"Who is a Jew?" (Hebrew: מיהו יהודי
pronounced [ˈmihu jehuˈdi]) is a basic question about Jewish
identity and considerations of
Jewish self-identification. The
question is based on ideas about
Jewish personhood, which have
cultural, ethnic, religious, political, genealogical, and personal
Judaism and Conservative
Judaism follow the
Halakha, deeming a person to be
Jewish if their mother is
they underwent a proper conversion. Reform
Judaism accept both matrilineal and patrilineal
Judaism predominantly follows patrilineal descent.
Jewish identity is also commonly defined through ethnicity. Opinion
polls have suggested that the majority of
Jews see being
predominantly a matter of ancestry and culture, rather than
Ashkenazi Jews, being the most numerous
division, have been the subject of numerous genealogical studies and
have been found to be a distinct, homogeneous ethnic group.
However, other studies have found overlap between
Italians and Greeks.
1 Traditional interpretation and variations
2 Tannaitic Judaism
3 Contemporary Judaism
Jewish by birth
3.3 Converts to Judaism
Jews who have practiced another religion
4 Religious definitions
4.1 Halakhic perspective
4.2 Karaite Judaism
4.3 Reform Judaism
5 Ethnic definitions
5.1 Public opinion
5.2 Israeli immigration law
5.3 Historical European definitions
6 Other non-religious definitions
7 Legal structure in Israel
7.2 Law of Return
7.3 Israeli laws governing marriage and divorce
7.4 Israeli definition of nationality
7.5 Outside Israel
8 Other definitions
8.1 Sociology and anthropology
8.2 The Inquisition
8.3 Secular philosophy
8.4 Antisemitic definitions
Israelite identity loss claims
Jews (Indian Jews)
9.2 Bene Israel
9.3 Beta Israel
9.4 Bnei Menashe
9.5 The Kaifeng Jews
9.6 The Lemba
9.7 New Mexico's Crypto-Jews
9.8 Other claims
10 See also
11 Notes and references
12 External links
Traditional interpretation and variations
The definition of who is a Jew varies according to whether it is being
Jews on the basis of religious law and tradition or
self-identification, or by non-
Jews for other reasons, sometimes for
prejudicial purposes. Because
Jewish identity can include
characteristics of an ethnicity, a religion, or peoplehood, the
definition depends on either traditional or newer interpretations of
Jewish law and custom.
Law of Return
Law of Return stipulates that a Jew is someone with a Jewish
mother or someone who has converted to Judaism. The Israeli Chief
Rabbinate requires documents proving the Jewishness of one’s mother,
grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother when
applying for marriage. The Office of the Chief
Rabbi (OCR) has
underlined the basic principle that a child is not recognised by the
OCR and other bodies as
Jewish unless his or her mother is Jewish.
According to the simplest definition used by most
self-identification, a person is a Jew by birth, or becomes one
through religious conversion. However, there are differences in
interpretations when it comes to non-Orthodox
Jewish denominations in
the application of this definition, including
Should a person with only one
Jewish parent be considered Jewish?
Which conversion processes should be considered valid?
Can one remain a Jew after converting to another religion?
How does being unaware of having
Jewish parents affect one's Jewish
Jewish identity determined in different countries throughout
How is the claim to Israeli citizenship adjudicated in the context of
the Basic Laws of Israel?
According to the Mishnah, the first written source for halakha, the
status of the offspring of mixed marriages was determined
According to historian Shaye J. D. Cohen, in the Bible, the status of
the offspring of mixed marriages was determined patrilineally. He
brings two likely explanations for the change in Mishnaic times:
Mishnah may have been applying the same logic to mixed
marriages as it had applied to other mixtures (kilayim). Thus, a mixed
marriage is forbidden as is the union of a horse and a donkey, and in
both unions the offspring are judged matrilineally. Second, the
Tannaim may have been influenced by Roman law, which dictated that
when a parent could not contract a legal marriage, offspring would
follow the mother.
Jewish religious movements agree that a person may be a Jew either
by birth or through conversion. According to halakha, a Jew by birth
must be born to a
Halakha states that the acceptance of
the principles and practices of
Judaism does not make a person a Jew.
But, those born
Jewish do not lose that status because they cease to
be observant Jews, even if they adopt the practices of another
Reform and Reconstructionist
Judaism often accept a child as Jewish
even if only the father is
Jewish and if the child chooses to identify
as Jewish. As the various denominations of
Judaism differ on their
conversion processes, conversions performed by more liberal
denominations are not accepted by those that are less so.
Jewish by birth
According to halakha, to determine a person's
Jewish status (Hebrew:
yuhasin) one needs to consider the status of both parents. If both
parents are Jewish, their child will also be considered Jewish, and
the child takes the status of the father (e.g., as a kohen). If either
parent is subject to a genealogical disability (e.g., is a mamzer)
then the child is also subject to that disability. If one of the
parents is not Jewish, the rule is that the child takes the status of
the mother (Kiddushin 68b, Shulchan Aruch, EH 4:19). The ruling is
derived from various sources including Deuteronomy 7:1–5, Leviticus
24:10, Ezra 10:2–3. Accordingly, if the mother is Jewish, so is
her child, and if she is not Jewish, neither is her child considered
Jewish. In Orthodox
Judaism the child of a non-
Jewish mother can be
Jewish only by a process of conversion to Judaism. The
child is also freed from any disabilities and special status to which
the father may have been subject (e.g., being a mamzer or kohen) under
The Orthodox and Conservative branches of
Judaism maintain that the
halakhic rules (i.e. matrilineal descent) are valid and binding.
Reform and Liberal
Judaism do not accept the halakhic rules as
binding, and most branches accept a child of one
whether father or mother, as
Jewish if the parents raise the child as
a Jew and foster a
Jewish identity in the child, noting that "in the
Bible the line always followed the father, including the cases of
Joseph and Moses, who married into non-
families." (However, according to the oral tradition of Orthodox
Judaism, the spouses of both Joseph and
Moses converted to Judaism
prior to marrying them.) The Reform movement's standard states that
"for those beyond childhood claiming
Jewish identity, other public
acts or declarations may be added or substituted after consultation
with their rabbi". Advocates of patrilineal descent point to
Genesis 48:15–20 and Deuteronomy 10:15. This policy is commonly
known as patrilineal descent, though "bilineal" would be more
In 1983, the Reform
Central Conference of American Rabbis passed the
Patrilineal Descent, declaring that "the child of one
Jewish parent is under the presumption of
Jewish descent. This
presumption of the status of the offspring of any mixed marriage is to
be established through appropriate and timely public and formal acts
of identification with the
Jewish faith and people... Depending on
circumstances, mitzvot leading toward a positive and exclusive Jewish
identity will include entry into the covenant, acquisition of a Hebrew
Torah study, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and Kabbalat
For those beyond childhood claiming
Jewish identity, other public acts
or declarations may be added or substituted after consultation with
Rabbi Mark Washofsky summarizes the 1983 CCAR resolution and
subsequent interpretations in Reform responsa literature as follows:
"The resolution is advisory rather than halachic in the traditional
sense. It does not establish a new definition of
Jewish identity, for
its preamble states expressly that it means to be operative only for
Jews in North America, not for all
Jewish descent may be from either parent....The Reform Movement
presumes the child of one
Jewish parent, either mother or father, as
Jewish. In fact, the 1983 resolution is in one significant respect
more stringent than the traditional definition of
Jewish status. The
child of a
Jewish mother and gentile father, whom halachah regards as
clearly Jewish, enjoys but a presumption of
Jewish status that must be
"established" by "appropriate and timely public and formal acts of
"Biology remains a crucial factor. In the determination of Jewish
identity...the child of two gentile parents is, as before, definitely
a non-Jew and must undergo a formal conversion in order to become a
"Both descent and behavior are crucial in determining
under the resolution. The
Jewish status of a child of an intermarriage
cannot be determined "automatically" either by biology or behavior.
