As I got more and more to the west (calling Stockholm neutral) I found Jewish identity in the communities shifting its course from using religion as its core to using nationality.
We all wish to group ourselves in a way. As Judaism is being performed in a very wide range (And I just travelled Europe so far) I recognized differences in the semantics people use when they come to define themselves inside this complex group.
Let it be in your mind, that I spend 1 week as a foreigner everyplace I go, and I regularly compare my findings with my knowledge of Tel-Aviv, where I was brought up, and Budapest- where I lived and worked, as the origin of my own “Jewish Renaissance”. I’m not a professional analyst of a well known university, and I’ll probably, won’t truly get a grasp on society when they bring it to me in numbers. I tend to experience the world by a very limited individual tool-box of senses more than by scientific objective tools.
And the people who come to my aid on this process of designing my view on the Jewish world are the people I meet. In every country I’ve been, I was drawn to stick to one prominent character that let me adopt their perspective, and in Amsterdam I was lucky enough to meet Natascha, a young ambitious and fascinating writer, that’s busy greatly with the sac of Jewish values she inherited. Natascha’s bound to be different in her surrounding, her non-European appearance, her over-protective education which was tremendously influenced by the heavy shadow of ‘Shoah’ memories, and other things like certain political views and incredible sensitivity which makes her the talented artist she is.
Identifying with many of her stories, I believe those features lead her to take a more ex-centric position.
If you live in an Eastern Jewish community (where voices of Antisemitism could be still heard) most probably you will vote as a lefty, in most of the cases regarding your life-style. You would like to promote human-rights for your own well-being as a minority. (In Budapest many activists saw themselves obligated to do so even on issues of other ethnic-groups like the Romans, for example). Going west social statuses of most of the Jews will be a bit more assuring, and the Islamophobia takes over. In that case, assimilated ‘well-behaved’ Jews would be considered as the “good citizens” for the demographic balance. A Jew in such position (not embracing the image of the “persecuted, that is) will seek for new characteristics to identify himself by, and would probably stroll down to take a more right-wing and nationalistic approach (like in Israel) making Zionism as his “new religion”. i.e. using a strong militaristic Israel as a mean to his Jewish definition of himself.
Natascha was not like that, because her critical mind never let her to look for an enemy in order to group herself. In fact, she admits, she feels like a Jew without a community.
That is why she wishes so much to explore more the Israeli life. (And not by going to the army). One good friend of mine once put it for me: Having more than one identity is for sure much more interesting and wild. Nevertheless, it is a heavy job. Some time you need to take a break and search for a place you could lay down at least one of those identities for a while.
What I thought was interesting most of all though, was that even raised in a Jewish home, dating a Jewish guy and dealing with Jewish topics in her material, Natascha still bases her Jewish cultural back-ground on the Israeli one. Practicing her Judaism came more in a form of listening to Idan Reichel rather than to Yiddish songs, and loving shakshuka more than latkes.
*Natacsa’s graduation film “Lost and found” (that takes place in Tel-Aviv) is now on post-production.