Built on or Belonging to Jewish tradition #3 Of the earth or of God

America and its culture developed as an easy-to-enter “Melting Pot” for many cultures, creating a new commonality of culture and political values. This open culture allowed many minority groups, including Jews, to flourish in Christian and predominantly Protestant America.

In last writing we saw the reform ideas of Hirsch who stated that derekh eretz (literally, “the way of the earth”) refers to not only ways of earning a living but also to the social order that prevails on earth, the mores and considerations of courtesy and propriety arising form social living and things pertinent to good breeding and general education.

Hence Hirsch speaks of the ideal Jews as the “Israel-man”, that is, the Jew who is proudly Jewish, a believer in the eternal values and precepts of the Torah as divinely ordained, and is, at the same time, a cultured “man”, a human being belonging to the modern world.

Convenient to be a Jew

Hirsch wrote in the Nineteen Letters:

“Was Judaism ever ‘in accordance with the times?’ Did Judaism ever correspond with the views of dominant contemporaries? Was it ever convenient to be a Jew or a Jewess?…Was that Judaism in accordance with the times, for which, during the centuries following the Dispersion, our fathers suffered in all lands, through all the various periods, the most degrading oppression, the most biting contempt, and a thousand-fold death and persecution? And yet we would make it the aim and scope of Judaism to be always ‘in accordance with the times!'”

In the New World many Jews mixed with non-Jews as happened as well in Holland. So the question could arise if a family would be a Christian or a Jewish family or a atheist or non-believing family.

Up into the 21st century we could find traditions being mixed and different people in the same family going from one believe to an other.

{When I look at my wive’s family on her fathers site she had a grandmother coming from Jewish ancestry, with my wife’s aunts still having the Torah placed at the doorspost, and having them doing some prayers before they entered the house. But hey did not go regularly to the synagogue. My mother in law came from the Dutch Reformed church to become a Catholic. My father in law with Jewish ancestry becoming atheist, later evangelist.}

Jewish identity can include characteristics of an ethnicity, a religion, and today also citizenship.

On religious grounds, according to the Mishnah, the oldest codified normative definition used by Jews for self-identification, normally one is being considered to be a Jew when the person has a Jewish mother or when one is converted to Judaism in conformity with Halacha, Jewish religious law.

As such having on the female site Jewish ancestors someone could be considered a Jew.

Young Ashkenazi Jewish followers of the minori...

Young Ashkenazi Jewish followers of the minority Haredi sect of Judaism, Jerusalem, 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Jews do not look for converts as other religions try to do. In the Jewish history we do find girls who were not born as People of God in the tribe of Israel, like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah and Ruth . Moses himself, one of the greatest Jews selected by God to fulfil an important task in the history of Gods People, married a Midianite woman who became Jewish.

At its very end, the book of Ruth traces the ancestry of King David, the greatest king the Jews ever had, to Ruth, his great-grandmother.

To be part of the Jewish community when they believe, the Jews can find the great promise which, when they look carefully, is coming more and more into accomplishment since 1948, the foundation of the New Israel State (מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל) the parliamentary republic in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

Growing Jewish population

World War I poster in Yiddish. Translation: “Food will win the war – You came here seeking freedom, now you must help to preserve it – Wheat is needed for the allies – waste nothing”. Color lithograph, 1917.

From a population of 1000-2000 Jewish residents in 1790, mostly Dutch Sephardic Jews, Jews from England, and British subjects, the American Jewish community grew to about 15,000 by 1840, and to about 250,000 by 1880. Most of the mid-19th century Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants to the US came from German-speaking states, as part of the larger concurrent German migration. They all initially spoke German, and settled across the nation, assimilating with their new countrymen; the Jews among them commonly engaged in trade, manufacturing, and operated dry goods (clothing) stores in many cities. Between 1880 and the start of World War I in 1914, about two million Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews immigrated from Eastern Europe, where repeated pogroms made life unpredictable. They came from Jewish populations of Russia, the Pale of Settlement (modern Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova), and the Russian-controlled portions of Poland. (Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews, p.366) (Wikipedia)


German-American pioneer, rabbi, author, translator, editor, and publisher Isaac Leeser

Bohemian-American reform rabbi, editor, and author Isaac Mayer Wise – bust by Moses Ezekiel in the possession of A. S. Ochs.

