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On Being Jewish

I recently met a couple of pretty cool people who, as it turns out, are Jewish. After hanging with them last night something struck me. When speaking with someone who is truly Jewish, not just Jewish if they have to think about it, you’ll hear them say “because I’m a Jew”, “and there I am, a Jew”, or similar phrases to describe some situation they found themselves in. I thought back to all the times I’ve heard these utterances from all the Jews I’ve know, including my father, and I realized that there’s a weight to it that goes far beyond what deity they happen to believe in. Saying “I’m a Jew” and meaning it down to your bones comes with the unspoken weight of thousands of years of being shat upon by every other race, triumphing over it, and surviving through it. It reminds me of that quote from The Matrix when Morpheus was giving his speech in the temple:

I stand before you unafraid. Because I believe something you do not? No. But because I remember. I remember that I am here not because of the path that lies before me, but because of the path that lies behind me.

What’s even more amazing is how this seems to be woven into the core of being Jewish. When they mention it they’re not trying to say “so there!” or point out how hard they’ve had it, but there’s a different quality to the phrase that comes from that. When a Christian says it it feels either totally superficial or that they’re trying to point out how you’re going to go to hell, or how much better they are than you because of how often they pray. Almost none of the Christians I’ve met have any sense of that quiet strength when they mention their faith in passing. It makes me wish I was brought up knowing more about my fathers faith.