Steve Wenick

What Are You: A Jewish American or An American Jew?

Russian President Vladimir Putin, when asked about the indictments filed against Russian citizens for interference in the 2016 elections, he replied, “Maybe they are not even Russians, but Ukrainians, Tartars or Jews, but with Russian citizenship.”

For my Jewish friends who proudly proclaim, “I am an American first and a Jew second”, let that Putin categorization of ethnicity be a wake-up call. Your declaration of placing nationality over religion is not shared by everyone. I would venture there are millions like Putin around the world who categorize Jews as a separate entity unto itself. If that is not the case then why would Putin not say: Christians and Muslims but with Russian citizenship? To him there are the nationalities of: Russians, Ukrainians, Tartars and yes the nation of Jews.

I had a personal experience along the same lines. I was attending a comparative religion class when the professor asked the national heritage of each of the ten participants. There was the usual mix one might expect: German, English, Scotch-Irish and Italian. When I said that my national heritage was Polish-Ukrainian the professor interjected, “Oh I thought you were Jewish”.

So my fellow coreligionists you may regard yourself as an American first, but for many in the world, you are a Jew who happens to have American citizenship.

About the Author
Since retiring from IBM Steve Wenick has served as a freelance book reviewer for HarperCollins Publishing and Simon & Schuster. His reviews and articles have appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Algemeiner, Jerusalem Online, Philadelphia Inquirer, Attitudes Magazine, and The Jewish Voice of Southern New Jersey. Steve and his wife are residents of Voorhees, New Jersey.
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