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Jews are members of the tribe of Judah, whose religion is Judaism. By definition, Judaism is a religion developed among the ancient Hebrews, one that believes in one transcendent God who has revealed Himself to Abraham, Moses, and the Hebrew prophets.

The main designations of Judaism are Conservative, Orthodox, Reform, and Reconstructionist. Sheldon F. Gottlieb has declared that “Jews may relinquish the deistic aspects of the religion and still consider themselves to be culturally and ethnically Jewish.”

Who Is A Jew?

In 1995, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, who was “born a Jew” and converted at the age of fourteen to Roman Catholicism in 1940, created a furore when he visited Yad Vashem, a memorial in Jerusalem to the Holocaust. Now the Archbishop of Paris, he wore the red zucchetto of a prince of the Roman Catholic Church. But, he was met by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau’s statement that Cardinal Lustiger had “betrayed his people and his faith during the most difficult and darkest of periods. If we were to accept Lustiger as a model,” he said, “not one Jew would be left in the world to say Kaddish,” the Jewish prayer for the dead. The Cardinal insisted that he had never repudiated his Jewish origins and even mentioned “we Jews,” adding, “To say that I am no longer a Jew is like denying my father and mother, my grandfathers and grandmothers. I am as Jewish as all the other members of my family who were butchered in Auschwitz or in the other camps.” In short, instead of claiming he was from a Hebrew family, he said he was both a Jew and a Catholic. When asked if he thought he might become the next Pope, he answered “Crazy” in Yiddish, “Meshuggeh!”

The Reform branch of American Judaism in the 1980s renounced a principle which had guided Jews for 2,000 years: that in mixed marriages the religious status of children comes down through the mother. Thus, Peter Steinfels has explained, “the child of a Jewish woman and a non-Jewish man, therefore, was automatically Jewish, while the child of a Jewish man and a non-Jewish woman was not,” possibly ordained because rabbis took pity on the Jewish women raped by Roman soldiers during the Jewish uprisings of 65-67 C.E. and 132-135 C.E. After all, had not Moses married Zipporah, a Midianite daughter of a foreign priest, and it was never suggested that her son Gershom or any other of her children were not Jews. Test cases include “a Carmelite monk who in the 1960s claimed Israeli citizenship inasmuch as he had been born a Jew. In 1970, an Israeli married to a gentile demanded that his children be recognized as Jewish by race but not by religion. In 1986, an American immigrant, converted to Judaism by a non-Orthodox rabbi, claimed a right to be recognised as Jewish,” reported The Economist (14 August 1993). In the 1990s, a group of black Somali refugees encamped outside an Israeli embassy, describing themselves as Falasha Somali and asserting their own ancient Jewish lineage. Meanwhile, a black Ethiopian group called the Semitic People of Guihon and claiming to number four million have proclaimed their group’s Jewishness. Opponents claim that such examples only prove that the Reform rule deepens the rift among Jews, blurring the boundary between Jews and non-Jews.

At the very end of 1998, a district judge in Jerusalem ordered the Israeli Government to recognize conversiions to Judaism performed by non-Orthodox rabbis. Minority Reform and Conservative leaders celebrated the decision. Orthodox leaders vowed to fight the ruling.

Jews, Atheistic

Although it is possible to convert to Judaism and become a Jew regardless of race or previous religion, it is lexicographically illogical to be an “atheistic Jew,” just as, analogously, one is not an “atheistic Christian” or an “atheistic Muslim.”

However, many whose ancestors were Hebrews, including Nat Henthoff, persist in proclaiming that they are atheistic Jews rather than (as were Freud, Einstein, and others) “unbelieving Jews.” Anne Frank’s father, who served the Kaiser in World War I and who escaped to Holland when anti-Semitism became the national policy in Germany, was called a Jew by others although he did not call himself so - his family celebrated Christmas, not Chanukah; his family had not given him any religious instruction, and his children received no religious or theological instruction.

