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Jews: an Ethnic Group and Not Just a Religious One:

A commenter to the last post expressed doubt that Jews can be considered an ethnic group. Here's what I wrote about this in December 2004:

Jews are an ethnic group, though Judaism is also a religion. People can be ethnically Jewish though irreligious -- many Jews are.

[This has been the effective definition of "Jew" in many past incidents of anti-Semitism. M]any anti-Semites hate Jews without regard to their religion; the Nazis went after the irreligious Jews as well as the devout Jews, and so did the Soviets. Much anti-Semitic propaganda focuses on Jews' supposed ethnic or cultural traits, not their religion. Nor is this just an anti-Semitic view; as I understand mainstream Jewish religious teachings, someone whose mother is Jewish, which is to say generally someone who is ethnically Jewish, is "Jewish" for purposes of Judaism even if he is an atheist.

I realize that there's some fuzziness about the definition of "ethnicity" (it usually turns on people's descent, but descendants of converts to Judaism may often be treated as ethnically Jewish, just as descendants of people who moved to Ireland not long ago may often be treated as ethnically Irish -- especially when the descendants are now not in Ireland in any more, and especially if they characterize themselves as Irish). [But s]uffice it to say that an ethnic group is a group that's usually linked by descent and culture, and that perceived itself and is perceived by others as an ethnic group. We need not delve further into this here, except to say that Jews are often treated as an ethnic group much as are Irish, Poles, Gypsies, and so on.

I prefer to use the term "ethnicity" rather than "race" to refer to Jews. Historically, however, the term "race" has also included what we now think of as ethnicity, so Jews, Italians, Irish, and such were sometimes called "races" rather than just ethnic groups. [Likewise, some old U.S. statutes and some more recent foreign statutes have been understood as using "race" to include "ethnicity."]

Veritas:
Jews are Hebrews.
8.22.2006 5:08pm
jgshapiro (mail):
Since this is primarily a law blog . . . Here is an article summarizing how the Israeli Supreme Court addressed the issue, in connection with a case regarding how someone was to be classified in the registry of population (Israeli Census). It actually makes a difference there, since Jews are entitled to automatic citizenship under the Law of Return (and I believe are required to serve in the Army, except in certain narrow circumstances) while non-Jews must apply for citizenship and I don't think have an Army requirement.

The U.S. Supreme Court also had a case back in the 80's or 90's addressing whether Jews were an ethnicity for purposes of U.S. anti-discrimination laws, but I can't find a cite right now.
8.22.2006 5:25pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
It's kind of an interesting question. Are Jews, for instance, more different from the European (or general) population at large than say ethnic Poles or ethnic Swedes? I wouldn't really guess that they are. If so, definitely not by much.

Perhaps the focus on ethnicity has arisen from the lack of a Jewish state over the centuries. Maybe if Jews all came from Israel, we'd think of Israeli as the ethnicity (similar to Polish or Swedish) and Judaism as the religion.
8.22.2006 5:29pm
jimbino (mail):
And don't forget that religious Jews as well as ethnic Jews, like St. Peter, can be Christian. Indeed living ones can too, since Jesus came to fulfill the Law of Moses.
8.22.2006 5:35pm
sbron:
Jews were clearly viewed as an ethnic group during the
Austro-Hungarian empire and in several European nations afterwards. Poland for example
had a separate "Bureau of Jewish Births" prior to WWII.
And until recently(?) Russian passports listed Jews under
a separate nationality. European anti-semitism and
government classification turned Jews into an ethnic
group regardless of actual religious practice.

