Jews vs Judaism

Among all the words in all the languages, there is none like “Jew.” For every other word, there is a definition that distinguishes the entity defined from all other entities. But for “Jew,” the words where such a definition should be, don’t distinguish Jew from goy. A Christian, for instance, is one who practices Christianity, as a Muslim practices Islam, and a Hindu Hinduism, and so on for all the religions except Judaism. A Jew may practice Judaism, but may just as well practice any other religion or no religion at all. A Jew can be of any race, ethnicity, nationality, or tradition. A Jew may speak Hebrew or Yiddish or neither. A Jew can adhere to any political creed, including that of the Nazi party. A Jew is anyone who chooses to identify as a Jew. This imprecision creates a problem: What do we call a person who practices Judaism? The word for this person exists, but is little used: “Judaist.” I suggest we revive it.

A Judaist is one who practices Judaism. But what is Judaism? From 135CE, the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt, to 1914, the end of the “Fiddler on the Roof” era, every Jew, at least, knew this answer. Judaists believe in one God (Deut. 6:4), and aspire to love that God wholeheartedly (Deut. 6:5) and all people as self (Lev. 19:18 & 19:34). Jesus made this definition famous (Matt. 22: 34-40). But Hillel and Akiva shortened it to the Golden Rule: Practice Judaism by treating others as you want to be treated. Why do you think they shortened it? I suspect it was to emphasize action. Anyone can say they love God wholeheartedly, but the only way to actually do it is to treat others as self. Why is that? Look at the words: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and thy whole soul and thy whole strength.” That doesn’t leave room to love anything that isn’t God. So, when God commands “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” neighbor and self must be part of God. And when God commands, “Love the stranger as thyself,” neighbor must include all people. But God is one, so self and other must be one. The individual self is an illusion. When you love your true self, you also love mine and everyone else’s and we all are one, as God is one. It’s the path to justice and peace.

From 135CE to 1914, Jews were poor and despised, and they practiced Judaism as a means to hope and purpose. I call this long era the Golden Age of Judaism. It was dominated by the Golden Rule. But this Golden Age ended when Judaists began to compete for wealth and organize for violence. They began to compete when they left the ghettos and shtetls for America and Israel. They organized for violence in World War I as British Jewish Battalions and, then, as resistance to the British occupation of Palestine, and the Nazis persecution and, ultimately, as the Israel Defense Force. The embrace of competition and violence marked a sea-change in Judaist thinking because both are incompatible with the Golden Rule, as no one wants to be a victim of either. But Jews got rich from this sea change and now rank among the richest groups ( They traded the Judaism of their ancestors for some modified version, Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform in America, and ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, or non-Orthodox in Israel. They keep rituals to varying degrees, but abandoned the Golden Rule as their guiding moral principle. They’re all Jews, certainly, if they choose to call themselves by that name, but are they Judaists, when their brand of Judaism would be unacceptable to Hillel, Akiva, Jesus, and the Judaists of that long Golden age?

There’s a price to saying “yes.” We’ll lose the Judaism that empowered Jewish survival against fiercest oppression, and just at the time when human survival is most threatened. I vote “no.” Reserve Judaist for those who adopt the Golden Rule as their guiding moral principle. Whether they be Jew or goy, Orthodox or other, they are a blessing to all (Gen 12:2) and a light unto the nations (Isaiah 42:6), and the best chance for continued survival of our species.

About the Author
Doug Dix, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor at the University of Hartford and Secretary/Treasurer of MOMS: The Fund for Mothers with Young Children. He's been married to Rosenbloom Cohen for 53 years and is father of seven, and grandfather of thirteen children. He teaches that the family that matters is the ONE we all belong to and offers a blueprint for building that family. This blueprint is based on the Golden Rule, Tikkun Olam, and rejuvenated, evidence-based, Judaism. For 3,000 years, Judaism was the glue that held Jews together and empowered them to survive in the face of fiercest oppression. Now this most ancient religion is endangered, not by enemies, but by Jewish affluence. Israel ranks now among the richest and least religious nations of the world. It's lost its purpose, i.e., to be a blessing to all and a light to the nations (Gen, 22:18, Isaiah 42:6). I will blog to restore this holy mission to Judaism and Judaism to Israel by repairing the world. See "The Health and Wealth of Nations" in current issue of Advance Research Journal of Medical and Clinical Science at link in "How Do You Know" above.
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