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Am I Jewish?


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#1 Cosmic Z

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 08:50 PM

I'm sorry to ask such a silly sounding question, but I am quite serious. Here is my situation.

My birth mother married a gentile, but she was Jewish. Her parents originally came from Odesa, Russia. I never knew any of her family and she died when I was three. I only have tiny glimpses of memories of her.

My father was a merchant marine. I lived with his sister, my natural aunt, who adopted me with his permission when I was eight. I was raised as a Christian and have a Christian name. I did not know my birth mother was Jewish until just a few years ago when I took note of her maiden name and my mom shared the whole story when I began to ask questions.

So, not having any contact with any Jewish culture or heritage, I've just kind of walked around with this knowledge without thinking much about it. But then it has been explained to me that technically, I would be considered Jewish. One thought leads to another, and so I'm here to ask a simple silly sounding question. And, if I am, does that have any implications for me? Thanks for any insights, and sorry if this was not the correct forum to post this in.

#2 sal

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 09:08 PM

According to jewish law it is passed down from the mother therefor yes you are a jew.

#3 33948

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 10:46 PM

How do they prove this stuff? Can't I just walk in somewhere and say my grandmother was Jewish? I never get an answer about that. Seems like everybody I meet has some Jewish ancestry somewhere... but nobody knows a thing about Judaism.

I found it odd because Jews are like 2% of the population. How can everyone be Jewish? I guess it just depends on the location. For some reason both places I have lived are full of Jews: Cincinnati and South Florida. I never knew that growing up.

Cincinnati for example was settled originally by Germans. Then the Jews came from Germany with them. About 98% of white people there have some German ancestry of some kind. And probably 40% of the people have some kind of Jewish ancestry as well. Most people are "melting pot" of the groups that settled there: English, German, Jewish, Irish etc. to some degree.

What does ancestry matter so much? You are what you are, not what your great great great grandparents were. Yes it influences you, but even from a genetic standpoint there is something called genetic drift... every generation varies from the previous one in random ways. The culture affects the genetic predispositions of a community about as much as ancestry does.

I suppose they just have to draw the line in the sand somewhere...

A lot of people I went to high school with were Jewish (by ancestry) but I never knew they were Jewish until years later. Nobody ever talks about it... not really an important part of people's lives unless you are a practicing Jew. Then they want you to pull out a pedigree paper in order to get your free trip to Israel or be considered part of the tribe...

#4 Kalashnikover_Rebbe

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 06:48 AM

If your birth mother was indeed Jewish, so are you. The problem is that in such a situation most Rabbis will require some sort of evidence or proof of you lineage...

How do you "know" she was in fact a Jew? Do you have any official documentation such as birth certificates, pictures of graves etc??? It could be that a maiden name is enough, or if she lit candles, spoke Yiddish, or anything of the sort...

But that is the technical side, if you really KNOW that your birth mother was Jewish, that makes you a full fledged Jew with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it. The question is what do YOU want to do about it? Certainly learning about your heritage is in order so that at least you can make an informed educated decision, but if you decide to return to your roots and take your place among your people, you will be accepted with open arms, as once a Jew, always a Jew (whether you like it or not)...

You didn't mention where you live, but a good first start would be finding a local Rabbi or Chabad and speaking to them, also there is a tremendous wealth of information in the interwebs about Judaism, google is your friend... Passover is coming up in a few weeks, maybe find someone to invite you to their seder and get a first hand glimpse...
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#5 Cosmic Z

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 07:30 PM

All I know is what I have been told. My birth mother's maiden name was Steinberg and her parents moved to the United States around the time of the Russian revolution. I understand that it is a German name, so I am not sure how they ended up in Russia. I have no idea if anyone spoke Yiddish. I cannot imagine how I could prove anything to anyone. I'm not looking to get anything from anyone, I'm just curious as to how I would be viewed by others and what real meaning this previously unknown fact would have for me. I am not looking for a new religious faith even, though I know that there is a very special role in the world for Jews as I understand my own faith. That alone could have some serious implications for me, for example.

By the way, thank you to everyone who has commented. I very much appreciate your thoughtful interest.

#6 Cosmic Z

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 07:35 PM

Oh, and by the way, my wife's great aunt spoke Yiddish but that was on her father's side. In fact, she remembers the aunt calling her father her "little yahudi". But that was her father, so she is not Jewish but does have some Jewish heritage somewhere in her ancestry. I know that is somewhat of a painful subject for some people who struggle against intermarriage and so forth, but these things do happen in families and it is good to know where we come from even if things have changed over the generations. I see it as a very good thing, myself, to know.

#7 33948

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 12:40 AM

Odessa is in Ukraine. It had a very large Jewish population. Now most Odessa Jews live in Brooklyn.

There also has been a significant German population in Eastern Europe historically but during WWII the Soviet Union killed most of them. The Germans were sort of living in Diaspora like Jews with their own neighborhoods and even villages in some cases.

Then I think there are different Jews as well... Gorsky Jews or something from around the area of Ukraine and Poland compared to more Germanic Yids.

