Anonymous
Anonymous asked in Society & CultureReligion & Spirituality · 1 decade ago

Jewish….. race or religion debate?

In my previous questions I asked if I should view Jews as a race of people or as a religion.

I can see with the hindsight of European history the dangers and sinister context of regarding Jew as a “race” of people, but several of the comments regarding has lead me to think about this notion deeper.

As pointed out to me someone can convert to Judaism (Ruth, in the bible…..ironically the name of my ex girlfriend who was Jewish and still one of my best friends who is probably reasonable for me even contemplation half the questions iv asked)

But from further reading there dose seem to be the over whelming feeling that to be “truly Jewish” your mother should be Jewish. This would lean much more to the context/structure of a race rather then a religion?

Disclaimer-

This will be one of several questions I will be asking about Israel and Judaism tonight, I apologies if any of my question come across as offensive as this is not my intention.

Update:

paperback_writer - No offence taken, I have found all of your posts on my question very informative and take on bored what you say (after all you know a lot more about the subject then me!) but I still find it hard to grasp this notion of maternal inherited Judaism and its implication on the law of return………bloodline over belief if you will.

Update 2:

paperback_writer - Thank you for the link.

No, not doing a project. it’s just purely out of general interest. It’s very hard to find answers having few Jewish friends (5, and none could be regarded as remotely orthodox) I also had a lot of trouble from the Jewish father of my ex girlfriend over me not being Jewish…….since then I have had a more personal interest.

And being 28 I have grown up with the region being on the news everyday here in England and have noticed that the news reports have started swing in favor or the Palestinians dramatically over the last 5 years.

And I have always beveled a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

19 Answers

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    To reiterate: we are not a race.

    This is just sheer logic. If we were a 'race' then we would not have Jews from every possible ethnic background - and we do.

    If we were a race, nobody could convert to or from Judaism - and both happen.

    The reason why we go by the religion of the mother is one of sheer practicality: because while there is and was, way back, sometimes doubt over who the father is, there is no doubt over who gives birth to the child!

    Does that answer this question to your satisfaction?

    At the risk of being blunt: even if you post another fifteen questions asking why we are not a 'race' it doesn't change the fact that we are not one.

    No offence intended :)

    EDIT TO 'IT'S THAT GUY' - history proves you wrong. In pre nazi Germany, the Jews were the most assimilated that we have EVER been. There was none of this 'living separately' etc that you mention. There was a high rate of intermarriage etc. And there are, I can assure you, plenty religious Jews today. You can speak to many of them here on this site, if you so wish.

    EDIT TO ASKER

    I know, I completely appreciate that for non Jews the whole defining 'Jewish' seems probably a bit complex! It all comes from practical concerns, way back. I think you might find it helpful to check out http://www.whatjewsbelieve.org/

    By the way, and of course no obligation to answer, but are you doing a project on Judaism?!

    EDIT TO ASKER

    lol lol, yep, you are soooo right about the 'knowledge' aspect, I always try and research topics in depth as well, whatever they are, for the same reason!

    You're also right about the British news; I'm British and I think the BBC is by far the worst. The others are OK.

    If you really want to try and get 'under the skin' of the Jewish attitude to Israel, then I recommend the novel EXODUS by Leon Uris.

    This novel radically changed the world's attitude towards Israel because although ostensibly fiction, it incorporates such a lot of historical, verifiable fact about the middle east. The author also wrote, after that, 'The Haj' which tells of the same issue but from an Arab point of view more.

    Really enjoyable and informative reads, both of them - EXODUS is the one to start with.

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  • 1 decade ago

    This link explains it the best, I think.

    http://www.jewfaq.org/judaism.htm

    From the last paragraph on the page:

    It is clear from the discussion above that there is a certain amount of truth in the claims that it is a religion, a race, or an ethnic group, none of these descriptions is entirely adequate to describe what connects Jews to other Jews. And yet, almost all Jews feel a sense of connectedness to each other that many find hard to explain, define, or even understand. Traditionally, this interconnectedness was understood as "nationhood" or "peoplehood," but those terms have become so distorted over time that they are no longer accurate.

    Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz has suggested a better analogy for the Jewish people: We are a family. See the third essay in his recent book, We Jews: Who Are We and What Should We Do. But though this is a new book, it is certainly not a new concept: throughout the Bible and Jewish literature, the Jewish people are referred to as "the Children of Israel," a reference to the fact that we are all the physical or spiritual descendants of the Patriarch Jacob, who was later called Israel. In other words, we are part of his extended family.

