Jewish pride is not a sin

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins.  Fortunately, that septet is a Christian invention.  And I’m a Jew.  A proud Jew.  And I’m proud to be a proud Jew.  To be a proud Jew isn’t wrong – as Halley C. at the DC JCC suggests.  Rather, pride in Judaism is the only way we can save American Judaism.

On July 27, Joel Alperson wrote at the JTA that “the non-Orthodox way of life is falling by just about every metric we have at our disposal.  … We’re losing Jews and the commitment of Jews far too quickly.”  Mr. Alperson’s remarks are disturbingly familiar; the number of Americans identifying as Jewish has been on the decline for a long time – between 1990 and 2000, the number of self-identified American Jews fell by five percent.

The only way to reverse this trend is through more Jewish pride.  We proud Jews must share the smart, funny, great, cool, innovative, and powerful Judaism with our children, friends, and colleagues.  Otherwise they will not join.  They will not join because of Torah – sacred texts are no longer sacred in America.  Nor will they will join through stories of the holocaust – pity and sympathy are not club-joining adjectives.   We can only win the allegiance of tomorrow’s Jews by showing them that they are members of an impressive club with an illustrious history.

That this strategy works cannot be doubted.  Sociologists tell us that emotions are contagious: pride will beget pride.  Marketers tell us that people want elite products: Mercedes cars, expensive wines, and Ivy League degrees.  And Washington, DC tells us that people like winning teams: Capitals hockey games are sold out; Nationals baseball tickets are $5 after six losing seasons.  We Jews have a winning team, but nobody will know our record if we never tell a newspaper.

This marketing should of course be done in good taste, and the majority of the marketing should take place within the private Jewish community.  And marketing shouldn’t be put ahead of the product.  Our first responsibility as communal Jews must be to continue to succeed in all dimensions we can.

But we can no longer afford to raise American Jews who are afraid or embarrassed to admit they’re Jewish.  These Jews don’t know that Judaism is a shared bond with many of the smartest, richest, and most successful in the country.  And it’s these Jews that walk away from Judaism.

Pride is not a sin.  If we accomplish great things, then let us share our accomplishments, and let it be incentive to keep pushing.  A Rabbi once praised the biblical David because “where he walked, the ground shook.”  We Jews need to shake the ground and make some tracks.  In doing so, the next generation will know where to follow us.

Stephen Richer is co-founder and president of Gather the Jews.  This blogs reflects only the opinions of Stephen.

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5 replies
  1. Rella
    Rella says:

    I’m pretty sure Hailey is talking about arrogance, through which some segments of the Jewish community are marginalized, rather than about pride in being a Jew.

  2. Halley Cohen
    Halley Cohen says:

    I absolutely think people should be proud Jews. To say that I’m against being proud of being Jewish, or that I’m “afraid or embarrassed to admit [I’m] Jewish” is a deep misreading of what I said.

    I said we shouldn’t prioritize Ashkenazi identities over other Jewish identities. They are all valuable, even if there are more Ashkenazi Jews than others.

    I said that we should not take those study results and make super-intelligence a defining characteristic of Jews, because then we leave out those Jews who do not fall into that category. By that logic, if “real Jews” are so smart, and some people don’t have that super high IQ, then they must not be “real Jews.” And it’s a big problem if we’re saying who is a real Jew and who isn’t.

    I am arguing for a Judaism where ALL of us are valued – Ashkenazi or not, super-intelligent or not. *That* is the Judaism and Jewish culture that I’m proud of.

  3. Zev
    Zev says:

    ” They will not join because of Torah – sacred texts are no longer sacred in America. ”

    What a foolish statement! The Torah is the basis of everything we are and what makes us a nation – a holy nation at that. Without the well-springs of Torah, Judaism is nothing and the Jewish people will soon dry up and disappear. Jewish education is the only solution. It will foster a deep and lasting Jewish pride.

  4. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Why is pride limited to the scope of wealth and intelligence? What about Tzedaka and social justice? I’m proud to be Jewish because of organizations such as American Jewish World Service, JDC, Hazon, etc. Shouldn’t we be proud of what we can give back to the world instead of what we can take from it?


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  1. […] Gather the Jews co-founder and president, Stephen Richer, declared that Jewish pride is not a sin. He is correct. Not only does Jewish pride lack sinfulness, but it is a seminal and necessary […]

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