INFORMATION

This website uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some of these cookies are essential to make our site work and others help us to improve by giving us some insight into how the site is being used. For further information, see our Privacy Policy. Continuing to use this website is acceptance of these cookies.

Is Jewish an ethnic group?

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
Message
Author
lng8723
Posts: 9
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 5:00 pm

Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#1 Post by lng8723 » July 13th, 2010, 6:37 pm

Are the Jews an ethnic group or a religious group?

This all started because I started talking to someone who is an atheist but also claims to be Jewish.

I asked the following question, “How can you be both Jewish and atheist? Surely Jewish is a religious view rather than a cultural or political one.”

The reply I got was “Jewish is an ethnic classification regardless of whether you practice the religion. My ancestors were from all different countries in Europe, but they didn't consider themselves Polish or Russian or whatever. You can be religious Jewish if you want, but it's not connected to your ethnic Jewish background.”

My response to this was, “I am still confused. No one really says I am an atheist but ethnically protestant or catholic (except maybe the Irish Catholics). I am guessing Jews have no distinguishing features or skin colour. The first Jews were black for example so there is no Jewish skin colour or anything like that. Is it because you live a Jewish lifestyle? Eat kosher and obey some rules even though you don't think God is there?
I suppose the point is if the religion was never created, what would make you part of a separate ethnical group from other people?”

The response was,
“Jews actually do have a good number of distinguishing features, not related to religion. They've done lots of genetic studies that find that two (ethnic, regardless of religious stream) Jews from completely different parts of the world, who don't look alike or live in similar environments at all, nevertheless are more closely related than they are to their (non-Jewish) neighbours in either country. I don't keep kosher, never go to shul, etc. That's the atheist part. As far as your main question though, if the religion had never been created, I don't suppose there would have been any reason for Jews NOT to intermarry with all the other religions (I mean to a large extent, not the relatively small extent they did until the last century or so), and then there probably WOULDN'T have been anything much to distinguish a Jew from anyone else, genetically. So the ethnicity does sort of owe itself to the religion, but it doesn't mean it's not still in DNA.” (They put the caps locks in btw)

Still confused I googled “Ethnic Jew” and discovered that there are Jewish illnesses that no one else gets and that it is believed that a Black man or White man who is Jewish is genetically different to another Black man or White man who isn‘t Jewish.

It began to sound like they were saying they were a separate specie at times which is where I began to think this may be a pseudoscience.

Is a pseudoscience? Or are the Jewish genetically different to the rest of us as the websites states?

http://bloggingthecasbah.blogspot.com/2 ... erent.html

http://checkorphan.getreelhealth.com/gr ... -illnesses

lng8723
Posts: 9
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 5:00 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#2 Post by lng8723 » July 13th, 2010, 6:45 pm

Incase anyone is wondering since it will appear as my first post, my name is Michael and I was previously on here. I posted the lib dems secularism page. I forgot my password and couldn't get into my old email anymore, so had to make a new account.

Anyone got any ideas on the question above?

Han83
Posts: 12
Joined: July 11th, 2010, 9:51 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#3 Post by Han83 » July 13th, 2010, 6:49 pm

I would argue that ethnicity involves more than genetics. African-Carribean people for example, hail from the African continent of course. African-Carribean is still a distinct ethnic identity based on shared history, culture, language, religion, etc. I can think of other 'ethnicities' such as Dutch Pensilvanian, French Canadian, Irish Traveller etc...that rely on a mixture of real and assumed bonds.

The danger here is that we get into nationalist identities. I'm doing an MA next year and intend to look into whether ethnicity can remain a postitive thing to preserve without postulating a case for nationalism (which is intrinsically divisive).

Sorry, no definitive answer from me, just an attempt at making things even more confusing.

User avatar
grammar king
Posts: 869
Joined: March 14th, 2008, 2:42 am

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#4 Post by grammar king » July 13th, 2010, 6:59 pm

Actually it's interesting, the Jewish religion is probably one of the last tribal religions remaining, being as it was the religion of the Israelites. Most religions these days are completely belief-based, and they'll take converts from anywhere, but Judaism has always been different, even now it is difficult to convert to Judaism, it's something to do with whether your mother was Jewish or something like that. You can even see signs of it in the Old Testament, certain parts read as if it is asserting the existence of other gods, as if to say 'oh there are other gods, but this one is my god'.

I believe this tribal idea of religion changed when big empires started popping up. To unify a big empire, it was necessary to have a state religion, and that meant allowing converts. No longer was religion tied to ethnicity.