By the mid-19th century a new wave of central European immigrants revived the declining American Jewish community and remade it to serve its own needs. Primarily petty shopkeepers and traders, the new immigrants migrated westward, founding new Jewish centres which were almost entirely controlled by laymen. The exigencies of life on the fron­tier within an open society created a predisposition for religious reform, and it is significant that the greatest American Reform Jewish leader of the 19th century, Isaac Mayer Wise, was based in Cincinnati, Ohio. During his lifetime Isaac M. Wise was regarded as the most prominent Jew of his time in the United States. Wise sought to unite all of American Jewry in the new nontraditional institutions that he founded, Hebrew Union College (1875), the Union of American Hebrew Con­gregations (1873), and the Central Conference of Ameri­can Rabbis (1889); but his ever more radical reforming spirit ultimately drove the traditionalist elements within the American Jewish community into opposition. The head of the traditionalist circles had been Isaac Leeser, a native of Germany, who had attempted to create an in­digenous American community on the lines of a modernized traditionalism. Conservative forces, after his death, became disorganized, but in reaction to Reform they de­fined themselves by their attachment to the sabbath, the dietary laws, and especially to Hebrew as the-language of prayer. Under the leadership of Sabato Morais, an Ortho­dox Jew of Italian birth, Conservative circles in 1886 founded a rabbinic seminary of their own, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

World War II

A synagogue on West Twenty-Third Street in New York City remained open 24 hours on D-Day for special services and prayer.

During the World War II period the American Jewish community was bitterly and deeply divided, and was unable to form a common front. Most Eastern Europeans favored Zionism, which saw a homeland as the only solution; this had the effect of diverting attention from the horrors in Nazi Germany.
The Zionist Movement looks towards the segregation of the Jewish people upon a national basis and in a particular home of its own; specifically, the modern form of the movement that seeks for the Jews “a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine,” as initiated by Theodor Herzl in 1896, and since then dominating Jewish history.

German Jews were alarmed at the Nazis but were disdainful of Zionism. Proponents of a Jewish state and Jewish army agitated, but many leaders were so fearful of an antisemitic backlash inside the U.S. that they demanded that all Jews keep a low public profile. One important development was the sudden conversion of most (but not all) Jewish leaders to Zionism late in the war. (Wikipedia)

Being part of the world

Over the past three centuries American Jews have committed themselves to numerous political and social causes. During the nineteenth century, American Jews were deeply divided over the question of slavery and succession, on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. Jews also took part in domestic politics and, at the same time, they established a variety of organizations that worked on behalf of oppressed Jews in other parts of the world. By participating in twentieth century causes such as the Civil Rights Movement and the efforts to help Jews living in the former Soviet Union, many American Jews became convinced that by defending the rights of others who were oppressed and downtrodden, they were in fact safeguarding their own civil liberties.

Haredi Judaism in New York City

Haredi Judaism in New York City (Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos)

Yet with each passing decade, our personal freedoms are vanishing with increasing velocity. Our governments shoulder much of the blame, but since we the people are the government (which is actually becoming more theoritical than factual) every American or other citizen of a country, who stands silently on the sidelines, not questioning the constiutionality of laws and regulations, shares in the blame for our eroding liberties.

It is virtually impossible to dream beyond borders and not dream lofty dreams.


In accordance with Jewish legal tradition there may not be a mistreatment of workers as Biblically prohibited oshek/oppression. According to the Law of God workers have to be treated with justice, and those who do not so are not to be acceptable children of God in Gods community.

Jews believe that a more democratic and equitable industry in which workers and employers collectively determine wages and working conditions is a blessing that employers should embrace.

