14.5 million • non-dogmatic • theistic • non-proselytizing

Lesson Objectives

• Define Key Terms

• Appreciate the reasons behind the variety of ways that Jews are identified

• Understand the differences between Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform

• Appreciate the ongoing nature of Jewish holy scripture

• Appreciate the history of European Antisemitism

• Understand how the modern State of Israel came into being

• Appreciate the ways Jews mark sacred time on the calendar

Key Terms

Believing vs Belonging






Western Wall




Jewish Identity

Believing vs Belonging

• Christians and Muslims can belong to any tribe

     and are part of their religion so long as they “believe”

• Jews can believe almost anything

     but must “belong” to the Jewish People to be Jewish

• Like American citizenship, you are Jewish either by birth or by legal application

     • Jewish by conversion: one can apply to a Jewish legal court (bet din)

• Belonging to the Jewish people ultimately means holding to Jewish traditions

Jews as Tribe (Judah, the Sons of Jacob)

• 720 BCE: Assyrians destroy Northern Kingdom of Israel (“Ten Lost Tribes”)

• 587 BCE: Babylonian Exile of the Southern Kingdom of Judah

• 538 BCE: the remaining Israelite tribes return from Exile to Judah/Judea

     • Benjamin (assimilated), Judah (kingly line), and Levi (priestly line)

     • Collectively, Greeks called them all "Judeans" (of Judea) or "Jews"

Jew as Religion

• 1614: Jews are categorized by Protestant scholars as practicing “Judaisme”

• 1769: Moses Mendelssohn is the first to self-identify practicing “Judaism

     • Mendelssohn: Judaism is compatible with German Enlightenment values

Jews as Race

• 1700s: Religious tolerance becomes the norm, b/t Catholics & Protestants

• 1800s: Jews are now recategorized as an inferior “race” threatening the West

• German scientists classify people into “Aryan,” “Mixed,” & “Subhuman” races

• 1879: Judenhass (“Jew Hatred”) is replaced with more sciency “Antisemitism

• 1940s: Aryan Race Theory collapses under the weight of its own stupidity

Jews as Ethnicity

• Typically Jews today identify themselves as "ethnically Jewish"

• Jewish ethnicity can be understood genetically, culturally, historically, etc.

• Jews have their own language, food, calendar, clothes, texts, art, land, history,           traditions, totems, taboos, humor, customs, and holidays