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Are Jews a "Race"?

Are Jews a "Race"?


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, 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. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Discussion (83)
March 21, 2016
So, what is that mission that was given 3300 years ago?
February 29, 2016
I feel like we're no different than native american tribes really. Jews were a group of tribes originally which had their own religion. Other races mixed with the tribes. That's why there are so many people of different races who are also Jews.
January 24, 2016
For Lee
I would rephrase the question: "Is a Jew who thinks he is secular and not holy, believes he is an atheist when he's really a believer—is such a Jew still a Jew?"

And once phrased that way, the question answers itself.
Tzvi Freeman
January 18, 2016
Is a secular israeli who is an atheist considered a Jew
May 8, 2015
Just saw this article, and appreciate the Rabbi's succinct and accurate point of Jewishness as a "family" and not as a "race."

Nevertheless, so very many posters here insisting on focusing on race and genetics despite the absolute truth of the falsity of such ideas.

It shows how rooted we are as humans in these concepts of race - even when faced with completely contrary facts.
jerry tanenbaum
February 6, 2015
Jews are NOT a race!
Dislexic Dave from London, UK, I'm not wrong! Different people have different opinions on things, and religious beliefs don't discriminate against anyone!

You're a very misguided person to think that I would say something like that!
Providence, RI
December 29, 2014
yes, there is american Indian Jews in NM
yes, there is a family from Navajo tribe that converted to Judaism in New Mexico a few years ago. That husband was even president of Jewish organization. you can google that family. they still keep Navajo traditions.
Wendy C.
December 28, 2014
is there such a thing as an American Indian Jew??
October 30, 2014
In reply to "Jim", who posted a concern about entering our "race" on thing such as applications .. I personally always put "OTHER"!! I do not consider myself or my children as anything but Jewish. I admit it is a tough call a times; so many opinions, so many choices, so many views.
Gina H
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.
Mexico City