What Are Jews?

 

Hitler would love it.

Decades after he tried to convince the world that Jews are a separate ‘race’, many people still fall for this lie. Jews are defined as a ‘race’ in fiction, by some theologians of other faiths, and by many otherwise intelligent, rational people across the globe. Log into any online forum where religion is the topic, and you’ll find endless posts passionately insisting that there exists a ‘jewish race’.

 

You’ll also see people referring to ‘being jewish via blood’ or of someone being ‘of jewish blood’.

I mean really – do they think we Jews have kosher chicken soup running through our veins…?!

There is no such thing as ‘jewish blood’!

Let’s clarify the issue. Jews never were and are not now a ‘race’.

Can you alter your race? No.

Can you convert to Judaism? Yes.

Are you then considered as Jewish as those born into the faith? Again – yes.

Clearly, then, neo Nazi protestations to the contrary, Jews are not a ‘race’.

 

Nor are we an ‘ethnic’ group, though again, we are often defined as such.

But think about it: there is no one ethnicity which unites all Jews. How can there be? There are Japanese Jews. Indian Jews. Black Ethiopian Jews. White Jews. We come in all shades and colours. We represent all ethnicities.

So we’re not a race, and we’re not an ethnic group. Yet we’re not a religion in the same way that Christians or Muslims are, either.  After all, as perplexed non Jews often note, there do exist Jewish Atheists. How can this be, though, if Jews are members of a faith?

So what are we, exactly…?

Well, we’re a Tribe. We started out as a collection of smaller tribes, bound by tribal law. Today we are still tribal in nature.

You’re born into the Jewish Tribe, if your mother is Jewish.

You remain a member of the Tribe – unless you leave to join another faith.

And you can return any time you wish, so long as you renounce the religion you left the Tribe for.

People convert to Judaism and are then adopted by the Tribe.

You remain a Tribe member even if you don’t actively practise Judaism, which is how we can state that there do exist Jewish Atheists. Atheism is not a religion, thus it does not represent a violation of Tribal law.

Originally, even the Jewish G-d was a tribal deity – nothing remotely like the universal G-d that we worship today. Rather, the Jewish tribal deity was unique to Abraham and his descendants. It was only after Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai that we find Jews being transformed from a Tribe with a localised deity, into a Nation with a Universal G-d.

So there you have it. That’s what we are.  A faith, a family, and a nation. But above all, a Tribe. Personally, I prefer ‘tribe’ and think it’s more accurate, as it conveys better the clannish, and intense nature of Jews as a group.

So, next time you encounter someone calling us a ‘race’, remind them that only neo Nazis actually believe this, and that anyone who does use this term to define Jews, is sadly continuing Hitler’s legacy, something no decent person would ever desire to do.

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14 thoughts on “What Are Jews?

  1. Jews are a race. Yes a lot of Jews are mixed because of the diaspora but there still is a Jewish look amongst us. There might be Japanese Jews but they are very small in number. (Perhaps <100). There were also a lot of Chinese Jews who had converted in Kaifeng, but eventually assimilated out. It is interesting to note that foreign cultures that convert to Jewry end up assimilating out. Ethopian Jews are converts hence their different genetic makeup.

  2. B”H!

    I stumbled across your site, I am so proud of what you are doing, what a beautiful neshama, I want to hug you! xo

    May Hashem bless you and protect you and keep you safe always.

    If you are ever in GA, you must come to me for Shabbos.

    I am so glad you are educating people on these topics, B”H we are in a time like no other.

    JewsforJ are absolutely preying on Jews in my community right now. Before Pesach I was at Kroger and I heard a JfJ talking to another Jew about how he was a “completed” Jew. The Jew didn’t understand what that meant and told the JfJ he had never heard that term before. I was sickened by the whole thing.

    A few days later on Shabbos my daughter told me she was approached in the same Kroger by a JfJ who asked if they wanted to go to a meeting of believers. They are swarming here.

    JfJ uses special language when dealing with us Jews. They have special marketing materials for the “soul winners”. These are “communication” cards that supposedly help them win Jews souls to their religion, Chas V’Shalom!

