Monday, July 6, 2015

What shocked a European Jew on his first trip to America

Cnaan Liphshiz writes @ JTA's:

I knew America has about 6 million Jews who grew up in a pretty peaceful homeland with little experience of the secret-agent tactics forced upon Jews in Western Europe, who tend to hide their kippahs these days for fear of anti-Semites.

Although I have visited Jewish communities in more than 40 countries (including, in the past year alone, Turkey, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and France), I was taken aback by the diversity and confidence of American Jews. In the United States — or at least in the cities where I spent most of my time there, New York and Miami — being Jewish seems as effortless as it is in Israel.  [...]

Walking into a synagogue or Jewish community center without showing my passport or undergoing an airport-style security check felt weirdly out of place. And I was surprised when a lunch date kept his kippah on while walking to the restaurant only to take it off inside the non-kosher (but vegan) eatery (to avoid giving other observant Jews the false impression that it was a kosher-certified establishment). In Europe, I remarked, we do it exactly the other way around.  [...]

Back in the American Jewish comfort zone also known as New York, I began wondering why my American interlocutors would care at all about what I had come to talk to them about: anti-Semitism in Europe, the crisis in Ukraine and, inevitably, Israel. Why should the Jews of paradise care about the plight of Fabrice Schomberg, my neighbor in The Hague, whom authorities ordered to dismantle his sukkah for fear that it would attract vandals in our heavily Muslim neighborhood?  More.

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