The U.S. does not have a "Jewish" ethnic
classification, so it is more difficult to describe
American Jews as belonging to their own ethnic group.
Personally, I feel this is a healthier situation than
the central European example.
8.22.2006 6:31pm
great unknown (mail):
I am mildly amused by the implicit Eurocentricity of this discussion. Everybody is ignoring the millions of "Sefardic" Jews - who, as far as appearance is concerned, are far closer to Arabian than European And there are about 100,000 Falasha, or Jews of Ethiopian descent, who are racially black (can't say "African-American" here, can I?). Then there are the Jews of Cochin, India, etc., etc....
Finding the common denominator of "Jewishness" is a challenge that has stumped the Israeli government for over fifty years. Part of the problem is the religious component. A bigger problem is that the decision makers tend to be Ashkenazic.
One of the rallying cries of those seeking to dilute the definition of Jewishness by making it overly inclusive (my personal point of view; they obviously disagree) is, "Hitler would have called him Jewish and killed him." This may be true, but I will not have the definition of Jewishness set by the Nazis.
8.22.2006 6:49pm
DDG:
jimbino
You're asking for trouble with that one. But your point is useful in explaining why even Jews disagree as to whether being a Jew is an ethinic of religious description.

For complicated historical reasons (and sometimes outright bigotry) ethnic Jews who also consider themselves as Christian are usually not consisdered Jews by other Jews. Particularly those who consider themselves both religiously Jewish and Christian (e.g. Jews for Jesus). On the other hand, ethnically Jewish athiests/Buddhists/New Agers, etc. are not so discriminated against by Jews. But Jews who convert to Christianity have been considered Jews by antisemites (e..g Edith Stein (St. Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), murdered by the Nazis for being both Jewish and Christian).
8.22.2006 6:53pm
jallgor (mail):
I think the treatment of Jews as an ethnicity rather than A religion stems from many different factors. One I think is that Judaism is not generally a religion that seeks converts so most jews are jews by birth. Second, the large Jewish populations that settled into parts of christianity but were never allowed to assimilate (even if they had wanted too) which I think would naturally lead to a sense that they are jewish first and German or Polish second. I think this is especially so after the 2nd world war for obvious reasons. I understand the phenomenon of treating Jewish as a ethnicty rather than a religion but I think sometimes it makes it too easy to gloss over the distinctiveness of the different types of Jews that exist in this world. I think it helps feed the stereotype of Jews that exist in the U.S. (which is largely derived from the stereotyped traits of eastern european Jews).
8.22.2006 7:03pm
Yankev (mail):
Mordechai Kaplan confused the issue even further with his influential work "Judaism as Civiliazation", which attempted to reconcile the conflict between Jewish religion and ethnicity.

Those who claim that Judaism is solely a religion are at odds with the Jewish religion itself (at least in its Orthodox form), which teaches that the Jews are a people and that members of that people are obligated to observe certain commandments, including the commandment to believe in G-d and to study the special teaching (Torah) that He gave to the Jewish people exclusively. These commandments and this Torah are a special covenant between G-d and the Jewish people. Therefore one cannot adopt (i.e. convert to) the Jewish religion without simultaneously joining the Jewish people. The conversion ceremony is in a sense a naturalization ceremony as well as a "purely" religious ceremony. In other words, according to the Jewish religion, one who was born a Jew remains a Jew even if he does not believe or practice the Jewish religion; a non-Jew can adopt the Jewish religion only by joining the Jewish people.

As far as Christianity is concerned, yes, a Jew who adopts Christianity is still ethnically a Jew, and if he wants to resume a life of Torah and commandments, no formal "reconversion" to Judaism is necessary. And while a Christian, the Jewish religion does not give him a pass on the various commandments (e.g. resrictions on food, Sabbath observance) that are binging only on Jews. But it is delusional to think that a Jew who adopts Christianity is somehow following or completing the Jewish religion. He is not, and he is violating many of Judaism's most basic beliefs. This is not bigotry, it is simple fact, and for so long as he continues doing so he is disqualified from many of basics of membership in the Jewish people. The same is true of a Jew who worships e.g Krishna, Budda, or any of the other gods of any of the non-Jewish nations.
8.22.2006 7:26pm
MDJD2B (mail):
Judaism began at a time when there was less (or no) distinction among nationality, religion, citizenship and language anywhere in the world. In classical Athens, it would have been inconceivable for a contemporary of Pericles to be an Athenian citizen born in (and identifying with) Maciedonian ehtnicity, worshiping Egyptian gods, or speaking Etruscan in the home as a primary language.

