My Jewish Problem, Cte’d: The Exclusivity Issue

The Forward strikes a blow for inclusiveness, and calls David Beckham “probably the greatest Jewish soccer player ever.” It does so (because he is a star, yes, but) because he has 1 Jewish grandparent, and probably too because he and his wife have embraced Kabbalist practices.

Compare to Maya Gottfried’s experience. Gottfried, who has 2 Jewish grandparents, is a contributor to the new book Half/Life: Jew-ish Tales From Interfaith Homes. She read from her essay “Untitled,” Thursday night at Makor. She described going to a Passover seder at which a rabbi’s wife kept saying to her, “You’re not Jewish,” even as Gottfried, who was on a spiritual path and trying to explore her Jewishness, explained that her father was Jewish. Up till then, Gottfried had felt that she had “the best of both worlds.” She walked away feeling that she “was nothing.” The experience of feeling rejected was an important step in Gottfried’s ultimate decision to be baptized as a Christian.

And the answer is No! to those vicious readers who say, You hate your Jewish background, why don’t you convert like Maya Gottfried. I love my Jewish background. I love my scientist father and artist mother, I love my thinking sensitive fairness-loving Jewish DNA. I have always loathed my tribe’s air of sanctified exclusivity, as I loathed that air among WASPs. The air that sent Gottfried tumbling the other way. God bless the Forward, god bless Gottfried, god bless America.

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