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American Jew or Jewish American?

Friday, 12 August, 2011 - 2:00 pm

I am often asked what I consider more important, being Jewish or being American?

Truth be told there is no contradiction between the two whatsoever, and I am proud to be both.

I sometimes respond to people by asking, “What is more important to you – being American or being human?”

Ultimately, we cherish our American identity because we love our country. But we cherish our human identity because we are human. If we cease being American, we have lost something dear and critical to who we are. But if we were to cease being human, we would simply cease to exist.

A deeper insight from this week’s parsha might help us understand this.

The Midrash relates that Moshe said to G-d: Master of the Universe! Joseph's bones are entering the Land, and I shall not enter?

Said G-d to him: He who admitted to his land, is buried in his land; and he who did not admit to his land, shall not be buried in his land. Joseph admitted to his land when his mistress said (Genesis 39:14), "See, they have brought us a Hebrew man..." and he did not deny it; on the contrary, he said (ibid., 40:15), "I was abducted from the land of the Hebrews." Therefore, he shall be buried in his land. You, however, did not admit to your land, when the daughters of Jethro said (Exodus 2:19), "An Egyptian man rescued us from the shepherds," and you heard this and was silent. Therefore, "you shall not cross this Jordan."

Yes, Moshe was an Egyptian – after all that’s where he was born and bred. But that identity was only something appended to his essence. A Jew’s essence is something inseparable from his/her being. Just as I cannot forfeit my humanity, I cannot forfeit my Jewishness.

As the saying goes, once a Jew, always a Jew.

Let’s celebrate our Jewishness. Proudly.

Comments on: American Jew or Jewish American?

TJ Thompson wrote...

I really enjoyed this article. It is important that we be always ready to acknowledge who Hashem made us to be. The covenant comes not without responsibility.