Friday, February 04, 2011

Not a Jew

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 2/4/11

In “Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance – and Why They Fall” by Amy Chua – that Tiger Mom in an age of penguins – I was struck that in the introduction, she referred to her husband as a “Jewish American.” I was an “Irish-American” in the days of Geraldine (“It’s my turn!”) Ferraro, an “Italian-American” who was Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984. There were Afro-Americans and WASPS (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) and Newyoricans (playwright Miguel Pinero and Justice Sonia Sotomayer) but Jews were just Jews. I’d only heard the expression “Jewish American” once before, years back when a Congresswoman awkwardly referred to some of her constituents as “Jewish Americans.” Commentator David Brooks got a laugh out of it saying, “I used to be a Jew. Now I’m a ‘Jewish American.’” But maybe Chua’s characterization is the better one for our times. Technically, as I understand it, you are a Jew if your mother was a Jew. But hypothetically, if you live in Brooklyn and support Hamas, if you don’t believe in God, if you married a Muslim woman and were married by Bill Clinton who also performed the bris on your first born, are you still a Jew?

It is a rising question and an important one. I’ve spoken to Jerusalem psychologists and corresponded with Israeli leaders about it suggesting that American Jews today yield to the classic anthropology of any other immigrant group. After three generations, you are no longer Irish-America. You are American. But American Jews have an option. They can make aliyah to Israel and end the exile. Or they can stay here and be Americans. We the former Irish cannot do that because when we left Ireland it changed forever and that which once was, no longer exists.

It is an existential question and Haaretz reports yesterday that the Interior Ministry and the Jewish Agency rejected a request from singer Barbra Streisand's cousin to come and live in Israel. Dale Streisand, 57, was reportedly refused new immigrant status on the grounds that his Facebook profile indicated he had been involved in Christian missionary activity in the past.

Nir Hasson reports that that Dale Streisand’s application had been rejected because he believes that Jesus is the messiah. Evidence of this, they told him, was found on his Facebook profile in the form of a link to a Christian missionary website. Streisand also told Haaretz that he is a newly Orthodox Jew, is studying Torah and that he wants to live in Israel and raise his children there.

According to the Law of Return, the interior minister may deny a Jewish person the right to immigrate if they have a criminal record, endanger public health or state security, or if they "work against the Jewish people." The High Court of Justice has in the past upheld the decision not to grant immigrant status to a Jewish person who has been proven to have converted.

The Jewish Agency released a statement saying the Interior Ministry determines individuals' right to immigrate according to the Law of Return. The ministry added that the right to immigrate is determined by Israel's Law of Return.

I never liked being an Irish-American. Brought to mind that Niels Bohr equation. How does that go? You can be a Particle or you can be a Wave, but you can’t be a Particle and a Wave at the same time. Better to be an American. Or a Jew.

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