Friday, March 23, 2012
On Europe, Judaism,...on Identity
This post has nothing at all to do with Spain, except for the fact that having lived here now for almost 6 years means that a substantial part of my sense of who I am comes from “being" in Spain over this time.
It would be more accurate to say that I feel somewhat “European” rather than Spanish or Catalan.
When events happen in France, Portugal, Italy or even Greece it seems to me that they are close. And because they seem close, they are relevant to my understanding of where I have been eating, sleeping, working and drawing breath for over half a decade.
Since, I first set foot in France in 1994 and then spent over 3 months travelling through Western Europe and a small part of Eastern Europe, the concept of Europe as an entity, to me is undeniable.
So, if I am at least partly “European” then what else am I?
I suppose I am Australian because the bulk of the first 30 years of my life were spent growing up there but I have barely related to that very distant place for a long, long time.
I have more of my heart in Japan because I strived and thrived through 3 years there, including the birth of our only child.
Identity can be simple, but for someone like me, it is a hugely complicated question.
Another important part of me is, to my eternal confusion and delight, Jewish. I think being [somehow] Jewish should be a very wide and open terminology.
Even a long time atheist like myself should be able to identify themself, as at least partly Jewish in the same way that many people think of themselves as being from any ethnic group, even if they are only, say 1/8 aborigine, Inuit, or native American "Indian."
I KNOW that a part of me is Jewish because my mother's ancestors were Jewish because they had a Jewish name.
I just don't know if they practised the religion at all because they, like some other Jews, seemingly denied it, wishing to assimilate into a mainstream Christian society. They got married in Christian churches and were buried in the Christian sections of the cemetry. If that means, in a strict sense that they were not Jews, then so be it.
Does that make me less of a Jew than Jerry Seinfeld or Golda Meir? Of course it does. But does it mean that I shouldn't feel a degree of "Jewishness?"
Here, I say no.
I understand Judaism on a number of important levels, but perhaps the most significant level is in the gut or the collective memory. I am suspicious of groupings and group-think but I get a strong sense of being somewhat Jewish when Jews are mocked or belittled.
Almost all of my closest male friends in the last 10 years or so have been Jewish. Is this a coincidence? I doubt it.
Strangely though, I did not know that any of them were Jewish when our friendships formed. I just felt an affinity with them — sharing many common interests and abilities and mutual temperaments, on the whole.
I know precious little about the Torah or Jewish religous rites and customs, so in this sense I am no Jew at all. But I have so many Jewish memes and Jewish traits that I would be disregarding clear signs of being fractionally Jewish.
What a “mixed race” mongrel am I!