Both elements—descent from one
Jewish parent and the performance of
mitzvot that lead to a "positive and exclusive
be present, and they must be present during childhood."
"The resolution applies only to children raised exclusively as
Jews....A child raised simultaneously in
Judaism and another religious
tradition does not develop a "positive and exclusive"
therefore the presumption of
Jewish status is disproved, and the
resolution does not apply to that child. He or she will require
conversion prior to observing bar or bat mitzvah in the
Waiving the need for formal conversion for anyone with at least one
Jewish parent who has made affirmative acts of
Jewish identity was a
departure from the traditional position requiring formal conversion to
Judaism for children without a
The CCAR's 1983 resolution has had a mixed reception in Reform Jewish
communities outside the United States. Most notably, the Israel
Movement for Progressive
Judaism has rejected patrilineal descent and
requires formal conversion for anyone not born of a
Judaism believes that
Jewish identity can only be transmitted
by patrilineal descent. They argue that only patrilineal descent can
Jewish identity on the grounds that all descent in the Torah
went according to the male line, basing this idea "on the fact that,
in the Bible, tribes are given male names and that biblical characters
are always referenced by their fathers' names. However, a minority
of modern Karaites believe that
Jewish identity requires that both
parents be Jewish, and not only the father.
The divergence of views has become an issue because Orthodox and
Conservative communities do not recognize a person as
Jewish if only
their father is Jewish. For the person to be accepted as
an Orthodox or Conservative community (for example, on an occasion of
their bar/bat mitzvah or marriage), they require a formal conversion
(in accordance with halakhic standards). Orthodox
Judaism has a
predominant position in Israel. Although Orthodox and Conservative
Judaism do not recognize Jewishness through patrilineal descent, "it
should also be noted, however, that in the case of a child born to a
Jewish father but to a non-
Jewish mother, most Orthodox rabbis will
relax the stringent demands normally made of would-be converts",
Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement "agreed that
Jews by choice' should be warmly welcomed into the
Converts to Judaism
Main article: Conversion to Judaism
All mainstream forms of
Judaism today are open to sincere converts,
with most subgroups accepting converts by the process accepted within
the group. Not all conversions are recognised by all varieties of
In Rabbinic Judaism, the laws of conversion are based on the classical
Jewish law, especially discussions in the Talmud, and the
law as codified in the Shulkhan Arukh. This corpus of traditional
Jewish law (halakha) is regarded as authoritative by the Orthodox
and Conservative movements. The traditional halakhic requirements
for conversion are instruction in the commandments, circumcision (if
male), and immersion in an acceptable body of water before valid
witnesses, and acceptance of the commandments before a rabbinical
court. If a male is already circumcised, a drop of blood is drawn from
Orthodox authorities require that conversions be performed in accord
Jewish law and recognise only those conversions in
which a convert accepts and undertakes to observe
Jewish law as
interpreted by Orthodox rabbis. Because rabbis in the other movements
do not require that converts make this commitment, Orthodox
authorities do not generally accept as valid conversions performed
outside the Orthodox community.
Conservative authorities likewise require that conversions be
conducted according to traditional
Jewish law. Conducting a conversion
absent the traditional requirements of immersion in a ritual bath and
circumcision for males is a violation of a Standard of the Rabbinical
Assembly and grounds for expulsion. Conservative authorities
generally recognize any conversion done in accord with the
Jewish law, even if done outside the Conservative
movement. Accordingly, Conservative rabbis may accept the validity of
some conversions from other non-Orthodox movements.
The Union for Reform
Judaism states that "people considering
conversion are expected to study
Jewish theology, rituals, history,
culture and customs, and to begin incorporating
Jewish practices into
their lives. The length and format of the course of study will vary
from rabbi to rabbi and community to community, though most now
require a course in basic
Judaism and individual study with a rabbi,
as well as attendance at services and participation in home practice
and synagogue life." Its Central Conference of American Rabbis
recommends that three rabbis be present for the conversion
ceremony. The Rabbinical Court of the
Israel Movement for
Judaism requires an average of a year of study to become
Jewish life and tradition. Following this, converts are
required to immerse in a ritual bath, be circumcised if male, and
accept the commandments before the rabbinical court.
Although an infant conversion might be accepted in some circumstances
(such as in the case of adopted children or children whose parents
convert), children who convert would typically be asked if they want
Jewish after reaching religious adulthood – which is 12
years of age for a girl and 13 for a boy, as required by Jewish
Judaism does not accept the oral legal traditions of Rabbinic
Judaism. It has different requirements for conversion, and refrained
from accepting any converts until recently. Traditionally
non-proselytizing, on August 1, 2007, the Karaites reportedly
converted their first new members in 500 years. At a ceremony in their
Northern California synagogue, ten adults and four minors swore fealty
Judaism after completing a year of study. This conversion came 15
years after the Karaite Council of Sages reversed its centuries-old
ban on accepting converts.
Jewish communities do not normally carry out conversions,
particularly where the conversion is suspected of being for the sake
of marriage. Nor do they accept such converts from other communities,
or the children of mixed marriages or marriages involving such
Jews who have practiced another religion
In general, Orthodox
Judaism considers individuals born of Jewish
mothers to be Jewish, even if they convert to or are raised in another
Jews who convert to or are raised
in another religion as non-Jews. For example "...anyone who claims
that Jesus is their savior is no longer a Jew..." [Contemporary
American Reform Responsa, #68].
Historically, a Jew who has been declared to be a heretic (Hebrew:
min, מין) or Christian (Hebrew: notzri, נוצרי, meaning
"Nazarene") may have had a cherem (similar to excommunication) placed
on him or her; but the practice of communal and religious exclusion
does not affect their status of
Judaism also views
Jewish those who involuntarily convert from
Judaism to another
religion (Hebrew: anusim, אנוסים, meaning "forced ones"), and
their matrilineal descendants are likewise considered to be Jewish.