So, to answer your question, although I don't know if Jewishness is a biological ethnicity, or even if it makes sense to talk about ethnicity with DNA, I would say that culturally, being Jewish is definitely being part of an ethnic group. For a start, your family will celebrate Hanukah not Christmas.

Nick
Posts: 11027
Joined: July 4th, 2007, 10:10 am

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#5 Post by Nick » July 13th, 2010, 7:06 pm

Welcome back Michael :)

I was previously rebuked for describing Jewishness as an ethnicity, and, being, a) out of my scientific depth, and b) slightly taken aback and c) somewhat scared of being accused of anti-semitism, I wthdrew to consider matters further.

My thinking is this: It strikes me as odd that the Jews should have been so persecuted, by so many, for so long, for no reason other than their theoretical denial of Christ. (I'm not thereby saying that any such 'reason' is reasonable.) I wonder if there are other factors at work, even if they are to be equally deplored.

Just flying a kite, if Jeremy Clarkson were to be the Sunday Times restaurant critic, would the hostility be in the same vein as that directed towards Michael Winner? Plenty of people dislike Clarkson, but would any hostility be ultimately for the same reasons?

I say all this not to justify, for one nano-second, any anti-semitism, but to attempt to work out why it arises. It does nothing to eradicate discrimination to deny it's causes.

User avatar
Dave B
Posts: 17809
Joined: May 17th, 2010, 9:15 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#6 Post by Dave B » July 13th, 2010, 7:11 pm

I have a friend who describes herself as a non-practising Jew, but always still a Jew (she is actually mixed Russian Jew and Catholic Irish.)

Now, I used those two "labels" without thinking, the position of the nationality and the religion says a lot. As GK implied it is perhaps as much a tribal identifier as a religious denomination. Except that there were separate tribes within the whole of Jewry I believe.

"British" and its distinction from "English" etc. is not without its confusions for some foreigners! Just be glad it has no religious connotations!
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

lng8723
Posts: 9
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 5:00 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#7 Post by lng8723 » July 13th, 2010, 7:32 pm

The thing that has been confused Nick is that people like Hitler have commited great crimes against them with the reasoning that they are not really people as such. You would think the Jews would say that they were just like everyone else but have a different worldview. My experience however is the opposite, as I stated, my athiest friend said that she is Jewish, not because of lifestyle, not because of faith, not because of nationality but because she thinks she is genetically different to everyone else. She has the "Jewish genes".

The question is do "Jewish genes" which make them different from everyone else exist? Remember a Black jew is not related to other Black men or even White men - just other Jews, the same applies to White jews. I make that point because it is not a skin colour thing either. It is just that they are not genetically the same people that we are.
That doesn't make much sense to me.

User avatar
Dave B
Posts: 17809
Joined: May 17th, 2010, 9:15 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#8 Post by Dave B » July 13th, 2010, 7:38 pm

Isn't there a black group in Africa that consider themselves Jewish and actually do share a common genetic inheritance with some ME Jewish groups?
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

lng8723
Posts: 9
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 5:00 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#9 Post by lng8723 » July 13th, 2010, 7:51 pm

Hi Dave, it is possible that there are Africans related to the Jewish people as the first Jews were black. The point I am making is I have always though that we are all related. That we are a specie. The Jewish arguement appears to say that is not the case. That there is a specie made up of us and a seperate specie made up of them. I am asking how that is possible. Surely it cannot be right.

User avatar
Dave B
Posts: 17809
Joined: May 17th, 2010, 9:15 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#10 Post by Dave B » July 13th, 2010, 7:55 pm

. . . it is possible that there are Africans related to the Jewish people as the first Jews were black.
But were they of negroid stock, as the group I remember seeing on the documentary are? I cannot remember whether the genetic link was one that could have come from "interbreeding" or not.

I will do a search to see if that documentary is still available.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

User avatar
Dave B
Posts: 17809
Joined: May 17th, 2010, 9:15 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#11 Post by Dave B » July 13th, 2010, 7:56 pm

"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

User avatar
Dave B
Posts: 17809
Joined: May 17th, 2010, 9:15 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#12 Post by Dave B » July 13th, 2010, 8:00 pm

This is not the documentary I saw but . . .
http://underdogcinema.com/culture/diggi ... of-israel/
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

lng8723
Posts: 9
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 5:00 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#13 Post by lng8723 » July 13th, 2010, 8:15 pm

Thanks Dave B, does anyone know if this genetic arguement is true or just a myth?

