Friday, October 1, 2004


“I am Jewish”




As I do from time to time, I am looking for your help in developing this year’s High Holidays themes. 


Recalling that the last words on journalist Daniel Pearl’s lips before his brutal murder were “I am Jewish,” and knowing that Pearl’s killing in 2002 was a precurser to innumerable grisley murders of hostages that have taken place since then, way pay tribute to Pearl and other victims:


The topic is: “I am Jewish”  I would like to collect your thoughts on what it means for you to be a Jew, in the hopes of sharing some of them with the congregation on the upcoming Days of Awe, as well as on our web site.  This invitation goes out to all ages and to everyone directly or indirectly connected to our TBE family.  In fact, this would be a wonderful dinner-table discussion to have with your family, and then you can send in a collective response.  If you would like to participate in this “family album” reflections on “I am Jewish,” please e-mail your responses to me directly at  While e-mail is preferred, if you do not have access to e-mail, do feel free to send your replies the old fashioned way… by fax :-) or yes, even snail mail.  There is no limit on length.  Anything from a single word to a book. 


I will assume that by submitting this, you are giving me permission to quote from it publicly or include it, with attribution on our web site.  If you would prefer that your response remain anonymous for some reason, please indicate that.


Thank you in advance, and L’Shana Tova!


And here are the responses….



It might sound silly, but to me, being Jewish means that we (the Jewish people) are winning and the anti-semites are losing.  So many nations have wanted to rid themselves of us and we are still standing and thriving!  What a strong people we are! 


Linda Braun



Being Jewish is:


Knowing who I am, spiritually


Where I belong, physically


What to believe in, emotionally


Judaism is not only a religion, it is a way of life and I am always so proud to proclaim who I am. 


Darlene Hornstein




What does it mean to (want to) be a Jew?


Well, as a non-Jew, but one who loves receiving your newletter, and who has

tried to teach myself Hebrew and follow Jewish customs on my own (please

don't call me a Noahide...yuck!) for many years, I must try to set an

example for the rest of the world.  I must realize that even though I wasn't

born a Jew, there is every possibility that my ancestors might have been...

and then strayed, that those who are Jewish now might have had ancestors who

weren't but who converted.  That there are forces in the world that are

contrary to right living, and that the way I carry on my life can affect and

alter those forces, whether individually and collectively.  In any event, I

must support Jewish people in all that I do...not people who claim to be

Jewish, but those who live, or at least try to live Jewish lives.


The reality of my life is that I know I'll never really be "Jewish".  As

Popey says: "I 'yam what I 'yam...and that's all that I 'yam".


Best to you,


Thomas T. Klugh



Being Jewish gives me: an incredible sense of community..of oneness..of  wholeness..of feeling at home anywhere in the world when attending services and reading the Hebrew in the prayerbook regardless of the language being spoken within and about the prayers.. that overwhelming sense of pride, joy, and sadness at landing in Israel and knowing I've come home..a sense of comfort at being able to light Shabbat candles and say the Kiddush and other blessings and know millions of people are doing or have done the same things in similar fashion at that moment and throughout the ages..a love of the foods, smells, and memories associated with each holiday.. an awareness of knowing deep down that you always have to be on guard against too much complacency..a  reminder that sadness and joy are part of life and it is impossible to eliminate either from one's ability to be grateful for what I have and an awareness that not everyone is so lucky..a truly amazing sense of gratitude for loving family, wonderful friends, wise teachers, and a rich culture and history that is vibrant and alive...

Gmar hatima tova to all...


Scott Allen



I read this e-mail right before putting Keren and Amitan to bed. So I decided to ask them what it means to them to be Jewish.  It’s interesting they both had a similar theme revolving around Mitzvot and kindness:


Keren said " To be Jewish means to be kind, not mean, not to lie or bully people.  Its important to show God you are a nice person by helping others and doing mitzvot."


Amitan said "Judaism = Harmony + Peace". I asked him what he meant by that and he replied " Judaism is not about killing and war. By following Torah, being nice, doing mitzvot, good deads and charity, by thinking about others... this leads to world peace and harmony"....


If only it was that simple!


Roz Rubin



What does it mean to be Jewish?


