Chosen or Choice?

by Melissa Zeid

art by Julianna Blacey

The answer is simple, but oh so complicated: Judaism is much, much more than just a religion.

I hate to break it to you, but I am one of the chosen ones.

I wasn’t chosen just to get a big nose, curly hair, and an uncanny knack for handling money; I am one of the chosen people of the nation of Israel. I’m a Jew.

Or am I?

I ask this question because, according to some, I’m not Jewish. My Jewish heritage came to me from my father just as surely as I got his cheesy sense of humor. Traditionally, though, it is passed through the mother. So, if you ask any “real” Jew, I’m a little bit fake.

There’s another reason people might protest to my Judaism: I’m also a Christian. That’s right, folks, I worship YHWH but I also worship His son, Yeshua. If you didn’t know, Jews believe in the Old Testament and that alone; they’re still waiting for their Messiah. That being said, the fact that I believe that Yeshua, or Jesus as the goyim would call Him, is the Son of God is a little off-putting.

So why, you may ask, do I still call myself a Jew?

The answer is simple, but oh so complicated: Judaism is much, much more than just a religion.

Think about it for a second (or for a minute, a day, a month, a year…it’s pretty confusing.) Judaism is the belief that began with the people of Israel. An entire country. It wasn’t just a practice they followed, it’s who they were. When Jesus was proclaimed king of the Jews it didn’t just mean those who worshipped in the Synagogue. He was proclaimed king over all of Israel. There’s no way it’s just a religion. If I were to ask you what your race is, you might say Irish or Hispanic. My dad would say, hands down, that he is Jewish.

On the other hand, being Jewish does not automatically make you Israeli. My family actually immigrated to the United States from Poland during World War II; my great grandmother made the long journey to escape Nazi rule. It doesn’t mean that my dad can trace his heritage all the way back to the tribe of Judah. In this day and age, there is a difference between being Jewish and being from Israel.

Are you as confused as I am at this point?

Here’s the thing, the idea that everyone (including me) struggles with: it’s not just a religion, a race, or a heritage. It’s a combination of all of those things.

Here’s the thing, the idea that everyone (including me) struggles with: it’s not just a religion, a race, or a heritage. It’s a combination of all of those things. Judaism is about worshiping YHWH. It’s also about the suffering of those who came before you. My family was put in camps during World War II, you can find their names etched into stone on a Holocaust memorial in Germany. At Pesach, or Passover, we dip our fingers in salt water and eat bitter herbs, remembering the slavery of our people Israel those many, many years ago.

By claiming to be Jewish, I claim all of these things. I choose it as my heritage, my birthright. I even claim the aspects of my personality and my physical features that are shared by Jews around the world.

So, all of that being said, do I have any right to claim this birthright? Or, as I said before, am I just a fake claiming a heritage I have no right to?

In all honesty, many would say no, I’m not Jewish. I’m a Christian, raised in the church, a firm believer in Yeshua. Who I am, who I claim to be, is a follower of Christ.

But I also believe that I am Jewish, and the only difference between my father and me is that my savior is coming twice.

I know that I have not suffered the way that my father and the rest of the Jewish people have. I admit that I didn’t attend Hebrew school or have a bat mitzvah. I recognize that by choosing Jesus, some would say I am rejecting Judaism.

In my heart, though, I know that I am Jewish. Following Jesus, I truly believe, does not mean that I have forsaken my father’s people, the ancestors that endured suffering and even death for the sake of YHWH. It’s written on my face and across my heart. It’s in the name that I write daily, the one that is etched over and over in a wall in Dachau, Germany. It hurts me to think that people disregard the heritage that has been passed on to me, the one I claim with everything in me, just because I choose to believe that Yeshua was the Messiah prophesied by my people.

Ethnically, I am one quarter Jewish. To some, I’m not Jewish at all. My grandfather would say I’m not, my dad would say “sure, I guess.” But to me, Judaism is a huge part of who I am. I will always choose to claim this part of my heritage, one I believe that has been passed on to me by my father and my grandfather before him. I will cherish this gift for the rest of my life, and I will never forget what it truly means to claim the name of God’s chosen people.

2 comments

  1. I feel all human beings are complicated. In my opinion being Jewish and all that comes with it and being Christian do not have to be mutually exclusive. I took a religion class at UCSB in the 1960s. The professor did not focus on all the differences, but pointed out all the similarities in religions all over the world. I don’t remember specifics now because I was very young and not experienced enough to absorb it, but I remember being fascinated and wished I had the background knowledge and maturity to ponder what I was hearing. Seems like you are beginning to do that which is wonderful.

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