User avatar
Dave B
Posts: 17809
Joined: May 17th, 2010, 9:15 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#14 Post by Dave B » July 13th, 2010, 9:02 pm

lng8723 wrote:Thanks Dave B, does anyone know if this genetic arguement is true or just a myth?
My memory is not what it was, but I seem to remember that there were some "Jewish" genes shared by these people.

The documentary also involved a "drum" that the Lemba (if I do remember correctly) say is actually the Ark of the Covenant. The trouble is, as in the docu. that I linked above, there is so much bloody theatre put into many of these types of productions - the meaningful look, the carefully posed stance, the carefully chosen phrases and tones of voice etc. It often makes me wonder what the motive for the programme really is, true investigation or merely entertainment.

Grump, grump . . .
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

User avatar
Paolo
Posts: 1474
Joined: September 13th, 2008, 9:15 am

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#15 Post by Paolo » July 14th, 2010, 7:57 am

Yes, Jewish is an ethnic group:
wikipedia wrote:An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage that is real or assumed.
It's on a list and everything.

Ethnicity isn't related to genetics unless relatedness is considered an important part of the shared common heritage of a given ethnic group (as with Judaism). Religion is not normally intrinsic to ethnicity, although it is closely linked with ethnic identity in some instances.

User avatar
Dave B
Posts: 17809
Joined: May 17th, 2010, 9:15 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#16 Post by Dave B » July 14th, 2010, 9:23 am

Ethnicity isn't related to genetics unless relatedness is considered an important part of the shared common heritage of a given ethnic group (as with Judaism). Religion is not normally intrinsic to ethnicity, although it is closely linked with ethnic identity in some instances.
Interesting, Paolo.

Now, this begs a question: does a person, say of English (whatever that really means!) stock and Christian heritage, who converts to Judaism then "swap" ethnic groups?
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

lng8723
Posts: 9
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 5:00 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#17 Post by lng8723 » July 14th, 2010, 10:05 am

My question Paolo is , is Jewish genetical?

Remember my friend said she no culture, religion or politics based in Judaism now. She was just gentically Jewish. She got illnesses no one else other than a jew could get.

Dave B previously mentioned about the Africans who had Jewish links. The point my friend tryed to make and that the website links posted above try to make is that for example those Africans are not related to other Africans. They are only related to the Jew.

How is that possible? I don't want to ask it but I feel I must, is the website right when it says, "the Jewish are genetically different to the rest of us"

That is to say, you get our white people, our black people, our illnesses and then another group exists which have the Jewish black, Jewish white and Jewish illnesses seperate from us.

I have asked this question before and been told yes that is the case by many Jewish people, including Jewish athiests, but I cannot believe they are that different from us. Is it, as I asked before a pseudoscience or an actual fact?

User avatar
Dave B
Posts: 17809
Joined: May 17th, 2010, 9:15 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#18 Post by Dave B » July 14th, 2010, 10:15 am

It seems that we need to differentiate between the genetic Jew (who may no longer be a practising religious Jew and may even have converted to another religion) and the ethnic or religious Jew (who may be of non-Jewish genetic inheritance but who has converted to Judaism).

It gets confusing!
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

User avatar
jaywhat
Posts: 15807
Joined: July 5th, 2007, 5:53 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#19 Post by jaywhat » July 14th, 2010, 11:10 am

I do not think it is that easy to 'become' a Jew.

lng8723
Posts: 9
Joined: July 13th, 2010, 5:00 pm

Re: Is Jewish an ethnic group?

#20 Post by lng8723 » July 14th, 2010, 11:23 am

There have been reports in the media previously about believers of Judaism being told they are not Jewish because they don't have the right genes. Ethnic Jew means Genetic Jew in this example.

That is the bit I do not understand. You don't get genetical protestants or christian illnesses, so why do you get Jewish illnesses and Jewish African which is different from other Black Africans, I mean not even related.

The only answer I have been given so far to this question is that God made them different because they are the chosen people. They have higher intelligence and genetic superiority to us basic folk. In short, society is made up of basic people like us and we co-exist with a different specie of humanity called the Jew, which is genetical not religious based.

I am wondering if there is any evidence to refute this claim, there must be!

If not, that means you could feel ill and the doctor wouldn't be able to treat you until you knew you were gentically Jewish. Then he could say, oh your a jew! it must be this jewish illness then because non-Jews don't get this ever. It's gentically exclusive to the Jewish people.

That can't be right, can it? If there is no evidence to refute this the next logical question is , is the Torah right?

Please don't start debating the torah though, I'm looking into the genetical jewish / jewish illness question at the moment.

Post Reply