Why Hide From Jewish Identity?
Wed, 11/13/2013
Special To The Jewish Week
Rabbi David Wolpe
Rabbi David Wolpe

Years ago I heard a story about the remarkable Ben Hecht, creator of the screwball comedy, writer extraordinaire, acrobat, violinist and passionate defender of Jews in World War II and Israel. When the state was founded, Hecht found himself in the office of a Jewish mogul raising money for Israel.

The mogul waved him away. “Listen, Hecht,” he insisted in the fashion of some early Hollywood figures, “I don’t consider myself Jewish.”

Hecht answered immediately. “Fair enough. Here’s the deal. You pick up the phone and call 10 non-Jewish friends and ask them, ‘Am I Jewish?’ If just one of them says no, I’ll leave your office.”

The mogul wrote a check.

Sadly, in Jewish history it has often been the non-Jewish world that has reminded the Jew of his own identity. Far more beautiful is to affirm who we are without the approval or censure of others. When one is heir to such a rich, long and world-shaping tradition, why hide? Better than being reminded by the world is to remind ourselves.

Rabbi David Wolpe  is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe.

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As a teenager I applied for a job in a movie theater. The employment interview went well until I was asked if I was Jewish. Even before I answered yes I knew I wouldn't get the job. And I didn't. Old habits and defenses die hard, and there used to be many good reasons to KNOW who you are but not SAY it. That caution still applies to our LGBT brothers and sisters, among others. Ben Hecht in a Hollywood office was hardly the norm, then or now.

may i quote this?
great stuff

having attended " an all girl" high school and a 4 years college program in Iran before coming to u.s. for masters degree in mid 70s ,I can sympathize with people who hide their Jewish identity. Even in all girl school I had to fight my way just to express my opinion and being heard. It was much easier to say: "I am not like the regular Jews"..what a shame.

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