In my Protestant upbringing, we were taught to not push ourselves forward too obviously. Always appear reluctant to claim credit. Better to moan and groan about what a great sinner you are.
By contrast, I’ve noticed that Jews tend to feel pretty good about themselves. They’re eager to tell me about the things they’ve accomplished. They’re eager to tell me about their good deeds. How they’ve helped the rabbi. How they signed the lease for the shul. How they helped the rabbi raise money. How they did so much for Israel, for the homeless, for the community.
“Are Jews more obsessed with status?” a Protestant once asked me.
I don’t think so. I just think they’re more honest about pursuing status, honor, sex, money, love and the good things of life.
Judaism is more at peace with the natural passions than Christianity. It takes for granted that people want honor and respect and wealth and love and therefore provides ways to channel these desires into good ends.
I find Jews talk much more honestly about sex and money, for instance. They have fewer romantic notions about such basics of life.
In my Protestant upbringing, it was considered unseemly to talk about desiring sex or money. In many circles, it was easier to talk about sex than money. Money was hush-hush. You were supposed to act as though it didn’t matter (though of course you were expected to fulfill your responsibilities and to give 10% of your income to the Seventh-Day Adventist church).
In my experience, Jews are more likely to accept that sex and money are vital parts of life. They’re the stuff of life and death. To be abjectly poor is to be a little bit dead. To be without sex, is to be a little bit dead.
The Jews I know are at ease at talking about ways to make money, to find a date and a spouse, and a good doctor, and a nice place to live, and a bargain on a car. Judaism is unromantic religion. This world matters. More than the next one.
By contrast, when I step into a Seventh-Day Adventist college, I feel like I’ve left behind many of the cares and concerns of this world. I feel like I’m in an otherworldly dimension. It’s more spiritual and heavenly-minded than the prosaic concerns of Jewish life.
With both groups, I notice among the religious a tendency to pretend to greater holiness than is real.
Religious Jews and religious Adventists both lead lives, in general, of pretense. They pretend to be a lot more religious than they are. They’re tremendously concerned with what their coreligionists think of them. They watch their porn in secret and they’re more strict about what they eat and drink when others are watching than when nobody is watching.