Judaism has a category for those who are
Jewish but who do not
practice or who do not accept the tenets of Judaism, whether or not
they have converted to another religion. The traditional view
regarding these individuals, known as Meshumadim (Hebrew:
משומדים), is that they are Jewish; however, there is much
debate in the rabbinic literature regarding their status vis-a-vis the
Jewish law and their participation in Jewish
ritual, but not to their status as Jews.
A Jew who leaves
Judaism is free to return to the religion at any
time. In general, no formal ceremony or declaration is required to
Jewish practices. All movements of
Judaism welcome the
Judaism of those who have left, or been raised in another
religion. When returning to Judaism, these individuals would be
expected to abandon their previous practices and adopt
The same rules in principle apply to the matrilineal descendants of
such persons, though some rabbinical authorities may require stricter
Jewish descent than others. Whether such persons are required
to undergo a full formal conversion depends on the community and their
individual circumstances. For example, a male who has had a brit
milah, who has a general understanding of Judaism, but who has been
raised in a secular home might not be required to undergo ritual
conversion. However, a male who has not had a brit milah, a male or
female who has converted to or been brought up in another religion, or
an individual raised in a completely secular home without any Jewish
education, in most communities, may be required to undergo a full
ritual conversion. For full participation in the community (for
example, to marry with the participation of a rabbi), they may be
required to display sincerity, such as a declaration of commitment to
Another example of the issues involved is the case of converts to
Judaism who cease to practice
Judaism (whether or not they still
regard themselves as Jewish), do not accept or follow halakha, or now
adhere to another religion. Technically, such a person remains Jewish,
like all Jews, provided that the original conversion is valid.
However, in some recent cases, Haredi rabbinical authorities, as well
as the current Religious Zionist Israeli Chief Rabbinate, have taken
the view that a given convert's lapse from Orthodox
is evidence that he or she cannot, even at the time of the conversion,
have had the full intention to observe the commandments, and that the
conversion must therefore have been invalid.
Jewish court of sufficient stature has the ability to revoke a
person's or a group's status as Jews. This was done for the lost Ten
Tribes of Israel and the Samaritans.
According to the traditional Rabbinic view, which is maintained by all
branches of Orthodox
Judaism and Conservative Judaism, and some
branches of Reform Judaism, only halakha can define who is or is
not a Jew when a question of
Jewish identity, lineage, or parentage
arises about any person seeking to define themselves or claim that
they are Jewish.
As a result, mere belief in the principles of
Judaism does not make
one a Jew. Similarly, non-adherence by a Jew to the 613 Mitzvot, or
even formal conversion to another religion, does not make one lose
Jewish status. Thus, the immediate descendants of all female
Jews (even apostates) are still considered to be Jews, as are those of
all their female descendants. Even those descendants who are not aware
they are Jews, or practice a religion other than Judaism, are defined
by this perspective as Jews, as long as they come from an unbroken
female line of descent. As a corollary, the children of a Jewish
father and a non-
Jewish mother are not considered to be
Halakha unless they formally convert according to Halakha, even if
raised fully observant in the Mitzvot.
Those not born to a
Jewish mother may become accepted as
Jews by the
Orthodox and Conservative communities through a formal process of
Judaism in order to become "righteous converts" (Gerei
Tzedek—Hebrew: גרי צדק). In addition,
Halakha requires that
the new convert commit himself to observance of its tenets; this is
called Kabbalat Ol Mitzvot (Hebrew: קבלת עול מצוות),
"Acceptance of the Yoke of the Commandments". Kabbalat mitzvot
(Hebrew: קבלת מצוות) is used by Reform
accordance with reform responsa and Halakhah.[clarification
Judaism and Modern Orthodox
Judaism accept a similar set
of rules regarding
Jewish status based on classical rabbinic Judaism,
including both matrilineal descent and requirements that conversions
be performed by Orthodox rabbis and that converts promise to strictly
observe elements of traditional
Judaism such as
Shabbat and Niddah.
However, their application of these rules have been different, and the
difference has been increasing in recent years. Modern Orthodox
authorities have been more inclined to rule in favor of
and to accept non-Orthodox Jews' word in doubtful cases involving
people claiming to be Jews, while Haredi authorities have in recent
years tended to presume non-
Jewish status and require more stringent
rules and standards of evidence in order for
Jewish status to be
proven, and have tended to distrust the evidence of
Jews who are not
personally Orthodox. Haredi rabbis have tended to look at a convert's
current personal observance and to regard deficiencies or lack of
Orthodoxy in current observance as evidence that the convert never
intended to validly convert. In addition, the contemporary situation
is further complicated by the fact that some Haredi rabbis no longer
regard some Modern Orthodox rabbis as reliable.
Unlike the denominations of Rabbinical Judaism, Karaite Judaism
maintains that it is the responsibility of each Jew to study the
Tanakh for themselves. The
Oral Law are not considered
canonical, and rabbinical opinions are not considered authoritative
either, but every interpretation is held up to the same scrutiny,
regardless of its source. Karaite
Judaism relies on the
indicate that Jewishness is passed down through the paternal line, not
the maternal line as is maintained by Orthodox
Judaism (though a
minority hold that both parents need to be Jewish). Karaite
Aliyah under the Law of Return. The eligibility of
Judaism through the Karaite movement to make
Law of Return
Law of Return has not yet been addressed in Israeli courts.
Judaism recognizes a child as being
Jewish if either parent is
Jewish and the child is being raised Jewish. Voices within the Reform
movement say that the law, which changed to matriarchal around 2,000
years ago (originally in the
Torah the offspring was determined by
patriarchal descent) and was based on the tragic circumstances the
Jewish people were facing - was once helpful but is no longer
Jewish denominations have a conversion process
based on their principles. In the US, an official Reform resolution in
1893 abolished circumcision as a requirement for converts, and
Reform does not require converts to have tevilah, ritual immersion. A
"prospective convert declares, orally and in writing, in the presence
of a rabbi and no less than two lay leaders of the congregation and
community, acceptance of the
Jewish religion and the intention to live
in accordance with its mitzvot".
The controversy in determining "who is a Jew" concerns four basic
One issue arises because North American Reform and UK Liberal
movements have changed some of the halakhic requirements for a Jewish
identity in two ways:
A. Children born of just one
Jewish parent – regardless of whether
the father or mother is
Jewish – can claim a
Jewish identity. A
child of only one
Jewish parent who does not claim this identity has,
in the eyes of the Reform movement, forfeited his/her
By contrast, the halakhic view is that any child born to a Jewish
mother is Jewish, whether or not he/she is raised Jewish, or even
whether the mother considers herself Jewish. As an example, the
Madeleine Albright (who was raised Catholic and was
unaware of her
Jewish heritage) would all be
Jewish according to
halakha, since their mother's traceable female ancestors were all
Jewish and all three of her children were female. However, this is not
the belief of progressive Judaism, which views
Jews who convert to or
are raised in another religion as non-Jews.
