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Jewdaism and Battered Skulls

Jewdaism and Battered Skulls


There is no label more sinister than the 'ism.' Isms are no more than a plot of the same simple-minded people who designed bank account application forms and medical waiting rooms to make neat little boxes in which to suffocate the ideas of those who actually dare think for themselves.

Yet there is one ism—one that I previously maligned, attacked and bashed—that I now realize can be redeemed.

You will note that the prefix of most isms is whatever those ismites are purported to believe in. Buddhism, Taoism, Mohammedism, Christianity (itys are a peculiar form of ism), industrialism, materialism, spiritualism, post-modernism, antidisestablishmentarianism... all follow the same pattern.

What do Jews believe in? G‑d? Moses? The power of guilt?

Take a look at their ism. Jews believe in the Jewish people.

I can already hear the rant: "Judaism is about monotheism, revelation and divine justice! Judaism is about Torah and mitzvahs! Judaism is about holocaust commemoration and fighting anti-Semitism! This Freeman heretic has gone too far!"

Back up two meters. Why do we believe that G‑d gave us the Torah and told us to keep it? Because it makes sense? Because it makes life more convenient? We believe for only one reason: Because the Jewish People say it happened.

How about G‑d? Does G‑d make sense? Those who say He does certainly don't know the Jewish G‑d—an infinite, boundless entity-that-isn't-really-an-entity that is very concerned over world peace, black leather boxes and what I'm putting in my salami sandwich.

Where did we get such a G‑d from? Certainly not out of philosophy. There's only one explanation: Because this is the experience of the Jewish People. "From the east to the west," the Talmud says, "all nations know there is one G‑d. But wherever the Jewish People have been, they know He has something to do with this world."

Yes, Maimonides tells us that "the foundation of foundations and the pillar of wisdom" is, in short, G‑d. But before you can lay a foundation, you need something else: A plot of land. The Jewish People, then, are the Jewish G‑d's real estate.

Why am I bringing this up now? Because now, this is what's on the line. There was a time when G‑d was under attack. There was a time when Torah and mitzvahs were under attack. Plenty of damage was done, but the Jewish People survived—and even flourished in some ways from the challenge. Difficult as it may have been, we were able to sustain a community and even return to our homeland and establish ourselves there while bickering with one another about the veracity of monotheism and Torah.

But now, it's not Torah, not G‑d, but we ourselves who are at stake. Now they have begun to chisel away, no, smash and shatter, the very idea that we are a people, a single, integral whole.

Now it has become okay for Jews to demonize, disengage, dehumanize and smash the skulls of fellow Jews. To hate them more than our real enemies. Which is the equivalent of rejecting the very notion that there is a Jewish people at all. We are in mortal danger.

If we are not a people, what on earth are we doing in that land? If we are not a people, what are we doing in existence in the 21st century? If we are not a people, what point is there to Torah, to G‑d, to the messianic ideal, to all the holocaust memorials and anti-defamation leagues—if we ourselves are the anti-Semites?

Who is ripping apart the Jewish People? You imagine I refer to a posse of politicians. No, sadly, it is a joint effort from both sides. It is the fact that there are sides at all. It is the failure of leadership to talk to our youth and say, "Above all and beyond all isms, there is one thing we must transmit to you and you must know: We are one people. They are us and we are them. There are no two sides, just two hands of a single body that are not coordinated too well."

Today's battle is not about G‑d or the holy land or what you put in that salami sandwich. No matter how important those are, none are as important as this. Today's battle is the ultimate battle for Jewish survival. If you believe in the Jewish People, stand up and rant and rave and scream in protest: Jewish skulls, no matter how empty you think they are, are not for smashing and Jewish police, no matter how brutal and savage they have been trained to behave, are Jews and not to be cursed as "Nazis." We are all Jews. Nothing is more sacred.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Hanalah Houston September 1, 2014

Sorry,Tzvi. Isms are still putdowns no matter how you slice it or how you spell it. The word "Judaism" was invented by the early Christians, along with the word "paganism". The one meant, "the ism of the people of Judah" and the other meant "the ism of the pagans". Both were intended to be used to argue that these two "isms" were wrong and that Christianity had "the truth". I.e., both were putdowns, like all "isms".

It is of little use to spell it "Jewdaism". It still means "the ism of the Jews". It still is used as a putdown. I would call it "a Torah lifestyle" or "Jewish worship" or even "a series of questions about how best to serve Gd--whether by 613 mitzvot, by TEN commandments, by the prophetic injunction to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy GD," or by Hillel's "What is hateful to yourself, do not to thy fellow. All else is explanation. Go and learn" (which is a paraphrase of Lev. 19:18, "Love thy neighbor as thyself: I am HaSHEM." Reply

Tzvi Freeman July 24, 2014

For Anonymous in Montreal (Standing with our enemies?) There was a very evil man in Russia, Stalin's right-hand man, a Jew by the name of Lazar Kaganovitch. he oversaw the forced famine of the Ukrainian peasants, by which millions of innocents died. His persecution of his own people, as well, was unbridled.

