Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Author Amy Sohn Annoyed With Questions About Her Husband

Amy, who married a Gentile, writes:

My web site is probably not the place for polemics on the modern state of American Judaism but let me say that if you ever want to turn a Jew off to institutional Judaism, make them do a JCC tour of America and see what happens. The closed-mindedness, conservatism, isolationism, elitism, xenophobia, and plain old rudeness are so endemic in this community I can see why so few Jewish people these days, especially young ones, are involved with Jewish life. And it is a shame because cultural, non-sectarian institutions like JCCs, which were founded to be open to everyone, should be the most welcoming of all. And yet very few are.

As I was saying to a friend of mine the other day, it is not the "Jew" part I have trouble with, but the "ism." American Judaism needs to find a way to be more welcoming, not less, but sadly it seems that in many of these communities those who speak the loudest are those who are most observant and also most closed-minded, and they spread a kind of negative elitism regarding which kind of Jew is better, and how non-Jews should be treated, that poisons the institutions as a whole.

Chaim Amalek writes: "She's right, of course. I have found New York Jews to be an especially elitist, closed-minded, inbred and even Indian-Giving/dreidel-stealing bunch. No wonder so many smart, nice Jewish people like this Amy end up married to gentiles. (And no wonder that a nice Jewish boy like you cannot and will not find a nice Jewish girl to love him. Perhaps the Almighty will rectify this situation by sending you a gentle gentile girl much like you, but younger and mentally healthier.) Increasingly I wonder what the experience of Palestinians living under Jewish rule is like on the West Bank."