JEWS & JUDAISM
Jews are an ethnoreligious group, a tribe, and a nation originating in the Land of Israel, descended from the ancient Hebrews and Israelites. An ethnoreligious group is an ethnic group unified by a common religion. In the case of the Jewish People, the religion is Judaism. Much like other Indigenous tribes worldwide, Jewish peoplehood, tribal identity, and religion/spirituality (Judaism) are *inextricable* from each other.
The Hebrews were a group of Semitic-speaking, often nomadic peoples Indigenous to Canaan. The Israelites were a confederation of Hebrew tribes that came together eventually to found the United Monarchy of the Kingdom of Israel (1047 BCE-930 BCE). While there is archeological and historical debate regarding the grandiosity of the United Monarchy as depicted in the Torah, there is enough archeological evidence to assume that a centralised Israelite state existed during this period.
The precursor to Judaism was “Yahwism,” whose followers only worshiped the Hebrew G-d but didn’t necessarily reject the existence of the rest of the Canaanite pantheon. The complete shift between Yahwism to Judaism, when all Jews completely rejected the existence of other deities, likely happened during the period of the Babylonian Exile (587/6 BCE), which is when the majority of the Tanakh (“Hebrew Bible”) was written.
However, this shift happened slowly and over time, beginning around the 9th century BCE. In the 8th century BCE, monotheism among the Israelites spread even further, likely as a nationalistic response to the Neo-Assyrian invasions.
The Tanakh, also known as the “Hebrew Bible,” is a specific text consisting of the sacred mythologies, laws, and spiritual beliefs of a specific tribe (the Jewish People) in a specific region of the world (Southwest Asia). For more on this, please see my posts WHEN JEWS BECAME JEWS, THE JEWISH PEOPLE ARE A TRIBE, and JEWS & INDIGENEITY: A CONVERSATION WITH NATIVE JEWS.
Yes, it’s true that the first Christians were Jews. But not only did most Jews not “claim” said Christians, as evidenced by the infighting between Jews and Christians during and after Jesus’ death, but it only took a couple of centuries for a massive empire (i.e. the Roman Empire) that had long oppressed Jews to not only adopt Christianity but also murder Jews in the name of Christianity.
In other words: our sacred text was taken from us by those who long oppressed us and then was used as an excuse to oppress us even further. It was also later adopted by the first Muslims, and, once again, exploited to murder Jews (see my post THE EXTERMINATION OF A JEWISH TRIBE IN THE ARABIAN PENINSULA) and treat Jews (as well as other groups) as second-class citizens (see my post WHAT WAS BEING A JEWISH DHIMMI LIKE?). This Christian and later Muslim oppression of Jews — including genocide and ethnic cleansing — has carried on for the past 2000 years.
And that’s without even delving further into the way that the very concept of the “Old Testament” misrepresents the Tanakh (e.g. representing Judaism as “unfinished”), mistranslations that were then weaponized to hurt Jews, or the antisemitic motives behind many of the Gospel writers (see my post NO, THE JEWS DID NOT KILL JESUS). While I respect whatever faith you choose to follow, if you are Christian or Muslim, I encourage you to consider how the Tanakh was taken from our community without our consent.
The main event during Passover is the Passover “Seder,” or dinner, which takes place on the first or first two nights of Passover. In Hebrew, “seder” means order, because there is an order of rituals and traditions that Jews must observe during every Seder.
In recent years, Evangelical Christian groups have started observing “Christian Seders.” They claim that the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, and as such, they believe that Passover is a Christian tradition. The problem — well, *one of* the problems — is that during the time of Jesus, Passover Seders were not really a thing. Instead, Passover festivities took place in the sacred Jewish Temple. After the Romans brutally destroyed the Temple in 70 CE — some 40 or so years after the death of Jesus — the Seder became the main Passover ritual.
Christian “Seders” only started popping up after World War II and are in no way traditional to Christianity.
While Christians are certainly welcome to participate in Seders *so long as a Jewish person invites them,* anything else is blatant appropriation. It’s even more egregious considering that, historically, Christians ritualistically massacred Jews during Easter, which often coincides with Passover.
Zionism — as defined by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Jews — is the Jewish movement for self-determination in the ancestral Jewish land, the Land of Israel (Israel-Palestine today). It can also be described as Jewish nationalism. It’s worth noting that self-determination is a basic tenet of international law. The fact that Jews come from the Land of Israel should not be debatable; it is easily proven through 3000+ years’ worth of archeology, DNA science, historical record, and Jewish culture.
