“Jew(ish): A Primer, A Memoir, A Manual, A Plea” by Matt Greene— Tradition and Modernity

Greene, Matt. “Jew(ish): A Primer, A Memoir, A Manual, A Plea”,  Little A , 2020.

Tradition and Modernity

Amos Lassen

Even though I am Jewish, I often find myself thinking about what that means. My religion is steeped in tradition that is sometimes at odds with the modern world within which I live. I have questions about so much about being Jewish and having been raised Orthodox, I was told not to ask. Now as a Reform Jew, I can ask but the traditions that I question have changed.

Growing up I wondered about that feeling of not being fully integrated into the activities of my classmates, about being told what I could and could not eat and about the strictness of the High Holidays.

Through stories and essays, Greene uses his insight into what he thinks the modern Jewish experience is made up of. He meditates on the nature of Jewish identity in the twenty-first century and on family religion and culture and he feel his humor and his anger. My questions were not answered necessarily but I gained a lot more to think about.

I had always felt that there was pressure to being Jewish— we were expected to be on the honor roll and well-dressed for all occasions, we were in a sense, on-display. I agree with some of what Greene has to say and I totally go in the other direction with some of his thoughts. I still don’t know what to think of about the book as a whole.

The prose is eloquent and respectful to a point but Greene and I come from different places and have different issues.  I am able to relate to quite a lot of what the author has experienced but because I am Jewish, I am allowed to disagree. After all, we are opinionated.

Greene is an irreligious Jew and that is fine but I wonder why he is so concerned over his Jewish identity since it is not a part of him as he boldly states. His ultimate question is whether he is still a Jew after having rejected Judaism. But then he says that he’s more comfortable being the only Jew in a room than in a room full of Jews.

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