B. The requirement of brit milah has been relaxed, as has the
requirement of ritual immersion. (While the Conservative movement
permits conversion without circumcision in some cases, most Orthodox
Jews do not, except in cases specifically exempted by the Talmud,
such as one who has had three brothers die as a result of
Jewish children who are hemophiliacs are exempt from
Judaism asserts that non-Orthodox rabbis are not
qualified to form a beit din. This has led to non-Orthodox
conversions generally being unaccepted in Orthodox communities. Since
Judaism maintains the traditional standards for conversion
– in which the commitment to observe halakha is required –
non-Orthodox conversions are generally not accepted in Orthodox
communities because the non-Orthodox movements perform conversions in
which the new convert does not undertake to observe halakha as
understood by Orthodox Judaism.
A third controversy concerns persons (whether born
Jews or converts to
Judaism) who have converted to another religion. The traditional view
is such persons remain Jewish. Reform
Judaism regards such
people as apostates, and states regarding Messianic Jews:
"'Messianic Jews' claim that they are Jews, but we must asked [sic]
ourselves whether we identify them as Jews. We can not do so as they
consider Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah who has fulfilled the
Messianic promises. In this way, they have clearly placed themselves
within Christianity. They may be somewhat different from other
Christians as they follow various
Jewish rites and ceremonials, but
that does not make them Jews." Regardless, such people do not
Jewish for the purposes of the Israeli citizenship laws.
A fourth controversy stems from the manner in which the Chief
Israel has been handling marriage and conversion
decisions in recent years. Conversions and marriages within
legally controlled by the Orthodox Israeli Chief Rabbinate; therefore,
a person not proven to be a Jew to the Rabbinate's satisfaction is not
legally permitted to marry a Jew in
Israel today. Although the
Rabbinate has always refused to accept non-Orthodox conversions, until
recent years it was more willing to accept the
Jewish parentage of
applicants based on personal testimony, and the validity of
conversions based on the testimony of Orthodox Rabbis. However, in
recent years the rabbinate, whose rabbis historically had a more
Modern Orthodox orientation, has increasingly been filled by the more
stringent Haredi camp. It has increasingly been inclined to presume
that applicants are not
Jewish until proven otherwise, and require
more stringent standards of proof than in the past. It has implemented
a policy of refusing to accept the testimony of non-Orthodox
Jewish status, on grounds that such testimony is not
reliable. It also has been increasingly skeptical of the reliability
of Orthodox rabbis ordained by institutions not subject to its
accreditation, particularly in matters of conversion. Accordingly,
Jews born to
Jewish parents, and some
Jews converted by
Orthodox rabbis, have been increasingly unable to prove their
Jewishness to the Rabbinate's satisfaction, because they are unable to
find an Orthodox rabbi who is both acceptable to the Rabbinate, and
familiar with and willing to vouch for the Jewishness of their
maternal lineage or the validity of their conversion.
There have been several attempts to convene representatives of the
three major movements to formulate a practical solution to this issue.
To date, these have failed, though all parties concede the importance
of the issue is greater than any sense of rivalry among them.
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See also: Secular
Ethnic Jew is a term generally used to describe a person of Jewish
parentage and background who does not necessarily actively practice
Judaism, but still identifies with
Judaism or other
Jews culturally or
fraternally, or both. The term "ethnic Jew" does not specifically
exclude practicing Jews, but they are usually simply referred to as
"Jews" without the qualifying adjective "ethnic".[a]
The term can refer to people of diverse beliefs and backgrounds
because genealogy largely defines who is "Jewish". "Ethnic Jew" is
sometimes used to distinguish non-practicing from practicing
(religious) Jews. Other terms include "non-observant Jew",
"non-religious Jew", "non-practicing Jew", and "secular Jew".
The term may also refer to
Jews who do not practice the religion of
Judaism. Typically, ethnic
Jews are cognizant of their Jewish
background, and may feel strong cultural (even if not religious) ties
Jewish traditions and to the
Jewish people or nation. Like people
of any other ethnicity, non-religious ethnic
Jews often assimilate
into a surrounding non-
Jewish culture, but, especially in areas where
there is a strong local
Jewish culture, they may remain largely part
of that culture instead.
"Ethnic Jews" include atheists, agnostics, non-denominational deists,
Jews with only casual connections to
Jewish denominations or converts
to other religions, such as Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam.
Jews of all denominations sometimes engage in outreach to
non-religious ethnic Jews. In the case of some Hasidic denominations
(e.g. Chabad-Lubavitch), this outreach extends to actively
proselytizing more secular Jews.
The 2013 Pew Research study of American
Jews found that 62% thought
Jewish was mainly a matter of ancestry and culture, while
15% thought that it was mainly a matter of religion. Of those who
stated themselves to be
Jews by religion, 55% thought that being
Jewish was mainly a matter of ancestry and culture, while two-thirds
thought that it was not necessary to believe in God to be Jewish.
Israeli immigration law
Israeli immigration laws will accept an application for Israeli
citizenship if there is proven documentation that any
grandparent—not just the maternal grandmother—was Jewish. This
does not mean that person is an "ethnic Jew", but Israeli immigration
will accept that person because he or she has an ethnically Jewish
connection, and because this same degree of connection was sufficient
to be persecuted as a Jew by the Nazis.[b]
Historical European definitions
The traditional European definition of Jewishness (although it was not
uniform across Europe) differs markedly from the definition used by
the United States. In the former Soviet Union,
"Jewish" was a nationality by law, as with other nationalities such as
Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians and others. There were certain
restrictions on their civil liberties in the early years of the Soviet
The European definition is traditional in many respects, and reflects
not only how the Europeans saw Jews, but also how
Jews saw themselves.
It has been argued[by whom?] that the Israeli
Law of Return
Law of Return draws on
external definitions of Jewishness (such as the Nazi and Soviet
definitions), rather than traditional halakhic criteria.
The modern genealogical DNA test of ethnicity is certainly a
non-religious definition of 'who is a Jew?' as increasing numbers of
persons discover their biological and cultural origins outside the
traditional religious setting. The top two
Jewish haplogroups for
the priestly families,
Haplogroup J-M267 and Haplogroup E-M215 (Y-DNA)
have genetic origins in the vast Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, the Horn of
Africa, and the Levant, which indicates a more complex cultural
genesis and potential identity.
In the United States and Europe, because of intermarriage, the
population of "half-Jews" is beginning to rival that of
Jews with two
Jewish parents. Self-identified "half-Jews" consider the term a
familial category, which reflects multiple heritages and possible
Jewish cultural or spiritual practices. Other similar
terms that have been used include: "part-Jewish" and "partial-Jews".
