Last Week for The Elephant in the Room!

There’s still time to get your essay in for the Elephant in the Room contest; the deadline’s October 7th, so be sure to send in your essay. To inspire you, here are a few more of our favorite passages:

“Now, in my humble opinion, a belief in G-d is central to a full appreciation and understanding of what it means to be a Jew, and is essential to the completion of a person’s mission in this world. And I feel this way for reasons that may or not make any sense or difference to anyone else. I never ask anyone to feel as I do – I just try and live my life as a reflection of my beliefs, and let things fall as they may.

But if you do not have that belief for whatever reason (right now, hopefully, as opposed to ‘forever’), that does not make you less of a Jew. There is nothing that can change that – a person is a Jew forever, no matter how hard he fights to the contrary (and some fight very, very hard).”

“So to be Jewish without a belief in G-d? In my opinion it’s unfortunate and a person is missing out. But that doesn’t make one less Jewish.”

- Philip Setnik

“I’ve been Jewish all of my life, and I’ve never had a belief in God. Being Jewish without God means being part of a historic family, living in the cadence of the Jewish annual and life cycles, and enjoying our status of being different than the mainstream. Over time, more traditional Jews have asked me, ‘What’s the point of being Jewish [if you don’t believe in God]?’ My response: it’s fun, it’s pleasurable.”

“I met my husband in politics. He was (and still is!) Jewish, raised traditionally but happy to leave that behind. We were married by Rabbi Sherwin Wine, founder of the Birmingham Temple in suburban Detroit and of the Humanistic Jewish movement. Having a rabbi pleased my husband’s parents, while having no mention of God in the service pleased me and my family.”

“In summary, I’m happy and proud to be a Jew without belief in a deity. I’m happy to be part of a movement where ‘we say what we mean, and mean what we say,’ with no pretense. We welcome everyone who feels the same way to join us. As I’ve said, it’s fun!“

- Patty Becker

“Being Jewish Without God? The question never came up!”

“Oh, we did have a kosher home. … Being kosher was chicken soup and Fridays and holidays with the whole family: My mother lighting candles on the white tablecloth, my father chanting in Hebrew and then drinking schnapps!”

“When my father died I did what other Jews did, I went to schul to say yiskor and I carefully read the section in English in the prayer book… and then I read it again.  Nowhere did it mention my father or that he candled his own eggs or told silly jokes or smoked camel cigarettes… it did not mention his name or that he put ketchup in his chicken soup… that was the last prayer I ever read. I was 10 years old.”

“The question of god never came up.  If there was a question it was ‘why did my father put ketchup in his chicken soup?’“

- Marilyn Rowens

“Fundamentally, this is not a Jewish question … A Jewish question is: What does God expect of me? … Jewish questions are: What gives meaning and purpose to life? How do I create holiness in my life?  How do I live the Covenantal Relationship?”

“Belief is the architecture of soul, and I am its designer – at least I think I am, hoping it’s OK with God, on a good day, as far as I know. It’s a buddy system; hard to get lost.”

“I don’t know about God; I’m still trying to believe in myself.”

- Moshe Dann

“I write this essay as a Jew who not only believes in God, but whose daily life is centered in God and spirituality. I wanted to step into the shoes of a Jew who does not believe in God, to transcend the either/or polarizing paradigm that has caused such acrimony and fracturing not only among Jews, but also between Jews and non-Jews. By imagining what it would feel like to be Jewish without believing in God, perhaps I can cultivate compassion and understanding in order to offer a new framework for embracing our theological and political differences with kindness and respect.”

“I welcome opportunities to talk openly with my Jewish friends, relatives, clients and colleagues about how they experience their Jewishness when they do not believe in God. I genuinely want to learn about how they translate the God-language into something that works for them.”

“Hostile, polarizing modes of communication don’t work for anyone. We can learn to listen from the heart, to ask questions that foster connection and understanding.”

- Karen Erlichman

“My relationship with God ended before it began. At age eight, I asked my mother, an airspace engineer at a Soviet military plant that built jet engines, whether God lived up in the sky. ‘People thought so in the old times,’ she explained. ‘Before we flew planes and learned the sky was layers of air.’”

“Despite the godless Communist upbringing, my family was fiercely Jewish, which in the USSR meant upholding your cultural identity while being mocked for your non-Slavic appearance or having your college exam answers altered to a failing grade.”

“When dubbed a Russian in America, I furiously protested. I was Jewish, no questions about it! No, I didn’t belong to a congregation for I couldn’t pray. No, I didn’t fast on Yom Kippur for I didn’t believe in atonement for one’s sins. But I believed in remembering my deceased grandparents and naming my children in their memory … My Brooklyn-born son wanted a Bar-Mitzvah and chose to take his Hebrew lessons with a young conservative rabbi. …  My fellow Semites were praying for my mensch to be a good Jew, an honest Jew and a happy Jew. And while I couldn’t join them in their petition, I bowed and thanked them silently.  An atheist among believers, I was nonetheless Jewish, and thus, I belonged.”

- Lina Zeldovich

One response to “Last Week for The Elephant in the Room!

  1. I grew up Jewish in an non-believing family. We were atheists in the same way that people who don’t believe in unicorns don’t think about it much, We always knew we were Jewish growing up in parts of the world that are Christian or Muslim – most who believed in God. I guess you could say I was lucky to see others as my friends and neighbors – and not as some antagonistic religious force. The modern term is probably “diversity”.

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