Religion & Beliefs

“Jewish American Heritage Month” Kinda Bugs Me

Did you know that we’re about to enter Jewish American Heritage Month?  I didn’t! Which is cool, I guess, in a “token” kind of way. George W. Bush has this to say on the subject:  Through their deep commitment to faith, … Read More

By / April 24, 2007

Did you know that we’re about to enter Jewish American Heritage Month?  I didn’t!

Which is cool, I guess, in a “token” kind of way.

George W. Bush has this to say on the subject:

 Through their deep commitment to faith, family, and community, Jewish Americans remind us of a basic belief that guided the founding of this Nation: that there is an Almighty who watches over the affairs of men and values every life.

Hmmmm.  That’s interesting.  I guess he never got the “secular Judaism” memo.

But thinking about “Jewish Heritage Month, I find myself feeling a little itchy.  It seems tricky to me.  As though the administration is just using a “palatable” minority to showcase how it values religious tolerance. So long as  “religious” gets defined in a very Christian way.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this bugs me, when National Poetry Month (which is just ending) doesn’t.  Both are pretty arbitrary celebrations of traditions most Americans don’t give two shits about. Both are important traditions for me personally…  Maybe it's this… on some level, I guess I hold out hope for funding for poetry, and I think maybe this “month” thing helps with that. So my interest in "Poetry Month" is practical, and selfish. Even if almost no non-poet in America cares or notices about poetry month.  At least we might get some money for poetry in schools out of it, or poetry readings at the Library of Congress or something. But I believe pretty strongly that funding for Judaism should NOT be on the Bush agenda any more than funding for church camps should be. And I don't think we need public sanctions like that to help people learn about Jewish heritage. I think we do a pretty good job on our own (what with all the movies we make, books we write, etc). So maybe that’s the difference. Regardless, if you disagree with me and are interested in what’s going on, I suggest you check out the National Archives site.  They’ll be showing inspirational Jewish films like An American Tail (I’m NOT making this up!) and they offer links to events in your area, wherever you may be.  Please don’t get me wrong… I’m all for Jewish heritage, and some folks are planning awesome programs (like the Brooklyn Public Library)  but this still feels just a little weird…