Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Justin Bieber Says the Shema & Other Jewish Customs Adopted by Non-Jews

It's no secret that certain Jewish rituals have become mainstream. In her new book, "Kosher Nation," Sue Fishkoff explains that kosher food isn't only for Jewish people anymore. "More than 11.2 million Americans regularly buy kosher food, 13 percent of the adult consumer population," she writes. "These are people who buy the products because they are kosher... There are about six million Jews in this country. Even if they all bought only kosher food, which is not the case, they would not be enough to sustain such growth. In fact, just 14 percent of consumers who regularly buy kosher food do so because they follow the rules of kashrut. That means at least 86 percent of the nation's 11.2 million kosher consumers are not religious Jews."

So, it is clear that there are millions of non-Jews out there who have gone kosher. And that is certainly not the only Jewish practice that has transcended Jewish borders.

I'm sure that at some point in history, if you were at a wedding and the crowd danced the "Horah," you would be certain that it was a Jewish wedding. But not any more. The circle dance, in which the bride and groom are lifted in chairs in the middle of the circle, is no more Jewish than a bagel these days. Ami Eden, executive editor and publisher of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), wrote an article the day before Chelsea Clinton's famous wedding entitled "Will Chelsea Dance the Horah?" It was insignificant that Clinton married a Jewish man -- likely, no matter whom she married, she would have danced the Horah at her wedding.

The next Jewish ritual that seems to have been adopted by non-Jews is the mezuzah. While the Horah is just a dance, placing the words of the "Shema Yisrael" on the door post of a home is actually a biblically mandated commandment in Judaism. However, as an article in the New York Times last month demonstrated, mezuzas are not only for Jews anymore. Ann Farmer wrote, "The doorways inside 30 Ocean Parkway, an Art Deco building in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, are studded with mezuzas of all sizes and styles: plastic, pewter, simple, gaudy, elegant. The people behind those doors are an assortment, too: Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Buddhists, atheists and even a few observing the High Holy Days this week."

Many of the gentiles with a mezuzah adorning their door posts didn't affix the encased scrolls themselves, but decided to keep them hung after the previous Jewish tenants vacated the apartment. The article even mentions an 87-year-old Catholic woman who said she often wished she had inherited a mezuza like many of her non-Jewish neighbors did. The tradition recalled her youth, she said, when her local priest appeared each Easter to write "God bless this house" on her family’s front door. To her delight, one of her Jewish neighbors recently hung a mezuza on her doorway. "Every time I come home and remember, I kiss it and touch it and then I bless myself, saying, 'In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.'"

And that takes us to the teen pop sensation Justin Bieber. Though not Jewish, it appears that the young Mr. Bieber says the Shema Yisrael before each concert. Isrealli.org, the New Blog of Israel, reports that Scott "Scooter" Braun (otherwise known as Shmuel ben Eliezer), a 28-year-old born to a Conservative Jewish family in Connecticut with many relatives in Israel, discovered Justin Bieber on YouTube. Braun, now Bieber's manager, told Adi Gold, the NY Bureau Chief for the Israeli newspaper "Yedioth Ahronot," that "the thing that children from Israel will most want to hear: Justin prays the 'Shema' before each show. First he says a Christian prayer, then he says the Shema."

Based on the number of concerts at which Justin Bieber performs, I'm guessing that he's actually said the most important statement of Jewish belief many more times in his life than the average 16-year-old Jewish youth. There's nothing wrong with non-Jews eating kosher food, dancing the Horah, putting mezzuzas on their doors, or saying the Shema. In fact, it only shows how Judaism continues to transcend borders in the 21st century.

It does lead me to wonder about the next "it" Jewish ritual that breaks into the mainstream. With the recent success of Sukkah City in New York, I wouldn't be surprised if building sukkahs becomes the next  attractive Jewish ritual taken up by non-Jewish men who are handy, creative, and think it would be fun to build a temporary hut on their deck. I guess nothing really surprises me anymore.

20 comments:

cermak_rd said...

My partner suggested to me that one reason for the rise of kosher popularity in the marketplace is the abject failure of the FDA in recent years. At least if something is marked kosher, it means someone is regularly inspecting the premises.

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

Yes, you are correct. And this is precisely what Sue Fishkoff writes in her new book "Kosher Nation." Americans -- not merely observant Jews -- want to know that another set of eyes has looked at the process in which their food came to be made.

jkarasick@bellsouth.net said...

Leaving a stone or pebble, when visiting a loved one at the cememtery has always been a Jewish tradition. Today many non-Jews also leave a stone when visiting the departed. Some people choose to leave special inscribed Remembrance Stones.

brandon herman said...

i think it is very kewl that judiasm has tanscended from just jews to everyone around the world

Anonymous said...

I believe that it is a good thing that non-Jewish people are starting to take up Jewish rituals. This has been well pointed out by Rabbi Jason Miller.

