York or Los Angeles, we are "the other".  Oh, there are small pockets here and there of Jewish communities within which one can belong, but once you venture outside of that community, everything is strange to us.  Now, I am not talking about anti-semitism here, although that, too, exists. I am talking about the centuries old dilemma of the Diaspora - to assimilate or not to assimilate, that is the question.  And the answer to that question, for every Jew in the Diaspora, is that person's choice. 

One of my very favorite movies is School Ties. It was recently on cable and I watched as I always do.  It's a fascinating, brilliantly acted piece about a working class Jewish boy ( Brendon Frazier) from Pennsylvania, who gets a scholarship to a Harvard prep school in his senior year of high school because of his ability as a quarterback.  Matt Damon is the upper crust legacy who was in line for the QB position on the team. The movie was about the choice the Jewish boy made to hide his Judaism in order to fit in, and the consequenses of that choice. While, the time frame for the story was 1955, and much has changed for us since then, there still lies underneath everything that is good about being here, the feeling we are strangers.

 שנה טובה   Shana tova umetukah v'tikatevu.   May you have a good and sweet year, and may you be written in The Book of Life for another year.


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