Monday, 2 November 2009

What Are Jews...?

Hitler would love it. Decades after he tried to convince the world that Jews are a separate 'race', many people still fall for this lie.

Jews are defined as a 'race' in fiction, by some theologians of other faiths, and by many otherwise intelligent, rational people across the globe. Log into any online forum where religion is the topic, and you'll find endless posts passionately insisting that there exists a 'jewish race'.

You'll also see people referring to 'being jewish via blood' or of someone being 'of jewish blood'.

I mean really - do they think we Jews have kosher chicken soup running through our veins...?!

There is no such thing as 'jewish blood'!

Let's clarify the issue. Jews never were and are not now a 'race'.

Can you alter your race? No.

Can you convert to Judaism? Yes.

Are you then considered as Jewish as those born into the faith? Again - yes.

Clearly, then, neo Nazi protestations to the contrary, Jews are not a 'race'.

Nor are we an 'ethnic' group, though again, we are often defined as such.

There is no one ethnicity which unites all Jews. How can there be? There are Japanese Jews. Indian Jews. Black Ethiopian Jews. White Jews. We come in all shades and colours. We represent all ethnicities.

So we're not a race, and we're not an ethnic group. Yet we're not a religion in the same way that Christians or Muslims are, either. After all, as perplexed non Jews often note, there do exist Jewish Atheists. How can this be, though, if Jews are members of a faith?

So what are we, exactly...?

Well, we're a Tribe. We started out as a collection of smaller tribes, bound by tribal law. Today we are still tribal in nature.

You're born into the Jewish Tribe, if your mother is Jewish.

You remain a member of the Tribe - unless you leave to join another faith.

And you can return any time you wish, so long as you renounce the religion you left the Tribe for.

People convert to Judaism and are then adopted by the Tribe.

You remain a Tribe member even if you don't actively practise Judaism, which is how we can state that there do exist Jewish Atheists. Atheism is not a religion, thus it does not represent a violation of Tribal law.

Originally, even the Jewish G-d was a tribal deity - nothing remotely like the universal G-d that we worship today. Rather, the Jewish tribal deity was unique to Abraham and his descendants. It was only after Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai that we find Jews being transformed from a Tribe with a localised deity, into a Nation with a Universal G-d.

So there you have it. That's what we are. A faith, a family, and a nation. But above all, a Tribe. Personally, I prefer 'tribe' and think it's more accurate, as it conveys better the clannish, and intense nature of us as a group.

Next time you encounter someone calling us a 'race', remind them that only neo Nazis actually believe this, and that anyone who does use this term to define Jews, is sadly continuing Hitler's legacy, something no decent person would ever desire to do.