Who is a Jew?

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Who is a Jew? (Hebrew: ?מיהו יהודי) is the basic question about the identity of Jews, or in other words: who is considered to be a Jew.

The definition of who is a Jew may depend on a few things. Because Judaism has no specific race, it can include characteristics of an ethnicity, religion, and citizenship, and so the definition of who is a Jew is not specific.

This question has been a subject to legal arguments, especially in Israel but also outside of it. There have been court cases in Israel since 1962 which had to address the question. In addition, a United Kingdom court has had to consider whether the question was a racial issue or not, and so have many other countries.

The question is based on the person's genealogy, and had a big significance during the rule of the Nazi party in Germany, which was eventually decided by the Nuremberg Laws.

According to the simplest definition used by Jews in order to identify themselves, a person is a Jew either by birth or by religious conversion. However, again, there are differences of opinion among the various about the matter. Therefore, the following need to be taken into account:

  • Are the parents mixed (Jew and Gentile)?
  • What is the conversion process?
  • Has there been a loss of Jewish identity?
  • What is the person's diaspora identity?
  • Do they have an Israeli citizenship?

And more.

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