    The actual “Soul-Winners Card” (based on the verse in Mishlei Proverbs- 11:30) has the following info:

    Become “As a Jew, To the Jews!” (1 Cor. 9:20)

    Do Say: Messiah, Yeshua, Messiah Jesus, The Messiah.

    Don’t Say: Jesus C

    Do Say: Messianic Jew, Completed Jew, Fulfilled Jew

    Don’t Say: Convert

    Do Say: A bible believer

    Don’t Say: A Xtian

    Do Say: Come to a meeting of bible believers

    Don’t Say: Come to church

    Do Say: 2nd part of the bible, New Covenant

    Don’t Say: New testament

    Do Say: Tree, execution stake

    Don’t Say: Cross

    Explanation of the Do’s and Don’ts:

    1) The term “christ” does not have ANY Jewish connotation to the average Jew.

    2) Convert means to “take away” Judaism and to become a “goy”, a gentile. “Messianic Jew” means to BUILD UPON OR ADD TO his Jewish heritage by gaining the atonement, GAINING the messiah and GAINING MORE PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD! He does not have to give up his wonderful biblical Jewish heritage. Emphasize what he gains!

    3) ALL non-jews are considered Christians, even Hitler

    4) The term “CHURCH” is too gentile to be desirable to a Jewish person.

    5) “New Testament” is considered a NON- JEWISH book. Don’t emphasize the name. USE IT!

    6) The “CROSS” has been a symbol of Jewish persecution for centuries.

    The motto for these JfJ is 1Cor 9:19-22 in which Paul states: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I become like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from G-d’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all mean I might save some.”

    Deception is perfectly acceptable according to this NT scripture as long as the ends justify the means.

    The JfJ are seriously growing out there. Fundamentalist Christians are obsessed with converting us. They believe that the mass conversion of the Jews will bring about J’s “second coming”.

    Jews are complete as they are. There is nothing missing from Judaism and Hashem didn’t make a mistake or change his mind and turn the covenant over to those that persecuted us.

    As as observant Jew who lives a Torah life, I absolutely have a personal relationship with Hashem. I love Hashem with all my heart, soul and strength. But when I mention my love for G-d in the secular realm, people automatically think I am xtian. This tells me that many non-Jews don’t believe we have the relationship with Hashem that we do.

    But we absolutely do have a most personal and intimate relationship with the King of the Universe, Hashem Yisborach.

  3. Thank you so much PENELOPE, your kind words have brought tears to my eyes 🙂

    You are truly a wonderful ambassador for your faith.

    Also, I love your comment about America being an ‘ideology’ as well as a physical place.

    I’m a Brit, yet I can appreciate what you mean. Having visited America, and having met and mixed with Americans here in the UK also, I totally ‘get’ what you mean!

    Sadly, here in Britain we don’t have the same attitude and pride that I think our American cousins across the pond experience…

    ‘Witness always and sometimes use words’

    – what a clever and elegant way to express it. (Please excuse my ignorance, is this Francis of Assissi you refer to?)

  4. Tabitha, you have a gift of teaching. I appreciate you answering my questions and concerns. Christian to me only denotes a person who has accepted Jesus, thus starts a new way of looking at “the world” and your life in general. I think when you refer to people such as “jews4jesus”, you should refer to them as what they are…I suppose predator might be too strong a word….but when I read your posts in the future, I will understand exactly who you mean.

    I was not raised with any religion, my father does not believe in a personal G-d, and for heaven’s sake do not get him started on organized religion. However, since my conversion, the one place we can discuss religion is the Judeo belief system. I asked my father where his moral grounding comes from since he is not a Christian, he explained that he had no problem with the Old Testament of my Bible, in the sense of how he believes people should live. He has always argued that while our Founding Fathers in the United States were Christians, our country is based on the Judeo belief system more than the Christian belief system, but that because Christians have adopted those moral groundings from the Hebrew, our Christian belief system hummed right along. It took me a little while to understand what he meant.

    For me the United States is not just a physical place, it is an ideology.

    Thank you for letting me off the hook for the length of my comments, you are very kind. I appreciate your explanations, it is certainly shedding light on things that I did not completely understand. Now I am off to read your other posts… 🙂

    P.S. I will definitely look forward to your post on the differences between reform and orthodox. And as for the, “spreading my faith by how I live my life”, that is actually from Assissi (Catholic) who I believe said, “witness always and sometimes use words”.

