Who Is a Jew?

Origins of the Words "Jew" and "Judaism" The original name for the people we now call Jews was Hebrews. The word "Hebrew" (in Hebrew, "Ivri") is first used in the Torah to describe Abraham (Gen. 14:13). The word is apparently derived from the name Eber, one of Abraham's ancestors. Another tradition teaches that the word comes from the word "eyver," which means "the other side," referring to the fact that Abraham came from the other side of the Euphrates, or referring to the fact Abraham was separated from the other nations morally and spiritually.

Another name used for the people is Children of Israel or Israelites, which refers to the fact that the people are descendants of Jacob, who was also called Israel.

The word "Jew" (in Hebrew, "Yehudi") is derived from the name Judah, which was the name of one of Jacob's twelve sons. Judah was the ancestor of one of the tribes of Israel, which was named after him. Likewise, the word Judaism literally means "Judah-ism," that is, the religion of the Yehudim. Other sources, however, say that the word "Yehudim" means "People of G-d," because the first three letters of "Yehudah" are the same as the first three letters of G-d's four-letter name. Originally, the term Yehudi referred specifically to members of the tribe of Judah, as distinguished from the other tribes of Israel. However, after the death of King Solomon, the nation of Israel was split into two kingdoms: the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel (I Kings 12; II Chronicles 10). After that time, the word Yehudi could properly be used to describe anyone from the kingdom of Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi, as well as scattered settlements from other tribes. The most obvious biblical example of this usage is in Esther 2:5, where Mordecai is referred to as both a Yehudi and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

In common speech, the word "Jew" is used to refer to all of the physical and spiritual descendants of Jacob/Israel, as well as to the patriarchs Abraham and Isaac and their wives, and the word "Judaism" is used to refer to their beliefs. Technically, this usage is inaccurate, just as it is technically inaccurate to use the word "Indian" to refer to the original inhabitants of the Americas. However, this technically inaccurate usage is common both within the Jewish community and outside of it, and is therefore used throughout this site.

Who is a Jew?

A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism.

It is important to note that being a Jew has nothing to do with what you believe or what you do. A person born to non-Jewish parents who has not undergone the formal process of conversion but who believes everything that Orthodox Jews believe and observes every law and custom of Judaism is still a non-Jew, even in the eyes of the most liberal movements of Judaism, and a person born to a Jewish mother who is an atheist and never practices the Jewish religion is still a Jew, even in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox. In this sense, Judaism is more like a nationality than like other religions, and being Jewish is like a citizenship.

This has been established since the earliest days of Judaism. In the Torah, you will see many references to "the strangers who dwell among you" or "righteous proselytes" or "righteous strangers." These are various classifications of non-Jews who lived among Jews, adopting some or all of the beliefs and practices of Judaism without going through the formal process of conversion and becoming Jews. Once a person has converted to Judaism, he is not referred to by any special term; he is as much a Jew as anyone born Jewish.

Although all Jewish movements agree on these general principles, there are occasional disputes as to whether a particular individual is a Jew. Most of these disputes fall into one of two categories. First, traditional Judaism maintains that a person is a Jew if his mother is a Jew, regardless of who his father is. The liberal movements, on the other hand, consider a person to be Jewish if either of his parents was Jewish and the child was raised Jewish. Thus, if the child of a Jewish father and a Christian mother is raised Jewish, the child is a Jew according to the Reform movement, but not according to the Orthodox movement. On the other hand, if the child of a Christian father and a Jewish mother is not raised Jewish, the child is a Jew according to the Orthodox movement, but not according to the Reform movement! The matter becomes even more complicated, because the status of that children's children also comes into question.

Second, the more traditional movements do not always acknowledge the validity of conversions by the more liberal movements. The more modern movements do not always follow the procedures required by the more traditional movements, thereby invalidating the conversion. In addition, Orthodoxy does not accept the authority of Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis to perform conversions, and the Conservative movement has debated whether to accept the authority of Reform rabbis.

About Matrilineal Descent

The Torah does not specifically state anywhere that matrilineal descent should be used; however, there are several passages in the Torah where it is understood that the child of a Jewish woman and a non-Jewish man is a Jew, and several other passages where it is understood that the child of a non-Jewish woman and a Jewish man is not a Jew.

In Deuteronomy 7:1-5, in expressing the prohibition against intermarriage, G-d says "he [i.e., the non-Jewish male spouse] will cause your child to turn away from Me and they will worship the gods of others." No such concern is expressed about the child of a non-Jewish female spouse. From this, we infer that the child of a non-Jewish male spouse is Jewish (and can therefore be turned away from Judaism), but the child of a non-Jewish female spouse is not Jewish (and therefore turning away is not an issue).

Leviticus 24:10 speaks of the son of an Israelite woman and an Egyptian man as being "among the community of Israel" (i.e., a Jew).

On the other hand, in Ezra 10:2-3, the Jews returning to Israel vowed to put aside their non-Jewish wives and the children born to those wives. They could not have put aside those children if those children were Jews. Several people have written to me asking about King David: was he a Jew, given that one of his female ancestors, Ruth, was not a Jew? This conclusion is based on two faulty premises: first of all, Ruth was a Jew, and even if she wasn't, that would not affect David's status as a Jew. Ruth converted to Judaism before marrying Boaz and bearing Obed. See Ruth 1:16, where Ruth states her intention to convert. After Ruth converted, she was a Jew, and all of her children born after the conversion were Jewish as well. But even if Ruth were not Jewish at the time Obed was born, that would not affect King David's status as a Jew, because Ruth is an ancestor of David's father, not of David's mother, and David's Jewish status is determined by his mother.

The opinion of mainstream Orthodoxy seems to be that it is better for a Jew to be Reform or Conservative than not to be Jewish at all.

1) The pope speaks about the Shoah
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-t7crRl5Qg&playnext=1&list=PL106285A159052F2C
2) Family Hearth
http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/seriessearchprog.asp?seriesID=7098&T1=


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To see what the Catholic Church actually teaches about a correct understanding of the relationship with the Jews go to this link: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p122a4p2.htm

What Is the Jewish Belief About Moshiach?

What is the "End of Days"?The term "End of Days" is taken from Numbers 24:14. This has always been taken as a reference to the messianic era. Here we shall explore--albeit briefly--the Jewish belief in the coming of Moshiach.

What does the word Moshiach mean?
Moshiach is the Hebrew word for "messiah." The word messiah in English means a savior or a "hoped-for deliverer." The word moshiach in Hebrew actually means "anointed." In Biblical Hebrew, the title moshiach was bestowed on somebody who had attained a position of nobility and greatness. For example, the high priest is referred to as the kohen ha-moshiach.

In Talmudic literature the title Moshiach, or Melech HaMoshiach (the King Messiah), is reserved for the Jewish leader who will redeem Israel in the End of Days.

What is the belief in Moshiach?
One of the principles of Jewish faith enumerated by Maimonides is that one day there will arise a dynamic Jewish leader, a direct descendant of the Davidic dynasty, who will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and gather Jews from all over the world and bring them back to the Land of Israel.

All the nations of the world will recognize Moshiach to be a world leader, and will accept his dominion. In the messianic era there will be world peace, no more wars nor famine, and, in general, a high standard of living.

All mankind will worship one G-d, and live a more spiritual and moral way of life. The Jewish nation will be preoccupied with learning Torah and fathoming its secrets.

The coming of Moshiach will complete G-d's purpose in creation: for man to make an abode for G-d in the lower worlds--that is, to reveal the inherent spirituality in the material world.


3) Jewish Rapper Matisyahu
4) Jewish Rapper Matisyahu doing beatbox
5) Matisyahu web site