The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Jewish Thoughts in post Soviet Russia

Growing up everyone was Jewish.
Well, almost everyone . . .
I mean there were Koreans –they lived near my school

There were the Chinese –I always liked Chinese food and the occasional trip to China town.
There were African Americans –Martin Luther King Day and all . . .
And in Los Angeles there were the ubiquitous Latinos . . . Mexicans, El Salvadorians and Guatemalans.
They, perhaps, weren't Jewish . . .

But I mean, everyone else, they were Jewish . . .
After all, I went to a Jewish school as a small child (perhaps
at some other time I’ll go into further length about my childhood), my friends
were Jewish, and I lived near Jews –Russian Jews . . .
Ok . . . so the whole world wasn’t Jewish, but at least the
whole Russia was . . . if there was anyone left there at least –for it seemed that
they had all moved to L.A- My family, which was Jewish, came from "Russia", my
Russian friends were Jewish, and the ladies who ran the ‘Ukrainian Market’ on
the corner were Jewish . .

I grew up and realized that not everyone was Jewish, not even all the Russians were Jewish.

 Last Shabbos we made a Farbrengen with G. and the Karkafta as well as another Shabbos
guest of ours . . .
The Karkafta asked
about the difference between a Jewish marriage and non-Jewish weddings (In his
case a Gypsy wedding, as his father is Gypsy . . . errr, to be P.C. . . . Roma.)
We spoke about what it means to marry a Jew, the importance
of it etc. and in the course of our conversation the question of conversion
came up. Much to my surprise not only the Karkafta,
but G. as well felt that it was impossible for a non Jew to become Jewish.

“It’s very simple,” I explained, “A convert has a Jewish soul, he need only go through the process
to reveal it.”

“But if he doesn’t have Jewish blood, how can he have a Jewish soul? If he is Russian, then he is Russian –not Jewish.”

Try as I might, they didn’t seem to understand how person

who isn’t Jewish could convert . . .

I think I’ve come upon the source of the problem. 
In the Soviet Union a Jew was a race, like a Pole, Ukrainian,
Lithuanian, Georgian, Chechen, Tajik or any other of the innumerable other racial groups and sub-groups found in Russia.                     

Judaism wasn’t a religion –that the Communists made sure of- it was a race.
How could someone convert to a race?
This was the Judaism that they grew up with.

Born in Los Angeles, as an Americait seemed to be the opposite . . .
a Korean, a Chinese person, an African American, a Latino . . . all of them are Americans, if not they can become.
Being Jewish wasn’t a race, it was a vague existence that I just was. If I could just be a Jew,
why couldn’t everyone else just be a Jew as well?

Even the Russians,
Especially the Russians . . .
After all wasn't everyone with a last name that ended with 'ovich Jewish?


california said...

My how I can relate.
Very good observations Mordechai!
Being in California though does really make you feel like everyone is Jewish, or at least everyone who's a someone...
Our names are everywhere, donators of hospitals, museums, etc., we own the top companies, rule the movie and television industry, and seem to just about be everywhere.
You go to a store and 60% of the time there are other ppl there shopping who are also Jewish-not frum but still Jewish!
It's a pretty interesting existence out here...

Sefirah said...

i disagree. I don't feel that everyone around me is jewish, especially 60%. When i walk into a store, i feel that maybe 10% are jewish. My school for sure, Jewish people weren't even considered a 10 Jews tops out of 1700 students. One of the reasons why i want to go to Israel is because out there - everyone is jewish. I feel different out here..

Mottel said...

My feeling that the 'whole world is Jewish' was from when I was a child -perhaps seven or so.

Sefirah, let us not forget how upon seeing a Mission in northern Cali. you asked why there were so many little 'plusses' in the ground (the Cemetery).

california said...

I don't believe that everyone is Jewish, but as I've grown up I see that more and more ppl. are Jewish. The owner of this company, the owner of that foundation, the person who started that hospital, etc. etc. etc...