Who Is A Jew?


This short post arose after a conversation I had last night with the mother of one of my friends.

My friend who was brought up in a French secular family married in Antwerp a year ago and has been living on the fringe of the Hassidim community since then. My friend’s mother was sharing news about her son’s various friends, some of whom I have met or at least heard of. She announced that one was getting married (to a Moroccon Jew) but that her son would not attend the wedding as this boy was not marrying a real Jew.

Later on in the conversation, she also mentioned that the same son had no desire to visit Israel since it is inhabited by people who are not real Jews.

I know Hassidic logic is not always easy to grasp but tese remarks left me with two questions.
– For a Hassid, who is a Jew?
– When the subject comes up with my friend, what can I answer him? I do not wish to argue for the sake of arguing but I do not want my silence to be interpretred as agreement.

16 thoughts on “Who Is A Jew?

  1. Hasidim encompass a large group of people. I cannot begin to imagine Chabad, for example, not considering someone with a Jewish mother to not be Jewish.

    So to the question:
    “For a Hassid, who is a Jew?”
    My response is “What kind of Hasid? From what neighborhood and with which biases?”

  2. I just want to add that remaining silent was probably the right thing to do, as Jew Wishes said. This was about being in an uncomfortable situation were no matter what you say, you are not going to change the other person’s mind or get the other person to hear your viewpoint. (or maybe there is some way you could, but I certainly don’t know it)

  3. Jewsishes and Leora:
    I know that I won’t convince my friend but at the same time I would like to make clear, in a subtle way, that I find such remarks unacceptable.
    Concerning the Hassid community I am not sure as you get all sorts of hassidim in Antwerp. I think that some of their friends are Bobovers and others are Chortkov Hassidim.

    • Maybe you could tactfully state that no one person can judge another, in that respect. It is not up to them…who made them judge and jury, so to speak?

      It’s a tough call.

  4. I kind of feel like I shouldn’t be here for these conversations but I have wondered about this and talk to my mother-in-law about it as two of her 3 siblings are in the Hassid community but her brother will come to some family functions waiting outside even though he should not be there at all. She tells me that I really won’t ever be able to understand not being a Jew…so I don’t pay any disrespect and disagree with her. It should be noted that she loved me very much…

  5. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up « Ilana-Davita

  6. Michelle: Feel free to join in any conversation you like. Thanks for sharing your family experience.
    jewwishes: I guess this is the most appropriate approach if a discussion is not possible.

  7. Personally, I would have responded with profound and great indignation. A Moroccan Jew is not “real”?! Israeli Jews are not “real”?!

    I remember a discussion I had with some talmidei hachamim (Torah scholars), about whether non-observant Jews are to blame for their being non-observant. Most Orthodox authorities hold they are not, but Rabbi Moshe Feinstein said they are in fact to blame.

    This, I could not tolerate. I wrote a few pages in response, but the gist of my argument was: Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, with all due respect, knows not of what he speaks; I grew up amongst nonobservant Jews (having been one oneself), and I will tell him whether or not they are to blame. He was merely being honest in his beliefs, and was not intentionally trying to insult them, but nevertheless, Rabbi Feinstein has in effect consigned 90% of the Jewish people to “hell”, and for this, I could not stand. I would brook no compromises; I replied with several pages of why I believe Rabbi Feinstein was absolutely and positively wrong in this, despite his being fantastically greater than almost anyone else in knowledge, let alone me.

  8. Another approach is to talk about your feelings. Something like:
    “I feel pain when I hear you say that.”
    “It pains me to hear you won’t accept so and so.”

  9. Michael: Indignation is how I felt but it was no use directing it at the mother. However I’d be happy to read what you wrote on the subject.
    Leora: Thanks for the suggestion. I might try this.

  10. You may not want to hear from a gentile but I understand that one’s mother has to be Jewish in order for you to be considered a Jew. Of course I do know that there are Jewish converts, or rather converts to Judaism, so are they considered Jews? I know that the Hassidim are very strict so they might not consider a convert to Judaism a Jew.

    In Christianity conversion is a big thing. Everyone knows that Christian missionaries to this day go out and convert people. There is a great and terrible history regarding Christian conversion. As far as I know Jews tend not to prosyletize or convert others to Judaism. What I noticed the most however, in this whole discussion, is that you all, Ilana, Leora, Jewwishes, Rambling Woods, all of whom I know (I’m sorry I don’t know Michael) are fair and kind and broad-minded about the subject which I think is most important.

    Can I make another point? My, my I do go on… Henry the 8th put Thomas More to death because he would not swear that his (Henry’s) marriage was legitimate in the eyes of the Catholic Church. More claimed, however (and he was a lawyer), at his trial that the fact that he said nothing, his silence, denoted agreement and therefore Henry could reasonably take it that More believed Henry’s marriage to be legitimate. I think saying something like Leora suggests (mention your feelings) or trying to be tactful as Jewwishes suggest would work very well and disarm the person you’re talking to. Ilana I hope you don’t mind my sticking my nose in… 🙂

  11. Mary, it is interesting to hear your point of view. Yes, Judaism does accept converts, but one must go through a difficult process to be accepted, at least in Orthodox conversion. The process is probably progressively more lenient as one deals with the Conservative and then the Reform movements. Within the Orthodox movement, unfortunately, some groups poo poo the conversions of some rabbis. This seems to cause a lot of pain for converts, many of whom have worked hard to get to that point.

    Not considering a Moroccan a Jew, as Michael suggests, sounds so biased and sad to me. There has historically been discrimination against Sephardic Jews (actually the term should be Edot Ha Mizrach, congregations of the East), and in some circles this obviously continues.

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