Answers to Questions by Yair Davidiy
Are Jewish people part of an ethnicity, a race, a religion or all of the above?
Your query seeks to define what differentiates those identifiable, or identified, as Jews from others.
Â Different answers to this question will emanate from differing people who consider themselves, or are so considered, Jewish.
Â This is their common denominator, i.e. that they consider themselves Jewish and others agree with them.
Â Nevertheless the degree of their Jewishness is determined, as they themselves in lucid moments will usually admit, by the degree of their being a Jew by religion.
Â One is either born Jewish or becomes Jewish by undergoing a process determined by the Jewish Religion.
Â Judaism is therefore a religion membership of which is largely (but not exclusively) determined by heredity.
Â It also is centered around promises and obligations undertaken by an ethnic group that formed the core body of the nation.
Â The terms race and/or religion may be misleading in this context: "People" is preferable. The Jews are a people.
Â One has the American people, the French people, the German people.Â
Â These other polities are all communities centered around an original group on to which others became attached.Â
Â All members of these peoples more or less consider themselves as having a common interest with their own entity.
Â The interpretation as to what this interest may well differ from one to another.
Â Nevertheless it will be identifiable from history, present prevailing attitudes, and how others perceive them.
Â By contrast,
Â the Jewish Religion is what has always differentiated the Jewish People.
Â In recent times attempts have been made to define the Jewish People as centered around a common heritage or a shared right to live in the Land of Israel, etc.
Â These attempts however do not lend themselves to sufficiently precise definitions. What is more, they too are dependent on the Jewish Religion.
Â Being a Jew therefore means belonging to the Jewish People, with the Jewish Religion whether actively or by default, determining what that is.