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  • Attitude Towards Other Nations

Attitude Towards Other Nations


Rabbi David Sperling

Iyyar 7, 5771
Shalom I am from a Jewish and Native American background (Jewish mother) and was a member of the synagogue in Birmingham (UK) until ten years ago. I have however left because the very prevalent materialism did not agree with my beliefs. I was also treated very badly by the people in that congregation - simply because I was a poor student at the time. I was also treated in a disrespectful way by the deyanim at the Beit Din in London, who I had consulted about a family problem. All in all I have always been treated as if I did not belong to the Jewish community, whether the reason was my then lack of material wealth or the fact that my father was Native American or both is difficult to say. The way I have been treated was extremely painful to me for a long time, however over the years I have found another religion/way of life that I am happy with - Atenism, an Egyptian religion. However, I do not feel that this is the end of the matter. For some considerable time I have been having recurring dreams of a Jewish man - at times a Rabbi - "chasing" me, and, even though I feel uncomfortable in his presense, I feel also obliged to do what he wants me to do. Considering my circumstances, I interpret these dreams as telling me that there are still unresolved issues - and indeed the terrible way in which I was treated hurts me to this day - and I even feel guilty towards my late mother, who always wanted me to find a Jewish husband. I feel as if I have let her down - even though it was not really by choice that I left Judaism, but I was virtually forced to leave, and I have then made the best of what I had left. Or maybe the man in these dreams is pulling me back towards Judaism - as they say, a Jew never forgets that he/she is a Jew? There are really several questions here though. First of all I would like to know - after many years of suffering immense hurt over it - why I was treated in such an appaling way - a way that has nothing to do with Judaism - and why this is allowed to go on. Second, why are poor people and people who are not from a "pure-bred" Jewish background considered "sub-human". I know Judaism teaches us to care for the poor, the stranger, the widow - so why is the opposite being practised? Also, I wonder if my interpretation of the meaning of these dreams is correct - and what I can do to come to peace with what has happened - and with the fact that, regardless of how I have been treated and what I am doing in my life, I am still a Jew!
Shalom, I was saddened to read your letter and learn of your suffering and sorrows - may you be blessed with only good from now on. It is of course very hard to explain why you were treated in such a way. We are taught in Judaism to judge people favorably - which should certainly have been applied to you. However, now I would like to also apply this rule to those who wronged you. Perhaps there was just a natural misunderstanding, or they did not realize what they were doing. Or perhaps they are even uneducated with dealing with Jews from such diverse backgrounds and social situations. None of this belittles the real pain you felt, and apparently still feel, however it does create a way for you to move on past this pain to a more productive future. As a Rabbi with many years experience of Jewish communities throughout the world, I can guarantee you that while no Jewish community is totally perfect, no community would act maliciously to harm you. If you can try to judge them favorably and realize that they were not trying to hurt you, you may be able to move beyond your pain. From my experience the poor and the needy are treated by Jewish communities with the greatest of kindness and love - just look at the huge number of organizations that lend help to those that need. You write that you have experienced the opposite, and I don't doubt that you felt pushed away from the Jewish community. I would like to suggest the following - the Jewish community is large and varied. It encompasses many types of Jews, who put emphasis on many different parts of our tradition. If the community you were exposed to was not to your liking (-or perhaps, from what you write , you were not to their liking) why not try a different one? Perhaps, if possible, you could even manage to come here to Israel where every type of community can be found in a very beautiful vibrant expression. In answer to your question about your dreams - I certainly do not claim to be able to interpret dreams! However, I put great store in what you yourself have written, and as the Talmud tells us, a person is closest to their own heart, and you are probably the best address to be able to understand the meaning of your dreams. (By the way, there is a classic Jewish work called "The Kuzari" by Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi which is based on a dream not so different from yours, and you may enjoy reading it - it can be found in English). So you are completely correct that "once a Jew - always a Jew", and your Jewish soul certainly needs to be fed and nourished. I suggest finding a Jewish community you feel comfortable with and joining them even in some small way - say lighting Shabbat candles, or putting up a Mezzuzah; saying "Shema Israel" or giving a coin to charity every day. May you be blessed with every blessing, and merit to find your rightful place with the Jewish people.
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