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What does it mean to me to be Jewish?

What does it mean to me to be Jewish? Well, technically speaking, if your mother is Jewish then you are automatically Jewish. You don't need to be practicing, you can even convert, but you are still also Jewish. Is that all there is? I came out of the womb with my sex, birthday, and religion? I don't need to observe the holidays, I don't need to keep kosher, I don't even need to believe that God exists! But I'm still a member of the Jewish people? Why!? It seems that faith isn't the prerequisite for joining this religion; the only religion I've ever heard of that does this. It's one of the only things that will be forever permanent about you. Your birthplace can change names, your gender can change nowadays, your tattoos can be removed, you can legally change your name! So until science perfects DNA splicing, your DNA, date of birth, biological parents, planet of birth, and whether you are Jewish or not is the only things about you that you cannot ever change. Ok, so you can convert INTO Judaism, but once you do, the transformation is irreversible, so being Jewish is like a checkbox that can't be unchecked, or a vampire bite. The real matter of being Jewish is really the question of "How Jewish are you”? At what level do you practice? I don't want to go into too much about all the different sects and levels Judaism here. Basically, the more observant you are, the smaller the sect. Ironically, it's like a pyramid. But it gets weird because the higher up the sect is on the pyramid, the more animosity they have toward those below them. The Hassidic Jews look down on the Orthodox Jews, who look down on the Modern Orthodox, who look down on the Conservatives, who look down on the Traditionalists and the Reformed. Don't worry, there are more sects, but you get the idea. (It's actually funny how the Conservative Jews are liberal in their practice.) I grew up between the Orthodox and Modern Orthodox. (The differences between the two are very small compared to the others.) I was taught all the practices and observances I had to follow, along with all the restrictions and rules. It was never said directly, but by simple logic, if a sect of Judaism isn't observing the laws like we are, and our way is correct, then theirs is wrong. And Jewish people are extremely judgmental towards each other, ready to point out the smallest errors in people whom they expect to be as religious as they are. "Ugh, I saw _____ driving the car on Shabbos!" "Ugh, I saw _____ at the store; she didn't cover her elbows." (Looking over into another's shopping cart) "Ugh, you know those aren't O-U kosher, they're only Triangle-K kosher!" (The "Ugh"s are scoffs) It's really funny how as a Jew, I grew up in fear, not from God, not from anti-Semitism (well, not as much anyways), and not from terrorists who constantly bomb Israel, my “homeland” and throw parades where they light rabbi-shaped dolls on fire. No, I grew up with my biggest fear was "what will _____ say about me if they see me like this?" "It doesn't look good in our community!" "Why do you have to do something questionable in front of other people?" The absolute worst thing about this was that throughout all of my life I was told by everyone, EVERYONE in my life system, that we as Jews cannot trust anyone but ourselves. Our history is just a constant cycle of society oppressing us and we narrowly escape and fall into a new society who eventually will oppress us. Even America turned away thousands of Jews seeking refuge from the Nazis, being forced to ride Back to Germany to their doom. "We can't trust them. Eventually they will turn on us. They always have." So, like a character out of Mission Impossible, I cannot trust anyone. I should not put my faith in my country; they'll turn on me. I cannot put my faith in my fellow agents –err, I mean Jewish people; they criticize my every action. Who do I put my faith in, God? Ha! I don't know if there is a God, let alone my version of God. If Judaism teaches one thing about God, it’s not to put all your eggs in that basket. In fact, our version of God is the most judgmental of all! I But what does it mean to me to be Jewish? Judaism differs from most religions in that it isn't faith-based. Judaism is a religion based solely on tradition. Christianity is faith-based and the reason why atheists who were once Christian are usually the most bitter are because they lost faith. They realized that they've been lied to all their lives; of course they're bitter, Santa isn't real, priests are not as "holy" as they're supposed to be, who's to say Jesus isn't that great a guy either!? Judaism is a religion based on keeping the tradition. You don't need to believe in God to not eat bacon or eat matzo on Passover, you just do it. You do it because your parents did it and your grandparents did it and their grandparents did it...etc. You do it because you did it as a child and have nostalgia for the good ol' days. Every family has a different twist to the customs of the traditions, making it their own. Some adopt these additions and eventually it catches on as a new universal custom. So when people judge other people for not observing the tradition "properly", it's usually just customs that some people chose to adopt or not adopt. Examples are how strict one keeps certified kosher, how long one waits after eating meat before eating dairy, and even how one decides to pray; something that is only between one's self and God and has never and will never affect the ones who judge them! So what does being Jewish mean to me? It's keeping the traditions as much as I feel keeps me proud of my heritage without feeling burdened by it and keeping close to family. Will I always keep this mentality? Probably not, but I feel like I have put more effort into this matter than most people I know. ...Sorry, that was a judgement.

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