The term "Gershom", "Gershomi" or "Beta Gershom" has also been used as
an alternative to "half-Jewish" and "part-Jewish" in connection with
descendants of intermarriage,
Gershom being the son of
Moses and his
Midianite wife Zipporah. The term typically has no religious
meaning, as terms like
Jewish Christian do, but rather describes
Other non-religious definitions
The Society for Humanistic
Judaism defines a Jew as "someone who
identifies with the history, culture and fate of the
In their view it is therefore possible for a non-religious individual
Judaism and join a Humanistic
Jewish community, and for the
Society for Humanistic
Judaism to adopt the person wanting to be part
of the Humanistic
Jewish family. As Israeli author
Amos Oz puts
it, "a Jew is anyone who chooses or is compelled to share a common
fate with other Jews." Oz summed up his position more succinctly
in a monologue published in Tikkun, saying "
Who is a Jew? Everyone who
is mad enough to call himself or herself a Jew is a Jew."
Legal structure in Israel
Israel has no single document called a constitution (the Basic Laws of
Israel function as an uncodified constitution); however, the
definition of "who is a Jew" has become an important issue in Israeli
politics due to the involvement of religious parties in the Knesset.
The issue of who is considered a Jew has given rise to legal
controversy in Israel. There have been court cases in
1962 that have addressed the question.
As of 2010[update], anyone who immigrated to
Israel after 1990 and
wishes to marry or divorce via the
Jewish tradition within the state
limits must go through a "
Judaism test" at an Orthodox Rabbinical
court. In this test, a person would need to prove their claim to be
Jewish to an investigator beyond a reasonable doubt. They would need
to present original documentation of their matriline up to their
great-grandmother (4 generations), or in the case of Ethiopian
Jews, 7 generations back. In addition, they should provide
government documents with nationality/religion shown as
birth/death certificates, marriage documents, etc.).
In the case of people whose original documents have been lost or never
existed, it may take a lot of work to prove their being Jewish.
The court rulings are not final, and any clerk has the power to
question them even 20 years later, changing one's citizenship
status to "on hold", and putting them in jeopardy of deportation.
The two biggest communities suffering from this problem are:
Immigrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU) – a study
conducted between 2003 and 2005 showed that 83% of people from the FSU
who started the
Judaism test process successfully finished it. An
estimated 10% left the process before completion. In a later study, in
2011, a 90% success rate was achieved in the FSU immigrant
Jews in the former
Soviet Union took steps to
hide their Jewishness. Besides post-Soviet copies of documents are
suspected by the tribunal after widespread falsification, and the
archived originals are difficult to access for genealogists.
Immigrants from the United States, where government documents
generally do not show religion or
Law of Return
See also: Law of Return
Following the birth of the modern State of
Israel in 1948, the Law of
Return was enacted to give any Jew the right to immigrate to Israel
and become a citizen. However, due to an inability on the
lawmakers to agree, the Law did not define who was a Jew, relying
instead on the issue to resolve itself over time. As a result, the Law
relied in form on the traditional halakhic definition. But, the
absence of a definition of who is a Jew, for the purpose of the Law,
has resulted in the divergent views of the various streams of Judaism
competing for recognition.
Besides the generally accepted halakhic definition of who is a Jew,
the Law extended the categories of person who are entitled to
immigration and citizenship to the children and grandchildren of Jews,
regardless of their present religious affiliation, and their
spouses. Also, converts to
Judaism whose conversion was performed
outside the State of Israel, regardless of who performed it, were
entitled to immigration under the Law. Once again, issues arose as to
whether a conversion performed outside
Israel was valid. The variation
of the definition in the Law and the definition used by various
Judaism has resulted in practical difficulties for many
It has been estimated that in the past twenty years about 300,000
Jews and even practicing Christians have entered Israel
from the former
Soviet Union on the basis of being a child or
grandchild of a Jew or by being married to a Jew.
However, there was an exception in the case of a person who had
formally converted to another religion derived from the Rufeisen Case
in 1962. Such a person, no matter what their halakhic position,
was not entitled to immigration under the Law. This created a
divergence between political Zionist interpretation of Jewishness and
that of halakha. In the 1970 Shalit case the Israeli Supreme Court
ruled in favour of a family which sought to register children born in
Israel from a Scottish mother as
Jewish by nationality, but the
1972 amendment to the Population Registry Law prevented their third
child being registered as Jewish.
Current Israeli definitions specifically exclude
Jews who have openly
and knowingly converted to or were raised in a faith other than
Judaism, including Messianic Judaism. This definition is not the same
as that in traditional
Jewish law; in some respects it is deliberately
wider, so as to include those non-
Jewish relatives of
Jews who may
have been perceived to be Jewish, and thus faced antisemitism.
Law of Return
Law of Return does not, of itself, define the
Jewish status of a
person; it only deals with those who have a right of immigration to
In the early 1950s, the
Israeli Chief Rabbinate
Israeli Chief Rabbinate originally objected to
the immigration of Karaite
Jews to Israel, and unsuccessfully tried to
obstruct it. In 2007
Rabbi David Chayim Chelouche, the chief rabbi of
Netayana, was quoted in the
Jerusalem Post as saying: "A Karaite is a
Jew. We accept them as
Jews and every one of them who wishes to come
back [to mainstream Judaism] we accept back. There was once a question
about whether Karaites needed to undergo a token circumcision in order
to switch to rabbinic Judaism, but the rabbinate agrees that today
that is not necessary."
Israeli laws governing marriage and divorce
See also: Marriage in Israel
In relation to marriage, divorce, and burial, which are under the
jurisdiction of the Israeli Interior Ministry, the halakhic definition
of who is a Jew is applied. When there is any doubt, the Israeli Chief
Rabbinate generally determines the issue.
In terms of social relations, most secular
Jews view their Jewish
identity as a matter of culture, heritage, nationality, or
ethnicity. Ancestral aspects can be explained by the many Jews
who view themselves as atheist and are defined by matrilineal
descent or a Cohen (Kohen) or Levi, which is connected by
ancestry. The question of "who is a Jew" is a question that is
under debate. Issues related to ancestral or ethnic
dealt with by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.
Orthodox halachic rules apply to converts who want to marry in Israel.
Under these rules, a conversion to
Judaism must strictly follow
halachic standards to be recognised as valid. The rabbinate even
scrutinizes Orthodox conversions, with some who have converted by
orthodox authorities outside
Israel not being permitted to marry in
If one's ancestral line of Jewishness is in doubt, then a proper
conversion would be required in order to be allowed to marry in the
Orthodox community, or in Israel, where such rules govern all
Israeli definition of nationality
Jewish status of a person in
Israel is considered a matter of
In the registering of "nationality" on Israeli
Teudat Zehut ("identity
card"), which is administered by the Ministry of the Interior, a
person had to meet the halakhic definition to be registered as a
"Jew". However, in a number of cases the Supreme Court of
ordered the Interior Ministry to register Reform and Conservative
converts as Jews. The right of people who convert in the Diaspora
under Reform or Conservative auspices to make aliyah, or immigrate to
Israel and claim citizenship as Jews, is detailed in Israeli law.
Until recently, Israeli identity cards had an indication of
nationality, and the field was left empty for those who immigrated not
solely on the basis of being
Jewish (i.e. as a child, grandchild or
spouse of a Jew only) to indicate that the person may not be a Jew.