    Like a family, we don't always agree with each other. We often argue and criticize each other. We hold each other to the very highest standards, knowing that the shortcomings of any member of the family will be held against all of us. But when someone outside of the family unfairly criticizes a family member or the family as a whole, we are quick to join together in opposition to that unfair criticism.

    Peace

    Feel free to email or IM me if you have any questions, I'm Jewish and Orthodox I love to answer questions... :-)

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  • 4 years ago

    The proof that we are not a 'race' is: - if we were, how could anyone convert to or from Judaism? You can't change your 'race'. Also, as there are Jews from every existing ethnic background, again, the 'race' theory just does not apply. And if your biology teacher tells you differently then I promise you, that is one idiotic teacher! DOMA - gentiles who 'follow Judaism' are not Jewish. Only Jewish religious law gets to define Jewish identity. Would you say that someone can be ' a gentile who follows Islam'? No? Same logic. There are two ways, and only two ways, that someone becomes Jewish: - they are born to a Jewish mother - they convert to Judaism. Converts are AS Jewish as someone born to the faith. But outside these two ways, there is no other way to be Jewish. And just as Islam defines who is a true Muslim and Christianity defines who is a true Christian, so Judaism alone defines Jewish identity. MARJI - you are being illogical. How can Jews be an ethnic group when there are Jews from so many different ethnic groups? I'm Jewish, unlike Marji, and I can tell you we are a religion, we are a people, and we are a family. COMMENT FOR MARJI - how on earth can you say that embracing Jesus does not negate your Jewishness??? OF COURSE IT DOES. That's like saying that eating meat does not negate my status as a vegetarian!!! MARJI - you are the spiritual equivalent of someone claiming to be a vegetarian while munching on a BigMac. Either be proud to be Christian or come back to Judaism. But you can't have your cake and eat it! And that's not 'my' opinion - that's what Jewish religious law tells us.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I believe it's a religion that was adopted by a small ethnic group or several small ethnic groups.

    In Judaism, the way you decide whether your children are to be considered Jewish or Gentile is that, if their mother is Jewish, then the children are considered Jewish. This has to do with the religion only, so no, it's not an indicator of there being a Jewish race.

    Source(s): I have a friend who is Jewish. She was adopted and is actually Scandinavian by DNA.
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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Judaism was never a race, but for centuries it was seen as an ethnicity, a culture. In Europe, up until only recently, Jews lived in their own neighborhoods, ate different foods, wore different clothes, spoke a different language. They were 'the other', like Gypsies. I think for most of the last 1000 years in Europe Jews were the most visible and obvious 'minority'.

    In fact I don't know if I would say Judaism is even fairly classified as a 'religion'. Christianity is about belief but Judaism is not about belief but principles, rules of ethical behavior. Most Jewish people are more or less agnostic. Most of them see it more as a cultural heritage than a belief system.

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  • kismet
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    You cannot convert into a race, but you can convert into Judaism.

    Most tend to view Judaism as being both a religion and an ethnicity, but not as a race.

    Source(s): Jewish
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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Jewish is a race genetically traceable back to the time of Moses and Abraham. In essence Muslims can trace their heritage along with Christians to Moses and Abraham who were in fact Jewish. Yup Christians and Muslims are Jewish whether they want to admit it or not. At the same time the religious beliefs of each of these groups separates them at different points in history making Judaism a religion. You can be both of the Jewish race and of the Jewish religion or of but one of these. This is a FACT.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Abraham wasn't born a Jew but was labeled a Jew by the God Yahweh. So what does that mean? If Abraham had children previous to God labeling him now a Jew they would have been whatever race Abraham was and that was not a Jew. So when Abraham had children after his title but not his race was changed by Yahweh to a Jew his children still would be born from Abraham's race of people from whom he came. So in my eyes Jews evolved from a change in religious beliefs from a past false god of Abraham's race of people to the start of the real God Yahweh's nation of people. So I guess I'm trying to say that the Jews were part of a previous race of people who went through a change in religious beliefs. I hope my train of thought is coming through with my answer.

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  • 1 decade ago

    NO again...it just means that the religious belief system is carried through the mother not the father. Hebrew is the race and Jewish is the religion. PEACE!

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Well, legally it's a race too.

    "In the 1980s, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Jews are a race, at least for purposes of certain anti-discrimination laws."

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