Author explores "JUBU"

By Joel Brown, Setonian Online, Feb 13, 2007

Baltimore, MD (USA) -- Ever heard of a JUBU? This is a term in Rodger Kamenetz’s “The Jew in the Lotus,” which means Jewish Buddhist. JUBUs are just one topic in this book, but they symbolize all topics therein by representing Judaism’s and Buddhism’s overlap. Kamenetz is a pioneer because those religions are compared less than other pairs.

His thoroughly shared and often humorous experience of a diversity of Jews visiting the Dalai Lama’s exiled monastic community in India is lucky because Buddhists have no baggage with Jews.

On the other hand, a Jewish newspaper attacked two of the Orthodox participants for “consorting with idol worshipers.” This xenophobia is put into perspective when Kamenetz wrote, “Anyone visiting a synagogue and seeing Jews revering and kissing their Torahs would think we worshiped our scrolls.”

Kamenetz relates how the Dalai Lama showed an “absolute explosion of curiosity” for Jewish teachings, and was uncannily able to think like a Jew. Another Jewish participant was close to tears sometimes at the Lama’s listening intensity. Jews and Tibetans share similar humor, reverence for the ancient written word, but more strongly displacement.

Kamenetz explains that when Chinese occupation began in 1950, 87,000 Tibetans were murdered in a month. One rabbi told these Tibetans, “The Chinese came to your people as the Germans came to ours.” Another rabbi compared Tibetan experience to temple destruction in Jerusalem.

All Jews present found time in a community so abhorring to anger and violence to be transforming. Kamenetz, Jewish in background but never having sought life solutions in Judaism, found dialogue with another religion clarifying of his own. He discovered Judaism devoid of sociopolitical defenses to anti-Semitism, and retaining its own adherence (JUBUs abandoning Judaism for Buddhism attest to that struggle) by transmitting joy and transcendence.

Whether by messianic vision or Nirvana’s promise, perhaps the sturdiest thread throughout this bond is the triumphant faith that humankind will overcome all strife.