I’m Not Much Of A Jew, But I Am Jew-ish

I’m Not Much Of A Jew, But I Am Jew-ish

Confessions of a Rosenblum.
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I'm not a very religious Jew, but my last name is Rosenblum, so people give me the benefit of the doubt. In reality, I don’t do most of the things that Jews are supposed to do: go to Synagogue, keep Kosher, rest on the Sabbath. Instead, I just sit around all day fulfilling Jewish stereotypes. It doesn’t make for a very good college essay about cultural identity: Judaism is important to me because I have dark curly hair, I'm awkward, I can't play sports, and I outperform other Caucasian groups academically. When I word it as such, it seems like a pretty awful way to connect with my cultural heritage. Perhaps it is. I’m not going to defend my complicated relationship with Judaism, but I will try to explain how it came to be.

Strictly speaking, I’m Jewish because my mother is Jewish, and boy is she. Her religious affiliation on Facebook is listed as “Jewish mother,” as it’s a point of pride for her. I’m very glad I have a Jewish mother, though, because if I didn’t, how else would I know when I’m hungry? It’s not like my body has any sort of mechanism for determining this on its own. Or if it does, it’s always wrong. I’ll be sitting at the dinner table and my mother will say, “Julian, did you get enough to eat?” to which I’ll respond, “Yes, Mom, I’m full.” Then she’ll say “No, you’re too skinny. Go have another g’fh’hkh.”[1] And so I'll have another g’fh’hkh.

Other than that, my Jewish education growing up consisted of twenty-minute Passover Seders, receiving toy trucks for Hanukkah, and most importantly, attending public school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I knew I was a Jew the same way I knew that I was white or that I was American: it was told to me one day and I didn’t think twice about it. Most of my friends were Jewish too, or at least half-Jewish, which I assumed meant they only had to wear half a sweater when it was 70 degrees out.

What I didn’t know growing up in New York City is that Judaism is actually a very small religion. I distinctly remember the first time I saw a pie chart with the religions of the world and their sizes. There had to have been a mistake. There was no way that Judaism comprised only .2 percent of the world’s population — there were three Abraham Goldsteins in my kindergarten class and that sure as hell couldn’t have been all of them. And it wasn’t. There were a few more, but they must have all lived within a five-block radius of me for the numbers to work out. Apparently, I was a minority of sorts outside of New York. Judaism was actually something kind of special. Who knew? I put the fact in my back pocket and continued with my life as normal, watching "Seinfeld" on Yom Kippur [2] with a Shellfish Bacon Cheeseburger [3] and a side of irony.

When I got to a certain age, my parents sat me down and brought up the fact that Jewish boys such as myself typically have Bar Mitzvahs when they turn thirteen. They said they wouldn’t force me, but if I wanted one, I needed to decide soon so I could start making up for the Jewish education they had neglected to give me. I knew what a Bar Mitzvah was and I knew that all my friends were about to have them. To clarify, a Bar Mitzvah is a ceremony where a Jewish boy becomes a man and demonstrates the fruits of his cultural and biblical study by reading from the Torah. However, I do maintain that whoever came up with this idea hadn’t met very many thirteen-year-old Jewish boys, because the term “man” really doesn’t come to mind.

As an eleven-year-old, the prospect of becoming a man the Jewish way seemed like a lot of work. I would need to learn to read Hebrew and study stories about God. My relationship to God had always been a peculiar one. I knew that Jews believed in God and that my family and I were Jewish, but there were some issues with transitivity. My parents had never given me any indication that they actually believed in a traditional notion of God. God had less of an involvement in my Jewish experience than bagels and lox, so how was I supposed to talk about Him seriously in front of a bunch of people, let alone in a different language? But there was no escaping Judaism for me. It was not an option. Walking around Manhattan with that hair, that nose, and those bagels would cause people to assume that I knew a thing or two about God, and so I decided it was about time that I learned.

On the one hand, having a Bar Mitzvah and learning a bit of Jewish history made me realize how lucky I am that I can be a Jew so casually. Most Jews in most places for most of time were subjugated and had to fight to preserve their identity through the strict principles that I can mock so openly. They used faith in God to get through difficult times the likes of which I’ve never come close to experiencing. They had to fight back against the stereotypes that I can playfully embrace since I know they won’t pose real obstacles in my life.

On the other hand, I also kind of did it for the money, which I think is a pretty Jewish reason. I don't think my parents had any qualms about that. And we had the service in an Italian restaurant.




[1] Not a real Hebrew word. Pronounced with a large quantity of phlegm.

[2] Yom Kippur is a Jewish holiday where one typically fasts for the purpose of atonement.

[3] A Shellfish Bacon Cheeseburger is a fictitious food item that breaks at least three rules about what Jews are supposed to eat.

Cover Image Credit: midtownlunch.com

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15 Bible Verses To Calm An Anxious Mind

Finding peace in the midst of turmoil.
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Anxiety hits us from all directions. Whether it be school stress, work stress, a stressful family situation, or anything else in life that causes us to feel unsettled, tired, and afraid of the future; anxiety can feel like it's taking over our lives.

As someone who constantly struggles with anxiety, I know how hard it is to find peace in the midst of a stressful situation. When we feel anxious about something, we generally try to do all that is in our power to control the situation. When we can't control it, we become even more anxious. So how do we stop this downward spiral of anxious turmoil?

We must turn to the one who is in control of all things. God holds all of our lives in his hands and is the only one who can calm our anxious minds. When we frantically struggle to put the pieces of our life together on our own, we will fail.

The only way to gain peace in the midst of anxiety is to turn to God, trusting in His perfect will and His power to hold us in His hands. The best way to remember this truth is to look to the Bible. Here are some verses to help us remember God's provision in the midst of anxiety.