Many Israeli citizens who are not recognised by the Rabbinate as
Jewish have been issued with Israeli identity cards that do not
Hebrew calendar birth date.
This section is incomplete. (November 2013)
In 2010 the Labour Court of
South Africa addressed the question of who
is a Jew for the purposes of the Employment Equity Act.
The question has also arisen in the United Kingdom, where religious
schools are allowed to select all, or a proportion of their intake
based upon religion. A 2009 ruling, R(E) v Governing Body of JFS,
determined that the definition of
Jewish religion based upon descent
constituted discrimination on ethnic grounds, and therefore
contravened racial discrimination laws.
This section is incomplete. (November 2013)
There have been other attempts to determine
Jewish identity beside the
Jewish approaches. These range from genetic population
studies[c] to controversial evolutionary perspectives including those
Kevin B. MacDonald
Kevin B. MacDonald and Yuri Slezkine. Historians, such as
the late Kamal Salibi, have utilized etymology and geography to
reconstruct the prehistoric origin of the
Jewish people in the Arabian
Sociology and anthropology
As with any other ethnic identity,
Jewish identity is, to some degree,
a matter of either claiming that identity or being perceived by others
(both inside and outside the ethnic group) as belonging to that group,
or both. Returning again to the example of Madeleine Albright –
during her Catholic childhood, her being in some sense
presumably irrelevant. It was only after she was nominated to be
Secretary of State that she, and the public, discovered her Jewish
Ido Abram states that there are five aspects to contemporary Jewish
Religion, culture, and tradition.
The tie with
Israel and Zionism.
Dealings with antisemitism, including issues of persecution and
Personal history and life-experience.
Relationship with non-
Jewish culture and people.
The relative importance of these factors may vary enormously from
place to place. For example, a typical Dutch Jew might describe his or
Jewish identity simply as "I was born Jewish," while a Jew in
Romania, where levels of antisemitism are higher, might say, "I
consider any form of denying as a proof of
During the time of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, conversion
to Roman Catholicism did not result in total termination of the
Jewish status. Legally, the converts were no longer regarded
as Jews, and thus allowed to stay in the Iberian Peninsula. During the
Inquisition in Spain and Portugal, however, many
Jews were forced to
convert, but thereafter were regarded by many people, though not in a
legal form, as New Christians, distinguishing them as separate from
the Old Christians of non-
Jewish lineage. Since legal, political,
religious and social pressure pushed many people to untrue conversions
(public behaviour as Christians while retaining some
and practices privately, a kind of crypto-Judaism),[d] they were still
treated with suspicion, a stigma sometimes carried for several
generations by their identifiable descendants. The limpieza de sangre
("Cleanliness of blood") required public officials or candidates for
membership of many organizations to prove that they did not have
Jewish or Muslim ancestry.
Jean-Paul Sartre, who was not Jewish, suggested in Anti-Semite and Jew
Jewish identity "is neither national nor international,
neither religious nor ethnic, nor political: it is a quasi-historical
Jews as individuals may be in danger from the
antisemite who sees only "Jews" and not "people", Sartre argues that
Jewish experience of antisemitism preserves—even creates—the
Jewish community. In his most extreme statement of this view
he wrote, "It is the anti-Semite who creates the Jew." Conversely,
that sense of specific
Jewish community may be threatened by the
democrat who sees only "the person" and not "the Jew".
Hannah Arendt repeatedly asserted a principle of claiming Jewish
identity in the face of antisemitism. "If one is attacked as a Jew,
one must defend oneself as a Jew. Not as a German, not as a
world-citizen, not as an upholder of the Rights of Man, or whatever";
"A man attacked as a Jew cannot defend himself as an Englishman or a
Frenchman. The world can only conclude from this that he is simply not
defending himself at all."
Wade Clark Roof (1976), a sociologist at the University of California
at Santa Barbara, proposed that social sectors in modern life, in
which traditional symbols and rituals are meaningful, provide an
alternative approach for explaining the social basis of religion in a
secular order, in doing so, he turned to the local community as a
sphere in modern society that still persists "as a complex system of
friendship and kinship networks, formal and informal associations, as
well as symbolic attachments, very much rooted in family life and
ongoing socialization processes".
The question "who is a Jew?" is also sometimes of importance to
non-Jews. It has had exceptional significance historically when
considered by anti-
Jewish groups for the purpose of targeting
persecution or discrimination. The definition can impact on whether a
person may have a certain occupation, live in certain locations,
receive a free education, live or continue to live in the country, be
imprisoned, or executed.
The question was of critical importance during the rule of the Nazi
party in Germany, which persecuted the
Jews and defined them for the
government's purposes by the Nuremberg Laws. In 2009, a United Kingdom
court considered whether the question was a racial issue, in the case
R(E) v Governing Body of JFS
R(E) v Governing Body of JFS (2009).
The Nazi regime instituted laws discriminating against Jews, declared
a race by the Nazis, and thus needed a working definition of who a Jew
is as to its law-defined race system. These definitions almost
completely categorised persons through the religions followed by each
individual's ancestors, according to membership registries. Thus,
personal faith or individual observance, as well as the religious
Judaism as given by the Halacha, were mostly ignored.
In Germany itself, the
Nuremberg Laws classified people
as being of the
Jewish race if they were descended from three or four
grandparents enrolled in
Jewish congregations. A person with one or
two grandparents enrolled in a
Jewish congregation could be classified
as Mischling, a crossbreed, of "mixed blood", if they were not a
member of a
Jewish congregation at the time the
Nuremberg Laws were
enacted. Only people with at least two grandparents of "German blood"
could be the German Reich's citizens, and other Germans dropped into
the new second class group of citizens, the so-called state
citizens. If a person, with grandparents of the same religious
combination, was enrolled as a member of a
Jewish congregation in 1935
or would join later, they switched from the discriminatory class of
Mischlinge into that of Geltungsjude, "Jew by legal validity", despite
of not fulfilling the no less law-defined discriminating criterion of
descending from three or four
Jewish grandparents. While every
Mischling could anytime drop into the class of
Geltungsjude by joining
Jewish congregation, the
Nuremberg Laws provided for the unchanged
classification of any Geltungsjude, regardless if she or he tried to
evade harm by seceding from the
Jewish congregation after 1935,
considering such secessions as being of no effect as to the
discrimination, let alone people with three or four Jewish
grandparents who themselves could never alter their law-defined racial
categorisation as Jews. Any
Mischling with two
colloquially called a half-Jew, marrying after 1935 anybody classified
as Jew would drop into the discriminatory class of Geltungsjude.
Mischlinge with one
Jewish grandparent were usually forbidden to marry
anyone of any
Jewish ancestry. The
Mischling Test was introduced to
identify Europeans with
Jewish blood and consider those tested "Jews
of the first or second degree."
