What makes you Jewish?

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jgh7

What makes you Jewish?

Post by jgh7 »

Can you be Jewish because both of your parents are Jewish? How about if one of them is Jewish? How about if a grandparent is Jewish?

Can you be Jewish because you believe in their religion? What about if you don't, but you still celebrate the holidays and culture?

Can you be/become Jewish if you're not from the bloodline, or is some form of bloodline required?

Can you be an atheist and still be Jewish? Can you ascribe to any other religious views outside of Judaism and still be Jewish? Is Jesus off limits?

You can see what I'm getting at. Is there a commonly accepted set of rules for determining if you can "officially" (if that even exists) be Jewish or not?

I'm of full Jewish decent genetically speaking and I just joined the Jewish usergroup because of that. I lack belief in the Jewish religion though. I'm willing to leave the user group if it's meant for those who are Jewish by religiou belief. In it's description it literally just says "Jewish" lol, so I don't know.

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cnorman19
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Who is Jewish?

Post by cnorman19 »

Haven't been around for awhile, but I thought someone should answer this.

Traditionally -- and Judaism IS tradition: we have no dogmas -- one can be or become Jewish in two and only two ways: by being born to a Jewish mother, or by undergoing a formal ritual of conversion under the authority of a Bet Din (a Jewish rabbinical court).

On the first: if your mother was Jewish, you're a Jew, whether you practice the religion or not. Many Jews who proudly identify as Jews are entirely nonobservant and may even be atheists (not the same thing; more on that anon). It's as much a culture and an heritage as a religion, maybe more. Even if one converts to another religion, one remains a Jew; but one is no longer practicing the Jewish religion.

Some Reform congregations now recognize patrilineal descent, that is, recognizing that one is Jewish if one's FATHER is Jewish and not one's mother. This is a matter of some controversy between the branches and within the Reform movement itself.

On the other route: As one goes through the conversion process, which generally takes from one to five years, one learns about Jewish history, traditions, and a broad spectrum of belief, from extreme Biblical literalism to de facto atheism; but one is never told what one must or should believe. That is an entirely personal decision. (I should note here that I do not speak for or about the Orthodox. Much of what I say here holds for them as well, but my own experience and reading have been in the Conservative -- which is actually liberal -- and Reform communities.)

Belief is truly irrelevant in Judaism. In the Jewish religion, even the word "religious" has a different meaning; it refers to one's practices -- attending services, celebrating holidays, that sort of thing -- and not to one's beliefs. One may hear, "She's very religious, but she doesn't believe in God." Or, "He studies Torah all day and writes about Judaism for a living, but he's not religious."

Then there is the term "observant," which is different still; that refers to ritual observance, such as keeping Kosher, fasting, the Family Purity laws, that sort of thing -- and just as with belief, there is a wide spectrum of possibilities there as well.

As I say, belief is irrelevant. One cannot become, or claim to be, a Jew because one believes or even lives and practices as a Jew. I've often compared it to becoming a citizen of a country: one is born so, or one is MADE so by the action of a court. Like it or not, there are no other options.

The Bet Din, by the way, is normally no big deal. It's usually chaired by the rabbi who is instructing one, and he won't convene the court till he's sure you're ready.

I hope all this helps. I'll be happy to answer questions -- I'm no rabbi, but I am what we call a "learned layman" -- but none of this is up for debate. None of this is opinion; these are settled matters of Jewish law, no more debatable than the rules and definitions in secular law. Whether any part of these laws and practices is right or just -- well, that's another question, and one I'm not particularly interested in, for reasons of my own, and I have no intention of going there.
"The Torah is true, and some of it may even have happened." -- Rabbi William Gershon

"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry; but why on Earth should that mean that it is not real?" -- Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; J. K. Rowling

"It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God -- but to create him." -- Arthur C. Clarke

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OnceConvinced
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Re: Who is Jewish?

Post by OnceConvinced »

Hi Charles! Nice to see you!
cnorman19 wrote:
Even if one converts to another religion, one remains a Jew; but one is no longer practicing the Jewish religion.
:idea: Ahhhhh! Now I understand why some people call themselves Jewish Christians!

Society and its morals evolve and will continue to evolve. The bible however remains the same and just requires more and more apologetics and claims of "metaphors" and "symbolism" to justify it.

Prayer is like rubbing an old bottle and hoping that a genie will pop out and grant you three wishes.

There is much about this world that is mind boggling and impressive, but I see no need whatsoever to put it down to magical super powered beings.


Check out my website: Recker's World of Fantasy

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Post by duBois »

In view of overall disengagement from institutions, I think people are providing themselves various options in terms of identity. While a shul or an Israeli court may not recognize a particular person as Jewish, people increasingly are self-identifying as they wish...and others often accept it. I think the most serious version of this is where people conduct their lives ethically and politically based on Jewish values. They may not at all publicly refer to Jewish identity, but in their internal thought processes count Jewish values as foundational.

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koko
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Post by koko »

I was raised Catholic but both of my parents have Jewish ancestry as our ancestors were forcibly converted by the Inquisition. In the Bible, Judaism is a reference to tribal blood, not religion. On that basis I am Jewish irregardless of whatever religion I chose to believe in. Same with all else with similar bloodlines.

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Post by duBois »

[Replying to post 5 by koko]

Interesting. My father's family were anusim as well. Hopefully, in my view, Jewish identity is not limited to genealogy but carries some connection to Jewish values. That is my hope anyway.

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Willum
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Post by Willum »

So where does the matrilineal/patrilineal come from?

It has switched from time to time in history - and does not seem to be divine in origin.
Not to pollute the forum, but when Jesus was alive, it was patralineal.

Is it just tradition? and if so, what if an outsider doesn't agree?

and as frequently comes up:
How does Deuteronomy 23:2 play out?

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Post by duBois »

[Replying to Willum]

In Rabbinic Judaism, the mainstream tradition is 1) Your mom is Jewish...so you're Jewish or 2) You convert.

In more modern times, the issue of anusim has come up more...so, I guess that's a narrow 3rd way...if you take the time and money to document your ancestry...but, I'm not sure who all accepts or doesn't accept documentation. And then, in modern times, some Reform have advanced patrilineal. So, I guess one just chooses how one wants to look at it. As Jesus and contemporaries were pre-rabbinic Judaism...I guess it's a little apples and oranges there. My overall attitude...for what it's worth...is that if a person has positive regard for Jewish values...what is to stop them from feeling Jewish is some way?

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Willum
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Post by Willum »

[Replying to post 8 by duBois]

You haven't exactly answered any of the questions.
At least to answer the "so what?"

What is the significance? If a Catholic observes that the child of a Jewish mother isn't Jewish, then that would also be true, right? There is no higher opinion than 'ad populum' is what you are saying?

So, if as you say, it is all about how you want to look at it, then what is the significance?

Lineage does not appear to make someone Jewish, if they or anyone else doesn't want to be.

That is what you are saying? Because it seems to me to be out of step with ad populum culturum!

:)

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Willum
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Post by Willum »

[Replying to post 5 by koko]

If being Jewish is a bloodline, I doubt it will be easy to find anyone not realted to everyone else from 2500 years ago.

There are likely Japanese who are Jewish by that standard... about the only ones that could be reasonably expected to be without would be Aboriginals of 200+ years or more ago.

There are no peculiarly 'Jewish genes' that aren't shared or even dominated by non-Jewish cultures - Iraqis by this token would be more "Jewish," than current residents of Israel.

What makes someone Jewish seems to be diverging in this topic, rather than converging. If all it is is one's self-perception...

Well help me out here, it CAN'T just be self-perception, right?

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