Nel Noddings, in Educating for Intelligent Belief or Unbelief (1993), remarks,

“Christianity, it is said, focuses on belief more than most religions do. Judaism, for example, places more importance on ritual and practice. Indeed, some people today ignore the religious nature of Judaism entirely. In a letter to the Village Voice (9 June 1992), Nat Hentoff declared himself a ‘Jewish atheist,’ ” adding that Warren Allen Smith retorted, “Hentoff cannot be a Jewish atheist any more than one could be a ‘black white,’ that he might better call himself a secular humanist or just an atheist. Hentoff, who perhaps could better be described as a non-Jewish Jew, replied:

  • I have now come full circle. Several rabbis once “excommunicated” me because I am for an independent Palestinian state. Now the secular humanists would censure me for calling myself Jewish. As I told the rabbis, I define myself, and it ain’t nobody’s business but my own.

Nodding observes, “Perhaps Hentoff should settle for the label ‘existentialist.’ In any case, the Hentoff-Smith exchange illustrates the fascinating mixture of belief, culture, politics, logic, and passion that is conjured up by the word religion. Even though few religions besides Christianity use belief as a basic test, belief is clearly involved in all religions. People do not engage in rituals and practices without believing in something that gives these rituals and practices meaning. At least, I am arguing here that such behavior would not be intelligent.”

S. Levin, a South African pediatrician who has written (New Humanist, May 1995) about “Jewish Atheism,” cites various biblical references to a non-caring, non-acting, not-there God. The Talmud does not feature God prominently, he notes, and he develops further evidence in the writing of Jewish authors that God could not exist or the Holocaust, for example, would never have been allowed. From a semantic rather than an orthodox Jewish viewpoint, “Jewish atheism” and “Catholic atheism,” which are analogous terms, appear to be illogical. Judaism is about a personal God, a chosen people, daily prayers and rituals, a sacred text, belief in a soul, and separation of the sacred from the secular. Those whose parents were Hebrews and who now do not accept Judaism could, however, consider themselves “cultural Jews” who, for example, like matzo ball soup and sad songs sung by a cantor. Similarly, those whose parents were Catholics and who now do not accept Christianity could, however, enjoy Gothic architecture and solemn liturgical music sung by castrati. Shulamit Aloni, the Israeli minister of science during the Peres regime, has called herself an Israeli (whose parents were Hebrews), a Jew, and an atheist. “A Jew by birth” is one whose mother was a Jew, according to Jewish religious law. Thus, if one’s mother is a Jew and one later becomes a Catholic or an atheist the question of whether or not one is still a Jew remains a problem often debated in contemporary Israel. Orthodox rabbis, who in Israel control marriages and burials, may not recognize such individuals as Jews. Nat Henthoff, Wendy Lesser, and numerous others insist they are “atheistic Jews,” not atheists whose parents were Jews. Meanwhile, if one’s mother is a Buddhist or a Baptist or an atheist, one is not automatically a Buddhist, Baptist, or atheist, for the person is expected to choose his religion or non-religion. Many, however, lazily continue without questioning their membership in their parents’ religion.

Who is a Jew, According to A Secular Humanist and a Freethinker

Paul Kurtz is a secular humanist leader with an incisive view about “Who is A Jew?” In a work of that title (Free Inquiry, Summer 1997), he noted that Alan M. Dershowitz’s The Vanishing American Jew (1997) mentions that he is a thoroughly secularized Jew and a humanist, and he is agnostic about the existence of God. “Yet,” Kurtz found, “he believes that it would be a tragedy if the American Jews were to decline or disappear.” On the contrary, Kurtz defends assimilation of Jews into the mainstream:

  • In reading Dershowitz I am struck by how deep-seated his own ethnic and tribal chauvinism is—and by his failure to appreciate the virtues of assimilation, the appeal of interreligious and/or interracial marriages. The United States (and Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Western Europe to a lesser extent) are becoming truly universal societies, for they have taken steps beyond ancient ethnic, national, and racial chauvinism. Should we not applaud those couples (including Dershowitz’s son and daughter-in-law) who are willing to transcend their ethnic backgrounds and transfer their affection to the broader human community, able to reach out and love “the aliens” in their midst? Rather than bemoan the loss of his grandchildren to Jewish identity, why not applaud the quest for a broader human identity?

