Overcoming Racism in Religion and Secular Life

  • Racism is in the nature of human beings.
  • In religion there is racism.
  • There is a difference between religion and faith.

Racism is interwoven in life and it is hard to avoid racists not only in secular racist discrimination but also in religion.  Black Americans have fought against racism in America and are only now beginning to win their battle.  Martin Luther King led the black Americans as an American Baptist Minister until he was assassinated in 1968.  When your color is black it is difficult to hide it when seeking employment.

Jews have always been a minority and have battled to survive as a minority in the world. The Jews have been persecuted for centuries as a minority.  Many Jews have tried to hide their identities to avoid persecution.  They did this in many ways.  In Spain during the Spanish Inquisition Jews called the Marranos converted to Christianity to save their lives. In their hearts they continued to feel that they were Jews connected to Moses their prophet and the forefathers, but on the outside they acted like all Christians. According to Judaism, there is no permission for a Jew to hide his identity in this way.  A Jew is commanded to give his life rather than to convert to another religion.  Let God be the Judge.

Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac at the request of God who was born to him at the age of 100. For Abraham faith was more important than his own family.  Abraham was against racism.

Judaism has a lot to offer mankind. There have always been gentiles who have felt that Judaism was the right religion for them and they converted to Judaism according to Jewish law. Judaism In this generation the daughter of President Trump, Ivanka converted to Judaism before she married Jared Kushner. Her conversion according to Jewish law is accepted but not all the Jewish Courts of Law would have been willing to accept her conversion because before her conversion she was dating for two years Jared.  Usually in Jewish law a conversion must be made without ulterior motives like for the sake of marrying a Jew that you love. There are ways to get around these strict rules.  Recently the former Chief Rabbi was indicted for taking bribery mostly connected with accepting conversions. Religion is not always straight and upright.  Religion according to esoteric Judaism is on a lower level than faith.

Racism is in the nature of human beings.  Religion is a way of compromise between faith and racism.  Racism starts in the home in the family.   People of the same nation usually have loyalty to their country. Employees in a company are loyal to their boss who pays them their salary.  Selflessness is difficult to find in this world. Everything is interwoven with politics.

God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar to test his selflessness. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. Isaac was very dear to him.  Abraham passed this test of God.  He went up onto the mountain of Moriya with Isaac on this mission to show his faith in God and to reject racism. People are not put to this type of test and shouldn’t think that they are obligated in this way. People have to be against racism but also have to accept their own faults and the faults of others. The greatest of prophets had to give their lives for the sake of unity of God on earth rejecting racism.

In religion there is racism. Judaism and Islam are national religions devoted to their own nations. Christianity is not a national religion today but Christians are also guilty of racism.  Jesus was not a racist. Moses was not a racist. Abraham was not a racist. Judaism is the religion given by Moses to the Jewish people when they entered into Israel.  The Nation of Israel in biblical times was governed by the Law of Moses.  Judaism is rich in wisdom.  There are 24 books filled with wisdom in the Jewish heritage not including the Talmud, and the Kabballa. Jewish law was given by Moses orally as part of the Oral tradition which later on after the destruction of the holy temple became written.  In the written law the five books of Moses are all the secrets of God and his creation principally the secret of the four letter name of God. Many people want to convert to Judaism even though Jews are a minority who suffer discrimination.

There have been many converts in Jewish history who became great Torah scholars including Rabbi Akiva who was the son of converts.  Rabbi Akiva was one of the ten martyrs at the time of the destruction of the second temple.  When converting to Judaism is required to study the Torah under supervision and to show your complete sincerity to want to accept the Law of Moses. Accepting the Law of Moses is with blind faith without any questions. Today there is a controversy in the State of Israel about conversions. Russian Jews have come to Israel believing that they were equal to all Jews unhappily to discover that according to Jewish law they were not Jewish.  In Russia a Jew is labeled according to the status of his father.  In Jewish law it is according to the status of his mother. Many Russian Jews are required to do conversion to be considered Jews in the State of Israel even if they are Israelis.  This means that they have to accept the Orthodox Jewish religion. A Jew born from a Jewish mother is Jewish even if he is not religious or Orthodox. These Russians have to learn Jewish law and be tested by the Rabbinical court for their faith in the statutes of Jewish law.