  5. HI PENELOPE 🙂

    You make some great points – as usual 🙂

    And please don’t make your posts shorter! I greatly enjoy them and I’m sure that other Christians who may be reading are finding them immensely interesting and helpful 🙂

    OK, to try and address your points one by one 🙂

    Re Christianity:

    Yes, it’s always awkward for me to post things on Evangelical Christian groups. Because I know full well that they DO NOT represent all Christians.

    May I presume to use the term “true christian”…? I’m aware it’s a term that people don’t agree on, but I think you’ve summed it up beautifully, when you note:

    ‘ For me, my responsibility in spreading the “good news” is how I live my life.’

    What a wonderful way to put it 🙂

    For me, as a non Christian, that attitude represents “true Christians”. Interestingly, it’s also a very ‘jewish’ attitude! In the sense that Judaism stresses actions – over beliefs. So we can see that while our theologies may conflict, our attitudes and actions actually agree!

    Your attitude is the exact OPPOSITE of the ‘jews4jesus’ and the Messianics.

    When I post on ‘jews4jesus’ and ‘messianic jews’, I always try to remember to note that these groups don’t represent all or even most Christians. Do tell me if you feel I’m not making that statement clearly enough 🙂

    ——————————————-
    Sounds as though you and your neighbour have some great conversations and I’m sure she appreciates your advice 🙂 This is a perfect example of how things should be between Jews and Christians – if only all members of both faiths would work towards this more.
    —————————————–

    You make the statement:

    ‘The way I see it, my faith does not exist without the Jewish faith, the Jewish faith does not need Christianity to exist. ‘

    I think this is a very interesting statement and it’s certainly one I’ve heard other Christians say. In terms of accuracy….

    I think it’s fair to say that Christianity might not have *started* without Judaism, because Jewish concepts such as ‘maschiach’/messiah have of course become a vital part of Christianity. And ‘love thy neighbour’ was part of Judaism before Jesus adopted and taught it.

    So yes, I’d agree there is some truth to your statement. Christians are often, and understandably, drawn to and interested in Judaism, because of course Jesus was a Jew.

    I think it’s vital for Jews to always remember and acknowledge that Christians will, very naturally, be curious about Judaism, and we should always respect this and do our best to convey accurately Jewish beliefs.

    I think if we look at Christianity, though, we can perhaps conclude that once it had got underway, it did not need Judaism to exist – because the two faiths have such different theologies.

    Concepts such as ‘virgin birth’, and G-d taking human form, and vicarious atonement, and ‘second coming’ – these don’t exist in Judaism.

    So while Christianity may have *started* as a Jewish fringe sect, it certainly became an entirely independent faith that existed in its own right pretty early on.

    Sorry if I’m not putting this very well… I find the links between our two faiths fascinating and would love to travel back in time and see secone temple Judaism and early Christianity in action!

    Sometimes I think that actually, the closest faith today to what Jesus practised may well be Reform Judaism – still Judaism but less ‘legalistic’ then Orthodox Judaism.

    I’ll have to post something on this sometime…

  6. Yes, Tabitha, that explanation does help. I guess I see an atheist as rejecting G-d’s very existence…okay, let me cook on this one…

    When I was young, I was taught that there were only 3 races : Negro, Caucasian, Asian. These were taught as black, white, yellow. It did not have anything to do with ethical or spiritual background, but with the bone structure and genetic makeup. I think people today confuse race with culture and in today’s world, we are not isolated as we were centuries ago. So race, in the pure sense of the word, I would think almost does not exist anymore.

    I want you to know, I really do appreciate your posts, I am learning quite a bit. I sometimes wince when you go after Christians, as this is my faith. I have difficulty with people of my faith who are aggressive in the evangelical realm. Faith to me is personal. For me, my responsibility in spreading the “good news” is how I live my life. I am open to speak with anyone about religion. My neighbor is Jewish, though, I think you would consider her non-practicing. She has been through quite a bit in her life, it has been very hard for her. So, when she and I speak of the blessings in our lives (I try to constantly remind her of these), we speak about G-d. I do not go into specifics about my belief unless she has a question. It did not dawn on me to try to convert her to my belief. In my mind, she has her faith. I do not know if this makes sense but I just wanted you to know that not all Christians feel the need to do what “jews4jesus” try to do.