1. Philippians 4:6

We don't have to be anxious when we can freely talk with God about our needs. We can cry out to Him for help and He will hear us.

2. John 14:27

Peace is a wonderful thing. Notice how it says, "I do not give it as the world does." We have to remember that worldly peace is only temporary, but God's peace is forever.

3. Isaiah 41:10

Not only will God give us peace, but He will also strengthen us. The image of God "upholding us with His righteous right hand" is pretty powerful and very comforting.

4. Psalm 94:19

Anxiety can make us sad and upset, but knowing that God is with us can bring so much joy in the face of desolation.

5. Psalm 34:4

Freedom from fear is so empowering! Imagine God setting us free from all the fear that holds us back. Oftentimes fear can make us feel trapped, but God can set us free.

6. 1 Peter 5:7

God cares about us so much, that He allows us to cast all of our worries on His shoulders.

7. 2 Corinthians 12:10

Human capacity is limited. We can by no means do everything, in fact, we can't do anything without the help of God.

8. Philippians 4:13

Nothing can hold us back or scare us when we have the strength of God.

9. Proverbs 3:5

We always try to lean on our own understanding, but it will never be enough. We try to control everything, but it will always fall through. It is because of this that we need to trust in the Lord for everything.

10. Matthew 6:25-34

This passage, while somewhat lengthy, is such a great reminder that God is truly in control of everything. We don't need to worry about a thing because He has it all planned out. We stress out about things that were never ours to worry about in the first place.

11. 2 Timothy 1:7

We were not created to be afraid, but to be empowered and loved by God.

12. Isaiah 26:3

If we simply keep God in the forefront of our minds, we will have perfect peace. Trust in Him brings the greatest peace.

13. Matthew 11:28-30

How comforting is this? Anxiety causes a lot of weariness but knowing that we can rest in God is amazing.

14. Jeremiah 29:11

God has a plan for us, so we don't need to worry about it. His plan is always good and always exactly what we need. His plans will always be better than anything we try to control ourselves.

15. Isaiah 41:13

When we feel anxious and afraid we can take comfort in knowing that God is reaching out His hand to us to help us trust Him and walk with Him.

While anxiety can feel overpowering or terrifying, we should not fear, but rather trust in the perfect and never-changing love and peace of God.

Cover Image Credit: Huffington Post

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I Agree With The Naturalist Perspective - Free Will Does Not Exist

Before you say anything, hear me out.

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So, this is the scene: freshman year, second semester, in a philosophy class.

Free will was the topic of discussion for only a few classes, but because of those classes this topic has never left my mind.

A question was posed by the professor:

"Can we meaningfully say that we have free will? Why or why not?"

This question was dropped towards the end of the semester, so I guess you could say I was feeling like a well-seasoned philosopher. Here's what I came up with- and still believe today... free will does not exist.

The classroom was divided up into two categories.

1. The people that believe in complete free will were considered philosophically practicing substance dualism.

2. Those that believed complete free will does not exist, were practicing naturalism.

Substance dualism is a philosophical theory coined by Rene Descartes, a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. This theory suggests that the physical world and mental world are two separate substances. For example, everything in the physical world can be measured and extended to dimensions in space. But, everything in the mental world, like our thoughts and beliefs, can never be extended, or measured. Substance dualists believe one can never measure a thought or belief. So, they concluded that the physical and mental are two separate domains of existence-in order for complete free will to be possible.

Naturalism focuses on the belief that external causes have the most control, which means we are not the only influence on our behavior. Holbach argues that free will cannot exist because when the mind and body are seen as one substance, external causes begin to have a major impact on our behaviors and decisions. External causes don't just influence you; they determine who you are, including your thoughts, feelings, choices, and actions.

So, I agree with the naturalist perspective- Free will does not exist.

Before you say anything, hear me out.

Naturalists have similar beliefs about free will to those working in the fields of neuroscience and psychology. Psychology has always assumed free will doesn't exist. For example, the early psychologists, Freud and Skinner, had separate theories of the mind. However, they both believed that external causes had an impact on our behavior.

In "Do We Have Free Will?" by Schwartz, Ph.D, he explains that Freud and Skinner agreed that human behavior was determined by influences within or outside the person. Freud believed in unconscious conflicts and Skinner believed in environmental contingencies. Regardless, both supported the idea that free will doesn't exist- not everything is in our control.

Within the field of science, there has been an overall assumption that free will does not exist; and a quiet worry of what that implies for morality.

Unfortunately, through this belief a person's level of responsibility can decrease because external causes control their behavior and they begin to believe they 'could not have done otherwise.'

That's the last thing we need in a community, or in a court system. Do you ever do something 'good' simply because you believe you have a choice in the matter? And you believe your practicing your 'free will'?

Imagine if whenever you did something bad you would say, 'I couldn't have done otherwise?!?'

Some people already do that, but still....I'm shook.

Here's what I think though.

Yes, external causes have more of an impact on our behavior than we do- which means complete free will does not exist. HOWEVER, this may seem like it diminishes responsibility but that is false. We are still responsible for our actions because we are the source of that behavior!!! A person could not have done otherwise but there will still be a form of punishment, or reward.

So after reading this piece, still act right please.

In conclusion,

Free will does not exist because in order for the physical and mental to interact, they have to be considered one substance. Naturalism makes a better argument than substance dualism because there is not a satisfying answer to the question of how two separate substances are able to interact while being in separate domains of existence. If the physical and mental are one, then they are constantly affecting each other.

Free will doesn't exist boo.

But its okay, you still have a say in the matter and your decisions are still connected to you!

lovveCS.

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