To be born a Jew (or to have converted), and to practice Judaism at least at

some minimal level, and not to have repudiated Judaism in favor of one of

its competitors.  To believe in no more than one deity, and preferably no



Michael Lewyn




Being Jewish to me means being with my family during the holidays, going to synagogue, and resting on Shabbat. It also means supporting the Jewish people in Israel by going there and showing that I care.


I also feel a sense of community with fellow Jews here at the Miami U. Hillel and at home at Beth El. That is the best part of being Jewish to me.


Andy Bailer




Being Jewish goes beyond knowing that on Yom Kippur there are millions of Jews praying just as I am in synagogues around the world all at once - like the "May The Lord Protect You" candlelighting scene from Fiddler on the roof.  It goes beyond knowing that we're connected back to so many prior generations that Jeff's cells contain the same DNA as the original Mr. Kohen.  Being Jewish is more than eating matza on Passover and chocolate money on Hanukkah.


It's about knowing that wherever I go, there will be at least one person who knows my cousin or my childhood best friend or my USY President brother. Being Jewish means one big community separated by oceans.


It's about questioning things, unpeeling layers of truth, interpreting - just as we are led to dissect Torah.  Being Jewish means not being content with the status quo if that status quo is malevolent, misguided - or otherwise causes others to suffer. It's hiding in caves to learn Torah, or secretly praying in concentration camp barracks at risk of death.  It's retaining strength and dignity through the most inhumane conditions and growing strong enough to lead the world in medical and technological breakthroughs. 


And finally, Being Jewish means that even though throughout the centuries the world has tried to wipe us out, we're still here.


Malerie Yolen-Cohen



I love being Jewish!

I look upon the Tree of Life with all its branches:

One is kindness

One is study, and

One is good deeds.

This is all I need to

Live my Life


Marlyn Agatstein



For me being Jewish means:


1)            Feeling safe (knowing there is only light at the end of the journey)

2)            Inspired (Israel)


Kathy Paseltiner



JEWISH to me is all about TRADITION, as my parents both passed on this past year.

Caren Wiener


I am very proud to be a Jew and try to live a religious life.  Well over half my existence has been lived but I am always trying to improve myself by study and life experiences within Judaism.  I wish I could impress Jews who have turned away from their faith to return, our numbers are falling and we need them.

Carol Sander




I am a Jew because my faith demands no abdication of the mind.


I am a Jew because my faith demands all the devotion of my heart.


I am a Jew because wherever there is suffering, the Jew weeps.


I am a Jew because wherever there is despair, the Jew hopes.


I am a Jew because the message of our faith is the oldest and the newest.


I am a Jew because the promise of our faith is a universal promise.


I am a Jew because for the Jew the world is not completed; people must complete it.


I am a Jew because for the Jew humanity is not fully created; people must complete it.


I am a Jew because the faith of the people Israel places humanity above nations, above Judaism itself.


I am a Jew because the faith of the people Israel places above humanity, the image of the divine, the Oneness of G-d.


Submitted by Judy Schneiderman, from the Siddur



To me, being Jewish means forwarding our deep tradition of self-transformation, using ritual and study of Torah to help me to grow into a better and happier person every day.

To me, being Jewish means standing for what’s right and fair to all people, yet not being self-righteous as though we owned some singular “truth”.

To me, being Jewish means being part of a community where we take care of each other and are always seeking ways to help others even outside our community through tzedakah and tikkun olam.

To me, being Jewish means feeling really great and blessed when I bless my children on Shabbat and then watch those with children bless their children.

To me, being Jewish is being proud of the disproportionately great number and quality of contributions and the disproportionately small amount of evil that Jews have given the world.

To me, being Jewish is knowing that whatever I do Jewishly in this modern age has been done for generations and is often being done all over the world, frequently as I am doing it.


Fred Golove




I read the excerpts that people sent you and I want to add another dimension. Being Jewish to me means accepting a certain amount of confusion about religion, politics, ethics, and identity with regard to the world at large, while accepting that confusion,sometimes embracing it, and always striving to  make things better for one's family, community (broadly defined), and self, because it is part of what Judaism involves.


Name withheld upon request


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