A gentile who wants to convert is questioned by the rabbinical court about issues of his faith. One of the sensitive issues is involved with the conflict between Christianity and Judaism.  Christianity began as a reformed Jewish movement which declared Jesus as the messiah. Gentiles brought up in Catholic homes have been educated to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. They may not be happy with Christianity as a religion for many reasons; but believe that Jesus is not the false Messiah.  When they stand before the Rabbinical court with sincerity believing that Judaism is the best connection for them to God, they are asked the question, “Do you believe in Jesus?”  If they say yes they cannot be accepted as converts.

Moses was a true prophet. He was against racism even though he established the Jewish nation according to the Law of Moses. In the story of the giving of the blessings by Isaac to his two sons Jacob and Esau Genesis:27, Isaac was blind.  Rebecca his wife encouraged her favorite son Jacob to trick her husband Isaac by disguising himself as Esau the firstborn child. The first born child is first to receive the blessing.  Jacob dressed up like Esau in clothing with the smell of the fields; he put the skins of kids goats upon his hands. She gave Jacob the food which his father liked when he entered into his room. Isaac was suspicious. He wanted to give the blessing to Esau.  Jacob said to him I am your son Esau.  Isaac replied “Your voice is the voice of Jacob but your clothes are the clothing of Esau.”  Isaac gave the blessing of the firstborn to Jacob anyway. Esau came afterwards to receive the blessings and was stunned to hear that Jacob his brother had taken the blessing.

Jews or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and a nation, originating from the Israelites and Hebrews of historical Israel and Judah. Jewish ethnicity, nationhood, and religion are strongly interrelated,as Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, while its observance varies from strict observance to complete nonobservance.

History was being made. The Jewish people are descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Jewish people were given the land of Israel as part of this blessing.  Esau resented to be tricked. He also received a blessing but not the same blessing as Jacob. Later on in history the children of Esau who are called also Edom because he was born with red hair, the nation of Rome adopted Christianity as its religion with Jesus as the messiah. People of the world believe in Jesus as the Messiah. The Jewish people after two thousand years are still waiting for the Messiah. Nevertheless, many gentiles from Christian faith want to convert to Judaism. Ivanka Trump converted. No permission in Jewish law is given for accepting a convert who believes in Jesus. Converts have to accept that the Messiah has still not come since the holy temple is still not rebuilt.

This portion in the Torah Genesis:27, which relates how Jacob lied to Isaac that he was Esau when it is forbidden from the Torah to bear false witness, gives permission to gentiles to lie to make their conversion when asked the question do you believe in Jesus?.

Orthodox Judaism does not believe in Jesus as the messiah. The messiah has still not arrived. Baha”i faith accepted Jesus as the Messiah together with Moses and Mohammed.  Conversion for a Muslim is punishable by death which also means believing in Christian faith. Baha”i faith gives Muslims a way to escape from racism and extremism. The story of Genesis 27, and Progressive Jewish spirituality (PJS) gives Jews also this permission. Especially today when there is freedom of religion each person is free to believe in what they feel is right.

Marranos hid their connection to Judaism when living in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. There is a difference between religion and faith.  Faith includes in it the Universal God which religion rejects. Religion connects to the Jewish God, Islam Allah, or Jesus God the messiah the Christian God. When religion is connected with faith it escapes from racism. Religion and faith are one of the conflicts which people have to face in life. Minorities have to face problems of discrimination.  There is no perfect solution only tolerance. In each religion there are their religious leaders protecting their holy covenant. They are not concerned with what is right or wrong only to follow the law the way it is written. Not everyone has to be Orthodox; you can also be secretly Progressive spiritual.

Racism is the evil of this world.  People are recognizing today the evil of racism.  Racism is part of life and manifests itself in religion and nationalism.  There is a higher ideal than religion and nationalism which is in World Unity and Peace.

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David Wexelman

Rabbi David Wexelman is the  author of five books on the topics of World Unity and Peace, and Progressive Jewish Spirituality. Rabbi Wexelman is a member of the American Friends of Maccabee, a charitable organization helping the poor in the United States and in Israel.  Donations are tax deductible in the USA.

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