The Torah commands us “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer” (Deuteronomium 24:14), and the Rabbis later teach that employees have a right to organize and demand just conditions and compensation or their labor (Tosefta Bava Metzia 11:24)

File:Jewish population in the USA in 2000.svg

Percentage of Jewish population in the United States, 2000


Previous: Built on or Belonging to Jewish tradition #2 Roots of Jewishness

To be continued: Built on or Belonging to Jewish tradition #4 Mozaic and Noachide laws

Also of interest:

  1. Judeo-Christian values and liberty
  2. Fear of God reason to return to Holy Scriptures
  3. A world in denial
  4. Fear and protection


  • Are You Still Confused Between Judaism and Zionism – You Better Know the Difference for Your Own Well Being! (chasvoice.blogspot.com)
    Where the Torah tells about the creation of the first human being, the most prominent Jewish commentator, Rashi, explains that the earth from which Adam was formed was not taken from one spot but from various parts of the globe. Thus human dignity does not depend on the place of one’s birth nor is it limited to one region.
  • Rising star of Hungarian anti-Semitic party forced to resign after he discovers his Jewish heritage. (independent.co.uk)
    He was a rising star in Hungary’s far-right Jobbik Party, and was notorious for his incendiary anti-semitic comments – including attacks on the ‘Jewishness’ of the political elite; but Csanad Szegedi’s career as an ultra-nationalist standard bearer now looks to be over after the revelation that he is in fact Jewish.
  • Anti-Semitic Hungarian Lawmaker Shocked to Learn His Grandparents Are Jewish Holocaust Survivors [Irony] (gawker.com)
    Despite learning in 2010 that his grandparents on his mother’s side were Jewish Holocaust survivors, Csanad Szegedi continued to attack the “Jewishness” of his political rivals and claimed Jewish artists were desecrating national Hungarian symbols.After rumors began to spread online that Szegedi was hiding his Jewish ancestry, the politician came clean, and was asked to step down.
  • ‘Thank God, there are almost no Jews in Syria now,’ says the woman who rescued most of them(menorahblog.typepad.com)Over almost 30 years from the mid-1970s, Judy Feld Carr, a music teacher from Toronto, arranged to smuggle 3,228 Jews out of Syria. Amid the brutal civil war raging there today, the importance of that remarkable life-saving operation has never been more evident
  • I went to a concert last night. And everyone was Jewish. (leelipman.wordpress.com)
    Are we considered a creepy cult coming to listen to messages of our faith? We’re not, but the thought of what an outsider would think in this sort of situation was enough to keep me giggling to myself for the first 20 minutes of the show.
    +Celebrating Woman’s Day: at a Wedding.
    At the Bedekken (Jewish wedding post should probably follow soon), at the Chuppah – we were laughing and smiling the whole time. It was so exciting that the day had finally arrived! Being engaged was average. Planning the wedding was average. Organising finances of such astronomical figures was very much the lowest form of average. So in comparison to that, getting married was a breeze (and a flipping jol!) (…and amazing, and special, etc etc)
  • The Onslaught Of Jewish Organizations (middleeastatemporal.wordpress.com)
    There are now over 600 Jewish organizations in Amerika whose influence via billions of dollars has turned the former Republic into a Jewish oligarchy ruling over some 300 million Gentile Amerikans.To name only a few out of the hundreds of Jewry’s influence-peddling organizations in Amerika we have:

    • American Council for World Jewry • Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations • American Jewish Congress • Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies(Division of the US Holocaust Museum) • Anti-Defamation League (ADL) • Jewish Federations of North America • American Jewish Committee (AJC).

  • Jews and Booze (wnyc.org)
    Marni Davis examines the long and complicated relationship Jewish Americans had to alcohol during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the years of the national prohibition movement’s rise and fall. In Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition Davis shows that alcohol commerce played a crucial role in Jewish immigrant acculturation and the growth of Jewish communities in the United States.
  • Csanad Szegedi, o anti-semita judeu (oinsurgente.org)
    In the interview with Hir TV, Szegedi denied ever having made anti-Semitic statements, but several of his speeches and media appearances show otherwise.In a November 2010 interview on Hungarian state television, Szegedi blamed the large-scale privatization of state assets after the end of communism on “people in the Hungarian political elite who shielded themselves in their Jewishness.”

    Speaking on a morning program in late 2010, he said that “the problem the radical right has with the Jews” was that Jewish artists, actors and intellectuals had desecrated Hungary’s national symbols like the Holy Crown of St. Stephen, the country’s first Christian king.

    Szegedi also complained of “massive real estate purchases being done in Hungary, where — it’s no secret — they want to bring in Israeli residents.”

