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Judaism: American Jew or Jewish American
#1
Aways back I was teaching an adult education class on living a Jewish life in the modern world. When I asked who would say they are a Jewish American, everyone raised their hands. When I asked who would say they are an American Jew, everyone raised their hands. When I asked those in attendance which they were, if they had to choose either or, there was some initial confusion as to the difference. 

Once I explained how I was using the terms it lead to some interesting conversation.

I realize that we have folks from all around the globe who are... or will be.... members of the forum so feel free to substitute some other country, but here is the question.


Are you a Jewish American or an American Jew?
בקש שלום ורדפהו
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#2
(01-02-2019, 02:51 PM)RabbiO wrote: Are you a Jewish American or an American Jew?

I identify as American.  Period.  I don't much care for terms such as Irish-American, Afro-American, Italian-American, whatever.

If I'm talking about my religion, then I identify as Jewish.  Period.
Heart !לחיים

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#3
(01-02-2019, 03:52 PM)Channalee wrote:
(01-02-2019, 02:51 PM)RabbiO wrote: Are you a Jewish American or an American Jew?

I identify as American.  Period.  I don't much care for terms such as Irish-American, Afro-American, Italian-American, whatever.

If I'm talking about my religion, then I identify as Jewish.  Period.

I agree, I don't much like hyphenated ways to describe ourselves either.
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#4
(01-02-2019, 07:54 PM)Chavak wrote:
(01-02-2019, 03:52 PM)Channalee wrote:
(01-02-2019, 02:51 PM)RabbiO wrote: Are you a Jewish American or an American Jew?

I identify as American.  Period.  I don't much care for terms such as Irish-American, Afro-American, Italian-American, whatever.

If I'm talking about my religion, then I identify as Jewish.  Period.

I agree, I don't much like hyphenated ways to describe ourselves either.

I would say why I don't care much for adding a modifier to one's statement of citizenship, but first I'm interested to know, RabbiO, why would you ask students that question?
Heart !לחיים

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#5
Actually, my question had nothing to do with citizenship. Nor did my question have anything to do with differentiating between citizens. This was not about hyphenating Americans. 

The question I posed was this, "Are you an American Jew or a Jewish American?" Keep in mind that the question was posed in the context of the class subject. If you don't understand the question, I will explain.
בקש שלום ורדפהו
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#6
My guess -

Are you an American that is Jewish, or a Jewish person that became American?

Or maybe another way is the first word describes more of what you call yourself and the second word follows your nationality sort of.

But I'm guessing both are wrong!!
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#7
(01-02-2019, 10:58 PM)RabbiO wrote: Actually, my question had nothing to do with citizenship. Nor did my question have anything to do with differentiating between citizens. This was not about hyphenating Americans. 

The question I posed was this, "Are you an American Jew or a Jewish American?" Keep in mind that the question was posed in the context of the class subject. If you don't understand the question, I will explain.

Yes, please explain.  Thank you.
Heart !לחיים

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#8
(01-02-2019, 11:24 PM)Channalee wrote:
(01-02-2019, 10:58 PM)RabbiO wrote: Actually, my question had nothing to do with citizenship. Nor did my question have anything to do with differentiating between citizens. This was not about hyphenating Americans. 

The question I posed was this, "Are you an American Jew or a Jewish American?" Keep in mind that the question was posed in the context of the class subject. If you don't understand the question, I will explain.

Yes, please explain.  Thank you.

...Or, don't.
Heart !לחיים

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#9
(01-04-2019, 02:04 AM)Channalee wrote:
(01-02-2019, 11:24 PM)Channalee wrote:
(01-02-2019, 10:58 PM)RabbiO wrote: Actually, my question had nothing to do with citizenship. Nor did my question have anything to do with differentiating between citizens. This was not about hyphenating Americans. 

The question I posed was this, "Are you an American Jew or a Jewish American?" Keep in mind that the question was posed in the context of the class subject. If you don't understand the question, I will explain.

Yes, please explain.  Thank you.

...Or, don't.

LOL

Essentially, the question is about how you identify primarily. By calling yourself an "American Jew," you identify first as a type of Jew (specifically, an American one). By identifying as a "Jewish American," you identify first as a type of American (a Jewish one). It's a question of essential identity.

In Israel we talk mostly about "American Jews" rather than "Jewish Americans," as far as I'm aware. That is, at least in the sources that I listen to. יהודים מאמריקה "Jews from America." That would be opposed to something like אמריקאים עם רקע יהודי "Americans with a Jewish background."
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#10
(01-06-2019, 02:13 PM)Jason wrote:
(01-04-2019, 02:04 AM)Channalee wrote:
(01-02-2019, 11:24 PM)Channalee wrote:
(01-02-2019, 10:58 PM)RabbiO wrote: Actually, my question had nothing to do with citizenship. Nor did my question have anything to do with differentiating between citizens. This was not about hyphenating Americans. 

The question I posed was this, "Are you an American Jew or a Jewish American?" Keep in mind that the question was posed in the context of the class subject. If you don't understand the question, I will explain.

Yes, please explain.  Thank you.

...Or, don't.

LOL

Essentially, the question is about how you identify primarily. By calling yourself an "American Jew," you identify first as a type of Jew (specifically, an American one). By identifying as a "Jewish American," you identify first as a type of American (a Jewish one). It's a question of essential identity.

In Israel we talk mostly about "American Jews" rather than "Jewish Americans," as far as I'm aware. That is, at least in the sources that I listen to. יהודים מאמריקה "Jews from America." That would be opposed to something like אמריקאים עם רקע יהודי "Americans with a Jewish background."

Ah, okay.  But do the Jews themselves who come from America and choose to live in Israel go around identifying themselves as "American Jews"? 

I think it all kind of relates to the issue of whether a Jew also feels it's necessary to additionally explain to others all the time as to what branch of Judaism he/she belongs to.  
 
The reason I don't really care so much for these kinds of labels, is that it gives people preconceived notions about who you are or what you believe or what your politics may happen to be.  Obviously there will be preconceived notions about anyone who simply identifies as being a Jew, but I don't much see the point of adding additional layers of interpretation to it – along with additional reasons for someone to believe they've got you "all figured out."  Smile
Heart !לחיים

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