Is being Jewish just a religion?

Isobel - posted on 03/23/2010 ( 13 moms have responded )

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A woman yelled at my boyfriend the other day and told him to stop identifying with Jews because he is not one. His father's heritage is German Jewish (though most of the family including his father are non-religious).

When we went to a family reunion last year, you could clearly see that half of the family had "disappeared" during the holocaust, and one of the family members was in tears because after WWII he had ended up in Argentina, and he thought he was the last surviving member of the family.

This woman really upset my boyfriend, and really offended me. While he doesn't practice Judaism, if he were born in a different time, he would have been "Jewish enough" for a gas chamber. Being Jewish is a part of his culture and his history...or is it?

Is this woman right?

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I grew up in a Jewish home, and yes it is a religion, not a race. I'm as white skinned as they come, that's my race when I have to check the little box. But also very cultural at the same time. My paternal great-grandma came from Lithuania, and spoke Yiddish. She came to America as a young girl. My maternal side of the family were from Germany & Austria. But I have always identified MY nationality roots as simply American, because the cultural part was based on being Jewish. The food, the customs, the holidays, and yes those comedic stereotypes-huge gaudy diamonds, food-cornbeef on rye, matzoh ball soup, green pickles, the nasty disgusting gefilte fish-well you get the picture. You ever been to 15+ Bar/Bat Mitzvahs in 1 year?! Then you throw in a couple of baby brises, weddings, don't forget to sit shivah for the funeral, and yeah, it's enough to make you say "oy veh"! So for me, I can identify with Judasim as a culture and a religion at the same time.

Mary - posted on 03/24/2010

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The argument isn't about whether or not being Jewish is a separate race, but if it is a separate culture/ethinicity apart from the religious aspect.

Mary - posted on 03/23/2010

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I live in an area that is probably about 50% Jewish, and I definitely believe that there are many who are culturally Jewish, but not necessarily religious. I think that being Jewish is more culturally encompassing than most other religions...and you will find many, many people, like your partner, who consider themselves Jewish, while not an active member of a synagogue, or observing the Sabbath.

I am not Jewish myself, so I am not the best person to argue this case, but I definitely agree with your boyfriend. I live among many, many people who see themselves jsut as he does...not as a different "race", but as a seperate ethnicity from Gentiles.

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Oh, BTW, my husband considers himself a "Jew-by-marriage" and he actually is proud of that! Especially when other faiths knock on our door to share their religious pamphlets with us. He's never rude, but simply says "We're Jewish" and then he points to our framed ketubah (our marriage license written in Hebrew) near the door.

LaCi - posted on 03/27/2010

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All the jewish comedians I listen to have taught me that if you came out of a jewish vagina you are a jew, you can never not be a jew after that, whether you follow jewish traditions or not. :)

I don't really pay attention to race rule or whatever. I think its all kind of silly. Like, if someone happened to be black and american but his roots are in australia does he get offended when he's referred to as african american? as though africa is the only place in the entire world where there were black people. I mean c'mon.

In my opinions its all about what you identify with culturally. If he identifies with jewish culture then by all means, take pride in it, it's part of who you are. If he doesn't then he doesn't have to.

My only issue is why would ANYONE yell at someone because they don't approve of whatever culture they identify with? thats just ridiculous to me. I guess I don't really have an argument either way, but man is yelling at someone about that kind of thing rude. Like.. who the hell does she think she is that anyone cares about what her thoughts on the matter are?

Sharon - posted on 03/23/2010

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Judaism is not a race. Its a religion. Hitler and his friends were insane. The Jewish and anyone associated with them were persecuted. Jewish or catholic back then you could be persecuted on a whim as well as their supposed superior race directive.



The Jewish aren't the only people in this world to be persecuted. It sucks, I hate it, what I learned in school STILL gvies me nightmares. But to me - it wasn't the Jewish being persecuted, it was people, humans.

Rosie - posted on 03/23/2010

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i definitely think that you can take pride in the fact that you came from a family of jews, but i really hate putting the race thing on a jewish person-mostly for the fact that i think it validates what hitler did. i'm proud of my family's heritage, but as i said before i don't practice the amish faith. does he, or did he ever practice judaism?

Isobel - posted on 03/23/2010

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and a second question...Can you still take pride in your Jewish heritage if you, yourself are not "Jewish"

Isobel - posted on 03/23/2010

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I understand that he is not "Jewish", he never told anybody that he was. The question is...is there such thing as a cultural Jew?

Johnny - posted on 03/23/2010

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According to rabbinical laws, the only people classified as Jewish are those born to a Jewish mother. It was the only way to prove connection before DNA tests and you could not be 100% certain who the father was. So more devout Jews will believe that no matter what his connection to his family, that he is not a Jew. For him to actually be one, his mother would have had to convert to the Jewish faith.

Carolee - posted on 03/23/2010

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Being Jewish is a part of his FAMILY'S history, not his. If he was not raised Jewish, he is not Jewish, even though his ancestors were. Yes, a lot of Jewish people have a certain "look", but not all Jews do and PLENTY of non-Jews do as well. Most people who see my dad's wife would automatically assume that she's Jewish because of her looks, but she is Seventh-Day-Adventist and I don't think anybody in her family has ever been Jewish. Also, there are so many people who come from all kinds of different backgrounds who choose to convert to Judaism that there is NO way to tell who practices it or not. Sorry, but I don't think there's any clear "winner" or "loser" in your situation... they're both borderline.

Rosie - posted on 03/23/2010

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i would also like to add, that i can identify with amish people, because they are part of my heritage (just as judasim is part of your boyfriends). so to say that they aren't part of my culture or background is ridiculous-i can definitely identify, but like i said before-i am not amish.

Rosie - posted on 03/23/2010

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while i don't agree with what happened to your boyfriend, i don't believe judaism is a race. i hate how hitler used that excuse to kill whomever he felt necessary. my husband and i go back and forth on this one. i just don't see how being jewish is any different than being catholic, or amish or something. my grandmother was amish-does that mean i am? no. i do not practice anything that amish people do-therefore i am not amish.

my husband always gives the argument that jewish people have certain facial features (large nose-whatever) and that is something hereditary. so apparantly everyone with a big nose is jewish? it just doesn't make any sense to me. saying the judaism is a race, IMO, gives validation for everything that happened to the jews under hitlers reign.

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