What is a "jew"?


Is a jew a member of a race or a religion? I always thought it was a religion but then i keep hearing the word used as if in reference to a race. Thanks.


Judaism is a religion. Being a Jew (Jewish) may or may not imply actual religious observation of the beliefs and strictures of Judaism. Because Judaism throughout most (but by no means all) of it’s history has not been an “evangelical” or convert seeking religion, Jews have tended to be certain ethinic heritages: the Ashkenazi (Eastern Europeon) and Sepahrdi (Spanish-Moorish)–BOTH heritages which derive from the ancient Semitic-Middle Eastern Hebrew peoples.

By Jewish law, being born of a Jewish mother makes one of the Jewish people. A convert to Judaism is fully a Jew–and by the above standards, a convert’s descendents are considered Jewish.

One can be ethnicaly “Jewish” and renounce the tenants of Judaism–one may be considered “culturaly jewish” but Jewish law no longer recognizes such persons as a Jew.

Anyone more knowledgable PLEASE correct any mistakes of mine


The use of jewish “race” is really rooted in anti-semitism. These days, however, you are as likely to find a jew as refering to him or herself as a race as anyone else.

Since you can’t convert into a race, it isn’t a race. There is There are probably very little racial triats that I, a Russian Jew, share with an Iranian Jew or an Israeli Jew. There are however, common cultural morays (sp?) that I may share. Common beliefs, traditions, etc. But no matter how many of these we share, me and Sammy Davis, Jr. are never going to be classified as belonging to the same race.

What being a “Jew” means can change depending on the conversation.


Jews are obviously not a race but they are more than a religion. They are a people bound by a common heritage and tradition dating back some three thousand years. You are Jewish because your Mother is Jewish and you are part of Jewish people even if you are not in the least religious.


So if it’s not a race, how can people be 50% jewish?


The same way one can be 50% Italian or 50% Polish. It is an ethnic group, albeit one that did not have a specific country for millenia.


My mom says that there are religion jews, and then there are race jews, which are completely different. Is this what your saying? If it isn’t, can someone state an argument i could use to explain otherwise? Thanks.


they can’t.


If your mom is jewish, then her children are jewish.

That’s the base line. You can also convert to Judaism. (You can’t convert into a race).

Now, someone who is born jewish may end up never embracing any aspect of the Jewish religion. But they are still Jewish according to Jewish law.

There are cultural aspects that Jews may share which are outside of the religioius practice. A shared history or common bond.

Because of the diaspora (the exile) and the fact that Jews exisist throughout the world, even our traditions can differ significantly. A Jew in Poland will celebrate Pesach somewhat differentl than a Jew in Spain.


What if your dad is jewish but your mom isn’t


Then you are not Jewish under Jewish law. There is a sect of Judaism, the Reform movement, which recently stated that it would view children from either a jewish mother or jewish father to be jewish. But this goes against traditional judaism and Jewish law.


Is there anything in the Hebrew Scriptures that explains how someone is Jewish based on his/her mother being Jewish, or is this found in some other place in Jewish teachings?


It is found in the Talmud, where it discusses the prohibitions against interfaith marriages in Deuteronomy. In Chapter 7 it says the baby of a jewish woman and non-jewish man will be jewish. From this and some other verses, the Talmud concludes that in order to be Jewish, one’s mother must be jewish (or one must convert). It is probable that at some time before 200 CE (when the Talmud was codified) that patrilineal descent may have been followed, as it was in determining which tribe one belonged to.


Matrilineal descent is culturally important, as in “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”. Since early childhood is so important in forming the values and beliefs of the individual, and the mother is so important to the young child, the mother is usually more important than the father in transmitting culture. This is the reason why so many cultures consider matrilineal descent to be more important than patrilineal.


Thanks Valke2! I’ll go look up Deuteronomy Chapter 7.


Welcome. It’s 7:3-4


It’s also a whole lot easier to be certain who the mother of the child is than the father.:slight_smile:


This becomes especially important because Jesus claims his Jewish heritage through His mother. When Moses allowed the daughters to share in the inheritance he was preparing the law for Jesus.


Since Jews are human beings the question is “who is a Jew” not “what is a Jew”


:yup: :clapping:

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