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Reprint of “Life as One of the ‘Chosen People'”–One of My Favorite Dakota Student Articles

January 15, 2009

Below you’ll find the text to one of my favorite (and best) Dakota Student articles I’ve written over the past two years. I figured I’d post it here since it is stuck in the bowels of the Dakota Student website. Enjoy!

Most of my friends here know me for two things: my prop headed-ness (I’ll admit it; I’m a pilot nerd) and my unique religion. That’s right, I’m Jewish. For many here, I’m the only Jewish person they know personally. That aspect of life here doesn’t bother me. I was able to look past the fact that our school’s hero, Ralph Engelstad, was a goose-stepping friend of Adolf Hitler. The area does a wonderful job at downplaying that fact (“Oh … the Hitler birthday parties? Did I show you the Italian marble and leather seats?). Many of my friends and family were concerned about encountering anti-Semitism here. Truth be told, the worst I have encountered is sheer unfamiliarity with the concept and religion. So, let’s build some familiarity together!

First things first: Jewish people do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Most traditionalist sects of Judaism believe that the Messiah has yet to come. Less-traditional sects believe that the idea of a one-person-Messiah is in fact a metaphor for something bigger: a messianic age in which everybody gets along and doesn’t try to convert everyone else. Our sacred book is the Torah, which is the Hebrew version of the Old Testament of the Bible.

Traditional Torahs are hand-written in Hebrew on large scrolls of parchment. Our Sabbath begins on Friday night and lasts until Saturday night. We are commonly referred to as the “chosen people” due to a biblical reference involving Abraham’s covenant with God. Judaism is a non-preaching religion, meaning we won’t be handing out Torahs on the corner of University Avenue in front of the Fritz. Obviously, doing so would be quite a financial burden, as they are very expensive, and a physical burden as they are extremely heavy. It is possible to convert to Judaism, but for most sects it is a lengthy process. Judaism is a maternal religion passed down from the mother … my mom is Jewish, making me Jewish. This gives mother and grandmother the free right to the liberal use of guilt in their children’s lives.

Contrary to popular belief, we Jews do not control the world’s governments and media. We have a lifestyle and family values that spread out beyond the synagogue (our “church”). This is my favorite part of being a Jew. You can leave your hotdish, lefse and lutefisk at the door when it comes to matzoh ball soup, brisket, deli food and kugel. We Americanized Jews have our own version of Mecca: The Carnegie Deli in New York City.

There, you can feast on a reuben sandwich that is the size of your head. Friday night dinners with family are a common occurrence; my family uses these as the one night a week we can discuss our bodily issues. Our holidays tend to be grand events in binge eating with the moral of many of their background stories, being “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.” Sadly, throughout our history, Jews have been chosen for much more than just a covenant with an omnipotent being.

I had a Bar Mitzvah when I was 13. It wasn’t just a huge party, because there was lots of studying involved and I had to lead an entire service. Afterwards, however, there was a brunch and a “celebration” (party) that included broomball and dancing for family and friends.

Hebrew is a common language that is encountered during synagogue services and is the official language of Israel. Old Jewish people also speak Yiddish, a language that is a mix of German, Hebrew and English. Oy Gevalt, schmuck, shtupp and schmooze have found their way into mainstream language.

Israel is our spiritual homeland. As such, we tend to take a very personal view of the conflict in the Middle East. It is the stated policy of the government there that at any time Jews can exercise what’s called their right-of-return, meaning that if I wanted to, I could drop everything and move there with no restrictions. Some of my friends have actually done this. I have never been to Israel before, but will hopefully be going soon.

See? Judaism isn’t that complex of a religion! We don’t have horns, we do tend to have large noses, and we aren’t in control of your television. Part of my religious education as I was growing up involved the study of many religions – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu. I would encourage everyone to do the same. In the process of learning about someone else’s beliefs and morals you can and will strengthen your own.

I hope I haven’t left you too fartootst. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get off my tuchas, grab a nosh and kibbitz with the whole mishpocha, including my bubbe.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2009 3:53 pm

    Wow! Great article. You’re a walking (typing?) Jewipedia. Very informative and not too in-your-face. I especially found the concept of Hitler’s buddy as your school mascot amusing, having not known about that before.

    I also just today stumbled on the redux of your WordPress. Really excellent work. It’s amazing how much a few changes make the whole thing look much more streamlined and professional. I’ve been thinking about updating the design and content of my site a bit too, and this might just (hopefully) push me to action!

    –Reid.

  2. January 18, 2009 4:43 pm

    Thanks Reid! Glad you enjoyed it!

    A push to action is always a good thing. I’m not quite content with the site at the moment, but I’m slowly but surely making progress toward a fully-functional MartinRottler.com.

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