Kurtz further discussed the concept that the Jewish people “represent a continuous line of descent of 3,500 years, traceable back to the original Jews or Hebrew who lived in Palestine.” Citing Paul Wexler’s The Ashkenazic Jews: A Slavo-Turkic People in Search of a Jewish Identity (1993), Kurtz found no “sacred chain” to uphold the view of any continuous line of descent. The implications of Wexler’s study for the State of Israel, he states,

  • are profound. Jewish nationalism and Zionist ideology are wedded to “the sacred chain” thesis. Wexler observes that, given the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today, the belief in an uninterrupted identity of the Jewish people and/or religion from the Palestinian period to the present impedes the systematic study of this historic Judaization process. If he is correct, this thesis need not justify the frenzied effort by Palestinian nationalists to throw the Jews into the sea, no more than that Native Americans need insist that the settlers in America and Canada return to Europe and Africa, or that the Australians give back Australia to the Aborigines.

From the secular humanist viewpoint, Kurtz concluded,

  • . . . assimilation is a positive good and is not to be feared. The moral agenda for humanists is to persuade people that we need to go beyond the ancient divisive loyalties of the past and to attain a new ethical level in which all persons become a part of the community of humankind. This may be difficult. But if it is happening in America, why not elsewhere?

Thomas Henry Huxley told his son Leonard,

  • The most remarkable achievement of the Jew was to impose on Europe for eighteen centuries his own superstitions.

Jews, Cultural

In the common vernacular, a person whose ethnic heritage is based on Judaism but who is not religious and likely is anti-religious can still think of himself or herself as being culturally Jewish. Similarly, a Louisianan whose ancestors were Catholic, French-speaking immigrants from Acadia might think of himself or herself as culturally Cajun even if being a Jew and unable to speak French.

However, many non-theists whose parents were Jews are adamantly opposed to being considered culturally Jewish, do not purchase “kosher food,” and are as unwilling to display a menorah as a Christian icon.

Jews in Israel

Orthodoxy is the established religion in Israel. The Conservative and Reform denominations have no formal standing in the Jewish state. For historical reasons primarily, Israelis are either Orthodox or secular. The non-Orthodox movements, which flourished in pre-Holocaust Germany and continue to flourish in America, have failed to win many Israelis. This they attribute to their “second-class” legal status, “their traducers to their essentially alien and diasporic character,” noted The Economist (21 June 1997). As a result, anyone converted in Israel by a non-Orthodox rabbi is not recognized as Jewish by the state—although, by a legal quirk, conversions done abroad are recognized.

Jews, the Vanishing

Alan M. Dershowitz, in The Vanishing American Jew (1997) warned that if intermarriage trends continue, American Jewry would disappear. His book was written after his son Jamin married Barbara, a Roman Catholic. Raised an Orthodox Jew, Dershowitz surprised some by writing that Judaism need not be bound to revelation at Sinai or to Jewish law, a view similar to that of Mordechai Kaplan, to whom he alluded. “The great paradox of Jewish life is that virtually all of the positive values we identify with Jews—compassion, creativity, contributions to the world at large, charity, a quest for education—seem more characteristic of Jews who are closer to the secular end of the Jewish continuum than to the ultra-Orthodox end.” Dershowitz considers Judaism as a civilization like “the American, Greek, or Roman civilizations.”

Jewish Authors

Many Jewish creative artists incorporate religious themes and references in their work. The British Commonwealth’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has written Faith in the Future (1995), and numbers of Jews over the centuries have produced not only novels, dramas, and poetry but also symphonies, paintings, and sculpture. Hebrew literature starts with the Old Testament and the Apocrypha, parts of the Pseudepigrapha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Talmud, the Midrash, the Targum, the Masora, the Zohar, the Aha of Shabcha, Saadia Ben Joseph Al-Fayumi, Dunash Den Tamin, Dunash Ben Labrat, Gershom Ben Judah, and Al-Fasi exemplify Hebrew literature up to the 14th century.