If you don't want anything for free then you should toss me some crumbs. You see America and the West have departed from a merit based system to one of cronyism. Now your ancestry, family members, disabled status etc. counts for more than hard work or ability.

I meet Jews with no remarkable abilities who are given good job opportunities simply because they are Jewish.

Of course it's inherent in all religious groups. A religious person it typically better off financially and socially due to help and support by a community. Even more so with Judaism.

Anyway yes that is what I find surprising is the fact that seemingly everyone has Jewish in their ancestry considering the fact that the group seems to guard the blood so closely. But statistically if a minority group is less likely to intermarry than the majority, they still face a greater threat of assimilation. It's because they have a smaller pool of candidates to choose from (especially if the population is spread out).

I think in the past it was a burden to be Jewish and many Jews weren't proud about it. They just quietly hid their Jewishness and intermarried. This is where we have our modern crop of people who all seem to be part Jewish.

Now in modern times its like Jews have risen up to be kings and its a great privilege to be Jewish. At least in the West anyway. Now there are great networks, resources etc. which didn't exist in the past.

Now its like a reverse migration where people hide their goyishness. Many of the Jews in Israel come from ethnic slavs who pretended to be Jewish to escape the soviet union and get a better life.

Israel being so desperate for people was willing to accept them as Jews.

Now half the Jews are all blond haired blue eyed totally defying historical Jewish stereotypes...

#8 usuario

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 09:09 AM

You need to ask your mother if she has any records of her mother, and if not, of her mother's mother, that shows that she is Jewish. Something like a birth certificate, a Jewish marriage agreement (ketubah), burial records, synagogue membership, etc.

#9 Cosmic Z

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 12:12 PM

As I said, my birth mother died when I was three and apparently she had little contact with her family after she married. I do not even know who her family members would have been, or whether they knew I was even born. My father died in 2006 so I also can't ask him. My mother (adopted) is in poor health and has told me all she knows, which is not very much. So, I doubt I could ever prove anything to anyone's satisfaction. I know so little myself. For example, my thinking that Odessa was in Russia - well, that's just what I was told. I don't think this is really going to go anywhere other than just being something I can choose to adopt inwardly and let that be a guide for what God expects of me. I really am not looking to prove anything to anyone else, it's more of a personal journey kind of thing.

#10 Diogenes The Cynic

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 08:08 PM

Yiddish= meaningless jibberish language
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#11 mellifera

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 08:21 PM

As I said, my birth mother died when I was three and apparently she had little contact with her family after she married. I do not even know who her family members would have been, or whether they knew I was even born. ...,


Join Ancestry.com and get moving on census records: The 1930 census record is available, and 1940 will be soon. Passenger lists, too. I found my husband's grandfather's Ellis Island entry in 1910 pretty quickly. It will take some digging, but you may well be able to do it if you want to.

You can also go to 23andme.com and have your genes tested. If you're Jewish, or half Jewish, it will be really obvious.

#12 Diogenes The Cynic

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 08:26 PM

Join Ancestry.com and get moving on census records: The 1930 census record is available, and 1940 will be soon. Passenger lists, too. I found my husband's grandfather's Ellis Island entry in 1910 pretty quickly. It will take some digging, but you may well be able to do it if you want to.

You can also go to 23andme.com and have your genes tested. If you're Jewish, or half Jewish, it will be really obvious.


You can't be half Jewish. You are, or aren't
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#13 33948

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 11:33 PM

I looked at 23andme. They didn't have a Jewish population listed. What do they compare you with- Jews in general, ashkenazi etc.?

That looks like a great resource. Personally I'm an average white American. Mostly a melting pot of Northwest Europe. It would be curious to see which population(s) I'm closest to genetically.

But what is interesting is actually the strong Jewish character/appearance of many family members despite minimal Jewish ancestry. Many of them look stereotypically Jewish, have personality traits that are associated with "Jewish" etc.

Also interesting is that one person with the same amount of Jewish ancestry will not look/act "Jewish" whereas another one will, I suppose depending on which side of the family the person takes after. It would matter a lot more which genes were inherited rather than what ancestors a person has.

One person with a Jewish ancestor could inherit very little of the genes, another could have inherited almost all of them.

What is also interesting are all the Jews who don't appear to be at all ethnically Jewish.

But anyway I have seen at least four distinct Jewish populations. There are actually more because different population developed at different locals. But these are the main types today:

1) Eastern Jew- This group has a lot of middle eastern traits (so many look a bit arabic) but also combined with some slavic traits. Sort of the Gorsky Jew type. Some East European immigrant Jews tell me that the old school German Jews don't consider them fully Jewish because they are noticeably ethnically different.
2) Sephardim- Similar to Middle Eastern and Southern Europe populations. Though someone with one sephardic parent and one north european parent often appears very similar to an Ashkenazim type. So has some recognizable Jewishness but darker complected and some more middle eastern appearances/personality.
3) Ashkenazi type: Western Jew. Most common in New York and America. Most of the wealthy Jews etc. fall in this type. Very similar in appearance to North European but with some Jewish "peculiarities". Usually short, dark wavy hair, stocky etc. Most strongly Jewish in their personality.
4) European type: indistinguishable from a European but usually claims "pure" ancestry. Most common in East Europe so usually a slavic type Jew.

