Does Judaism have elements of a racial and ethnic group or is it just a religion?

I would say that Judaism is first an ethnic group, as it is more the culture you are born into or choose to practice that makes you Jewish than whether you actually believe in the Torah and Yahweh (otherwise there would be no such thing as a ‘jewish agnostic’).

And it also has elements, but not all the necessary elements, of being considered a race or a religion. ‘Race’ implies a common root, and indeed, all Jewish communities or at least most of them originated from the ancient Israelis, the thing is, since you can convert to Judaism, even though most Jews are born and DO have an Israeli bloodline, since you can convert, not all of them do. So for that reason only you can’t call Jewish people a racial group.

Judaism is not a religion either. Well, a part of it is a religion, but the Jewish religion is just the core part of the Jewish community. Due to the presence of Jewish atheists, agnostics and converts to other faiths who are still considered Jewish because of their background, you can’t say Judaism is a religion in its entirety.

So I would say Judaism is an ethnic group, and a Jew is a member of this ethnic group, either (usually) by birth and thus, of Israeli ancestry dating back to the people in the Bible, or by choice. In fact, i might even say there are several Jewish ethnic groups, because Ashkenaz, Sephardic, etc are all quite different.

I think there’s a subforum called “In My Own Humble Opinion”, maybe you shoud check in.

^Okay well if the mods move it i will know where to look.

Jews are an ethnic group whose members may or may not practice Judaism. The word “Judaism,” refers specifically to the religion, not to ethnic Jews as a whole.

what would refer to Jewish people as a nation collectively? Maybe Ivrim?

No, don’t be silly. A Jew may be ethnically Jewish or practice Judaism or both. You don’t call people who practice the religion but aren’t Jewish-ethnic Judaists, do ya?

“Jewish” can refer to either or both. “Judaism” refers only to the religion. “Judaic” is a subset of “Jewish.”

Relevant staff report on what being jewish means:

The question is a bit complicated if for no other reason than race is a myth and “nationality” or “ethnicity” is a rather modern concept.

Furthermore, what constitutes an “ethnic Jew” is certainly up for debate.

For example, people regard American citizens of Italian descent as “Italian-Americans” regardless of how much they know of Italian culture or even speak the language.

However, with rare exceptions, we don’t regard Americans who are of Jewish descent, but don’t consider themselves Jews to be “ethnic Jews”. For example, Barry Goldwater, Caspar Weinberger, Bill Cohen, Madeline Albright, Oliver Stone, Harrison Ford, and Christopher Hitchens are not regarded as Jews and don’t(with the possible exception of Ford) regard themselves as Jews.

Furthermore, Orthodox Jews do not recognize practicing Jews as Jews if their mothers were gentiles. According to Orthodox tradition in order to be a Jew your mother must be Jewish or you have to convert to Orthodox Judaism. As a result, there are Rabbis(both Reform and Conservative) who aren’t recognized by Orthodox Jews as Jews because they have gentile mothers.

My own personal belief is that we should regard concepts like “ethnicity” and “nationality” as far to simplistic.

What’s more important is how they view themselves.

Thanks to Judaism, a number of Middle Eastern religions, such as the Druze, the Mandaeans and of course Islam see themselves as a community one is born into as well as a religious group.

This is in stark contrast to Christianity with it’s traditions of confirmation, Baptism, and being born again where you have to “choose” to be Christian.


There’s nothing simplistic about them.

You have to choose to be a Muslim too. You can say that people are “born into” it, but since Islam is a religion, not an ethnicity (i.e. it has no genetic or cultural component apart from the religion), that isn’t really true.

I’m honestly surprised you’re asking this.

Since you’re so interested in religion and seem to know quite a bit I thought for sure you’d know that according to Orthodox tradition the child of a Jewish father and a gentile mother is considered Jewish.

Oh well. To give just one example, Rabbi Rosenberg, the then Rabbi in charge of Touro Synagogue in Newport specifically told the father of a good friend of mine that his children were “bastards” and not Jews even though they were raised as Reform Jews because their mother came from a Catholic family.

That’s not the way Muslims see it. According to Islamic tradition the child of a Muslim father and Christian mother is a Muslim and furthermore is born a Muslim. That is how I’m regarded in Iran.

Besides, while we’re not that common, there are plenty of cultural Muslims in the world.

Furthermore, I’m not sure why you think there’s no “cultural component” apart from “religion” to being a Muslim but there is a “cultural component” to being a Mandaean or a Druze that’s separate from “religion”.

Seriously, people in the Middle East would start laughing if they heard you trying to claim that Druze are a nationality but Muslims aren’t.