    I do pray for the people who are “converted”. If it is a true conversion of faith, then I agree with you, they are not Jewish but Christians and if they are truly following the dictates of Christianity, then there is no need to even belong to a tribe any longer. But, I think in order to be converted to another faith, you have to be seeking something, and I am not convinced that people who make a conversion like this have truly found what that is.

    The way I see it, my faith does not exist without the Jewish faith, the Jewish faith does not need Christianity to exist. Would you tell me if this statement seems flawed to you? (I promise, I will keep my future remarks shorter, I really do enjoy learning).

  7. HI JINGLEBERRIES 🙂

    In fact Jews have pretty much always married outside the faith, not surprising given that we were dispersed throughout the world.

    So we didn’t really remain ‘genetically isolated’ because of course, non Jewish women have become Jewish, had children, who are then Jewish.

    Thus, no – there is no Jewish ‘race’ nor ‘ethnicity’.

    That said, yes – there are some genetic factors involved which are very interesting. I’ll have to do some more reading and post some links on all of this 🙂

    Thanks for commenting!

  8. HI PENELOPE 🙂

    Thanks for posting 🙂

    I agree with you: the term ‘jewish atheist’ DOES sound counter-intuitive.

    The reason why a Jew who becomes an Atheist remains Jewish is because as a Jew one is a member of two things:
    – the Jewish tribe
    – the Jewish faith

    The only time a Jew becomes an actual Apostate, is if they join *another* faith, since virtually all faiths would be considered idolatry by Jewish criteria.

    An Atheist isn’t committing idolatry because of course, they are not violating the commandment to ‘not have any other gods before me’.

    Also, because Judaism also involves a comprehensive ethical system, one can adhere to that even while adopting Atheism.

    I realise it sounds strange – perhaps the easiest way is to note that being Jewish is a bit like *citizenship*.

    Analogy: you can be an American or Brit and not be at all patriotic but you are STILL an American or Brit.

    Thus an Atheist Jew is really just a non practising Jew – the theological equivalent of a non patriotic citizen of any given country.

    A Jew who actively joins *another* religion, though, forfeits their place in the Jewish ‘nation’ – though they can always return if they want to.

    Hope that helps a little bit 🙂

  9. But I agree that it isn’t necessary to talk about it this way. Being distinct in genetics isn’t exactly a big deal, and it tends to create psychological divisions that aren’t necessary.

  10. Hi there, how are you? I’m just commenting to mention that I’ve looked this up, and apparently geneticists have studied the Ashkenazim for a while, and have found there to be distinct genetics. There is even a gene found only in the Ashkenazi population which, if both your parents have it, make it near impossible to contract HIV! You are obviously free to look this up if you would like. I understand that Judaism is a religion, but it is a religion that was mostly genetically isolated everywhere it went, so you can say that the majority of Jews are of a distinct race, and no, that is not necessarily racist. You wouldn’t have to call that race “Jewish”, but the point still stands.

  11. I still don’t get the Jewish atheist. I thought atheist reject the notion of G-d.

    I do appreciate the post. I was under the notion (unfortunately from my Jewish friends, who by the way are very diverse in their background…) that they are more of a heritage, in the sense that people would say I have an Hispanic heritage even though I am an American.

    Thank you, Tabitha.

  12. HI S.A. 🙂

    Many thanks for commenting 🙂

    And yes – you are quite right! Many Jews mistakenly refer to themselves as being part of an ‘ethnic’ group.

    That said, and in all fairness, Jews are described as a ‘race’ or/and an ‘ethnic’ group in some countries’ legislation re race crimes. So I guess some Jews have absorbed this incorrect definition.

    It probably all sounds very petty to some people, and I can appreciate why. But as you and some others understand, Jewish identity has been MISdefined in a damaging way throughout history, e.g. by the Nazis, which is why I thought I’d post something on it 🙂

  13. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone refer to him/herself as an “ethnic Jew.” And, it’s always someone who should know better than to say it. THANK YOU for clarifying it.

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