It is comforting to follow the progress of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords better known as “Gabby”. Following the shooting in Arizona she is now in Houston, Texas in a rehabilitation hospital following transport by ambulance, plane and helicopter! She has made incredible progress in a short amount of time astounding the doctors, nurses and most of America.
But what was really astounding was the way some in the Jewish community added a painful and revolting layer to her situation. Rep. Giffords is a member of a Reform synagogue in Tuscon. She is Jewish. But evidently not Jewish enough for some. In the midst of the confusion and horror of that Saturday, some had to say Rep. Giffords wasn’t “really” Jewish because her father was Jewish not her mother. Patrilineality.
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, z’l, made clear what had been private Jewish practice for decades. And that is if the father is Jewish we (reform Judaism) would also recognize the children as Jewish including the fact that they do timely and regular acts of Jewish life including synagogue membership, a Jewish education and lifecycle events.
Is there no room for Rep. Giffords in the Jewish people? Isn’t it time in an era when religious involvement and religious observance is voluntary that we ought to revisit the entire idea of a biologically based Judaism? Shouldn’t it be a conscious choice of every person? Shouldn’t everyone have to affirm their place in the Jewish people regardless of parentage?
Are you Jewish enough?