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Jewish Identity

A collection of key essays on the topic

Who are the Jews? What does it mean to be a Jew? Is there a difference between Judaism and Jewishness? Is it a religion, a family, a tribe, a nationality or something entirely different?

What Is Judaism?
What is Judaism? Who is it for? What are the basic Jewish beliefs, texts, and sacred places?
Who Is a Jew?
Solving the Mystery of Jewish Identity
Why Is Jewishness Matrilineal?
Maternal Descent In Judaism
The Code of Jewish Law states that a child of a Jewish mother is Jewish, regardless of the father’s lineage.
To a Child of a Jewish Father
My mother was Protestant and my father was an atheist Jew. My family survived the holocaust in Europe with great struggle. Am I Jewish or am I a gentile?
How Do I Know If I Am a Jew?
How are we to determine who is Jewish, and what are we to do with the information once we have it?
Why Be Jewish?
Assimilation is when non-Jews love us so much they want to marry us. Anti-Semitism is when non-Jews hate us so much they want to kill us. Why can't we, for once, think about what we think of ourselves?
What Makes a Jew
Sages and mystics explore the primordial "mind" of G-d to ask: Is it the Torah that makes the Jew a Jew, or is it the Jew who makes the Torah a Torah?
Who Are the Israelites?
For all practical purposes, Israelite is synonymous with Jew or Hebrew.
Why Do Jews Always Get Noticed?
That's like a room of two thousand people, with one puny guy sitting in the corner whom everyone wants to talk to (or pick on)!
Are the Jews the Chosen People?
I have long been uncomfortable with the concept of the "Chosen People". To suggest that as Jews we are somehow closer to G-d than all other nations smacks of arrogance, elitism, and racial prejudice.
Should I Convert to Judaism?
Is Judaism For Everybody?
My mother was a fairly devout Italian Catholic and my father an Anglican skeptic who never went to church. I was always so confused. Then I discovered Judaism, and I love it! What's my next step?
How to Convert to Judaism
What to Expect at a Conversion
I’m planning to convert to Judaism. This has been something I’ve been considering and mulling over for years, and I’ve made my decision. What should I expect? What will the process look like?
Why Is Conversion to Judaism So Hard?
Once we start understanding Judaism in its own language, all the questions dissolve. Not “religion,” but “brit”—meaning covenant. Not “convert,” but “ger”—a naturalized immigrant.
Will My Grandchildren Be Jewish?
I have yet to meet a Jew who doesn't proudly claim, "My grandfather was a rabbi." It seems that three generations ago everyone was a rabbi!
How Can Grandma Make Me Jewish If I Don’t Believe In Anything?
How one-quarter can make a whole Jew
I Just Discovered I'm Jewish!
What do I do now?
Funny thing, nobody is ever shocked by the discovery that their mother is Inuit. What’s so different about being Jewish?
Why Do We Believe?
I know that there are many logical proofs for the truth of Judaism. But at the end of the day, how do you know that yours is the right way? What makes you so sure?
How Does One Quit Judaism?
I'm an atheist. I married a non-Jew and have no wish to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. My question is: can I consider myself non-Jewish, or do I need some sort of form or dispensation to be officially no longer Jewish?
Jewish Soul in a Non-Jewish Body?
My family has no Jewish roots whatsoever. Can you offer any explanation as to why I am drawn to Judaism in this way?
Who Are the Hebrews?
What does the word "Hebrew" mean? And how did that become the name of the first Jews?
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