Bein Adam Lchavero

Bein Adam Lchavairo is a blog dealing with interpersonal relations within the Jewish community and the interactions of the Jewish and Gentile worlds. We're new. Be gentle.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Taking Issue With The Last Post.

Let me begin by apologizing for the dearth of recent posts. The new version of blogger was causing confusion with my blogging client. All is well now.

There is much I want to speak about, but my co-poster RubinCompServ has brought up a topic that I would like to touch on.

Jews as a "race".

Firstly RCS, I'm going to begin by pointing out that you are using a very narrow definition of "race". Let us check that bastion of open-sourced information, Wikipedia:

"The term race serves to distinguish between populations or groups of people based on different sets of characteristics which is commonly determined through social conventions. The most widely used human racial categories are based on visible traits (especially skin color, facial features and hair texture), genes, and self-identification. Conceptions of race, as well as specific racial groupings, vary by culture and over time, and are often controversial, for scientific reasons as well as because of their impact on social identity and identity politics. Most biological and social scientists regard the concept of race primarily as a social construct, while some maintain it has a genetic basis."

There's more (quite a bit more, in fact), but that's a key paragraph.

Race is, largely, a social construct. There's no "black" gene anymore than there is an "white" gene. Just like with the Jewish people, there are scores of people who would be called "black" or "white" who might actually be of another "race".

However, if one is going to be rigid and say "no, race is genetic," well then, there's the fact that there are "genetic" Jews. There is DNA that exists only in Kohanim, via which the Lemba tribe of Africa were determined to be descendants of Jews. A geneticist could look at my DNA and say "This came from an Ashkenazik Jew" (Really. And not just because of the way the hemoglobin bonds so tightly with the iron). The same is true, as I understand, of Sephardim and other "Jewish races".

Genetic Jews, however, might not be Religious Jews (or Vice Versa). For one thing, the genes could have been passed paternally rather than maternally, thus not "counting" by Orthodox standards. The person in question could be a convert and not have any "Jewish" DNA of any sort (I need to make a T-Shirt that saysAvoid Tay Sachs � Marry a Convert!)."

In conclusion, there's no easy answer. Judaism seems to manage to be a Race, Religion, and Ethnicity, and not always all at the same time.