Is anyone else here in my situation? (Jewish lineage)

I was baptized Catholic when I was six months old, and I haven’t been active in the church since I was six years old, having opted for seeking and finding God in nature, various happenings, etc.

I was aware for some time that my great-grandmother was Jewish. Prompted by this fact and finding out that a few favorite musicians of mine were Jewish, I decided to research Judaism for my own enjoyment. Naturally, looking further into the basics of the faith made for an interesting surprise; mainly, that I am a Jew according to those in the Orthodox and Conservative faiths.

If I correctly recall, Catholicism and Judaism are somewhat different. While, as I mentioned, I am quite the lapsed Catholic, I am still confused (not in a bad way, mind) by this recent discovery, since I never attended Jewish services, I have never seen a menorrah save the big white metal one on a freeway in New York City, I eat lots of pork and cheeseburgers, and like that.

However, a rather unconscious identifying with Jews seems to be explained, as well as my fondness for things Jewish that I never gave a second thought to.

While I sort things out within myself, I’d like to ask if anyone here has been or is in my position, and how did/do you deal with this? I feel comfortable with what I have researched about the Jewish faith and its ideals in general, and I feel quite honored to be associated with such a gentry, however distant this association may be. But, I don’t consider myself very worthy of being a Jew, however ignorant I was when engaging in past behaviors, and I’m sure I couldn’t just be accepted tomorrow as such. I guess I sort of feel guilty. Anyone out there like this?

While this is more of a poll, I put it in GD due to the religious nature of this post; I hope I was correct in assuming.

Well, I’m nowhere near being a Jew, but I’ll give my opinion on the matter.

Guilty of what? Someone else says “acording to me, you’re a Jew”, and you feel guilty about not living up to their expectations?

If you don’t identify as a Jew, then you aren’t one, no matter what the technicalities of the Jewish faith may entail. I mean, you don’t follow any Jewish dietary guidelines, observe any Jewish holidays, or any number of other things, so why would you decide to pay any credence to the “Your great-grandmother was a Jew, so you are too” rule? Just ignore it like you do all the others, and you won’t feel guilty.

Just my $0.02.

Well, it’s not so much guilt as it is a ‘guilty’ feeling arising from confusion. I know I wasn’t clear there; sorry.

And, I’m wondering and debating at this very moment whether I identify in the least bit with Jewry in general; so far, I think I do. Perhaps this guilt is arising from my identfication with such, yet I wouldn’t wish to consider myself one with those Jews that are observant and drag them down; you know what I mean? It’s just rather confusing, though not in such a bad manner except with the worry of harm to those who are reverent—oh, I think I’m just becoming redundant now; I’ll shut up and listen and contemplate some more.

Oh, and it seems I misspelled menorah. While I usually have a “leave-typos-as-they-are” policy, I think I ought to say that I know better in this case.

My mum’s Jewish, her mum’s Jewish, etc etc. Ethnically or whatever I consider myself Jewish, religiously I’m agnostic.

Actually, my great-great-grandfather had converted to Catholisism, but got reclassified as a Jew in WW2, and after spending the war hiding on a farm my grandmother came out to Aust self identifying as a Jew ever after.


Why don’t you look at it this way:

To keep it as simple as possible, assume a generation is 30 years.

You have two parents born about 1970.
4 Grandparents born about 1940.
8 Great Grandparents born about 1910.

And so on and so forth, until by the time you get to the year 1440, working backward at 30 year intervals, or 15 generations, you have a theoretical maximum of 256,000 Great X 16 Grandparents.

Of course, there would have been lots of inadvertant 2nd, 3rd…5th, 8th cousin mix ups (plus unknown salesmen, gypsies) involved in this so the number is reduced to roughly 60,000?

Carry this simple exercise back for 2 or 3 centuries or more and the numbers become really huge. It should become even clearer.

Allowing for the fact that there has been travel, by sea and by road, between countries since well before the Roman Empire, a European person going back 15-20 generations would have at least a few hundred representatives from every single country in Europe, North Africa and Asia, no matter how “pure blooded” he or she imagines themselves to be.

Iceland perhaps excluded, but West Ireland definitely not excluded.

It is not possible for anyone, even royalty, to get a complete ancestral family tree from any official records.

Why anyone should think that a single ancestor in that enormous crowd of ancestors has more significance than any other because a particular surname (or DNA strand, patrilineal or matrilineal) has survived to the present day is quite amazing, really.

