I have a friend whose parents were German Jews who’d escaped right before the Holocaust. They were both college professors and completely secular. And deeply messed up by the Holocaust, as you can imagine. 

My friend has no interest in her Jewishness and never even mentions it. It’s not a part of her life at all. So one of her daughters went on that birthright trip to Israel, and now she feels completely Jewish, even started a Jewish organization on her campus in the deep South. 

I might have told this story before and I don’t remember because with thousands of posts it’s impossible to keep track. But I just met this daughter, and she confirmed the story. It’s fascinating to me how identity works. My friend says she feels very weird whenever she hears het daughter say, “I’m Jewish” because every time she has to remember where that comes from. 

The entire family speaks fluent German, by the way, and travels to Germany all the time. And the girls’ father is actually an ethnic German who learned the language of his ancestors from my friend. 


4 thoughts on “IIdentity”

  1. That’s what drives the Census people nuts. How people self-identify often has relatively little to do with genetics.

    However, I particularly noted the point about the daughter starting an organization in the South. The Deep South has a mixed relationship with Jews, another legacy of the Civil War. There were Jewish slaveowners, and most of Lee’s artillery corp were led by Jewish engineers (Ingram, Pegram, etc.). These artillerymen were blamed for the failure of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, as the guns overshot the target, leaving the Union defenders largely untouched. When I was younger, I recall reading animated discussions about how and why that happened, with some writers accusing the officers with intentionally mis-aiming the guns. The KKK after the war was violently antisemitic (or more accurately, anti-everything — Jews, Catholics, Blacks, immigrants, liberal whites).

    Parts of the Deep South are still mired in the Civil War, although the KKK is now headquartered in Missouri.


    1. Thank you for the interesting information, Vic.

      On a slightly related note, I have just seen an interesting article (with many photos!) :

      Books, khaki shorts and falafel: The life of young Israelis in the state’s first decade

      It is interesting, touching upon topics like the evolution of “hashish dealing and consumption” and pets, among others.


    2. “The KKK after the war was violently antisemitic (or more accurately, anti-everything — Jews, Catholics, Blacks, immigrants, liberal whites).”

      I thought the anti-semitism and the rest wasn’t a big part of the original Klan (against blacks and republicans and northerners) but more a part of the 1915 revival.


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