What is the Definition of a Jew?

The history books say the Holocaust was about killing Jews. War Against Humanity series talks about the persecution of jews all the time. Yet there doesn’t seem to be any clear scientific definition of what a Jew actually is. Everyone seems to gloss over that fact.

Nazi Germany defined Jews in the Nuremberg Laws which was passed in the Reichstag and Hitler signed. They used this Mischling Test to actually test if you were Jewish.

This is a pretty vague and not at all scientific definition trying to define someone as Jewish. Honestly, I find it hard to believe anyone actually bought this definition. Yes, its that bad.

The thing I find extremely disturbing is that All the History books say the Holocaust was about killing Jews and Nazi’s persecution Jews. If they say that then I would say they accept Hitler’s and the Nazi’s definition of a Jew which is defined by the Nuremberg Laws. This also means we’ve let one of the most racist and destructive governments in all of history define what a Jew is and that definition has stood the test of time. Very disturbing honestly. It appears we continue to buy the Nazi’s bullshit definition of a Jew.

If you type “define a Jew” into google you get the oxford definition: 1. a member of the people and cultural community whose traditional religion is Judaism and who trace their origins through the ancient Hebrew people of Israel to Abraham.

This is also bad. They have no archaeological evidence that Abraham even existed. There’s no bones, grave, artifacts that he had, or even writings. It’s that bad. This does not mean someone is Jewish.

As I think even more about WWII that killed over 50 million people and all the problems we have with antisemitism that this these are the definitions of someone who’s Jewish that we have. I would like to think the world would have a clear and scientific definition of being Jewish by now…

Personally I believe
Someone’s religion isn’t based on how much they worship, where they worship or which customs they observe. It’s based on how much faith they have in that religion.

If the science is biology: homo sapiens sapiens is rhe only recent human race. There is no sciece in racism.


Which Nazi was it who admitted “We decide who is a Jew and who is not”?

Jew is both an ethnicity AND a religion. The Venn diagram isn’t a circle, but it’s close - especially in 1930s Europe. There were some people the Nazis identified as Jews who didn’t themselves identify as Jewish, but those people generally had unquestionably Jewish ancestors (ethnically and/or religiously).

If you want a “scientific definition” ethnic Jews are identifiable from DNA, just as Scandinavians or Italians are. As for non-ethnic religious Jews, I don’t think you can define that “scientifically.”

However, I’m not really sure what you’re getting it. Are you suggesting that, yes, the Holocaust killed 6 million people, but most of them weren’t “real Jews”? What about Russian Pogroms?


That’s not true. If you are Italian your from Italy. If you are Scandinavian then you are from Scandinavia (Your Dannish, Swedish, or Norwegian) . So if you are Jewish where are you from? There isn’t a Jewish country or a region. The closest thing to a Jewish state is Israel, but then you’d be called Israeli, but that country didn’t exist during WWII. If you want to believe the son of Abraham thing then that would be from the Middle East which would make them Mediterranean.

My point is that with all the Antisemitism, wars that have been fought and death dealing with Jewish people. The world doesn’t even have a clear definition of someone who is Jewish. And No DNA testing will not tell you if you are Jewish. Not that they had DNA testing back in WWII.

It’s like the world took the Jewish religion, morphed it into group a people that basically anyone would fit into and then that’s the reason the world uses so it can beat up when ever and for what ever reason it wanted to. Just label the person Jew and then now you have the right to do whatever you want to do that person.

They could have done it with any religion they wanted to and all religions have groups that hate them. But for some reason hating Judaism seems take the cake. People will fight wars, kill and create countries based on it. I find that very disturbing.

It also seems to me that the world has adopted Hitler’s and the Nazi’s definition of a Jew which is extremely disturbing to me. Apparently the world has let and continues to let the group who caused WWII define who is Jewish.

The world is really trying to include all the minorities and include everyone. Yet they still take the Nazi definition of Judaism…

The whole War Against Humanity and WWII Week By Week Series talk about Hitler Nazi’s and Persecution of the Jews yet they don’t even have an episode dedicated to what a Jew actually is. It’s always inferred and assumed that you know what a Jew is. That means you’re stuck with the Oxford, Nazi, or some other definition and they are all bad definitions of Judaism actually is!

Very very disturbing.

