I’ve been mulling this question for a while. Now is the time to ask it.
Am I still a Jew?
Let me clarify:
Am I still a Jew for continuing to follow the Reform tradition I was brought up in, despite the fact that I haven’t been to synagogue during the High Holy Days in years?
Am I still a Jew if I don’t like eating the karpas on Passover, as it’s usually, in any home I celebrate Pesach at, parsley—a vegetable I abhor?
Am I still a Jew if I don’t keep kosher and love eating pork and shellfish and fish without scales and beasties without cloven hooves … well-prepared, of course?
Am I still a Jew if I keep a mezuzah by the door to my apartment but sometimes forget to touch it and kiss my hand afterward?
Am I still a Jew if I can’t read Hebrew without the vowels underneath the letters—even though I did exactly that with the Torah during my bar mitzvah so many years ago?
Am I still a Jew if I don’t like any of Woody Allen’s movies since his 1975 comedy Love and Death?
Am I still a Jew if I’ve made my home in New York and have never been to Israel, even though my mother and my grandfather both raised money for the country when it needed it most?
Am I still a Jew if I feel work on Israeli railway stations should be conducted on the Sabbath so as to expedite service and mitigate the potential for train delays in the future?
Am I still a Jew if I don’t agree with everything Benjamin Netanyahu says?
Am I still a Jew if I believe in a two-state solution?
Here’s the answer: Yes.
I’m still a Jew because I love my culture and heritage, despite my disagreement with some of the tenets of my faith.
I’m still a Jew because I admire Israel as a whole and would love to visit and feel comfortable questioning certain policies because I know that no state is perfect and overall, there’s a lot to be proud of.
I’m still a Jew because I’ve dined at the Second Avenue Deli in Manhattan and loved it.
I’m still a Jew because I’m offended at anti-Semitism and can differentiate between legitimate, balanced criticism of the Israeli government and hateful bigotry under the sophistic banner of anti-Zionism.
I’m still a Jew because I believe in Israel’s right to exist and defend itself.
I’m still a Jew because I retain a longing for the land my people originated in, even though I love my country, the United States, as well.
I’m still a Jew because I’ve been called a “kike” and lived to tell about it.
I’m still a Jew because I wanted the interview I conducted as a child with two Auschwitz survivors to be remembered forever—and it will be, thanks to its inclusion in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s collection.
I’m still a Jew because I know that no matter how different folks who share my religion may look, we’re all from the same roots.
I’m still a Jew because I realize that civil, respectful discourse will help get things done in most situations … including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where I hope such conversations will effect a tangible, unbreakable peace.
I’m still a Jew because I was born a Jew and will die a Jew and love being a Jew and will not accept being told I’m not one—whether it’s by anti-Semites adhering to canards such as that espousing any supposed Khazarian ancestry or by individuals more religious than me who don’t believe I’m pious enough.
I’m still a Jew because I remember that poster from Hebrew school that showed the highest level of tzedakah, which involved elevating a needy person until that person is self-sustaining … a goal I’ve never achieved but hope to in my lifetime.
I’m still a Jew because I am, as always, a Jew.
I welcome questions. I realize I’ve asked a lot. But after all, I am a Jew.
I have every right to do so.