In Joseph Telushkin's recent book, "Rebbe," he tells a story that has to shake you to the bones.

In 1991, the Rebbe was informed that Kaganovitch was still alive. The Rebbe asked, "Has he done teshuvah?" In other words, "Has he repented?" He was told that there was no sign of remorse.

The Rebbe replied, "He is a very wicked man. But he must do teshuvah." And he sent someone to speak to him, to try to awaken him to teshuvah.

No, we never give up. Reply

Anonymous Montreal July 22, 2014

Standing with our enemies? Rabbi Freeman, I attended a huge pro-Israel rally in Montreal, Canada and heard many speeches of support - one, I'm glad to say, from a Canadian government representative. However, as usual, a group of pro-Palestinians tried to disrupt the rally and among their leaders was a Jew. The press did not report some compelling and insightful remarks from the Canadian government representative (including information he received first hand about how Hamas terrorizes many Palestinians into submission) but was quick to report the Jew's condemnation of Israel. It hurt so much to hear this. How should we approach Jews who stand with our enemies? And how to get the press to report the full truth? Reply

Ann Nunes Houston, Texas March 14, 2007

Jewdaism and comments on article So much here. Non-Jews too.
Start w. "ism"--blanket label for anyeone not in mainstream. "Buddhists" didn't coin word "Buddhism"; ditto other isms. ISM means THEM, THOSE people, those wrong ones. Tzvi rightly rejects the term Judaism. I prefer "Jewish way of life," or the like, to avoid sustaining idea that Jewish life is "other".
2nd, Jews, like other oppressed groups, often divide against one another. When house on fire, residents naturally quarrel as to how best to put it out. We must forgive groups & individuals who fall into this trap. But it IS a trap.
3rd, Don't ask Tzvi to judge the world.
4th, Of course non-Jews matter. Jews= canary in coalmine.
Jews in trouble=>world in trouble.
Jews safe=>world going well.
Gd made Jews "nation of priests" to exist for mitzvot to open humanity's lines of prayer--i.e., to serve humanity.
Jews, in loyalty to Gd and to humanity, must thus be loyal to their Jewish peoplehood which serves humanity and Gd. Reply

Anonymous Saint Petersburg, FL via July 8, 2006

Death of Jewish Conscience In today's western societies, not swimming with the sharks or cutting against the grain may give the "appearance" of the path of least resistance and "safe" but history has repeatedly shown otherwise. Whether one has a Jewish name, nose, affiliation or mannerism, those who hate G-d are threatened by anyone who suggests self-discipline by conscience to a higher authority, and in particular against any Jew. If we stand idly by, doing and saying nothing it is extremely dangerous, because it gives the enemy a false sense of social agreement, which in and of itself gives power to the false premise en masse that "everyone" feels "this" way about "that" issue. The notion of socially acceptable freeomdoes not exist for anyone except for the oppressor. Now is the time to pray and to become politically active and to share with non-Jews who are not aware of the extreme danger to everyone's liberty in the US-founded upon the premise that all men are created in the image of G-d for a G-d purpose Reply

Tzvi Freeman Thornhill, ON February 21, 2006

Author's response II Now, concerning Amona:
Some readers have read into this piece opinions that I did not intend.
I certainly did not intend to place any blame upon the protesters at Amona. On the contrary, "would it be that my portion were with them." As for the small group of young people who hurled concrete projectiles at the police, I cannot judge. If I had seen my family expelled from our home and treated in the inexcusable, reprehensible manner as were the heroes of Gush Katif, I would also have pent up anger inside. It says a lot about Israeli society that there were so few who acted this way.
My point was simply that we must not fall into the trap of returning hatred with hatred. The very fabric of the Jewish people is at stake here. That, above all, must be preserved and it is the duty of leadership in all camps to speak about it. Especially now that certain camps are out intentionally to destroy this. If giving away holy land is destructive, all the more so to call holy Jews "nazis", G-d forbid. Reply

Tzvi Freeman Thornhill, ON February 21, 2006

Author's response First, concerning isms. A reader wrote to me that he was bewildered by my disdain for isms. I responded (in part):

Isms are a wet blanket to free thought. Ideas are liquid, abstract and free-flowing until petrified into the form of dictionary-defined isms.

Isms have been under attack many times before, by philosophers such as Schopenhauer and Popper in their tirades against Hegel and by many other thinking people who simply do not appreciate this over-simplification that the ism suffix is intended to create.

My initial gripe with the ism of Judaism was just that: Judaism was never an ideology of set thoughts and ideas, but more a dialog, with certain underlying premises and guidelines that are close to impossible to define. If someone will begin a sentence with, "Judaism says..." you can be 99% sure that he is wrong already.