Marissa said...

I think that it's a good thing that other people embrace the Jewish culture. It shows that they are not only accepting, but curious about it and it makes for a better sense of community.

Matt Bloom said...

I think that it is "cool" that he says the shema before every concert. It shows that he stands up for the religion of his manager.

Andrew Moss said...

I believe that the reason for many non-jewish people are keeping kosher is due to a failure in the standards of our food. As well demonstarted in the movie "Food Inc.", America's food supply is begining to greatly decline in quality. The large food corporations are doing awful things to feed the 350 million people in the U.S. It is completely understandable why people would want to know how their food was made, slaughtered, and brought to our tables to eat.

Michael Baron said...

I think that it is a very good thing that pop sensation justin beiber says the shema before each concert. It makes jews as a community look good in that we are being supported by someone like justin beiber.

beninabox said...

It is wonderful that non-jews are not only accepting of Jewish culture, but are embracing it. Decades ago, people would be condemed for having mezuzahs on their door, and it's good to hear that the world has changed for the better.

-Ben Robinson

Anonymous said...

The fact that these traditions are spreading is wonderful! This indicates that both Jews and non Jews are participating in some of the same traditions, so everyone is being brought closer together.

Jacob Saroli and Jace Gittleman said...

I think that it is great that non-jewish people do jewish things. I also think that it is great that justin beber says the shema before every concert. However I still do not like Justin Beber.

lpk said...

Everyone should be able to follow any tradition they want. Nobody should be excluded because they have the right to believe and do what they want. I think Jews should appreciate the fact that others want to follow our traditions that we have made.

Stephanie said...

I believe that it is nice that non-Jews are curious about Jewish traditions and are starting to practice them, but I think that it gets to the point where they are taking it too far. Eating kosher food is perfectly okay. It is sold in many grocery stores, and is good quality. I think it goes too far when non-Jews start reciting Jewish prayers and start
posting mezuzahs on their doorpost. I believe that these things are meant for the Jewish people and they are spirtual and religious things for Judiasm.

Arthur said...

Christian Americans don't eat Kosher by choice. Its hard to find non-kosher certified products in the grocery stores.

Kosher certification Rabbis have created a huge business for themselves at the expense of Christian Americans.

Furthermore not all Jews actively search out kosher certified products. If 50% of American Jews actively buy Kosher certified products, the rest of us - 98.5% of the American population - are subsidizing a certification that they do not want.

Put another way, 98.5% of the American population is providing a living to hundreds if not thousands of Rabbis.

Look up "Salami slicing" or Penny shaving" on Wikipedia.

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

Arthur: You might be surprised to discover just how many non-Jews keep kosher intentionally. Many people like the idea of knowing that another set of eyes are on the process of food production. As Sue Fishkoff notes in her book Kosher Nation, even in places with no Jewish people for miles, the grocery store (or Walmart, etc.) has a kosher food section. That doesn't mean that it has food items that happen to have kosher symbols (hundreds of thousands do), but a dedicated section of kosher items.

I receive phone calls at <a href="http://www.koshermichigan.com>Kosher Michigan</a> all the time from non-Jewish people who have Googled kosher "something" and wind up with my phone number. I ask them why they want kosher (thinking maybe they have a kosher observant friend coming over for a meal) and they tell me it's because kosher is better or it's healthier or safer.

menachem mendel said...

there are 7 noachide laws g-d gave gentiles to keep - according to judaism g-d gave each of us a job in this world - and if your not jewish that means g-d wants u 2 serve him as a non jew(unlike other religions that say "my way or the highway")

Anonymous said...

Does no-one else see the irony of the catholic woman touching the mezuza and blessing herself in the name of the trinity. The mezuza proclaims the unity of G-d, (Hear o Israel, Hashem is out G-d, Hashem is one) not, chalila, its trinity.

chsugargirl said...

There is a large movement around the world of gentiles who are keeping the kosher laws and all the Torah because G-d said so. The New Testament actually reads that Jesus (Yeshua Ha Moshiach) did not put an end to the Torah but is the fulfillment of it. Many people have caught on to this Jewish Jesus and realize that the gentiles were grafted in to the Jewish people not replacing them. So G-d is bringing back the nations just like the phrophets said He would. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, Pray for all the house of Israel, Jew and Gentile one in Messiah. Written in love to you.

Anonymous said...

I am not a Jew by birth, nor do I regularly attend synagogue. I have a mezuzah, a tellit, I read the Sh'ma almost daily, observe the feasts, am studying the Torah and the 613 laws, and have a ketubah. I am a Christian and just recently discovered that the heritage of my faith is Judaism. Most of the Christians I know are eating kosher, practicing the Jewish faith regularly, etc. If "real" Jews are making aliyah to Israel then I guess you could say the Christians are making aliyah to Adonai.