Also, the idea that there’s a “genetic” component to ethnicity went out with the scientific racism of the early 20th Century unless you want to argue that Arabs and Latinos aren’t ethnicities.

The Rabbi’s statement is nonsense, from an Orthodox point of view. The children are not considered Jewish, but they’re not “bastards”. The Jewish word is “mamzer”, and it exclusively applies to Jewish children born to an adulterous or incestuous relationship, and carries serious ramifications in terms of whom they’re allowed to marry.

But yeah, I’m also surprised you need a cite for this, Dio. It’s fairly common knowledge that according to Jewish tradition as followed by Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, Judaism/Jewishness is transmitted by matrilineal descent.

Ibn Warraq, how do Muslims look at the opposite case, where the mother is Muslim but the father isn’t?


What is the definition of “Muslim?”

I said there is “no genetic or cultural component.” There is a genetic component to being Mandaean or Druze.

I didn’t say they were a nationality, I said they were an ethnic group. Those words have two different meanings. “Nationality” is just the country you’re from.

You are incorrect about this. Ethnicity and race are not the same thing, and the gentic component to ethnicity, while not a necessary comnponent, it is a common one, and a belief in a shared ancestry is also essential to the definition:

Muslims have no shared ancestry, nor any belief in a shared ancestry. They have no shared language, ideology, geography or any other shared trait or heitage outside of religious belief. Jews do. Mandaens do. Druze do. Muslims don’t. If you disagree, please tell me what defines the word “Muslim” outside of religion.

The Jewish Orthodox is more fucked up and backwards than I thought it was. I should have known better. I gave them too much credit. Thanks. Note children of Jewish fathers are still be allowed to beome Jewish through conversion, though. I will also point out that the religious beliefs of a few individuals with an ethnic group does not change the actual facts of ethnicity.

Muslim women aren’t supposed to marry non-Muslim men, though Islam allows Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women.

I don’t believe that the children of such marriages(Muslim mother, Christian father) are considered to be born into the Muslim community.

I don’t see what’s so “fucked up and backwards” about it. Practically speaking, it’s the only way to ensure that people are of Jewish descent.

Also, anyone is allowed to become Jewish through conversion, so that’s not really relevant.

That was true 2000 years ago maybe. Not anymore. Ever heard of paternity testing? Whatever those Orthodox rabbis want to believe, the son of a Jewish father has genetic Jewish heritage. They can’t just wave that away. I wonder if those rabbis think that Hitler would have cared about the difference.

So then you’re saying that Mandaeans and the Druze have a “shared language and ideology” but Muslims don’t.


Also, Jews don’t have a shared language, unless you want to argue Hebrew in which case you’ve destroyed your argument because Arabic, which was first used with the Quran, is viewed the same.

Ok, first of all, I didn’t say that race and ethnicity were the same. In fact I said the opposite.

Furthermore, you’re making the mistake of claiming that wikipedia is giving a definition of “ethnic group”.

Dictionaries don’t give definitions, just common understandings and common understandings regularly change over time.

Ethnicity is a 20th Century concept that simplistically tries to categorize people in ways that they may or may not want to be categorized. Frankly the invention of blood and soil nationalism in all its forms was one of the great mistakes of the 20th Century and has led to massive problems.

However, you’ll notice that even the wiki definition doesn’t support your claim that Muslims can’t be regarded as an ethnic group.

Muslim have a “common heritage” a “common culture” “a shared religion” and they certainly believe in endogamy.

Furthermore, all of that is beside the point. If Muslims see themselves as a community and primarily identify themselves as Muslims then it’s utterly foolish to say they’re not an ethnicity.

I’m pretty certain Hitler didn’t care. But you appear to, somehow.

And this is just silly. Ethnic groups share various things in common such as specific genetic heritage. You appear to be getting hung up (as so many Americans do) on one particular branch of Jews who immigrated from Eastern Europe and are so visible in entertainment. But it’s not true for all. I, for one, am a Jew with absolutely no Eastern European blood of which I am aware. My background, as far back as traced (more than 400 years on one side) is solidly English and French.

To label Jews as ‘an ethnic group’ is to betray the very meaning of the word.

Here, I’ll help:

It cannot be argued that there exists one all-encompassing ethnic background for Jews. One would have deep issues trying to reconcile my laid back SoCal Judaic upbringing with a person who’s upbringing was in Poland, for example. Much less Ethiopia or even Israel (though, in my time in Israel it reminded me a LA a lot, frankly. I think it was the climate.)

A common belief in a shared genetic heritage is all that’s required, and Jewish “ethnicity” need not be defined as anything more than people descended from the original Palestinian Jews of yore and (to some extent) the descendent of converts to their religion as long as that cultural heritage continues to be passed down.