"Jewish" vs. "Zionist"

I have been giving this a lot of thought as I always described myself as multiple things, e.g. “Jewish,” “feminist,” “Zionist.”

And then the “feminist” movement disappointed me by coming to represent a range of attitudes, values and behaviors that I personally find repugnant. 

Similarly and more painfully to me as a Jew, “Zionism” is a secular, political ideology that has justified some pretty bad behavior by Jews. 

While I understand that anti-Semitism is pervasive, I do not agree with a Jewish solution that goes outside the religion.

In other words, the Jewish justification for a Jewish state has to be rooted in a theological approach for it to be valid.

Some people may flinch reflexively at any criticism of the words “Zionism.” They point to the fact that Zionists dealt with “reality,” not “the world of the yeshiva,” and in their secularism they created a country where a Jew can be both safe and free to practice their religion as they like; where non-Jews participate equally in the democratic process; where human rights are respected tremendously; etc. 

All of this may be true. And it is true that the establishment and flourishing of the State of Israel is a miracle.

It is also true that my criticism is reflective of Western binary thinking. Perhaps things are a lot more gray than I am letting them appear. Perhaps the ideology and the religion coexist and overlap, and everyone can find their place on the spectrum.

But as I get older I am starting to see, more and more, the wisdom of those who enfold all Jewish considerations under one rubric, the Torah. And they judge all actions according to whether halacha (Jewish law) would or wouldn’t consider it permissible.

This is the same problem I have with the term “Open Orthodoxy.” I don’t have a problem with the term “Orthodox,” meaning “halacha-observant.” (Similarly with the term “observant” or “Torah Jew.”) But I do have a problem with the idea that you can or should modify halachic observance to suit a completely different set of ideals – Western democratic secular ideologies relating to diversity, inclusion, feminism, and the like.

When you equate a non-Jewish ideology with the Torah, or you try to mix the two, you end up ruining both and it is an insult to both. The one exists to the exclusion of the other.

I am a Jew who sees Israel’s founding as a miracle. I understand that the people who founded the modern State of Israel were mercilessly targeted and slaughtered for the privilege. I get it.

But I do not agree with the idea that one can substitute “Zionism” for “Judaism” or that all Jews must agree with actions taken in the name of the “Zionist cause.” And if you think that makes me a a “bad” or a “disloyal” Jew, your response illustrates the Jewish theological issue I’ve raised here – perfectly. 

All opinions my own. 

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