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A Jewish Buddhist (also Jewbu or Jubu or Buju) is a person with a Jewish background who practices forms of Buddhist meditation and spirituality. The term Jubu was first brought into wide circulation with the publication of The Jew in the Lotus (1994) by Rodger Kamenetz. In some cases, the term can refer to individuals who practice both traditions; in other cases, "Jewish" is no more than an ethnic designation where the person's main religious practice is Buddhism. In yet other cases, a Jubu is simply a Jew with an interest in Buddhism. A large demographic of Jewish Buddhists, constituting its majority, still maintain religious practices and beliefs in Judaism coupled with Buddhist practices and perhaps beliefs.
The first recorded instance of an American being converted to Buddhism on American soil occurred at the 1893 exposition on world religions and the convert had been a Jew named Charles Strauss. He declared himself a Buddhist at a public lecture that followed the World Conference on Religions in 1893. Strauss later became an author and leading expositor of Buddhism in the West. After World War II, there was increasing interest in Buddhism, associated with the Beat generation. Zen was the most important influence at that time. A new wave of Jews involved with Buddhism came in the late 1960s. Prominent teachers included Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield and Sharon Salzberg, who founded the Insight Meditation Society and learned vipassana meditation primarily through Thai teachers. Another generation of Jews as Buddhist teachers emerged in the early 2000s, including author Taro Gold, expounding Japanese traditions such as Nichiren Buddhism.
According to the Ten Commandments and classical Jewish law, known as Halacha, it is forbidden for any Jew to worship any deity other than the way God is worshipped in Judaism – specifically by bowing, offering incense, sacrifices and/or poured libations. It is likewise forbidden to join or serve in another religion because doing so would render such an individual an apostate or an idol worshipper. Since most Buddhists do not consider the Buddha to have been a "god", Jewish Buddhists do not consider Buddhist practice to be "worship". In addition, many Buddhists (particularly Theravada Buddhists) do not "worship" the Buddha but instead "revere" and "express gratitude" for the Buddha's (and all buddhas') accomplishment and compassionate teaching (that is, discovering and teaching the Dharma so others might be released from suffering and achieve Nirvana). In Mahayana Buddhism (the dominant form of Buddhism in the world today), the Trikaya (three bodies) Doctrine, and praying to Buddha as savior in Pure Land Buddhism significantly blurs the issue for Jews of whether Buddhism is a religion and whether Buddha is considered a God.
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