A post to a Muslim Friend

You asked am I a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim?

I am a Jew.

But that answer is not all that simple. Each of these religions are very different things .. as is Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto.  One can be a Jew and a Buddhist.  A Jew can believe many things and still be a Jew as long as she or he does not deny our existence by accepting some religion .. like Christianity .. that denies our root as Jews.

Jews are a people, one of the few with a root going back to the dim origins of civilization. Others like us include the Hindus and the Chinese.  Like the Chinese and the Hindus we have a text that is very ancient … going back to pre-history.  That text is a legacy of the fact that these three civilizations have been literate not for just a few hundreds of years but for millennia.

There is another property of these three peoples that distinguishes us from other peoples, our roots have not been cut off from the modern tree by an evangelical invader who replaced that root with foreign belief.  Look at the Greeks and the Norse. They too have ancient writings but their roots were cut off by the Christians.   This is also true for Pakistan, Hindu peoples who gained Islam at the expense of a Hindu root.

So the Torah is for us a lot like the Gita for a Hindu.  Do Pakistanis study the Gita?

Judaism is also different from Christianity and Islam in another way.  There is no mandatory belief in Judaism. The majority of us are atheists or agnostics. In the US a lot are actually Buddhist. While the Torah, like the Gita, Confucius, and the Quran has generated many volumes of thought and commentary, we .. like the Buddhists .. also have a very developed intellectual tradition outside of religion … from Halevi and Abravenel to Spinoza to Alinsky, Lazarus, Gordimer, Herzl, Slovo .. these are  all seminal Jewish thinkers in a way that may be difficult for those who only see us as a religion to  understand.

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