The dispersion of Jews from their homeland occurred before such distinctions were normative (they were an invention of Rome, but hadn't taken in much of the middle east). And in the successor countries to the Roman Empire (at least in Europe) Christianity was a prerequisite for acceptance as a full citizen. So Judaism persisted as an ethnicity and nationality combined with a religion. With emancipation in modern times, Jews tended to adopt the nationality of the place in which they live. Most Jews who are at all religious learn at least rudiments of Hebrew, the traditional language of Judaism. In Europe, their daily language until emancipation was an amalgam of Hebrew and the local vernacular.
8.22.2006 7:49pm
DDG:
Yankev,
What you say is the way religious Jews would look at the matter, but it is not the way many ethnic Jews would look at the matter. And it is not the way the Israeli Supreme Court looks at the matter -- Messianic Jews are not Jews for purposes of the law of return. But a Jewish athiest is just fine. Or anyone else with at least a single Jewish grandparent, as I understand it.

While the nation/people business is a nice rehtorical slight of hand, it's just that. And it's not much different than what most Christians and Muslims believe. It's slightly different for Christians, as no one is born a Chrisian; one becomes one through baptism.

Are Karaites Jews?
8.22.2006 7:51pm
Peter Wimsey:
In Europe, their daily language until emancipation was an amalgam of Hebrew and the local vernacular.


Actually, it was mostly Yiddish in central Europe and Ladino in Spain; neither of those are an amalgam of hebrew and the local vernacular, although there is the occasional hebrew word in them.

I think it's relevant that the term "anti-semitism," when coined in Germany in the 19th century, was used to describe an antipathy against non-religious (i.e., ethnic) jews. The reason for "anti-semitism" rather than "anti-jewishness" is because the antipathy had nothing to do with the jewish religion, which the secular jews who were the object of dislike were not practicing anyway. It simply had to do with their status as ethnic/cultural/etc. jews.
8.22.2006 9:35pm
MDJD2B (mail):
Mr. Wimsey,

I agree that Yiddish and Ladino are archaic forms of German and Spanish, with many Hebrew words. I oversimplified to the point of inaccuracy. My basic point remains-- that Judaism is not a religion, an ethnic group, or another such class, but is sui generis. this point survives your correction.
8.22.2006 10:07pm
Lawbot2000:
The much more interesting question is: What exactly is an African-American?
8.23.2006 12:17am
Bleepless (mail):
Lord Peter: The term "anti-Semitism" was coined by the anti-Semitic Wilhelm Marr because he preferred a term other than "Judenhass."

On ethnicity, etc., one finds, for every other religion, an attenuation of belief and observance which leads, eventually, to someone being described as a former [whatever]. This is not the case with Jews, however: when is the last time anyone encountered someone described as an "ex-Jew?"
8.23.2006 12:25am
Hubba Dubba (mail):
If one can be ethnically Jewish without practicing Judaism, then what makes one ethnically Jewish?
8.23.2006 1:16am
Hubba Dubba (mail):
What exactly is an African-American?

The person at work you harass with such stupid questions.
8.23.2006 1:17am
David M. Nieporent (www):
My basic point remains-- that Judaism is not a religion, an ethnic group, or another such class, but is sui generis. this point survives your correction.
Actually, the answer is simple: Judaism represents a tribe.

That word has come to be seen as archaic by some, and pejorative (white supremacists use it as a slur, either to argue that Jews aren't white or to argue that Jews are disloyal or exclusionary) by others, but it's historically based, and much more closely analogous than either "religion" or "ethnicity."

"Religion" is wrong because Jewishness isn't based upon belief the way Christianity is; one doesn't start being a Jew by believing Jewish things, and one doesn't stop being a Jew by not believing Jewish things. "Ethnicity" is wrong because one cannot generally adopt an ethnicity -- one can't become Chicano if one isn't -- or discard one -- one can't declare that one is no longer Chinese-American. But "tribe" sums up all these elements. One can be born into a tribe, or one can be adopted into a tribe; one can also be 'removed' (for lack of a better word) from a tribe (which is effectively what Jews who convert to Christianity are seen as doing).
8.23.2006 2:48am
Lev:

What you say is the way religious Jews would look at the matter, but it is not the way many ethnic Jews would look at the matter. And it is not the way the Israeli Supreme Court looks at the matter -- Messianic Jews are not Jews for purposes of the law of return. But a Jewish athiest is just fine. Or anyone else with at least a single Jewish grandparent, as I understand it.


