Jews: Religion or Ethnicity?

  • October 09, 2017      Friendly Borders Staff

Jerusalem – Assimilation and intermarriage are factors in the changing features of a particular culture and tradition. These are modern practices affecting different ethnic communities around the globe, even a particular group that has always been thought of as a homogenous community–the Jews.

However, more than the two aforementioned factors, the Jews or the Jewish people have this blurred, confused understanding of their ethnicity. The term “Jew” has been used by others as an identifier for nationality. This is not entirely wrong, but it lacks in incorporating a wider look into this terminology and its relation to the Jewish people. Are Jews an entire race, members of a religion, or an ethnic group?

Defining “Jewish” Through Modern Lens

There was a time within the Jewish diaspora that the term “Jewish” was used in different ways that encompass the concepts of ethnicity, race, and even religion. The Jews may seem like a single group that share a common distinction compared to other ethnicities. However, it is important to note that they have internal distinctions, in that they have developed unique religious identities as well as various ethnic identities.

The people within and outside the Jewish community have tried providing distinct features to distinguish the use of the term when it comes to it being a race, a religious group, or a people. This has become a historical basis for discrimination or even murder for the “race.”

It is first necessary for one to understand that there is no right or wrong use of the term “Jew,” as long as it is clear under the circumstances or context of a particular statement where it is used. When people use the term “Jew” in context of ethnicity, race, or religion, it must contain the different components of each identity.

With the scattering of the groups into various nations around the globe, even the Jewish communities are united in following a distinct understanding of each another. So, presently, the Jewish community may support each other when it comes to their religion, but it has to be clear that that is not always the case. Whether it is about religion or other aspects, different communities still have their distinct culture and ethnicity. Even when separate groups don’t share religious lifestyles or the like, they still share that particular pride in their community and in them being Jewish.

Movement and Progress: Are They Possible?

Aside from the now-varied associations of the term Jew, it is also an interesting indicator that may present more possibilities in the growing diverse nature of different countries around the world. Wouldn’t it be a successful way for a particular culture to expand and develop through the engagement of its people? The Jewish people may use the word “Jew” to mean many things, but it is a sign that they are past the differences between their cultures. It is a collective understanding that leads to discussion and communication aiming to unite their group, especially as they share their culture to more people outside their ethnicity.

Should there be a need to present a concrete and specific connection? This may be a question for those in science instead. Could genetic mapping answer this question? This could be another way to look into the study of ethnicity of the Jews.

Image from Fred Jr Santos Instagram, @fredburst04