W Manages to Jesus Up Jewish Heritage Month

bagelPresident Bush has declared May as “Jewish Heritage Month,” proclaiming that

“Since arriving in 1654, Jewish Americans have achieved great success, strengthened our country and helped shape our way of life. Through their deep commitment to faith, family and community, Jewish Americans remind us of a basic belief that guided the founding of this nation: That there is an Almighty who watches over the affairs of men and values every life.”

Uh, thanks for the compliment, Dubya, but the congresswoman who worked so hard to get the proclamation through, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, took extra special care to leave the religious-y parts out of it:

“There will be no religious emphasis,” Wasserman Schultz said. “It will be purely cultural and educational, so we didn’t want it tied to any particular Jewish holiday.”

Leave it to the Jesus president to get all God-ish about “heritage.” The man couldn’t have eaten a bagel in front of the cameras and left it that? (Not to mention his wording: the Almighty watches over the affairs men, but the women are on their own? Don’t even get me started on that hypocritical “valuing every life” nonsense.)

This surely begs a round of the never-ending “Is Judaism a religion or a culture” game, but the Sephardic Jewish origins of America’s first settlers is so much more interesting, dontcha think?

I recently read Elizabeth Hirschman’s Melungeons: The Last Lost Tribe In America, and according to her research, crypto-Jews may have been this country’s first immigrants. Though the book is a dry read for all of its scholarly references and academic charts, Hirschman (who thought she was a WASP until her DNA tests came back Jewish, although with a last name like that I can’t imagine why she wouldn’t have been a little suspicious) makes a solid case that the mysterious people of the Appalachians and their descendants (including Abraham Lincoln, Davey Crockett and Elvis Presley) can trace their roots back to the Jews of Spain and Portugal. She even supports the claim that these Jews and their similarly oppressed Muslim neighbors started the Baptist church. (More here and here.)

Perhaps somewhere in the “Jewish American Heritage Month” of May it would be appropriate to hear a bit more about the Melungeons, but this Ashkenazicentric society of ours has yet to reclaim the diversity of Judaism.

5 thoughts on “W Manages to Jesus Up Jewish Heritage Month

  1. I knew it! I just knew it! Elvis is Jewish! I’m so relieved! All that hip swiveling and brooding looks–he’s Jewish. of course!

  2. I believe Pres. Bush meant “MEN”, as in “MANKIND”. I learned what that term meant in fourth grade.

  3. Too Funny!

    Jesus, the greatest Jew that ever lived. I heard a jewish comedian say that. I am a reform Jew and had a bumper sticker on my car that read ” Jesus was a liberal” and someone ripped it off. I thought that it was cool that Jesus shared liberal values, like a lot of Jews. My brother who lives in LA and I believe that Jesus was the first reform Jew. Things just got a little carried away.

  4. I just ordered the book and cannot wait to read it. My family history research had brought me to many of the crypto Jewish or Melungeon Jewish connections on my own…so imagine the surprise when I connected to the melungeon website. I have lost a web connection to a site about my early ancestors the Freemans, he was full blood Saponi Chowain Indian and she was Sephardic Jew …they owned a tavern…the site told the whole story and I either printed it and have lost it, but now the site is down…just shows you how connections come and go. I intend to do DNA tests etc..but looking for a good site…I have a lot of the genetic markers of melungeons…thalassemia anemia, etc… Funny about Hirschman not thinking maybe she had some Jewish relatives with that last name….

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