What about a single Jewish stepgrandparent?
8.23.2006 3:08am
Nick Good - South Africa (mail):
I remember hearing somewhere that it is possible for DNA tests to identify Jewishness ethnic markers, but I'm not entirely sure of this, does anyone know any more on it?
8.23.2006 4:37am
Yankev (mail):
Hubba Dubba:

If one can be ethnically Jewish without practicing Judaism, then what makes one ethnically Jewish?

Being born to a Jewish mother. Period.
One can of course convert, but converstion requires the convert to undertake full religious observance, making the convert both ethnically and "religiously" Jewish. Of course, if a woman converts and a child born to her after conversion becomes non-observant r.l., that child would be, as you put it, "ethnically Jewish."

DISCLAIMER: This answer is from the perspective of traditional Jewish law (Torah). Those who adhere to anti-nomian or heterodox theories of Judaism may give you another answer.
8.23.2006 10:26am
Yankev (mail):
DDG:

but it is not the way many ethnic Jews would look at the matter. And it is not the way the Israeli Supreme Court looks at the matter -- Messianic Jews are not Jews for purposes of the law of return. But a Jewish athiest is just fine. Or anyone else with at least a single Jewish grandparent, as I understand it.

True, DDG, but largely irrelevant. Torah believing Jews are used to being a minority among the Jewish people. 80% of the Jewish people died in the plague opf darkenss because they were so steeped in Egyptian idolatry that they preferred to stay in Egypt. Most of the 20% who were worthy to go out with Moses rebelled at one time or another in the desert. Jewish law has always been determined by majority consenus of the qualified pre-eminent committed scholars of the generation, not by majority vote of the people as a whole. Not even majority vote of the observant segment of the people.

As to the Israeli Supreme Court, again, what do their decisions have to do with Jewish belief? They adjudicate statutes adopted by the legislature of the State of Israel, not the laws of the Torah. (Indeed, the court today is composed primarily of not only atheists, but of atheists who have expressed their disdain for Torah as an outmoded and --- well, I digress.)

Let us not confuse the transitory and secular laws enacted by the Jewish national state with the eternal Law that observant Jews believe to have been given to them by the One who made them an eternal nation. You do not have to believe in those laws nor in their Source, but for clarity of discussion, you do need to understand the distinction.
8.23.2006 10:35am
Paul Gowder (mail):
Just out of curiosity, what is the "status" (under, say Israeli law for purposes of their citizenship) of someone who was not born a Jew, but who converted in some otherwise-acceptable fashion, but then became an atheist? So they were a whatever, then they became a Jew, then they decided they don't believe in the religion to which they converted. Did the conversion bestow the same kind of Jewishness that being born Jewish does, so that they don't actually need to continue holding to the religion to be a Jew?
8.23.2006 10:52am
AaronC:
Genetic studies suggest that Jews share more genes with other Jews than with their host populations.
8.23.2006 10:55am
Yankev (mail):
Paul,

