What does it mean to be Jewish?  25 January 2004 until 4 September 2005

Today, there are many different ways to be Jewish. All kinds of things affect the way people feel part of Jewish culture. The Amsterdam philosopher Ido Abram has developed a model to illustrate this, which we have used as a starting point for the exhibition What does it mean to be Jewish?. He says there are five aspects that in some way affect the life of every Jew. These are: religion and tradition, the tie with Israel and Zionism, war persecution and survival, personal history and the exchange between Jewish and Dutch cultures.
Just how heavily these different aspects weigh on each person individually depends on the place and time in which one lives. During the course of a person's life the various aspects may alter in importance.

What does it mean to be Jewish?Religion and tradition
Religion and tradition are the oldest aspects and were for a long time the only identifying factors of a Jew. They serve as the foundation for Judaism. Today, however, many Jews are not religious or, if they are, they don't live according to the traditional precepts. Thus a Jew may never go to a synagogue but still feels linked to Judaism through some of the other five aspects.

What does it mean to be Jewish?The tie with Israel and Zionism
After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in CE 70, Jews scattered and began living throughout the world. But the tie with the land of Israel remains. Every Jew feels and expresses this in a different way. Some choose to 'make aliyah' - to emigrate to Israel. Others may voice their criticism of the political situation that has developed in Israel.

What does it mean to be Jewish?War, persecution and survival
The holocaust - the organized persecution and extermination of six million Jews that took place during World War II - has left a painful scar. Even for Jews who didn't experience the war, this aspect of Jewish history can never be forgotten.

What does it mean to be Jewish?Personal history
Every human being - and every Jew - has individual talents and qualities. How you develop these makes you the unique person you are.

What does it mean to be Jewish?The exchange between Jewish and Dutch cultures
There has always been an interplay between the Jewish minority and the non-Jewish society among whom they lived. It is up to every Jew to find a balance between these two cultures. The degree to which Jews adapt to the majority culture around them and how much they retain an essentially Jewish identity, is a matter of personal choice.

 

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