One could not become a non-Jew in the eyes of the Nazi government by
seceding from one's
Jewish congregation, whether by becoming
non-practicing, marrying outside the religion, or converting to
Christianity. In 1935 the
Nuremberg Laws forbade new marriages of
people classified as
Jews with people of other classifications.[e]
Earlier contracted marriages between spouses of different
classifications (so-called mixed marriages; Mischehe) provided the
Jewish-classified spouse with an uncertain protection from some
discriminations and atrocities.
There were very few Karaites in Europe during the Nazi era; most lived
in the region of Turkey, Greece, and the Crimea. Karaites were not
Jewish for the purpose of the Holocaust extermination
policy; according to SS Obergruppenführer Gottlob Berger,
writing on November 24, 1944, discrimination against the Karaites had
been prohibited due to their proximity to the Crimean Tatars, to whom
Berger views the Karaites as being related. Nazis still retained
hostility towards the Karaites, on grounds of their religion; and
there were a number of small scale massacres of Karaites.
In German-occupied France an ordinance defined a Jew as an individual
who belonged to the
Jewish religion or who had more than two Jewish
The Vichy régime in southern France defined a Jew as an individual
Jewish grandparents or two grandparents if his/her spouse
was Jewish. Richard Weisberg points out that this was a potentially
broader classification than the one used in Occupied France, for
Mischling could not be classified a Jew under the Nazi
dictate, by her/his spouse's classification if the marriage was
contracted before the imposition of anti-Semitic marriage laws there,
but would be deemed one under the Vichy act if he/she had married a
Jew, regardless when.
Israelite identity loss claims
Israelite and Ten Lost Tribes
There are various groups besides
Jews that have claimed descent from
the biblical Israelites. The question nowadays arises in relation to
Israel's Law of Return, with various groups seeking to migrate there.
Some claims have been accepted, some are under consideration, while
others have been rejected by Israel's rabbinate.
Jews (Indian Jews)
Some sources say that the earliest
Jews of Cochin,
India were those
who settled in the
Malabar Coast during the times of King Solomon of
Israel, and after the Kingdom of
Israel split into two. There is
historical documentation of the
Jews being in
Cochin after the fall of
the Second Temple, from around the first century CE. Later additions
were a smaller immigration of Sephardic
Jews from Europe in the
sixteenth century after the expulsion from Spain, and Baghdadi Jews,
Jews who arrived in the late eighteenth century, at
the beginning of the British colonial era. Following the
India and the establishment of Israel, most Cochin
Jews emigrated to
Israel in the mid-1950s. Some have gone on to North
America or Britain.
See also: Bene Israel
Bene Israel in
India claim to be descended from
Jews who escaped
Galilee in the 2nd century BCE. The Bene Israel
resemble the non-
Marathi people in appearance and customs,
which indicates some intermarriage between
Jews and Indians. The Bene
Israel, however, maintained the practices of
Jewish dietary laws, male
circumcision and observation of the Sabbath as a day of rest. From the
late eighteenth century, other
Jewish communities instructed them in
Initially the Orthodox rabbinate in
Israel said that the Bene Israel
would have to undergo conversion in order to marry other Jews, as
matrilineal descent could not be proven. In 1964 the Israeli Rabbinate
declared that the
Bene Israel are "full
Jews in every respect".
Bene Israel claim a lineage to the Kohanim, the
class, which claims descent from Aaron, the brother of Moses. In 2002,
DNA testing revealed that the
Bene Israel shared some genetic markers
of the Kohanim. These are not exclusive to the Kohanim, but appear
among them at a higher frequency. These are also shared with some
Jewish Semitic peoples.
Many of the
Bene Israel emigrated from
India to Israel, where around
Jews of this group reside. About 5,000 remain in India. They
maintain 65 synagogues in Israel.
Beta Israel or
Falasha is a group formerly living in
have a tradition of descent from the lost tribe of Dan. They have a
long history of practicing such
Jewish traditions as kashrut, Sabbath
and Passover, and had
Jewish texts. In 1975, their claim of Jewishness
was accepted by the
Chief Rabbinate of
Israel and the Israeli
government. The government assisted them in emigrating en masse to
Israel during the 1980s and 1990s as
Jews under the Law of Return,
Ethiopia was undergoing civil war. Some who claim to be Beta
Israel still live in Ethiopia.
Bnei Menashe is a group in
India claiming to be descendants of the
half-tribe of Menashe. Members who have studied
Hebrew and who observe
the Sabbath and other
Jewish laws in 2005 received the support of the
Israel to arrange formal conversion to
Judaism. Some have converted and immigrated to
Israel under the Law of
The Kaifeng Jews
Further information: History of the
Jews in China
The Kaifeng Jews, a Mandarin-speaking group from Henan Province,
China, experienced first contact with Europeans in 1605 via the
religious scholar Matteo Ricci. Modern researchers believe these Jews
were descended from Persian merchants who settled in China during the
early Song Dynasty. They prospered during the
Ming Dynasty as
Confucian civil servants, soldiers, and merchants, but they quickly
assimilated and lost much of their
Jewish heritage. By the beginning
of the 19th century, the last rabbi with knowledge of
leaving no successor. The community had become extinct religiously by
Qing Dynasty due to anti-foreign persecutions brought on by
Taiping Rebellion and Boxer Rebellion. There are a small number of
Chinese people today who consider themselves to be descendants of
Despite their isolation from the rest of the
Jewish diaspora, the Jews
of Kaifeng preserved
Jewish traditions and customs for many centuries.
In the 17th century, assimilation began to erode these traditions. The
rate of intermarriage between
Jews and other ethnic groups, such as
the Han Chinese, and the Hui and
Manchu minorities in China,
increased. The destruction of the synagogue in the 1860s led to the
community's demise. However, J.L. Liebermann, the first Western
Jew to visit Kaifeng in 1867, noted that "they still had a burial
ground of their own". S.M. Perlmann, the Shanghai businessman and
scholar, wrote in 1912 that "they bury their dead in coffins, but of a
different shape than those of the Chinese are made, and do not attire
the dead in secular clothes as the Chinese do, but in linen". To
date, there is only one scholar, Zhou Xu, who doubts the Kaifeng
community's Jewishness and claims them to have been a western
Today, 600-1,000 residents of Kaifeng trace their lineage to this
community. After contact with
Jewish tourists, the
Kaifeng have reconnected to mainstream Jewry. With the help of Jewish
organizations, some members of the community have emigrated to
Israel. In 2009, Chinese
Jews from Kaifeng arrived in
Judaism in Africa
The Lemba, a Bantu-speaking group of people from southern Africa,
Zimbabwe and South Africa, consider themselves of Jewish
descent, although most practice Christianity or Islam. They emphasize
eating only meats slaughtered by special ritual. They have endogamous
marriage practices. If a man wants to marry a non-Lemba woman, she
must adopt all the Lemba practices and traditions, including keeping
meat and dairy foods separate. No male non-Lemba are accepted into the
group, even by conversion.
The Lemba follow a patrilineal tradition.
