Thank you. You helped crystallize an opinion I’ve had for quite some time. In leaving, or I should say believing you’ve left the Jewish faith, you made the statement that you just couldn’t cut it. It’s important that I make something very clear. If someone’s faith makes them a better person I respect them for the religion they are following. However, as a Jew, and I know I am not alone in this sentiment, someone who says they are leaving the faith I feel is at least to some degree a bit of a traitor. Proud Jews believe we have something special going here, and when you Shia Labeouf choose to take your manifestation of faith elsewhere, you are, in the eyes of many, saying it’s not good enough of for you. But I see it differently. I believe you are saying it is too difficult for you.
It is somewhat ironic that I write this letter. You see, I am not such a great Jew. Of course when I say this I am referring to my level of observance. How good or bad I am is something left for God to judge, but there is no debating that my religious practice leaves a lot to be desired. So when I seemingly go after someone for running from Judaism’s challenges, the irony is that I do that every day. There’s one difference. I don’t go elsewhere because I think it is easier.
You might say that I am out of line. I’m sure I will even hear that from some fellow Jews who read this letter. After all how can I make the assumption that you left the religion of your birth because it was too tough for you. I make this assumption because I know that to many of those lost souls wandering around aimlessly, it is a lot easier to choose a system where they believe that all they need to do is declare their faith. Being a Christian by your perception in what you so spiritually referred to as a not in a F-ing Bulls*t type of way, doesn’t involve all the restrictions and daily commitment being a Jew in a not F-ing Bulls*t type of way does. I’ll even go along with your premise and admit that I often behave in ways that makes it seem like I believe in Judaism in a F-ing Bulls*t type of way. I rather admit my flaws and practice poorly than run to something else where I can appear religious without really doing anything.
I have Christian friends. I respect them and admire them. I don’t believe in all the same concepts that they do, but since they respect what I believe in as well our differences don’t matter. And to be very honest, I have no issue with anyone who chooses Christianity over the faith of their birth unless it was Judaism. You see Shia, I have a great fondness and pride for what I am. I know it is tough being Jewish. There are lots of restrictions, many responsibilities, what sometimes feels like unfair expectations, and with the amount of people who have wanted to kill us over the years and still do to this day, what often feels like a big target on our backs.
There are some who believe that Judaism makes it too hard for people to join the faith. They believe that conversion should be made easier. The opinion you helped crystallize by your declaration of conversion is that one of the reasons for anti-Semitism is the way we Jews who are even marginally traditional Jews feel we’re an exclusive group which people have to show real dedication to if they wish to join. I think it causes many to subconsciously feel, if you can’t join em, beat em. I myself have struggled with this very question, Does Judaism make it too difficult for converts? Maybe so. But I guess it’s because we rather not have someone claim to be Jewish and then be a Jew in a F-ing Bullsh*t kind of way. It’s usually required that they believe in it in the kind of way that goes beyond just saying in an interview to a magazine that they’ve been saved.
Despite the perceived tone of this letter, I do wish you spiritual peace. I also want you to know I still consider you Jewish whether you do or not. You see, I was raised to believe it’s a lifetime membership whether you feel you can handle it or not. And if I am right you’ll have to answer to God big time. Then again so will I. But at least I accepted what he gave me from birth. You felt you knew better, or found an easier answer. Good luck with that.
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October 27th, 2014 at 4:36 pm
David, I truly understand exactly what you have said. I, myself, am nothing more than a cultural Jew. I am, in fact, an atheist, but nevertheless, I am a Jew. What makes being Jewish difficult for me is not the laws I have to keep, but the hatred towards me that I must live with. I would never change my culture for the world despite all this hatred I have lived with. I could never see myself being a Christian. My entire cultural experience is Jewish, and this will be a fact until the day I die, no matter what. Even my blood would tell this story these days. I am a cultural Jew and a genetic Jew, and if I found out anything different I would be very sad.
October 28th, 2014 at 12:52 pm
Your very meaningful comment Eileen magnifies my point. My letter really makes it easy on him. No one is telling anyone how to be a Jew. Just be a Jew if that is what God gave you at birth
October 28th, 2014 at 11:37 am
Shia “found”G-d? I did not know He was lost. Since Jews and Christians share the same G-d it is incomprehensible that has found G-d. Does this “new” G-d wear a different hat?
To David: I to am a far weaker Jew than my parents or their parents. Having said that I will live and die as a Jew. To deny my faith is to betray the 6million martyrs and the millions of other people of our faith who died and suffered because of their beliefs. On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur I renew my faith , weak as it may be. However, being born into my faith is also a lifelong commitment to love and bless the Jewish State and all it’s people.
October 28th, 2014 at 11:45 am
Thank you Norman. You understand my point clearly. My letter is not about level of observance. For me to address that would be at best hypocritical. But you used the word betray and that to me is what someone like Shia is doing, betraying those who came before him and suffered and died for what they were and we are.
October 28th, 2014 at 12:48 pm
Once a Jew – always a Jew.
October 28th, 2014 at 12:50 pm
November 16th, 2014 at 10:04 pm
For future reference:
Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Julian Morris, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Marla Sokoloff, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Adam Brody, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gabriel Macht, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Alden Ehrenreich.
Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Connelly, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman.
Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz.
Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.