Following the Crusades when the Jews were driven from country to country, they continued, often writing about mysticism and asceticism.

The modern period of Hebrew literature began with Moses Mendelssohn, the poet Jehuda (Leon) Gordon, and the novelist Solomon Yakob Abramovich. Other writers are the scholar Joseph Halévy, Ahad Ha-am (Asher Ginzberg), Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Abraham Shlonsky, Lea Goldberg, Nathan Alterman, Joseph H. Brenner, Salman Shneur, the Nobel laureate S. Y. Agnon, Moshe Shamir, Aron David Gordon, David Frishman, Yosef Klausner, Amos Oz, Abraham B. Yehoshua, Aharon Applefeld, Yehuda Amichai, et cetera. Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22 (1961), has explained his view on being a Jewish author:

• Being Jewish informs everything I do. My books are getting more and more Jewish. But I write for everybody, and there is possibly something exotic about Jewish books for non-Jews, although fortunately Jews in America do buy books. New York, when I was growing up, was the biggest city in America, and consequently had more educated people than any other city, and had more Jews living there, so it is not surprising that there were so many books about Jews.

Heller's Good as Gold (1979) is comically satirical about Jewish New York and Washington politics. Max Frankel, in Max Frankel, the Times of My Life (1999), sounded almost like, and might even be, a secular humanist:

  • Like my forebears in the shtetl, I understood my God to be an abstraction, without image, and I defined godliness as the pursuit of knowledge and good deeds. In my editorial combats with fellow Jews, I realize why I grew to define myself through journalism: because I shared the faith of the shtetl that “the word is threshold to the deed,” and because I wanted always to escape the irrationality of the herd. Although I am sentimentally faithful to the tribe whose genes I carry, I know that my culture has been both diluted and enriched by a dozen other tribes. If my Yiddishkayt is to survive in America, it will be as a value system, not in a taste for bagels and log or a guilty twitch at the sight of bacon.

Other contemporary authors have made Judaism a part of their work. For example, Saul Bellow in Herzog (1964) tells of the inner life of a Jewish intellectual. Arthur Miller, without specifically naming Judaism, includes his views on moralism and materialism in Death of a Salesman (1949), All My Sons (1947), The Crucible (1953), and A View from the Bridge (1955); his marriage to Marilyn Monroe, however, was performed by a Connecticut minister, a Unitarian. Philip Roth in most of his works describes his complex relationship with his Jewish background, works which often have aroused controversy by his portrayal of contemporary Jewish life. Norman Mailer, who has called himself an atheist, condemned Christianity in his Christians and Cannibals. Irwin Shaw in The Young Lions (1948) describes two American soldiers, one a Jew, the other a Gentile, and tells how the Nazi who killed the first is killed by the second. Herman Wouk in Marjorie Morningstar (1955) describes a Jewish girl’s quest for romance and the career of acting, finally settling down as a New Jersey matron. Wouk, a rabbi, also wrote This Is My God (1959), a book about Judaism.

Alfred Kazin (1915—1998), author of New York Jew (1978), was a noted critic whose study of American prose literature starting with William Dean Howells was an important work entitled On Native Grounds (1942). Although thought perhaps to be a non-believer in the supernatural and afterlife, he wrote in A Lifetime Burning in Every Moment (1996), “We Jewish intellectuals are always looking for our cultural home.” In God & The American Writer (1997), he discussed how writers of fiction make searches for the unexplainable, citing Emerson (who “began as a religion but ended as literature”), Harriet Beecher Stowe, Melville, Whitman, Lincoln (as a writer), Emily Dickinson, William James (who saw religion “as therapy”), Clemens, Eliot, Frost, Faulkner, and others.

(See entries for Norman Mailer and Arthur Miller.)


Jewish Humanist

On the staff of The Jewish Humanist (Birmingham Temple, 28611 West 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, Michigan 48335) are the following: Rabbi Sherman T. Wine; President Carolyn Borman; Vice President Michael Egren; Treasurer Mark Bulmash; and Secretary Edie Mellow. Past presidents have been Charles Paul, Stuart Rice, Lori Schechter, Judith Schneider, Nina Schneyer, and Robert Stone.