I can't say what the Israeli Supreme Court would do (see my reply to DDG). As to what Jewish law would be, you would need to consult a qualified Orthodox rabbi, but my guess is that the answer depends on whether the original conversion was valid. As I understand it, if the convert was indeed sincere at the time of the conversion, the conversion remains in effect and the convert is indeed Jewish. If circumstances cast serious doubt on the convert's original sincerity (to take an extreme example, let's say he converts on Monday and becomes an atheist on Tuesday), a rabbinic court may well decide that he in fact did not intend at the time of the "conversion" to accept the yoke of the Torah and commandments, and that the conversion was void ab initio. But that's just my intuition, and you are best advised to CALOR, as they say on some of the Jewish blogs -- Consult A Local Orthodox Rabbi.
8.23.2006 11:26am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Benzion Netanyahu's The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain argues that hatred of Jews as an ethnic group was clearly distinguishable from hatred of Jews as a religion--hence the fierce campaign against the large Spanish population of Christians of Jewish ancestry. The beginning chapters of the book point out that this ethnic anti-Semitism dates back to at least 160 BC, and that while anti-Semites in Europe often justified their hatred in religious terms, when it came to "New Christians" (as Christians of Jewish ancestry were called in Spain), the rationalization was in biological terms--that Jews were genetically predisposed towards their supposedly exploitive, criminal, grasping nature, and no number of generations as Christians could fix it.

While more implied than explicit, Netanyahu suggests that the fifteenth century's development of a detailed and powerful racial anti-Semitism in Spain was the result of the rise of proto-democratic populist forces. His claim is that Jews and "New Christians" were strongly identified with the royal government of Castile, and as a result, proto-democratic forces in cities such as Toledo hated Jews out of envy of their wealth, and positions of respect and power.
8.23.2006 11:33am
Evan H (mail) (www):
AaronC is right. I read a journal article a few years ago that explored genetic diversity among the populations of the Middle East and North Africa. Not surprisingly the peoples we commonly refer to as Arabs showed a broad range of genetic diversity. Palestinians were more closely related to Jordanians and Egyptians than Iraqis, who were more closely related to Kurds than to Arabs in Libya. But when it came to the Jews it found that that the Iranian Jews were more closely to those in Israel than they were to the native Iranian populations.
8.23.2006 1:52pm
glangston (mail):
The term anti-semitism serves mostly to confuse. It's reminiscent of people (mostly Americans) referring to blacks in Europe as African American because the term is so ingrained in politically correct speech. It's nearly impossible to respond to anything that uses the term anti-semitism as the meanings are too varied. If something is demeaning and hateful to religious Jews it should have a separateness from something that is demeaning and hateful to ethnic Jews.
8.23.2006 3:57pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
This is not the case with Jews, however: when is the last time anyone encountered someone described as an "ex-Jew?"


Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of, "Jewish Humour: What the Best Jewish Jokes Tell About Jews," tells of another famous Jewish and assimilated banker Otto Kahn, who converted to Christianity, and was walking with a hunchbacked friend when they passed a synagogue. "You know I used to be a Jew," Kahn said. "And I used to be a hunchback," his companion replied.
8.23.2006 4:42pm
Yankev (mail):
glangston

If something is demeaning and hateful to religious Jews it should have a separateness from something that is demeaning and hateful to ethnic Jews.
There is a certain logic to what you say, but you come close to suggesting that whether something is anti-Semitic has to do with whether it is demeaning and hateful to the beholder, and is not a matter of objective fact.

Keep in mind that those who hate Jews for being Jews justify their hatred sometimes on religious grounds, sometimes on ethnic grounds, and sometimes on the latest politico-economic fad. Thus the Nazis justified their hatred because our religion imposed great wounds on mankind (circumcision on its body and conscience on its soul), but also because we controlled the banks and world communism.

The Soviets hated us whether we were religious or not, considering us rootless cosmopolitans and non-Russian, even if were were atheists -- yet they also punished severely any practice of the Jewish religion.

Various Christians justified their hate because we refused to worship a certain man, thereby supposedly crucifying him all over again, but also because they attributed dishonesty and other unsavory characteristics to us as an ethnic group.

A recent editorial in a Scandinavian newspaper castigated the very idea of a Jewish state, but did so in terms that totally distorted certain tenets of the Jewish religion, and claimed that Israel's policies were based on those tenets (as the editors misunderstood the tenets to be) -- an absurd claim given the anti-religious posture of the Israeli government and much of its electorate.

"Peace" demonstrations in recent times slam Jews (sometimes literally as well as figuratively) in the name of tolerance, peace, acceptance and political correctness.