Until we use this definition that my article presents, that Judaism is really "Jewdaism." Reply

danielle via February 17, 2006


Robert Mitlin, AP St. Petersburg, USA via February 17, 2006

Tzvi Freeman's article The essence of this is summed up in the last two sentences. "We are all Jews... Nothing is more sacred. Reply

Aharon February 17, 2006

Believe you are mistaken Were the Hellenists not Jews? Yes, but they dropped out, and have no remnants.

It states explicitly that that "your destroyers will emanate from amongst you".

Those politicos and police in Israel, who are engaging in violence against fellow Jews, must be forcefully denounced ! They may not be "Nazis", but they are behaving in a very evil way.

As Moshe Rabbainu said "Evil one, why do you beat your friend". Nuff said. Reply

julia Kochav Yaakov, Israel February 17, 2006

if only it were so easy I enjoy Freeman's writings, but in this case I believe he is oversimplifying the discourse. Amona was an example of political posturing pure and simple. Olmert did not need to dismantle those houses. The Yesha council even offered to dismantle them themselves, in order to avoid confrontation. So when Olmert decided to make a big show and enforce the 'rule of law' (interesting term for an acting prime minister who wasn't elected) with police officers in full riot gear brandishing metal clubs, on horses, water hoses and tear gas, many of whom were not even jewish, did you expect jews who love the land of Israel and the Jewish people with all their hearts and souls, many who experienced the trauma of Gush Katif, to stay at home and not protest? I'm sorry, but there is a time and place to discuss unity and ahavat chinam, but please do not displace the facts with pablum. Reply

Roxanne Perri Aventura, Florida February 16, 2006

Jewdaism and Battered Skulls I agree with jews being for jews and not being against each other - but when the reform jews stop knocking the conservatives and the conservatives stop knocking the orthodox and the orthodox stop knocking the reform then maybe we will have shalom bait.

Everyone thinks he's right but who will embrace all Jews without judgment ? Reply

Joe College Park, MD February 16, 2006

Thank you I have been ranting about this for some time. The next step is that we need to organize. Our enemies are very real and very much at our gates. Our only hope is to hang together. the other option, as Ben Franklin put it, is "that we will surely hang serperately." Reply

Eric S. Kingston North Hollywood, CA February 16, 2006

We Can't Wait!!! Inspired by Tzvi Freeman:

We can't wait to believe in one another.
We can't wait to see that our fellow Jew is not our enemy.
We can't wait to united under the threats of another holocaust.
We can't wait for next year in Jerusalem.

Anonymous SJ, CA via February 15, 2006

this is hurting families too I can't even talk to my own brother about the events in Israel. He says the 'settlers' are as bad as the 'palestinians'. It's very painful. I told him that some of these Jews were acting like kapos. The question is how to even communicate. Reply

Helga Hudspeth February 14, 2006

Re. forgiveness Today I thought: each person who advocates Jewish unity, in spite of the terrible damage done, should know something personal about forgiving the seemingly unforgivable. See, if you can only forgive when it isn't too difficult to do so, your words are empty. But if you have personal experience with forgiving the 'unforgivable,' then and only then do your words amount to anything.

Of course only G-d and you, whoever you are, would know how much your words and your pleas are worth.

Today I also thought, why send in these comments? I'm not Jewish, so who's going to care what I say one way or another? Especially now?

But then I thought how important each person is, both Jew and non-Jew -- and so, here are my comments. Reply

Raizee February 14, 2006

WOOOOOAH!!!! So very right you are. Well said. It's such revealed Divine Providence. I read this article right before I had to go see someone who, yes is a Jew, but no, I do not get along with. Thank G-d, at least for today I can look at this person in a different way due to you strong, well said, and clearly influencial piece. Thank you. Keep uniting the Jewish people so that Mshiach can come tonight!!!!!! AMEN Reply

Frieda Benelyahou Great Neck, NY via February 14, 2006

Jewdaism and battered skulls If us jews dont think about each other no matter how religios you are or you are not nobody is going to think of us , the whole world hate us we only have each other nothing else. so let's help each other as much as we can because noone else will. Reply

Matthew Wpg, Canada February 13, 2006

Amen Beautiful and true. If only this message could be heard by those who imagine themselves on the "two sides" as of late. If only all Jews would always remember this! I pray I always do, and have the courage to remind others. Reply

Kev & Ardie Woods February 13, 2006

And exactly what pattern is that?
"You will note that the prefix of most isms is whatever those ismites are purported to believe in. Buddhism, Taoism, Mohammedism, Christianity (itys are a peculiar form of ism), industrialism, materialism, spiritualism, post-modernism, antidisestablishmentarianism... all follow the same pattern."

We happen to be those "itys," and just as you say "We are all Jews. Nothing is more sacred," we say "We are all people, God's children, nothing is more sacred."

We say it DESPITE so many of our people not behaving as one would hope God's children would behave, just as you say it DESPITE many of your people, now and in the past, not behaving as children of God would or should behave.

What we found in your article is a deep love for your own people, and indifference (perhaps even dislike) for anyone who isn't one of you. Reply