Sunday, September 16, 2007

Who is a Jew?

[In]nocuously asks some red gentleman on some group discussion which I like to frequent. Here is one answer:

Kotto was born in New York City, the son of Gladys Marie, a nurse and army officer, and Avraham Kotto (originally named Njoki Manga Bell), a businessman and the Crown Prince of Cameroon.[1] Kotto's father, who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s, was an observant Jew who spoke Hebrew, and Kotto's mother converted to Judaism before marrying his father.[2] Kotto's great-grandfather King Alexander Bell ruled the Douala region of Cameroon in the late 19th century and was also a practicing Jew.[2] Kotto's paternal family originated from Israel and migrated to Egypt and then Cameroon, and have been African Jews for many generations.[2]

Being Black and Jewish gave other kids even more reason, he has said, to pick on him growing up in New York City. "It was rough coming up," Kotto said. "And then going to shul, putting a yarmulke on, having to face people who were primarily Baptists in the Bronx meant that on Fridays I was in some heavy fistfights".[3]

Here's a joke from the excellent 1988 movie The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick*:

A Rabbi travels to Beijing, and finds himself wandering the streets on Friday night, thinking about his faith. Suddenly he hears chanting in the distance. He can't believe it--he's hearing the shema, a core prayer of Judaism. He follows the sound for blocks and comes to some steps leading down into a basement, where a few dozen Chinese men and women are crammed together, dressed in talit and kippot and singing prayers. He opens the door and introduces himself, mentioning that he's a rabbi; and one man says to him, "You're a rabbi? Funny--you don't look Jewish!"

I suspect, however, that the red gentleman's question is rather rhetorical, more of a variation on this old rhyme:

How odd
Of God
To choose
The Jews.

--William Norman Ewer

Well, Ewer's question has left many a person scratching their heads for an answer, considering what that "chosenness" has brought upon Jews.

This is one famous attempt at rejoinder offered by Yiddishist Leo Rosten:

Not odd
of God
to choose
the Jews.
The goyim

Another almost equally well known reply was written by Cecil Browne:

But not so odd
As those who choose
A Jewish God
But spurn the Jews.


A Jewish father sent his son to Israel to experience his heritage. A year later the young man returned home. "Father, thank you for sending me to the land of our Fathers, " the son said. "It was wonderful and enlightening, however, I must confess that while in Israel I converted to Christianity."

"Oi vey," wailed the father, "what have I done?"

So in the tradition of the patriarchs he went to his best friend and sought his advice and solace. "Funny that you should come to me with this story," stated his friend, "I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian."

So in the traditions of the Patriarchs they went to the Rabbi to seek advice from a higher authority.

"Funny that you should come to me," stated the Rabbi, "I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian. What is happening to our sons? Brothers, let's appeal to the Master of the Universe," said the Rabbi.

They fell to their knees and began to wail and pour out their hearts to the Almighty. As they prayed the clouds above opened and a mighty voice boomed down,

"Funny that you should come to Me with this story...."

(This joke was also told in a scene in the Canadian movie : "The outside chance of Maximilian Glick" highly recommended for Jews and Goyim alike.)


At 3:52 PM EDT, Blogger Anti-Racist Blog said...

Very interesting post. Great blog in general as well.

I added you to my links list. Thanks for an enlightening post about Abu El-Haj.


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