Those who hate Jews tend to conflate their own motives and justifications, and to shift easily from one to the other. The term "Judenhass" that was replaced by the term anti-Semitism was no more precise.

Most expressions of anti-Semitism have more in common than not, whether religious or ethnic justifications are proffered -- demonization, double standard and delegitimization - See Natan Sharansky's excellent explanation at http://www.isranet.org/DataBank/natan_sharansky.htm
8.23.2006 4:46pm
Yankev (mail):
David M. Nieporent

You're right as can be, but try explaining that to someone who's not an M.O.T.
8.23.2006 4:49pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
The primary question seems to be based on a misconception--Jewishness is not so much an ethnicity as an ethnic identity. Sure, in the eyes of anti-Semites, any family relation to a Jew makes one tainted if not outright Jewish. That seems to suggest ethnicity as the criterion. But since when do we let the hate groups create ethnic identities?
For example, I just saw an ad in a Serb magazine for a book titled "Born in Blood", with an interesting transformation of the Mogen David symbol into the Masonic symbol. This harkens back to the East European tradition of refering to various alleged participants in plots to take over the world as "Jew-Masons" (I am simply translating here). Does that mean that we should consider all Freemasons to be Jews? That makes absolutely no sense!

As for the religion issue, clearly religion does not define ethnic identity. One can become a Jew by accepting Judaism and subsequent generations of that person will be Jewish, whether they maintain the religious tie or not (unless they choose to leave the "clan" or convert to Christianity). This seems to suggest both a religious and non-religious test. It seems that the common denominator is self-identification or, more specifically, ethnic identity. I know a rather large number of self-professed Jews who married non-Jews. They consider themselves and their children to be Jewish, yet, it can present issues for the children.
No such problems, however, exist in Muslim domains. If someone converts to Islam--including a Jew--he or she abandons the previous national identification and is consequently identified only by the domicile. So a Jewish woman who marries a Muslim and has children in Egypt would be considered Egyptian. Somehow, for Muslims, religion becomes dominant the same way that for anti-Semites, Jewishness becomes dominant in any union.

The latter has deep roots. Jewish converts, even those who rose to high ranks within the Catholic Church, were always looked upon with suspicion by their neighbors. In Spain, prior to the 1492 expulsion, it was all too easy to denounce a recent convert as still secretely a Jew. And the converts themselves for a long time identified themselves as Jews. Spain might have been the most striking example of this, but it was common throughout Europe.
The net result of this is that Spanish Jews who managed to escape to the Netherlads, either directly or through Portugal, were the first substantial modern European group to have become secular. Many were so disillusioned with even the earnest conversion to Christianity that they chose to abandon both faiths. Some still self-identified as Jews, others did not. The acceptance by the Jewish religious communities was mixed--some refused to allow back even those who were forcibly converted before escaping Spain, leading directly to the dilemma. Others allowed the newly secular families to participate in the community culturally, even though they no longer practiced religion.

The bottom line is that either idenfication that Eugene proposes--the one he supports (ethnicity) and the one he opposes (religion)--is an oversimplification.

Many Jews possess certain ethnic traits, but many do not. The distinction has found expression both in literature and in cinema--I am aware of two films that explored this issue: one is Europa, Europa! (apparently the original title, Hitlerjunge Salomon, did not appeal to the US distributor), the other The 25th Hour (La vingt-cinquième heure) with Anthony Quinn.

Judaism often identifies the religion, but sometimes it is taken to be the general state of being Jewish--whatever that might mean. And there are plenty of groups--both Jewish and anti-Jewish--that try to define what it means to be a Jew. None of these are particularly flattering to outside observers. There is an East African tribe that claims to be descendent from Yemenite Jews--and there is plenty of evidence both in Africa and in Arabia that suggests that they may well be right. However, the group, aside from its social practices, is virtually indistinguishable from its neighbors and they don't practice the religion that passes for Judaism in Europe and the Americas. South America is also interesting in this context, as there are several groups of Brazilians and others who have only recently discovered their Marrano identities and wanted to re-convert to Judaism. However, as they were prevented from doing so by the domint religious factions, they started their own versions of Judaism. Neither religion nor ethnicity unquestionably identifies them as Jews, yet, their ethnic self-identity is clear.
8.23.2006 8:20pm
Yankev (mail):
Buck Turgidson

And there are plenty of groups--both Jewish and anti-Jewish--that try to define what it means to be a Jew. None of these are particularly flattering to outside observers.