All of us, going back no more than 2 or 3 dozen generations have an ancestor on every continent except, maybe, South America and the Pacific, and that will probably change in a few more generations.

There is no rational reason for anyone to waste even a moments thought on matters ancestral. It means nothing and achieves nothing.

Judging by your post, you are only going back a few generations and cherry picking a small number of ancestors you find the most interesting, using religion as focus of your selection.

I suggest that you try going through life as yourself.

You’re an individual.

Remember that most of your many millions of ancestors are dead and forgotten (for the most part). Remembering a tiny number of them means nothing.

First, I am right in assuming that is was your maternal great-grandmother (i.e., your mother’s mother’s mother) who was Jewish?

If so, you are considered Jewish. This is esentially an ethnic identification - matrlinear descent basically proves that you are somewhat Jewish.

So, you now have several possiblilties:

  1. Regard it as an interesting anecdote and go on with your life.
  2. Go on with your life, + a warm and fuzzy feeling for Jews and things Jewish
  3. Declare yourself a Jew for all cultural puposes and follow the Jewish religion to the same extent that I do :slight_smile: (that’s “not at all” in case I wasn’t clear enough with the smiley)
  4. Decide to re-join the Jewish fold religiously as well as culturally - in which case the reform branch of Judaism will recognize you, as well.

I, being an atheist, would personally advise something in the range of options 2 or 3

** Are you seriously suggesting that, because of your genetic heritage, you were unconsciously attracted to a specific culture?

Well, that’s one of the more refreshing forms of racism I’ve seen on the boards lately…

A lapsed Catholic who now identifies with Judaism? No wonder you feel guilty – I think it’s stereotypically required.

I don’t think it’s “racist” that when you discover that you have a genetic link with a group, you have some interest in learning about that group. If I discovered tomorrow that one of my grandparents was from some part of the globe about which I had little knowledge (say, from Madagascar), I’d take a new-found interest in Madagascar.

My suggestion, Joe, is that you not let this rest with vague feelings, but that you go and study and learn. You’ve said you’ve read a little, but I’m not sure what your comment means about Catholicism and Judaism being “somewhat different.” (I assume that’s sarcasm?) Anyway, read up on Judaism, find out how it works and what it’s all about, and then decide what (if anything) you want to do about your newly discovered ancestry.

Noone has sort of outlined the options, I think.

Bottom line: despite your upbringing, yes, because of your ancestry (assuming it is your mother’s mother’s mother who was Jewish), you would be immediately accepted as Jewish (by all branches of Judaism) if you proclaimed yourself such.

And being an atheist has nothing (well, little) to do with being Jewish: Can you be an atheist and still be Jewish? One can be “Jewish” in several different ways, since Jews are both a religion and a tribe/people. One of the ways of being Jewish is by belong to the tribe/people, by birth or ancestry, the same as one can be Irish or Italian or Japanese by ancestry. Thus, if you are a member of the tribe/people based on your ancestry, then you can be immediately accepted as such by declaring yourself such.

Hitler would not have considered you Jewish, if that matters.

I like what C K has to say and second the motion that you do some finding out about your Jewish heritage.

You asked for other experiences, and though I don’t have one personally, a friend of mine was adopted and raised in a Christian sect, but always identified strongly with Judaism. As an adult, she met her bio-parents, who turned out to be Jewish.

I agree – there’s nothing wrong with being interested in one’s heritage.

But concluding that a previously-existing interesting in a culture/religion is due to a genetic link with that group… um, yeah, that’s a particularly weird form of racism.

Well, I’d like to thank everyone for their responses thus far, which all seem to be well-qualified. They are of a great comfort to me.

Yes, my comment about Catholicism and Judaism being different was of a sarcastic nature and perhaps out of place. I’m sorry; I guess I was trying to lighten the load on myself. I will definitely study about my new-found ancestry. I guess that I will be thinking about this for some time, although I must admit that I have a bit more direction than when I started just a couple of days ago.

So weird, perhaps, that it’s non-existent, at least any bad intentions that you may be hinting at? How is identifying with one’s ancestry (especially in my case) racist? I fail to see the connection.

He’s talking about this:

Where you seem to be saying that the fact that you were ethnically Jewish was somehow mystically compelling you towards Jew-related interests, despite the fact that you were unaware of your Jewishness. This seems rather implausible.

I see now…Well, I certainly had no racist intentions. Maybe I suddenly remembered all the things/people I liked that were coincidentally of Jewish origin or influence with a sudden ‘comraderie’, if you will. I meant absolutely no harm; in fact, I typed said statement with an embracing feeling.

