There is usually little issue with identifying ourselves as being of a Nation we were born into. There is usually little issue with being formally adopted into a particular Religion. Ethnicity can produce some problems for some, as ethnicity is usually not ‘pure’ (because of intermarriages, etc.). Ethnicity can be in regard to Race, National Origin or Faith Group or, in deed, in relation to all 3. Culture relates to what we take on-board of the character of a Nation, Race or Faith Groups, etc.

Jewish Identity and Semitic Identity can be problematic, depending upon interpretation. Like any religion, anyone can legitimately be of any particular Faith, or even a mixture of Faiths. In many Religions there can be various formal Sects, or Cults. These can vary considerably from the main Religion. Judaism & Islam & Christianity all have these variation. Then we have .’Semitic’, the Racial aspect of Judaism (and those who descended directly from ‘Semitic Peoples / Tribes’).

Jewish identity is the objective or subjective state of perceiving oneself as a Jew and as relating to being Jewish. Under a broader definition, Jewish identity does not depend on whether a person is regarded as a Jew by others, or by an external set of religious, or legal, or sociological norms. Jewish identity does not need to imply religious orthodoxy. (1)

Accordingly, Jewish identity can be cultural in nature. Jewish identity can involve ties to the Jewish community. Orthodox Judaism bases Jewishness on matrilineal descent. According to Jewish law (halacha), all those born of a Jewish mother are considered Jewish, regardless of personal beliefs or level of observance of Jewish law. (1)

Jews who are atheists may have a Jewish identity. While the absolute majority of people with this identity are of Jewish ethnicity, people of a mixed Jewish and non-Jewish background or gentiles of Jewish ancestry may still have a sense of Jewish self-identity. (1)

By matrilineal descent, partial Ethnicity, significant Cultural influence, chosen Faith / Beliefs, Semitic Origins / Ancestry I am essentially (but not exclusively) Semitic Jew and that is my ‘choice’, although I do not follow all Religious Traditions and adhere only to the fundamental ‘Law’. (1)

More recently I have been challenged in that belief and understanding, by some who call themselves Jews, but accuse me of not being Jewish by ‘any’ criteria normally accepted. I am also accused of being Antisemitic for Criticising the State of Israel, its Recent History and the behaviours of Modern Zionists.

Since this experience I have also met up with other Jews of Culture, Faith and Religion, who have also experienced such accusations and condemnations for their criticism of Israel and Zionism. It is a very worrying development because these false accusations cause many a great deal of distress.

The level of bullying, humiliation and libellous accusations seem to be on the increase, mostly on the social media but even resulting in libellous accusations made to various public Institutions. It would seem that Judaism is now having similar problems as Islam, with intimidation from Extremist Cults, claiming to be acting in the Name of a Religion.

Please tell me of your own experiences in this area and ways you have found of managing this kind of abuse, or even ways of countering it.

Terry Couchman – 1st June 2017

 

(1) Spinoza, Liberalism, and the Question of Jewish Identity. Yale University Press, 1997.