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Are Jews a "Race"?

Are Jews a "Race"?

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While the Jewish people began with the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, many people have converted to become Jews over the millennia--beginning with the "mixed multitude" that came with us out of Egypt. Today there are African Jews, Japanese Jews, even Eskimo Jews. It seems difficult to call such a mixture a "race".

(Incidently, there is really no such thing as a "race." The term "race" implies to most people that there are different categories of human beings based on their genetic makeup. The fact is that there is no basis in genetics for these distinctions. For example, an African from one family may have more in common genetically with a Swede than with another African.)

What could be said is that we are a "family". A family can adopt others as their own. But there are conditions to adoption. You need to keep the family rules. In our case, those rules have to do with the mission we were given at Mount Sinai over 3300 years ago.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
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Discussion (72)
April 22, 2014
I like your observation but wish to state another point of view. That being that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are just stories written by humans and there is no evidence to prove they existed. Religion and race was created by humans and I encourage everybody to learn about scientific history. Many humans and institutions are still tribal. People should not be made to feel separated racially. If I was told my great grandmother was "Jewish" that is limited information and does not prove her racial background beyond that. Is there such thing as 100 percent Jewish or is that just a label to be used by racists and other groups who wish to label people? Homo sapiens is one species that probably came from Africa, where they evolved from other humanoids. Skin colour lightened in the older climates, but all humans are of the same species, thus they can reproduce with each other. Furthermore, I am proud of my primate cousins.
Anonymous
Mexico City
February 11, 2014
Pffft
Rabbi Tzivi, with all due respect you should consider putting down the PC multicultural kool-aid. An African will not have more genetically in common with a Swede than with another African. That's complete, gratuitous fiction and you have a legitimate basis for a grievance with whoever told you that this was a credible assertion for you to reproduce. The most basic fundamentals of population genetics denote the sheer fallacy of that assertion. Have a look at the major human population clusters and have a brief look at what "cluster analysis" consists of.
Anonymous
Atlanta, GA
February 8, 2014
There are certain genetics that makes us Irish or German or African. Abraham Isaac and Jacob was Jewish or Arabic at best. Hagar and Abraham is the inception of the separation between the Jewish people and the Arabic people. Abraham is on both sides of the equation. They was not European nor African. Sammy Davis Jr was a convert but not of Jewish descent
Doyle
December 27, 2013
Man that don't prove nothing. My grandma's jewish but she don't live her life for synagogue. It's a race.
Me
December 24, 2013
So when you register your "race" on SAT's, jobs, DMV, etc., do Jewish people register as White/Caucasian, Other, or What?
Jim
Amerika
August 13, 2013
Jewish religion/Jewish race are 2 different things
Hello to matrilineal Jews &patrilineal Jews
I was born raised & raised in Los Angeles. I grew up already have known about my mother's Spanish heritage. My grandfather (Papa)'s 1st language was Spanish. Ironically,he was born in Phillipines Islands (near Manilla). His father's father was from Valencia, Spain & had blood family ties in Barcelona. In 1980, my papa's wife died from breast cancer so he wrote about 3 or 4 pages long about his Spanish Castillian family history. He mentioned our relation to noble Spanish family & plus the Garcia family. When I was very small, I noticed the semite nose that my mother inherited from her father. I never met my mother's birth mother who disappeared when my mother was 2. My mother's brother said he met his birth mother only once who had a small non-semite nose. 10 years ago, my research findings revealed my mother's mother was 1/2 Italian. For years, Jews asked if my mom is Jewish cuz she looked it. We heard about history of secret Jews in Spain.
Wendy Cunningham
Southern Oregon
November 1, 2012
Jewish genetics
Nathaniel I don't see how you can qualify a certain nose as being proof of being Jewish. I sure you will find your nose is due to a mixed racial factory friend . I think it'll be hard to find the original phenotype.
Anonymous
Syracuse, Ny
September 21, 2012
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Arab peoples are "semites," if we are in favor of tagging groups with names.
Steven Silz-Carson
Colorado Springs, CO
September 19, 2012
I have a question about this issue.
When people are against Jews, why are they called "Anti-semitic", since the term, itself, designates the Semetic race. It also includes Arabs, does it not?
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
December 11, 2011
Race
Thanks for the pertinent article. I wish you would publish something on the same scientific argument of defining race in alot more publicaions. In America the classification of race is loosly defined as the color of skin or dramatic differences in appearance for the sole sake of maintaining non-discriminatory social policy and measuring the effects of. This is good and this was very successful in the Universiy and Educational system for integrating segregated communities into one common ground as a people of one free nation. People of all races and religions can be treated equally and fairly in public society with all protections under the law, and protected from a mob rule, or majority dictatorship. In such a place minorities are not protected under the social structure in public, or private areas of society.
Rachel
Los ANgeles, CA
chabadlosfeliz.org
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