“Generally speaking, the qualities that create the inward character of the Jew are not the choice of the individual.
Each person receives these qualities as an inheritance from his ancestors, generation after generation, from all those fathers and mothers who have survived, and who have been selected as capable of carrying the work of Judaism.
However, what the individual receives is only the whole body of primary qualities, and he has the choice as to how they should be used.
He has to define their value and essential nature, what they aim at and in what way they can reach perfection.”
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From We Jews by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, p. 76-77