Yoram Kaniuk, the author of ‘Adam Resurrected’ (Adam Ben Kelev), has recently applied to the court of Israel with the request to delete “Jewish” from his ID and in the Population Registry, as it was turned down by the Ministry of Internal Affairs . His request was accepted, mainly due to his appealing petition, in which he explains that the choice of religion should be the free choice of a man. This historical precedent is somehow revolutionary to the state that was established on the religious background..
On the other hand, in quite distant Hungary, Jewish Community Federation in Budapest appeals to its citizens to add “Jewish” under: religion in the Population Registry.
http://www.enismagyarzsidovagyok.hu/az-legy-aki-vagy/ (watch the video, it’s sweet)
After years of depression suffered during communist regime, the Jewish community in Budapest flourishes regained freedom to practice their religion, and now they want to declare it proudly, as if they were fighting for the honor that was taken away from them long time ago.
First observation of those events, close in time, but far away in geographical conditions might show a contradiction. Two different ideas of Jewish concepts- European Jews wishing to strengthen connections with their religion, by having it legalized it in their documents , and Israel Jews trying to cut off from it in their everyday reality. Nevertheless, both tendencies show, that the core of those two ideas is rooted deeply in the principle of the freedom of choice, and I couldn’t find any more appropriate way to describe the manifest of Judaism in one’s life. These two different concepts tell the stories of two different Jews in the Diaspora or two different Jews in Israel, where people are simply born in - general educational system, constant media feedback, whatever is a Jewish surrounding. A wise friend of mine told me how she sees it: “You learn you are a Jew in two ways: either you define yourself as one, or you become one by the other’s definition of you”.
And this is how I see it: Judaism is a life style, a state of mind, culture, friends with the same common bizarre and lovely customs, only you can be excited about, or magic full of misterious symbolic objects. (preferably shiny ones J). Also, sharing some unique dangerous codes of the Hebrew language (ma ze ma ze), sharing an unexplainable hazardous attraction to Israel, hating your friend’s synagogue just to have something to talk about, celebrating exhausting family dinners on holy days flooded with gossip, and at last but not least, enjoying a segregated taste-less sense of humor and internal jokes. (I’m just kidding, Jewish comedians are the best).
I wouldn`t appeal to a Judaism in ones genes, blood ties, or any of these darvinistic ways of sorting that brought the holocaust into our lives once again, as well as I wouldn’t like spread out the ideas like these to give the others scientificl tools to defind me.
My “half Jewish” friend tells me how cold a conversation at a Shabbaht dinner in the community can get, when suddenly her companions realizes she is not “pure Jewish”. I know these harsh looks, and awkward sighs. These are the same looks and sighs I get when I tell a (non Jewish) European that I was born and raised in Israel.