The Times poll of American Jews (Part I, April 12-13) offers a remarkable window into our collective psyche. Although the apparent goal was to assess the positions of American Jewry vis-a-vis the volatile Middle East situation, it also revealed a basic truth about Jews:
We are a complex people.
The poll respondents overwhelmingly asserted that being Jewish is important in their lives, yet only a small percentage are affiliated in any way with religious or organization Judaism. They care about Israel, are concerned about the conflict in the Middle East, but they don't find Israel central to their concept of being Jewish. With memories of the Holocaust still fresh in mind, they are ever sensitive to anti-Semitism, yet they feel accepted in American society.
So, what is a Jew?
One respondent said, "I am Jewish. I feel it." That emotional connection--intangible, yet deeply felt--is a clue to what makes a Jew.
There are other commonalities that may help articulate the nature of being Jewish in America. Some of these are:
* The sense of being a living link in an unbroken chain of history, of belonging to a people who have survived and thrived through thousands of years and through sometimes insurmountable odds.