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Sunday, December 2, 2007



According to my on-line Webster's dictionary, Racism means:

1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

The same dictionary defines race as:
a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits

Recently, someone called a Yeshiva (a Jewish religious school) "racist" because they didn't want to admit students who weren't Jewish.

I guess the people who did this didn't know what "racist" means or that a policy of a Yeshiva to not admit non-Jewish students didn't mean it wasn't admitting African American or Eastern Asian or even Native American people. Or perhaps these people were being racist to assume that all Jews are Caucasian. As a matter of fact, at my synagogue this morning, I saw people whom I know who are in at least 2 of those three previous categories.

So why was this school accused of racism? I don't know. It makes almost as much sense as calling Israel "racist". If you were to walk through the streets of Israel, you would see people from every race. Israel has admitted people from just about every country in the world, Jews and Gentiles. Israel makes no distinction when it comes to admitting people. (A list of the groups of people who have made Israel their home would include Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Baha'i -- it would also include Ethiopian Jews and Gentiles, Vietnamese Boat People and Black Hebrews.)

Catholic schools (or other religious schools) would, by contrast, not have an issue with admitting Jewish students. This is because they see their school as a way to convert others to their religious beliefs. Since we as Jews aren't trying to convert others, we see Gentile students in our school as "people who are trying to convert our children to their religion" and this is something we are trying to avoid by sending our children to Yeshivot (plural of Yeshiva).

I have noticed that people, especially people who hate, have a tendency to accuse others of doing what they do, for example, if you are a liar, you think everyone is a liar. There was a basketball player who a few years back made a nasty comment about Jews, accusing us of trying to convert everyone to Judaism! I'm sure that any of you who either are converts to Judaism, have friends (or relatives) who are converts or are in the process of converting would have a major chuckle about that. The ironies of this statement are many, but the two most glaring ironies are:

1) Jews not only don't encourage people to convert to Judaism, we try to discourage them -- we know it's harder to be Jewish and we don't want someone to go from being a good Gentile (who is responsible for the 7 Noahide laws) to being a no-so-good Jew (who is responsible for 613 laws, including keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat and keeping the family purity laws, none of which are required of Gentiles). This, in our world view, is not good for a person's souls and we don't want to adversely affect a person's soul.

2) Over the Centuries, people of other religions have tried to convert us to their religions. This includes the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Roman pagans, the Roman Christians, Muslims, the Catholic Church, the Spanish Inquisition, Martin Luther, Jews for J***s and other fundamentalist Christians nowadays. This list is by no means complete, just a quick overview. Many of the groups on that list used coercion including convert of die! strategies (and many Jews did die rather than convert).

It is the same logic (or lack thereof) that leads people to call Jews (and, by extension, Israel) "racist". They are just reflecting their own prejudices and presuming that we hold these prejudices too.

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