The issue of Jewish identity Essay

The issue of Jewish identity, 501 words essay example

Essay Topic: issue, identity

For my family, the debate of Jewish identity is a governing part of our lives. My parents are Israeli and I grew up in a largely Israeli bubble. I spoke Hebrew before English and spent most of my summers with my family in Israel. For that matter, I have always felt at an arm's length from all the American Jews I've encountered in my life. Combining my Iraqi-Jewish traditions with the traditions of the American-Jews was a struggle for me because I had to change certain aspects of my culture in order to feel more connected to my community, or rather, within my community, as a person who fit. In American culture today the Jewish experience is presented in a way that is very uniform. In reality, the Jewish experience is diverse.
Immigrants' shifts from Jewish to American customs were a complete culture shock. Jewish immigrants were slowly detached from their homeland by shedding the qualities that retained their European identities like having to eat non-kosher foods and shave their beards. Their appearance and customs made adjustments and acceptance into a new culture and environment very difficult that they personally wrote letters to receive advice on how to better their transition. However, through this discrimination and harassment, the Jews came together to embrace their inner culture and make themselves known as a strong community within their new American-Jewish lifestyle.
The letters of the Bintel Brief better connected my sense of the realities that comprise life as a Jew as well as helped me, a modern reader, re-examine my own connection to Jewish history. They guided me to a sense of clarity by revealing the problems that plagued the Jewish people throughout the tough times of immigration. The letters examine the gradual process of adaptation to American life and the formidable struggles of the working class. I asked myself questions as I unraveled the narratives of the Jewish lens. What hopes did Jewish immigrants have for life in America? Were their expectations met? What did the letters reveal about what it truly means to be a Jew? What did it mean to be a Jew or even an American during this time? To me, the purpose of this book was defined through these questions, and each person's experience with these narratives is defined by the myriad answers to these questions.
The diversity of the American-Jewish society and the phases of adjustments all cloud the definition of what it means to be Jewish. In that case, it becomes harder to identify who really is Jewish or of Jewish descent. Since assimilation was such a difficult process, some no longer identify themselves as Jewish. The fact that they are "of Jewish descent" is probably the most they consider themselves due to his/her faith. By questioning their identity, these Jews translate their narratives into a new path differently. An issue arises with traditionalists are these individuals considered or even looked at as Jews, despite their personal preferences to disband themselves from their Jewish identity?

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