Years ago, long after I had served as a Lone Soldier in the Sinai, I learned, according to the Rabbis, I might not be Jewish. It did not matter that my father had a special tattoo on his left forearm, a gift from the Nazis at Auschwitz. It did not matter that my blond, blue-eyed mother had watched her own mother, sicken and die at Bergen Belsen.
It did matter to the Rabbinical Guardians of the Jewish Galaxy that my parents had absolutely nothing to prove they, nor their mothers, nor their mother’s mother was Jewish. If I had wanted to marry a Jewish Israeli girl, the Guardians said I had to prove I was Jewish first and I could not.
Fortunately, I married a full blooded Jewish girl. She had papers. We married outside of Israel. Her Rabbi did not ask to see my papers. My Hechshir was Ben Gurion’s, I was crazy enough to say I was Jewish.
David Breakstone is the Deputy Chairman of the Jewish Agency. With his fire red hair, a noble trait of King David, he works with the mission of a zealot. Globally and in Israel, David is educating, promoting, defending, and encouraging Jews to know Israel, to love who they are, to fulfill their identity as Jews, to make Aliyah.
A few days ago, he wrote a deeply personal piece for the Jerusalem Post about his daughter-in-law and granddaughter. His daughter-in-law has suddenly developed a “rare genetic abnormality in this Jewish state of ours… born to Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, or to mothers whose conversions are not recognized by the state – not only those conducted under the auspices of the Conservative and Reform movements, but also those sanctioned by Orthodox rabbinical courts operating outside the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbinate.” Sitting at the Shabbat table, his granddaughter was thrilled with the Hamotzeh, and the Candle lighting. She did not know she was being declared non-Jewish by the Guardians of the Jewish Galaxy.
Barely two months earlier, the Western Wall compromise for all Jews, was invalidated by the same Guardians of the Jewish Galaxy. Suddenly, even the tiniest stirrings of a Jew or Jewess who approaches the last of our Holy Temple was quashed in the name of purity.
Across the pond, the diminishing next generation of American Jews are rapidly distancing themselves from their patrimony, their peoplehood. They support good deeds for everyone but not Israelis, are thrilled with legalized pot and commune in their group think anti-Trumpisms of free speech censorship.
The recent commencement address at the Hebrew Union College’s Jewish Institute of Religion, Michael Chabon, a noted “Jewish” American novelist, told his audience something shocking. “Any religion that relies on compulsory endogamy [inmarriage] to survive has, in my view, ceased to make the case for its continued validity in the everyday lives of human beings.”
If Judaism can only exist by “inmarriage”, then Judaism may not deserve to survive. Chabon encouraged Jewish active outreach to marry non-Jews and not necessarily have a Jewish home to be Jewish. The Jewish light unto the world is to spread the seed of Jewish genetic/cultural goodness.
A generation ago, that would have shocked everyone, liberal, extreme left, included. Today, not so much anymore. There is a growing “Jewish” audience nodding their heads in agreement. Jews, as apart of a people, a culture, a religious path to God, with thousands of years of richness and development, means nothing to them.
As birth Jews in the West move away from traditional Jewish faith, there are those who reach out hungrily for a Jewish connection. It is not uncommon that intermarried Jews want to follow a Jewish path to God and identity.
At the great Synagogue, Neveh Shalom, Paramaribo, Suriname, I was a guest of honor at the dedication of the Holocaust memorial to their former, but now decimated 400-year-old Jewish community. The modest few of the community gathered that Shabbat to pray communally as Jews. I was asked to say the prayers for a recently born child of mixed blood, a non-Jewish mother and Jewish father, welcoming the child into the fold of the Jewish family. Perhaps it was because of my Yeshivah background, I was viewed as the closest authority as a Rabbi they had. The parents were thrilled.
In many desperately hanging on communities in the Caribbean world, even the U.S. and Canada, there is a hunger to be part of the Jewish people. A desire to be one with all Jews. The Guardians of the Jewish Galaxy are unmoved. No matter what, they will be the ones to determine who is a Jew. If only Hitler had let them be the arbitrators in 1933, how different things might have been.
Having completed dozens of historical programs in the American West, I learned an obvious reality about Jewish men and the West. There were not many Jewish women on the frontier. The men did not want to die alone, without families. Some wanted Jewish homes, as much as could be done. They married local women, took them to a creek during a heavy downpour and declared their makeshift Mikvah kosher before a Bet Din of the few Jews around. Their children were raised as Jews. Their descendants still know they were Jewish and are Jewish today. The exact memory of their genetic mixing is long lost but their hunger to be Jews remains.
To the Guardians of the Jewish Galaxy in Israel, who sit in their alabaster white skins that don’t see sunshine in the Yeshivahs of learning, they know they are pure and have never intermarried in their genetic past. They know they are kosher while the Black Jews, the Brown Jews, the Yellow, the Red and the Green ones are not kosher.
While Jewish numbers shrink, the Guardians convince themselves, they are the true Jews of the world. Ham and Green egg eating Jews, if kosher matrilineally, are Jewish to them. Patrilineal Jews, who wish to be Jews, are not.
Abraham opened his tent, welcoming all. Israel today, all Israel, must do so again. Or, the hypocrisy of the Guardians, eventually, could become the end of the Zionist dream.