How do you define, who is italian? They come from Italy. Now define me what is Italy. What makes Italy an Italy? Land borders? Borders are human made constructs and from the 18th century. Before the Italian unification there were many smaller “nations” and city-states and were they italians, or did they identify themselves as venetians and others. Then one of my favorites is finns. Are they finns, since they come from Finland? But Finland didn’t exist as an independent country before 1917. Before that they were russians, and before 1819 they were swedish. And even before that they were karelians and hämäläiset and other smaller ethnical cultures and clans.

Also define me Shintoism. In western countries we like to define things in neat boxes, but in Japan people doesn’t identify themselves as practitioners of Shintoism like we do in our cultural sphere Christianity, Protestantism, Orthodox and Islam.

My point is, it is impossible to scientifically define human-made constructs since they are not based on hard scientifical facts. They are made by humans by humans and they have evolved since time immemorial. So trying to scientifically define something as complex as Judaism and Jew into a neat box is nigh impossible.


After WWII which that took 50 million lives and basically the complete destruction of Europe and Asia. There was also the Holocaust that too that took 11 million so called “Jew” lives.

Don’t you find it extremely disturbing that the only definitions of being Jewish are the Nazi’s Nuremberg Laws which we shouldn’t even entertain at all. The other is the oxford version which is almost as bad?

We can put a man on the moon. We can have cell phones. Fight big ass wars. Yet we can’t come up with a better definition of being Jewish than those two?

If that is true, then our whole understanding of why WWII was fought is wrong and the world has it’s priorities all messed up too.

First, the Holocaust took 6 million Jews. And why do you clinge on the Nazis and Oxford definitions of a Jew? Nazis definition of a Jew is subjective and it is only used in WW2 content since you can’t ignore something like that. Their definition was scetchy, but it’s impact was huge.

Oxford is a dictionary, of course their definition is short but I find it to be good enough definition of a Jew. And why we need more definitions for Jews? We have decided, that a Jew is “a member of the people and cultural community whose traditional religion is Judaism and who come from the ancient Hebrew people of Israel; a person who believes in and practises Judaism”. Whats wrong with this? That’s how Jews define themselves, more or less.

And I see no point bringing cell phones and Moon mission in a conversation about definition of a Jew. First two are based on hard science, last one is based on subjective matter that can’t be scientifically measured.

I find (and my professor would kill me if he ever finds out, luckily he isn’t here, rigth? RIGHT?) that the wikipedia article about Jews is quite thorough and references and further readings seems valid.


A lot.
Hebrew people of Israel - Who the are these people? You start digging into that and it gets convoluted pretty quickly. Apparently you have to read the Hebrew bible to understand who these people are which means your brining the religion into it which means its a faith based answer and if you don’t believe the faith then they probably didn’t exist. Apparently they can’t use archaeology to confirm these people. If you were from that part of the globe you’d be Western Asian. If you born after 1948 then you’d be Israeli and not Jewish. Not to mention does having one person from that area of the globe in your DNA make you Jewish or do you need to be a direct descendent? Not to mention back in the 1930’s it was impossible to tell this. The only way you knew who your parents were is because they told you so.

a person who believes in and practices Judaism - That’s just about as vague as you can get. So if I have a Hanukkah candle set does that mean I’m Jewish? If I go to temple once a life time does that mean I’m a Jewish? What if I go to temple every day and think it’s all bullshit, but my wife loves it and that’s why I go? What if I sort of believe in it? Can I believe in it on Monday/Friday but the rest of the week I believe Protestantism and Buddhism on Sunday’s?

I can poke holes in your definition of being Jewish all day long and after WWII, all the other massacres involving so called “Jews” and all the problems of Antisemitism I find it pretty disturbing we don’t have a better definition. The definitions we have is basically anyone. It’s freaking sad.

Western and US Policy backs up Israel all the time. Basically they can do no wrong. Is that because they are so called “Jewish”?

There is a war going on in Ukraine right now. The west has provided aid, but not unconditionally. If the Ukrainians were Jewish you think they’d provide it unconditionally? They would if Israel was attacked. It is widely accepted that Israel has a nuclear bomb!

On people’s Wikipedia pages it sometimes states if they are Jewish or related to people who are Jewish. Yet above is the definitions of people who are Jewish. I mean come on… That’s stupid.

You could call ethnic Jews “Israelites” or “Judahites” but Jewish people self-identified as Jews all over the world and did so long before Hitler. DNA can identify ethnic Jews because for 2000 years there has only been small amount of other ethnicities that have married into Jewish communities - whether those communities were in Russia, Italy, Germany, France, or the USA. Even today most Jews in the USA, even non-orthodox, marry other Jews.

