Dennis Prager

 Why do Jews shun "Jews for Jesus"?

 Readers' additional questions and reactions are encouraged.

 Let's begin with the most basic question: Are Jews a religion, an ethnicity, a people, a nation, a culture?

 The most accurate answer is all of the above. And that confuses both Jews and non-Jews because there is no other major modern group that falls into all these categories.

 Christians, for example, constitute a religion but not a nation. One is a Christian by virtue of affirmation of a faith. In order to be a Christian, one has to believe some Christian doctrine.

 On the other hand, Americans are a nation, not a religion, and there are, therefore, Americans of every religion and of no religion. As is true of other nations, one is born an American by virtue of one's parent(s) being American. No affirmation of American faith is necessary. One can be an American and hold no American values or love for America.

 Jews are Jews in both the above ways. One can become a Jew solely by affirmation of the Jewish religion (just as one can become a Christian by affirmation of Christianity) or solely by being born to a Jewish parent (originally the father, through most of Jewish history the mother, in Reform Judaism today the father or the mother).

 That is why there can be atheist and secular Jews -- just as there can be atheist and secular Americans even though the country's values are Judeo-Christian. But that is also why any person in the world, no matter what race, ethnicity or religion his or her parents are, can become a member of the Jewish people through religious conversion.

 That is also why there can be self-hating Jews -- people born Jewish who devote their lives to harming the Jewish people -- because no one born a Jew can be read out of the Jewish people. It's probably a good thing. But not always. As we shall see.

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”

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