Looking Back at 10 Myths About Judaism, 30 Years Later


In July 1989, Rabbi Simon Glustron tackled 10 common misconceptions that circulate within Judaism. He went into each one in-depth, pulling on Talmud, Jewish law and basic research to debunk each one.

Myth #3 is “Man cannot improve on what a perfect world God has created.” Glustron noted that multiple rabbinical texts remind us that “God has created an incomplete world waiting to be improved upon by man,” using circumcision as a key example of man having to make perfect what God started.

Another myth states that “Jews have always discouraged converts.” The Talmud contains arguments both for and against conversion; Glustron concluded that ultimately, Judaism “frown[s] upon forcible conversion.”

Myth #7, “A child must be named after a deceased relative,” raises the common disagreement among Jews. Glustron off the bat notes that “there are no legal requirements [by Jewish law] regarding the naming of a child, only that [he] be given a Hebrew name.” Sephardi Jews engage in the practice of gracing the Hebrew names of living relatives on children, while Ashkenazi Jews only give those of deceased family members – and there are “no specific laws regarding the giving of [Hebrew] names.” Therefore, this is more a practice of beliefs than law.

The last myth Glustron tackled is that “Yom Kippur is the saddest day of the year.” He notes that while Yom Kippur is “the most sacred and solemn day,” it is not necessarily a sad one. The title of “saddest day of the year” goes to Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the two Temples. Yom Kippur is a day of “spiritual cleaning” while Tisha B’Av is one of mourning,

Other myths included: “Saints have no place in Jewish thought” (accompanied by a drawing strongly resembling Freddie Mercury); “The offspring of an unmarried couple is regarded as illegitimate;” “Jewish law favors capital punishment;” “A woman may not come in physical contact with a Torah scroll;” “Historically Jews resented being restricted to the ghetto;” and “Reincarnation is totally alien to Jewish thought.”

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