Jewish Organizations

Four major Jewish organizations are in the United States. The two largest, numbering around 1,500,000 each, are the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (Reform) and the United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism. An estimated 500,000 are members of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation is at 165 East 56th Street, New York, NY 10022

Jewish People, the Invention Of


Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People (Verso, 2009) was on the best-seller list in Israel for months and became available in English on 19 October 2009.

According to Patricia Cohen in The New York Times,

Despite the fragmented and incomplete historical record, experts pretty much agree that some popular beliefs about Jewish history simply don’t hold up: there was no sudden expulsion of all Jews from Jerusalem in A.D. 70, for instance. What’s more, modern Jews owe their ancestry as much to converts from the first millennium and early Middle Ages as to the Jews of antiquity.
Other theories, like the notion that many of today’s Palestinians can legitimately claim to be descended from the ancient Jews, are familiar and serious subjects of study, even if no definitive answer yet exists.
But while these ideas are commonplace among historians, they still manage to provoke controversy each time they surface in public, beyond the scholarly world. The latest example is the book “The Invention of the Jewish People,” which spent months on the best-seller list in Israel and is now available in English. Mixing respected scholarship with dubious theories, the author, Shlomo Sand, a professor at Tel Aviv University, frames the narrative as a startling exposure of suppressed historical facts. The translated version of his polemic has sparked a new wave of coverage in Britain and has provoked spirited debates online and in seminar rooms.
Professor Sand, a scholar of modern France, not Jewish history, candidly states his aim is to undercut the Jews’ claims to the land of Israel by demonstrating that they do not constitute “a people,” with a shared racial or biological past. The book has been extravagantly denounced and praised, often on the basis of whether or not the reader agrees with his politics.
The vehement response to these familiar arguments — both the reasonable and the outrageous — highlights the challenge of disentangling historical fact from the sticky web of religious and political myth and memory.
Consider, for instance, Professor Sand’s assertion that Palestinian Arab villagers are descended from the original Jewish farmers. Nearly a century ago, early Zionists and Arab nationalists touted the blood relationship as the basis of a potential alliance in their respective struggles for independence. Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Israel’s longest-serving president, made this very argument in a book they wrote together in 1918. The next year, Emir Feisal, who organized the Arab revolt against the Ottoman empire and tried to create a united Arab nation, signed a cooperation agreement with the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann that declared the two were “mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people.”
Both sides later dropped the subject when they realized it was not furthering their political goals.
(Though no final consensus has emerged on the ancestral link between Palestinians and Jews, Harry Ostrer, director of the Human Genetics Program at New York University Langone Medical Center, who has been studying the genetic organization of Jews, said, “The assumption of lineal descent seems reasonable.”)
Books challenging biblical and conventional history continually pop up, but what distinguishes the dispute over origins from debates about, say, the reality of the exodus from Egypt or the historical Jesus, is that it is so enmeshed in geopolitics. The Israeli Declaration of Independence states: “After being forcibly exiled from their Land, the People kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it.” The idea of unjust exile and rightful return undergirds both the Jews’ and the Palestinians’ conviction that each is entitled to the land.