The oldest of the Jewish definitions, of course, goes bacl at least to the time of the Talmud, and in traditional Jewish belief was given to Moses at Sinai. I'm not sure what makes it unflattering to outside oberservers, given that any outside observer with a sincere desire to become Jewish is permitted to do so. The only exception are for male Moabites, male Ammonites and male or female Amalekites -- none of whom were considered by the sages of the Talmud to still be in existence as indentifiable national groups. As a result, anyone is free to convert, and their offspring born after conversion have the same status as any other born Jew.

More to the point, even if unflattering, why should the Jews alone of all ethnicities and all religions, be expected to let others determine who is and is not one of them? This is simply an extension of your observation that we should not allow hate groups to establish the criteria.
8.24.2006 10:24am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Jumping in where I don't belong, but someone above pointed out that "Jewish" is not recognized officially here in the U.S. as an ethnic group. My guess is that a big part of that is due to the Jewish quotas that we saw back at least into the 1970s, at, for example, many of the top universities. It is significantly to Jewish benefit in our quota society today to not be considered officially recognized. Imagine the Senate with a Jewish quota, or the top universities, or the Democratic party itself. Indeed, I almost expect the same thing to happen with Asian-Americans as they gain political power - maybe instead of White(or European)-Americans and Asian-Americans as seperate ethnic groups, officially, we will all become Euroasian-Americans. That would alleviate their problem of the Asian quotas we now see at some universities - arguably almost as bad as the Jewish quotas when I was in college.

I do find the Jewish view of Jews who accept Christ as the Messiah interesting. There is an A&W in Frisco, 5 miles from me in Dillon, CO, where the proprietors fall into this category. They have Old Testament excerpts in Hebrew on the walls, there are Hebrew language and Israeli newspapers in evidence, the males wear yarmulkes, etc. By all that evidence, they appear more observantly Jewish than many. Yet, it is also obvious that they are also Christians, in the New Testament literature that is also in evidence, as well as the Christmas music they play in December. They appear to be striving to integrate the two, Judaism and Christianity, and that does not appear to make them popular with other Jews.
8.24.2006 11:16am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Yankev,

>Keep in mind that those who hate Jews for being Jews justify their hatred sometimes on religious grounds, sometimes on ethnic grounds, and sometimes on the latest politico-economic fad. Thus the Nazis justified their hatred because our religion imposed great wounds on mankind (circumcision on its body and conscience on its soul), but also because we controlled the banks and world communism.<

Yeah, you just can't make so many assumptions that you rule out the possibility of an honest critic, or effectively intimidate anyone from making the criticisms in the first place (critical ousider criticism, that is, not just inquisitive insider criticism).

Personally, I think that nearly all religions in this day and age are as divisive as they are false, and create extraordinarily more problems than they solve. I also know there are many who share this view. Of course, this isn't anything like a justification for hating Jews or any other religious group, but it does make a point: many people have legitimate reasons not just to criticize, but to dislike the Jewish (and any other) religion.

Call me crazy, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the major intractable violent struggle of our lifetimes centers around the "Holy Land" for multiple major religions. (Incidentally, I think religions are divisive in much more mundane ways as well).

Of course, you're right, religious criticism can meld with other types of bigotry, but the fact that someone says "Yes, but someone can legitimately have a problem with the Jewish religion," and you give a lengthy response about, nevertheless, what we can assume about such people, suggests a problem. A very important tension, if you will, between legitimate suspicion and unjustified assumptions.

(Of course, the irony of this argument is that I'm basically asking a religious group to let me criticize their religion freely without them using unfair rhetorical devices against me. No, it's not exactly an easy argument...)
8.25.2006 11:12am