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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.
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Discussion (76)
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
February 11, 2014
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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