    Szegedi met in early August with Rabbi Slomo Koves, of Hungary’s Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch community, whose own parents were in their teens when they discovered they were Jewish.

    “As a rabbi … it is my duty to receive every person who is in a situation of crisis and especially a Jew who has just now faced his heritage,” Koves said.

  • Jewish Life And Religion: The Talmud’s Many Demons (contemporarynotes.wordpress.com)
    You can never pronounce on “what Judaism says” without specifying what Judaism you are talking about: post-Enlightenment, post-Remorm Judaism may say one thing, where the Judaism of the Talmud says something entirely different.     In his way then, Adam admits that Judaism howsoever reluctantly, is responding, or has responded, to outside chalenges to its belief system, in this case evolution.  This is encouraging for as Judaism goes to goes Fundamentalis Christianity.
    The Talmud, of which there are two versions, the Mesopotamian and the Jerusalem, developed after the Babylonian Captivity, c. -586.  I might refer Adam to the Greek pre-socratics who developed their interpetation of Nature from the Eighth to the Fourth century BC well ahead of the ‘Sages’ of the Talmud.  Already the kernel of evolution is apparent in the writing of Parmenides while the Atomic theory of Leucippus and Democritus of the Fourth century BC posits atoms that would be a scientific counterpart to Jewish demons.  Much later the microscope would be developed that would show that indeed, the world was full of invisible beings although of a biologic and not ephemeral existence.
  • No Future in France: Dire Times for French Jews (pjmedia.com)
    Bernheim was until recently very eager to reconcile traditional Judaism with Europe’s “open society. He has just devoted a book to France as a nation and how Jews can contribute to France’s public debates (N’oublions Pas De Penser La France), and in 2008, the year he was elected chief rabbi, he coauthored a book on Judeo-Christian dialogue (Le Rabbin et le Cardinal) with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin.Despite all that, Bernheim suddenly warned Jewish leaders a few weeks ago about a growing “rejection” of Jews and Judaism in France, something he linked to the global passing of “Judeo-Christian values” in French society as a whole.
    The connection between Muslim immigration — or Muslim-influenced Third World immigration — and the rise of a new anti-Semitism is a fact all over Europe. Muslims come from countries (or are culturally attuned to countries) where unreconstructed, Nazi-style Jew-bashing dominates.
    Muslim immigration is nurturing European anti-Semitism in more surprising ways as well. One unintended and ironic consequence of European Islam’s demographic growth is that Jews are frequently amalgamated with Muslims. Many people use a widespread concern about a growing influence of Islam in Europe as a way to hurt Jews as well, or to hit them first.
    However, differences between Judaism and Islam may outweigh similarities. As far as Near Eastern or Middle Eastern countries are concerned, Muslims turn to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the strongholds of anti-Western hatred, while Jews turn to Israel, the super-Western “start-up nation.” In terms of ritual, kosher slaughtering — a quasi-surgical operation — is as remote from halal slaughtering as from secular slaughtering. Jewish circumcision is performed on newborn babies and is much closer to secular prophylactic circumcision (as it is largely practiced in the United States) than to Islamic circumcision, which is performed on boys in their preteens or early teens. And when it comes to relations between politics and religion, there is simply a chasm between the two religions. Judaism (including Orthodox Judaism) is not interested in mass conversion; does not seek to wrest Europe or any historically Christian part of the world from Christianity; recognizes the supremacy of state law over religious law in non-ritual matters; and sees Western democracy — a polity based on the rule of law — as the most legitimate political system.
    The second half of the 20th century was a golden age for French Jews, both in terms of numbers (from 250,000 souls in 1945 to 700,000 in 1970 due to population transfers and natural growth) and in terms of religious and cultural revival. There was only one shadow: the French government’s anti-Israel switch engineered by Charles de Gaulle in 1966, in part as a consequence of a more global anti-American switch. The 21st century may however be a much darker age. After a first wave of anti-Jewish violence in the early 2000s, some Jews left for Israel or North America. Emigration never really ceased since then, and may soon reach much more important proportions.

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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31 Responses to Built on or Belonging to Jewish tradition #3 Of the earth or of God

  1. Very interesting piece Marcus. I had just commented about my mother’s advice on how to read the Bible and the Torah, and your title is strangely apropos.


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