So which populations do they list on that site?

#14 ijs

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 11:41 PM

You can't be half Jewish. You are, or aren't.


True as far as Jewish law goes. But as a matter of genetics, it's a whole different thing. From a genetic perspective, a person can half Jewish.
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#15 paganyid

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 09:20 PM

Do you have a beard? Then you're jewish.

#16 Diogenes The Cynic

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 11:21 PM

True as far as Jewish law goes. But as a matter of genetics, it's a whole different thing. From a genetic perspective, a person can half Jewish.



When have genetics mattered in a halachic issue?
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#17 ijs

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 12:33 AM

When have genetics mattered in a halachic issue?


Never, as far as I know - and I never said otherwise. As far as halacha is concerned, genetics are irrelevant. However, a person can be genetically half-Jewish irrespective of halacha, as well. By that, I mean to say that if a person is referring to his genetic heritage, he can be geneticaly half-Jewish. But obviously, halachically, if his mother wasn't Jewish then he's not any Jewish.
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#18 darkgreenjeans

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 09:42 AM

in my opinion Judaism has to do with faith, we are a peoples, a spirit, but we have to do with faith, its hard to explain, is one a Jew or not, you have to look inside, when you are full of the spirit of God somehow you see these things clearer with a spiritual eye, which it is harder to understand from a mundane perspective only.

"But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God."

Romans 2:29

"Thou shalt love Hashem thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength."

Deuteronomy 6:5

#19 darkgreenjeans

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 10:58 AM

God loves everyone, its not a physical thing, its a spiritual
thing, i see signs everywhere that connect me back to the faith, and i
think maybe a big reason all the fighting has happening is because of
all the exclusiveness, not just from people who are total outsiders
who dont believe or respect judaism maybe, but even from people who
actually do believe in it or some version of it

why should we be shunned? perhaps its because we are not there
that peace cannot happen, because the true people are not able to come
together because of misunderstanding, because the temples seem
to just be concerned with property and not solely with the divine
truth, divine love, if this is the case, these are not the true temples,

everything is jewish, did God not create the entire world? is
God not everything? when that is the main focus, instead of these
material things, then israel can truly be what it is meant to be, (which it has always been, but through our misunderstandings sometimes we are unable to see this) and
the material things will definitely fall into place as well, and even the whole world
will have peace, as is prophecized, but until then there is pointless destruction,
because people think they are superior to others, but its not like
that, if you really knew God you would see that you actually are
everything and everything in the universe, and you can cast none out,
because we are a people of Love,




http://www.amazon.co...s/dp/1570627673

i highly recommend this book along with meditation and, as a means to
heal and uplift perhaps the entire world, the entire soul, and yeah...

this book is where i would start, before even the torah, or the bible and really even as a substitute for those books
because it contains the essence of the teachings with what seems like an honest atttempt at the minimum
amount of ego manipulation and maybe it really is completely selfless, its effect is pure though the names are there, its apparent that its from something beyond all that

truly a sacred text

peace and love

#20 ijs

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 11:30 AM

in my opinion Judaism has to do with faith, we are a peoples, a spirit, but we have to do with faith.


That's not what makes a Jew.

Romans 2:29


Whoa, there ... you do NOT get to quote the Xian Bible to defend your viewpoint, period. I do not know whether doing so, in the above context, violates the forum rules (I'll leave that to the moderators), but as this is a Jewish site it is highly inappropriate, IMHO, to quote Xianity.

Not to mention that the quote from Romans makes no sense, given that all Hashem's mitzvot are forever and do not change. "Do not add to the word which I command you, nor diminish from it...." Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:2. "Everything I command you that you shall be careful to do it. You shall neither add to it, nor subtract from it." Devarim (Deuteronomy) 13:1. In this context, it means you cannot redefine circumcision to make it something other than as described in Bereishit (Genesis) and Vayikra (Leviticus).

"Thou shalt love Hashem thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength." Deuteronomy 6:5


This has absolutely nothing to do with your claim about who is Jewish.

Everything is Jewish.


If that was so, there would be no terminology for "Jewish" and "gentile" because there would be nothing to describe. There wouldn't be a distinction to give a name to.

http://www.amazon.co...s/dp/1570627673

i highly recommend this book along with meditation and, as a means to heal and uplift perhaps the entire world, the entire soul, and yeah... this book is where i would start, before even the torah, or the bible


I'm now starting to see why one needs to have studied Torah for a lifetime & not start on Kabbalah until at least age 40. (I'm 44, and do not have nearly the background to start on Kabbalah – and might never.) Torah is where one starts, else the rest makes no sense. And what's this stuff about drawing a distinction between "Torah" and "Bible"? The only way this makes any linguistic sense is if by "Bible" you mean the Xian Bible, which has exactly zero status in Judaism (and for good reason). Maybe I'm wrong, but it sounds to me like you're making up your own spirituality first and looking for supporting material second.

To the rest of the members ... am I off base, here (being a newbie)?
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