Whether ethnic Jews are actually descended from Abraham is irrelevant. The historical record is clear that by the time of the Roman Empire there was a distinct ethnic and religious group in what is now Israel-Palestine. These people were subsequently scattered to other locations, mostly in Europe (see link above to the Jewish dysphoria).

You could ask that same question about Christians. A common argument today is that most people who identify as Christians and even attend church are not actually following the teachings of Christ as described in the Bible. “Bad Christians” are still Christians.

A significance difference is Christianity is practiced in significant numbers by ethnic groups all over the world. Islam is mostly associated with the Middle East, but also has significant practitioners in India and Indonesia (and even within the Middle East the Turks and Iranians, among others, aren’t Arabs). Hinduism is practiced almost entirely in Indian or by people elsewhere of Indian descent, but there are also a substantial number of people in Indian who are Buddhist or Muslim.

Are you trying to argue Israel isn’t actually a Jewish state?

The USA’s support of Israel is a complicated mix of Holocaust guilt, Cold War politics, Islamophobia, and evangelistic Christian apocalypticism.


I don’t see how it can.

If our definition of a Jew is this:

a member of the people and cultural community whose traditional religion is Judaism and who come from the ancient Hebrew people of Israel; a person who believes in and practices Judaism”

How does DNA tell us how much a person practiced Judaism?

Are you trying to argue Israel isn’t actually a Jewish state?

That’s a good question… is it? Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People - Wikipedia you got this law they passed in 2018 but it took them awhile to pass it and apparently some people think it violates the Israeli Constitution…

I honestly don’t care. I’m looking for a better definition of what it means to be Jewish.

And when do we talk about trying to quantify how Jewish someone is? Do you have to go to temple at least once a year to be Jewish? Do you have to go every day? Do you have to only believe a little bit or a lot?

You do notice that using “so called” belittles the target and can be seen quite offensive or whitewashes things. The so called “nazis” in WW2, the so called “scientist”, the so called “feminists”, the so called “government”, the so called “homosexuals” etc. You could belittle my artistic endevours calling me by so called “artist”.

You want to quantify how Jewish someone is? How about Christians? I belonged to a church and rarely visited a sermon and never prayed nor believed in a god but still I would have identified myself as a Christian. Probably would do even now, since I have born and raised in a society strongly influenced by Christian values, even though I do not belong to a church anymore and still don’t believe in god. But lets say that I decide to convert to Judaism. Am I then a Jew? I would say yes. You can’t quantify something that isn’t quantifiable and is subjective.

And thank you for pointing out that there is a war going in Ukraine right now. Didn’t notice. By the way, I heard that Zelenskyi is a nazi by some definition. And also a Jew.

There is no need to bring modern-day and Cold War era politics to this conversation, since they don’t contribute much value to the definition of the Jews.

Every argument you make can be made to every religion and nationality in the world, not just Jews. And if we here define Jews and Judaism in some new and different way, it wouldn’t change a thing about how we define Jews and Judaism. It is not the consensus of academic world and without scientific research and peer reviews it will not change. You can define Jews how you want, but it doesn’t change how world defines them.

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I’m not trying to start a fight and I mean no disrespect to anyone.

I’m just trying to find a better definition of what Jewish means because I find the current and accepted definitions to be extremely vague. Which I find extremely disturbing because everyone fits being Jewish.

All a group (Group A) of people need to do is label another group (Group B) “Jewish” and now Group A can label Group B special and treat them however they want to. They can love them or hate them which has been done throughout history.

If you have a population problem within your country there’s just to many people. Label a group “Jewish” and now get rid of them from your population.

Want access to a certain area of the world? Label the people in that part of the world “Jewish” and now they can do no wrong and get your full support.

It also appears that the world seems to like the vague definitions because they haven’t come up with a better one. I can see why the world hasn’t because it makes it easy to get support for any cause the world wants.

If we can’t clearly define “Jewish” then we need to rethink the whole reason for WWII because the reality is our current definition could be anyone and if it’s anyone then Nazi Germany killed anyone they wanted. It would mean the Holocaust wasn’t about killing Jews it was about killing people in general. Kinda changes things doesn’t?