Y-DNA testing has shown a
high percentage of Semitic ancestry, perhaps Jewish, among some of the
Y-DNA testing has shown markers indicative of Semitic ancestry,
including markers associated with Kohanim. These are present at a high
rate among men in their Buba clan, traditionally
known as the one to have led the men to south Africa from
they left Israel. The women are exclusively of African
origin, which is consistent with the tribe's origin
Jewish men coming to Africa.
New Mexico's Crypto-Jews
A small Hispano group of Sephardic
Jews in northern
New Mexico may be
one of the oldest groups of practicing
Jews in North America, dating
back to the early Spanish settlers of
Jewish descent who had been
forcibly converted to Catholicism as
Conversos or New Christians, or
both after 1492. Some families of
Conversos began to settle in Mexico
City in the 1530s and 1540s. Some converted back to Judaism; others
Jewish beliefs and practices in secret. After the
Spanish Inquisition came to the New World in 1571, the conversos were
threatened with death if it was found they were practicing Judaism.
In 1598, the first expedition was made to New Mexico, and included
conversos. After that, other conversos fled to the northwestern
frontier of the Spanish Empire, now the American Southwest, to
evade the scrutiny and threat of discovery in the more monitored
settlements. Outwardly Catholic, these forced converts maintained
Jewish practices and customs for generations in secret, hence their
name, "Crypto-Jews". They have been the subject of recent academic
study. Some of New Mexico's Crypto-
Jews have begun to return to
Judaism in recent years, through study and ritual
conversion. Others feel enlarged by learning this part of their
history, but continue as practicing Catholics.
A genetic study of men in the early 2000s showed that many Hispanos of
the American Southwest are descended from
were forcibly converted to Roman Catholicism). Only Catholic Spanish
were allowed to go to the New World with the exploration and colonial
expeditions. Families first kept their secrets for protection and then
out of habit. Michael Hammer, a research professor at the University
of Arizona and an expert on
Jewish genetics, said that fewer than 1%
of non-Semites possessed the male-specific "Cohanim marker" or Cohen
Modal Haplotype, which is prevalent among
Jews claiming descent from
hereditary priests. 30 of 78 Latinos tested in
New Mexico (38.5%),
were found to have
Y-DNA with the Cohanim marker. Wider DNA
Hispanic populations has revealed between 10% and 15% of
men living in New Mexico, south Texas and northern Mexico have a Y
chromosome associated with the Middle East. Their history makes it
most likely that they are
Jewish rather than
In 2008, a gene mutation that is typically found only in Ashkenazi
Jews, and is linked to a virulent form of breast cancer in women, was
discovered in a cluster of
Hispanic Catholic women in southern
Colorado, many of whom trace their family's roots to northern New
Mexico. It was conclusively shown to be related to
given the history of the people in the area, and many families
reported knowledge of a high incidence of cancer. After testing and
notification of families, researchers worked with the extended
families on genetic counseling and to develop health strategies for
monitoring, early detection and treatment, as they were faced with the
higher risk associated with the gene.
Other evidence of
Jewish ancestry is language. According to a Jewish
genealogy blog, so-called "Mountain Spanish", a Spanish dialect spoken
by many of the old families of northern
New Mexico and southern
Colorado—and chiefly only among themselves—appears to be a form of
Ladino or Judezmo. This was a hybrid language that developed among
Jews in Iberia, from Old Spanish, Portuguese and Hebrew,
with sprinklings of Arabic, Greek and other languages, depending on
the geographic region of the speakers or their ancestors.
Other claims of lost tribe status or other
Jewish origin, have not yet
been accepted by normative Jews.
A tribe of Siberian Asian origin based in Central
their claims of
Jewish rather than pantheistic practices with the
Khazars. The latter, an invading tribe from either
Kazakhstan that conquered and ruled
Russia in the 9th century, is said
to have adopted
Judaism instead of Christianity or Islam, by their
leaders' preference.
A tribe in western
Burma near the Indian and Bangladeshi borders has
sought genetic research to vindicate its tradition that their
ancestors were Syrian and Iranian Jews.
Judaism has not become a major
theological force in Southeast Asia. Introduced religions such as
Hinduism and Islam, which converted several tribal groups, have
existed in Indochina (Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam) for hundreds or
thousands of years.
Groups claiming affiliation with Israelites
Interfaith marriage in Judaism
What is a Nation?
Notes and references
^ See Ethnic group.
Jewish ethnic divisions.
^ See Y-chromosomal Aaron
Marrano and Anusim
^ See Anti-miscegenation laws#Nazi Germany, Mischlinge
^ Seldin MF, Shigeta R, Villoslada P, et al. (September 2006).
"European population substructure: clustering of northern and southern
populations". PLoS Genet. 2 (9): e143.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0020143. PMC 1564423 .
^ Bauchet, Marc; McEvoy, Brian; Pearson, Laurel N.; Quillen, Ellen E.;
Sarkisian, Tamara; Hovhannesyan, Kristine; Deka, Ranjan; Bradley,
Daniel G.; Shriver, Mark D. (2007). "Measuring European Population
Stratification with Microarray Genotype Data". American Journal of
Human Genetics. 80 (5): 948–956. doi:10.1086/513477.
ISSN 0002-9297. PMC 1852743 . PMID 17436249.
Ethnic minorities in English law. Google Books. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
Edgar Litt (1961). "
Jewish Ethno-Religious Involvement and Political
Liberalism". Social Forces. 39 (4): 328–332. doi:10.2307/2573430.
Jews a Religious Group or an Ethnic Group?" (PDF). Institute for
Curriculum Services. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 21,
2013. Retrieved October 21, 2013.
Sean Ireton (2003). "The
Samaritans – A
Jewish Sect in Israel:
Strategies for Survival of an Ethno-religious Minority in the Twenty
First Century". Anthrobase. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
Levey, Geoffrey Brahm. "Toward a Theory of Disproportionate American
J. Alan Winter (March 1996). "Symbolic
Ethnicity or Religion Among
Jews in the United States: A Test of Gansian Hypotheses". Review of
Religious Research. 37 (3).
^ Sharot, Stephen, "
Jewish Ethnicity: Changing
Interrelationships and Differentiations in the Diaspora and Israel,"
in Ernest Krausz, Gitta Tulea, (eds.)
Jewish Survival: The Identity
Problem at the Close of the Twentieth Century, pp. 87–104
^ Will Herberg, David G. Dalin, From Marxism to Judaism: the Collected
Essays of Will Herberg, p.240
^ Shaye J.D. Cohen (1999). The Beginnings of Jewishness. U. California
Press. pp. 305–306. ISBN 0-585-24643-2.
^ Katz, Lisa. "Am I Jewish?". About.com. Retrieved 8 November
^ a b c "Who Is a Jew?". Judaism101. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
^ a b "In-Laws and
Shabbat Law". Ohr Somayach. 2009.
^ "Who Is A Jew?".
Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
^ The Principles of
Jewish Law, Ed. Menachem Elon, p. 429m
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