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Is there a difference between a religious Jew and an ethnic Jew?


Library » Jewish Identity » Who/What is a Jew? | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Rabbi Gurkow: Welcome to the Rabbi's one on one chat room, how can I help you today?

curious and confused: Is there a difference between a religious Jew and an ethnic Jew?

Rabbi Gurkow: that depends on what you mean by those terms

Rabbi Gurkow: if by religous jew you men a jew who practices and an ethnic jew you mean a Jew who does not than there is a difference -- one pracitces and one does not

Rabbi Gurkow: but on the fundemental level they are both Jewish, and in that way they are similar

curious and confused: If I am am of Irish decent, can I still be Jewish?

Rabbi Gurkow: if your mother was Jewish you are Jewish too

Rabbi Gurkow: if not than it is possible for you to convert into Judaism and become a Jew but there is no need (to the Jewish way of thinking) for non Jewish people to become Jewish

Rabbi Gurkow: G-d loves people just the way he made them

curious and confused: Well my husband and I have this discussion all the time. A person can be Jewish by birth (by blood) but not in their beliefs. During WWII, Hitler was trying to eliminate Jews in order to create the 'perfect race'. But that has nothing to do with an individual's religious beliefs. Correct?

Rabbi Gurkow: correct

curious and confused: So then, a person can be Jewish by birth but not necessarily in his beliefs. Does that mean that being Jewish can merely be an ethnicity? Or what is the word I'm looking for?

Rabbi Gurkow: a Jew has a soul that is unique to Jews. this soul enters into the Jewish body either at birth or at conversion. observance of the Jewish laws or lack thereof do not impact the presence of the soul

Rabbi Gurkow: that is what we mean when we say that someone is Jewish even if he does not practice it

Rabbi Gurkow: it is not an issue of ethinicity or race, it is a spiritual question

Rabbi Gurkow: as long as a person has a Jewish soul he or she is jewish and therefore obligated by jewish law to observe the commandments. if he or she observs then they have fulfilled their mission, if not then they ahve failed in their mission -- but it not un Judaize then

Rabbi Gurkow: so ironically our greatest enemy had it right, Hitler knew the status of the Jew, only Hitler thought that all descendents of Jews are jewish, but Jewish law stipulates that only the children of Jewish mothers are Jewish themselves. children born to Jewish fathers but not Jewish mothers are not Jewish

Rabbi Gurkow: that is where Hitler was wrong in his understanding of who is a Jew

Rabbi Gurkow: Wittgenstein was rumored to have said that he is three quarters Jewish

Rabbi Gurkow: his fathers parents were both Jewish, his mother's father was also Jewsh but his mother's mother was not Jewish... little did he know that he was lacking the one and only critical part

Rabbi Gurkow: he was not three quarters jewish, he was one hundered percent not Jewish :-)

Rabbi Gurkow: or four quarters not Jewish

curious and confused: Good to know. Thanks for your help and humor:-)

Rabbi Gurkow: you are entirely welcome

Rabbi Gurkow: thank you for coming to askmoses and please come again

All names, places, and identifying information have been changed or deleted in order to protect the privacy of the questioners. In order to preserve authenticity, the chat sessions have been posted with a minimum of editing. Please excuse typographical errors, missing punctuation, and/or grammatical mistakes which naturally occur in the course of informal chat sessions.


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