The other day I read a post on Facebook by Jonathan Ofir, an expatriate Israeli musician living in Denmark who has recently published a number of excellent, eloquent & well-informed critical writings on Israel/Palestine that I have followed with much appreciation, & I’ve shared quite a few of them. In this post, which also appeared as an article in Mondoweiss, he wrote:
JUST BEFORE LEAVING ISRAEL (I’m on way to airport), I had a little conversation with my nephew aged 7. He asked me whether Denmark was a Christian country. I said that whilst the majority are considered Christians (most of whom don’t go regularly to church), there are people of other religions and faiths. He asked me whether Christians were enemies of Jews, and I said they weren’t. He said that was good, because then he would be enemies with my children, his cousins (who in fact are not Jews). / Then he said he’s not Jewish himself, because he was born in USA…I told him that Judaism is a religion – and here I had to tell him a truth which caused a roaring silence amongst the family bystanders – I told him that a Jew can be born anywhere in the world, because Judaism is a religion and not a nationality… and this is where I was obviously speaking diametrically against the deceit of the State of Israel, in its considering Jews a ‘nation’, […]
Then this morning I read an article in The Guardian by Nick Cohen titled “Why I’m becoming a Jew and why you should, too”. The article began: “It took me 40 years to become a Jew. When I was a child, I wasn’t a Jew and not only because I never went to a synagogue. My father’s family had abandoned their religion so he wasn’t Jewish. More to the point, my mother and my grandmother weren’t Jewish either, so according to orthodox Judaism’s principles of matrilineal descent, it was impossible for me to be a Jew.”
Both Ofir and Cohen define being a Jew as a matter of religion. But it isn’t.
& reading these things I was moved to write the lines above. I know how many people get confused about what being a Jew is, & I hope these lines will help. Because being a Jew is not a matter of religion. Nor is it a matter of nationality.
& I’m going to share them with Jonathan Ofir, because I feel he has misled his young nephew & in the hope that he can correct this in another communication with him. As for Nick Cohen, there are too many other things in his article that I think are way off the mark….