Since Professor Sand’s mission is to discredit Jews’ historical claims to the territory, he is keen to show that their ancestry lines do not lead back to ancient Palestine. He resurrects a theory first raised by 19th-century historians, that the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe, to whom 90 percent of American Jews trace their roots, are descended from the Khazars, a Turkic people who apparently converted to Judaism and created an empire in the Caucasus in the eighth century. This idea has long intrigued writers and historians. In 1976, Arthur Koestler wrote The Thirteenth Tribe in the hopes it would combat anti-Semitism; if contemporary Jews were descended from the Khazars, he argued, they could not be held responsible for Jesus’ Crucifixion.
That does not negate that conversion played a critical role in Jewish history — a proposition that many find surprising given that today’s Jews tend to discourage conversion and make it a difficult process. Lawrence H. Schiffman, chairman of the Skirball department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, said most historians agree that over a period of centuries, Middle Eastern Jews — merchants, slaves and captives, religious and economic refugees — spread around the world. Many intermarried with people from local populations, who then converted.
There is also evidence that in antiquity and the first millennium Judaism was a proselytizing religion that even used force on occasion. From the genetic research so far, Dr. Ostrer said, “It’s pretty clear that most Jewish groups have Semitic ancestry, that they originated in the Middle East, and that they’re more closely related to each other than to non-Jewish groups.” But he added that it was also clear that many Jews are of mixed descent.
“The ancient admixed ancestry explains the blond hair and blue eyes of Ashkenazi Jews whose grandparents and great-grandparents all lived in shtetls two and three generations ago,” Dr. Ostrer said. They brought the genes for coloration with them to Eastern Europe. These genes were probably not contributed by their Cossack neighbors.”
What accounts for the grasp that some misconceptions maintain on popular consciousness, or the inability of historical truths to gain acceptance? Sometimes myths persist despite clear contradictory evidence because people feel the story embodies a deeper truth than the facts. Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake,” but the fictional statement captured the sense of a regime that showed disdain for the public’s welfare.
A mingling of myth, memory, truth and aspiration similarly envelopes Jewish history, which is, to begin with, based on scarce and confusing archaeological and archival records.
Experts dismiss the popular notion that the Jews were expelled from Palestine in one fell swoop in A.D. 70. Yet while the destruction of Jerusalem and Second Temple by the Romans did not create the Diaspora, it caused a momentous change in the Jews’ sense of themselves and their position in the world. For later generations it encapsulates the essential truth about the Jews being an exiled and persecuted people for much of their history. By now, experts who specialize in the subject have repeatedly rejected the theory, concluding that the shards of evidence are inconclusive or misleading, said Michael Terry, the chief librarian of the Jewish division of the New York Public Library. Dr. Ostrer said the genetics also did not support the Khazar theory.
Professor Sand accuses Zionist historians from the 19th century onward — the very same scholars on whose work he bases his case — of hiding the truth and creating a myth of shared roots to strengthen their nationalist agenda. He explains that he has uncovered no new information, but has “organized the knowledge differently.” In other words, he is doing precisely what he accuses the Zionists of — shaping the material to fit a narrative.
In that sense, Professor Sand is operating within a long established tradition. As The Illustrated History of the Jewish People, edited by Nicholas Lange (Harcourt, 1997), notes, “Every generation of Jewish historians has faced the same task: to retell and adapt the story to meet the needs of its own situation.” The same could be said of all nations and religions.
Perhaps that is why — on both sides of the argument — some myths stubbornly persist no matter how often they are debunked while other indubitable facts continually fail to gain traction.