I’d hate for this thread to be hijacked beyond another reply or two on this subject. If it’s okay with the Mods/Admin, maybe any other questions about my feelings could be directed towards me in another thread?

Well, that’ll teach me to post when I’m angry. “interesting [sic]” indeed.

Why should this matter to you in the first place? Many people, myself included, are interested in cultures and civilizations that my ancestry has nothing to do with, and even more people see no particular reason to be concerned with what their “heritage” is.

I’m puzzled. I guessing you meant my discovery I am a Jew by “this”. Going with that:

You are among those who are interested in cultures and civilizations that your ancestry has nothing to do with—Great. I am too.

You state that a greater amount of people than those mentioned above see no particular reason to be interested in your heritage—That’s certainly true as well, although I have only personal experience to back this up with, and not a cite.

But—Why should this pertain to me? I happen to be deeply—no—I’m interested in my heritage beyond words. That is a big, if not the greater, part of who I am. Those who posted that I am myself are correct; however, I did not begin myself. That was ultimately the doing of my Mother, who was sufficiently aided by our extended family and ancestors (redundant?).

I recognize that I am a Jew (thanks to research and a few Dopers here), if not Jewish in the religious sense (at least yet). I have no choice; it’s in my blood, and I’m proud. Moreover, I do not wish to be ignorant of myself, let alone ignorant in general. I think that it is a travesty that so many people ignore their heritage, but I can only worry about myself in this regard.

Thus, we come to the motivation of this thread: an uncertainty arising from my Catholic baptism at six months, despite the subsequent lapsing. I have learned that this does not matter as far as heritage and culture, and maybe slightly so in the case of actually observing, unless I claimed myself as Jewish.

So, in answer to “Why should this matter to you in the first place?”, assuming I interpreted you correctly, that’s why.

TVAA’s hijack is continued here.

I don’t think anything Joe K said was racist. The word I would have gone for was “silly” in that it’s a pretty giant stretch to believe he was interested in Judaism because he has some Jewish heritage that he was unaware of. I’ve been fascinated by Malcolm X since I was about 12, but it’s not because I’m secretly part black. :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyway, I would say you can do one of two things with the guilt you’re feeling: 1) Stop feeling guilty because you’ve done nothing wrong, and research your ancestry and/or Jewish customs if you’re so inclined, or 2) Consider yourself Jewish: you’re feeling guilty and don’t know what you’ve done wrong - that’s a pretty big part of being Jewish! (Rent Woody Allen films to research this aspect of it.)

I started to put this in the Pit thread, but then realized that it was more appropriate here.

I find your experience interesting, Joe K, because it is not the first time that I have heard of a person who felt some connection to Judiasm before discovering that he in fact had some Jewish heritage. However, I have also heard of people who have converted to Judaism who realized that their entire life they had felt Jewish even without a Jewish ethnic heritage.

Judaism is more complicated to discuss in this context than race, because Judaism has both an ethnic/genetic component and a spiritual component. From my perspective, any sense of Jewish identity that you felt before you learned about your heritage comes not from your genes, but from your soul.

It’s not hard to believe that some part of your spiritual identity is Jewish. After all, the religion in which you were raised has its roots in Judaism, and worships the same God. You don’t need to follow traditional Jewish religious observances in order to have some sense of being Jewish. You also don’t need to feel obligated to act on your feelings. If they help you clarify your own spirituality, that’s great, and if not, at least you have a different perspective on varying belief systems.

To be a Jew your mother must be Jewish. That would make you a half Jew. If your father was also Jewish then you are a descendent of one of the 12 Tribes of Israel and have tribal descent. The general non-interest you had in what you thought was your ‘born’ religion is because your Soul was rejecting the ‘religious’ ideas and beliefs you were being taught in church that Torah Judaism recognizes as false i.e. the virgin birth, vicarious suffering, original sin being transmitted from mother to child, faith over works, and every other Western Guilt Culture interpretation wrongly imposed the text of an Eastern, Oriental Culture. If your mother, grandmother, great grandmother etc was Jewish then upon death your Soul will be Judged according to Jewish Standards, not gentile. The idea that a Jewish Soul can live and function as a non-Jewish Soul is silly, at best. In regards to this matter gentiles have no standing. Their opinions count for nothing. Only recognized Orthodox Jewish scholars can address any issue about Judaism. No one would ask a Lutheran a serious question about Catholicism, LOL. Cordially, Daniel Joab Abraham aka