Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"DNA, schmeeNA"

According to Menachem Brinker, a professor of mine at Chicago (speaking on what makes a person Jewish but I suppose this makes sense for other groups as well) identity is a mix between what you think you are and how others classify you. Now, however, a new variable has made things all the more confusing. Just as children can be artificially bred to need less sunblock or be more "Aryan," depending what you're looking for, already-existing humanoids can get tested to see what race they "really" are. While I'm certain that I am as Ashkenazi as the next person waiting for their number to be called out at the Zabar's cheese counter, it might well be that I'm a bit, or even a lot, of something else as well. I'm thinking 98% Ashkenazi, 2% camembert, but that does not have science backing it up. In any case...

Given the tests' speculative nature, it seems unlikely that colleges, governments and other institutions will embrace them. But that has not stopped many test-takers from adopting new DNA-based ethnicities — and a sense of entitlement to the privileges typically reserved for them. Prospective employees with white skin are using the tests to apply as minority candidates, while some with black skin are citing their European ancestry in claiming inheritance rights. One Christian is using the test to claim Jewish genetic ancestry and to demand Israeli citizenship, and Americans of every shade are staking a DNA claim to Indian scholarships, health services and casino money. (Emphasis mine.)

Why am I not surprised that while people are lining up for every other ethnicity, only one can be found who thinks being Jewish is the way to go? The rabbi's response--"DNA, schmeeNA"--is classic, but a better answer might have been what Estelle Costanza said to Susan Ross, when Susan told Estelle, re: George, "I love your son": "May I ask why?"

My guess as to why our friend John Haedrich, otherwise a gentile, feels such a pressing need to be a citizen of the land of hummus and zatar? I'm thinking someone watched Yossi and Jagger a few too many times and got carried away. OK, fine, that someone is me--statistically, it's likely that Haedrich prefers the ladies--but that movie is really the best argument for aliyah ever invented.

"Schmeena," for what it's worth, should be a word. Or perhaps, if nothing else, a brand of organic yogurt. Pronounced "schMEEna," not "schmeehnAY." Or, if the organic yogurt happens to be Israeli, "schmeeNAH."

Before this gets really incoherent, to sleep.


Anonymous said...

There are those among us who believe that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson is the Messiah, and that he will rise from the dead. We accept them as Jews. There are those among us who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, and that he rose from the dead. Why should those of us who believe in Yeshua, who are also descendants of Abraham, be considered goy and not Jewish? (howard vermont)

Anonymous said...

Hi Phoebe:

Unfortunately, you got it all wrong.

Next time check your sources before you end up with "egg on your face".

Be well,