Jewish Philosophy

For an intensive discussion of Jewish Philosophy, consult Paul Edwards's Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Volume 4.

Jews and DNA

“DNA BACKS A TRIBE’S TRADITION OF EARLY DESCENT FROM THE JEWS” was the headline in the New York Times (9 May 1999). The reference was to Bantu-speaking, black people of southern Africa, the Lemba, who have a tradition of having been led out of Judea by a man named Buba. They practice circumcision, keep one day a week holy, and avoid eating pork or piglike animals “such as the hippopotamus.” A team of geneticists has found that many Lemba men carry in their male chromosome a set of DNA sequences that is distinctive of the cohanim, whom Jewish priests believe to be the descendants of Aaron. The theory of Dr. David Goldstein, a geneticist at Oxford University, is that the Lemba may have migrated to southern Africa from Senna in present-day Yemen. Freethinkers, who hold that Jews are members of a religion, not a race, are hard put to explain how one’s religion can be transmitted by one’s D(eoxyribo) N(ucleic) A(cid).

{Nicolas Wade, The New York Times, 9 May 1999}

Jews and Menstruation

In 1648 there was a bizarre notion that Jewish men menstruated. Thomas Calvert claimed that Jews—men as well as females—are punished curso menstruo sanguinis—with a very frequent blood flux. This led to the blood-libel, a belief that Jews had to murder Christian children to provide themselves with blood for Passover matzos. Jewish men, in this belief that involved the subject of circumcision, collected blood to replace that lost through the perversion of their masculinity. {James Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews (1997)}

Jews For Jesus

Jews for Jesus is a group which cites the Bible for believing that it is God Himself who makes one Jewish. It holds that “Jewishness does not depend on what you know or what you don’t believe or even on what you practice but on whether you follow the Jewish Messiah.” To be Jewish, it holds, is to believe in Jesus. The most Jewish thing a person can do, it is claimed, is to believe in Y’shua as Messiah. Moses wrote about his coming in Deuteronomy 18:18. Micah predicted his birth in Micah 5:2. Isaiah described how he would die for our sins in Isaiah 53. And King David wrote that he would not stay dead in Psalm 16:10. “Believing in Jesus makes us all (Jews and Gentiles) more of who God wants us to be and that is what is most important,” the San Francisco, California, based group preaches.

The "Jewish Nose"

“. . . [T]he man on the cross had a Jewish nose,” ex-Jesuit Peter de Rosa maliciously observed in 1988.

The Hittites, an ancient people of Asia Minor and Syria known for being one of the first to successfully smelt iron, are said by anatomists often to have had a “beaked nose.” The Caucasoid race is said usually to have a high nose bridge, the Mongoloid race to have a medium or low nose bridge, and the Negroid race a low nose bridge. Inasmuch as race is scientifically inappropriate when applied to national, religious, geographic, linguistic, or cultural groups, it is not clear how one would or could identify a Jewish, a Catholic, a Hindu, or a non-theistic nose. However, David Denby in The New Yorker 17 August 1998) described Leonard Bernstein as having “a virile Jewish beak.”

“Even when the males are naked,” a non-circumcised Manhattan atheist wag observed, “you can’t be sure they’re Jews. You can be surer, however, if they’re not.”


Jews, the Blood Libel

During the Renaissance, a widely held bizarre notion held that Jewish men menstruated. Thomas Calvert, writing in 1648, reported the claim that “Jews, men as well as females, are punished curso menstruo sanguinis, with a very frequent blood flux.” The blood-libel, the belief that Jews had to murder Christian children to provide themselves with the blood needed to make matzos for Passover, is bound up with this transgression of gender boundaries: Jewish men murder to collect blood to replace the blood they have lost through the perversion of their masculinity (circumcision). A similarly bizarre notion was that Jewish men were occasionally capable of breast-feeding.

{Steven Orgel, Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare’s England (1997)}

Jews, Facetiousness Of

Three concepts of Jews are expressed in Jews: The Essence and Character of a People (1998) by Arthur Hertzberg and Aron Hirt-Manheimer: the Chosen, the Factious, and the Other.

The authors do not hold that Jews were chosen by divine whim. Abraham “first chose God” when he broke the idols of his father Terah, a story that appears to be rabbinic lore and is found nowhere in Genesis. Rather, the authors say that Jews elected themselves. The authors decry their factiousness, or their proclivity for fighting among themselves. Their otherness, however, includes being “the obdurate outsider,” both in their own minds and in the minds of others. Exodus to Humanism: Jewish Identity Without Religion (1999), edited by David Ibry, points out that genetic research has not detected any special form of DNA in Jews, then cites individuals who have exited Judaism and become humanists.

Jews, Ultra-Orthodox

In 1997, when a group of Conservative and Reform Jews carried a Torah scroll to Jerusalem’s West Wall to mark Shavuot, a holiday commemorating Moses’s receiving of the Ten Commandments, ultra-Orthodox Jews were angered because of their belief that men and women must not pray and worship together. The wall is divided into prayer sections for men and women, with the view between the two sides blocked. When the one group of Jews arrived in front of the prayer area, the ultra-Orthodox Jews began shouting “Nazis! Christians! Whores! Goyim!” and hurled stones and bags of excrement at them from balconies of nearby yeshiva, a school of religious studies. {Associated Press, 12 June 1997;