I do not find the current definition of a Jew to be so vague that you can just label anyone to be a Jew. Of course some entity can label other entity whatever they want, like Putin has labeled Zelenskyi a nazi but that doesn’t make Zelenskyi a nazi. Nor if USA decides that all Japanese are Jews, it doesn’t make them Jews in any way.

Vague definitions are common thing in social sciences since things can’t be labeled so neatly and narrowly. But they are not so vague as to be meaningless. And I am pretty sure that many have tried to come up better definitions for Jews but those definitions have raised their own problems and have been discarded.

And for me, there is never doubt what the Holocaust was about. It was killing Jews, no matter the definition of a Jew.

Never forget.


Vague definitions are common thing in social sciences since things can’t be labeled so neatly and narrowly.

Don’t you think that’s a problem? For WWII Europe and Asia were both basically destroyed. Every country put their entire economies on war time footing. Which means every country had to ration everything. Everyone had something to do with the war effort. Billions of people suffered. Tens of millions died. People got NUKED!!! All because of the worlds vague definition of what it means to be “Jewish”…

Did we learn? No. Countries and groups of people still to this very day do things for/against vague definitions of “Jewish” people.

And for me, there is never doubt what the Holocaust was about. It was killing Jews, no matter the definition of a Jew.

So in your opinion. Anyone who died in the Holocaust is Jewish? Is that correct? That’s basically anyone.

Holocaust is, by definition, a genocide of the European Jews during WW2. So yes, everyone who died in the Holocaust was Jewish. Then there were other massacres perpetrated by the nazis towards gays, gypsies, homosexuals and other undesirables.

No, I don’t think that is a problem. Because you can’t use social sciences the same way as you would mathematics, physics or chemistry. You can’t count liquid as you could count solid objects. How do you define a cat?

I don’t think all the suffering and deaths in WW2 was because vague definition of a Jew. Not everything were linked to Jews. And countries and people do a lot of things for and against vague definitions of anything, not just Jews. Balkan wars. War on terror. MAGA. Nerds. Gays. Blacks. Rwandan genocide. You name it.

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Holocaust is, by definition, a genocide of the European Jews during WW2. So yes, everyone who died in the Holocaust was Jewish.

Really? So that means you believe the Nazi definition of being Jewish. Which well al know is bullshit. Not to mention I have a serious problem letting one of the most destructive governments in all of history define what it means to be “Jewish” Not to mention they defined the very type of people they are going to eradicate! Must be nice to be able to do that.

We’ve been going back and forth for three days and we haven’t clearly defined how much someone has to worship Judaism to be declared “Jewish”.

How do you define a cat?

Cat is pretty easy to define. Cat - Wikipedia

but anyway… I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere with this…

You are absolutely right that we are not going anywhere. Your views are so entrenched that you don’t even consider other options and opinions. I don’t even know where to go anymore, since you have hyperboled things and are fixated on a clear definition of how much someone has to worship Judaism to be declared Jewish. You want a percentage?

So everyone who believes that Holocaust was an extermination of Jews believe in the nazi definition? That is a lot of people then that you are labeling idiots or othervise ignorant.

Also I think Jews would have said something if they found that worlds definition for a Jew was wrong in their opinion. And it isn’t our prerogative to define who is Jewish and who is not, since that is the nazi way. And no, nazis haven’t dominated our perspective what is Jewish and what is not.


To add an update: The Nazis definitions who is a German has not mattererd for some decades.

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Let’s get real. I know you want to get emotional with this but this is not why anyone went to war. We went to war because leaders of some countries with the support of their populations decided it was their right to impose their will on other countries. You can no more blame this on Jewish people or the Jewish question than you apparently cannot define Jewishness. Put the blame for war squarely where it belongs as evil people picked a fight with other people. Fortunately the others, not all good or bad, were quite a bit stronger. That allows us to discuss the questions openly today.


The Japanese had atomic bombs dropped on them because they were engaged in fanatic resistance. If Hitler had never come to power in Germany and zero Jews died because of the Nazis it is likely there is still a war between the USA and Japan in the 1940s, culminating in atomic fire.

Britain, France, and the USA did not fight Germany because of the Jews; they fought because of Nazi Germany’s unrestrained expansion. The USSR fought Germany because they were invaded.

The Jews were not central to the political ideology of any country except Nazi Germany. Wars can not only be fought asymmetrically, but the motivations of the combatants can be asymmetric too.