Beyond the concept of Jewish self-determination in Israel, you’d be hard pressed to find anything else at all that Zionists agree with. Zionism is a wide movement, ranging from religious Zionism to labor Zionism to green Zionism and many, many others.
Christian Zionism is the belief that the return of Jews to the Land of Israel and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was the fulfilment of a Biblical prophecy. Many Christian Zionists also believe that the gathering of all Jews in Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus. Jews will then be faced with the choice of converting to Christianity or death.
Christian Zionism has nothing to do with Jewish sovereignty and self-determination in our ancestral land; if anything, it’s quite the opposite, as many Christian Zionists believe Jews must abandon our entire identity and become Christians.
Christian Zionism sees Jews and the State of Israel as a means to an end. It’s an exploitative movement with no regard for Jewish autonomy, sovereignty, identity, safety, or beliefs.
There is much in Mormonism that is quite blatantly appropriated from Jewish tradition. Mormons believe that they are direct descendants of the ancient Israelites, something that is neither backed by science nor something that Jews agree with (the only direct descendants of the ancient Israelites are Jews and Samaritans).
Mormon priesthood is modelled after the Israelite priestly class (i.e. Kohanim). The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City contains a “Holy of Holies,” a concept taken from the Holy of Holies in the sacred Jewish Temple during the time of King Solomon. The Holy of Holies was the room where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. According to the Latter Day Saints church, the LDS President acts as a “Presiding High Priest.” By entering the Holy of Holies, the LDS President “fulfils the relationship between the High Priest of Israel and G-d.”
LDS churches have appropriated traditionally Jewish symbolism such as the Star of David. According to historian Armand Mauss, “Mormons simultaneously hold beliefs that show a religious affinity and a religious hostility toward Jews…most Mormons also believe that G-d is perpetually punishing Jews for their part in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and they will not be forgiven until they are converted.” In that vein, Mormons have infamously posthumously baptised Jews, such as Holocaust victims, Albert Einstein, Menachem Begin, and more, something that the Jewish community finds deeply offensive and insensitive.
The first Christians were Jewish. Since the first century, New Christians have sought to convert Jews to Christianity via proselytization. These New Christians, however, long adopted non-Jewish culture and assimilated into different identities, and as such, lost their distinct Jewish identity.
Today’s modern Messianic movement can be traced back to the 1960s. The majority of Messianic “Jews” have no Jewish ancestry whatsoever but seek to proselytize Jews all the same. Every single Jewish movement (e.g. Reform, Conservative, Orthodox) and sub-ethnic group (e.g. Ashkenazim, Sepharadim, Mizrahim) considers Messianic “Judaism” to be inherently incompatible with Judaism. An important thing to note: to be a member of a tribe, the tribe has to claim you back. Not a single group of Jews claims Messianic “Jews.”
Messianic “Jews” also have a history of targeting vulnerable Jews, such as new immigrants.
Messianic “Jews” have appropriated everything from the Jewish name to Jewish customs, traditions, and holidays. Because they use words such as “Jews” and “synagogues,” this has resulted in prominent rabbis meeting with them by accident. Messianic “Jews” twist the words of the sacred Jewish text, the Torah, to prove that Jesus is indeed the “son of G-d,” something that all Jewish movements consider idolatry. Because they use the Jewish name, they also misrepresent what it means to be Jewish to the outside world.
Kabbalah, also known as “Torat ha-Sod,” or “the teaching of the secret,” is a school of thought in Jewish mysticism. It is meant to explain the relationship between the unchanging, eternal G-d and the mortal, finite universe. Jews consider the origins of Kabbalah to be so ancient that it “predates world religions,” though it reached its peak in the 12th and 13th centuries. It is divided into two branches: theoretical and practical. The practical branch is thought to explain the mystical values of Hebrew letters and uses formulas, such as incantations and meditation, to find closeness with G-d.
Kabbalah is considered so complex that Jews are not even supposed to study it until they have reached the age of 40. It is unquestioningly a closed practice, and cannot be fully understood outside of the context of Judaism. Yet the appropriation of Kabbalah goes back centuries.
The 18th century birthed the Cabala movement, a Christianised version of the Kabbalah. Christian “Kabbalists” sought to transform Kabbalah into “a dogmatic weapon to turn back against the Jews to compel their conversion [to Christianity].”
After the 18th century, Cabala became associated with European occultism. Since then, various New Age religions have continued to appropriate Kabbalah, as is the case with “Hermetic Qabbalah.” Prominent celebrities, such as Madonna, have also appropriated this closed Jewish practice.
The terms “Crypto-Judaism” and “Crypto-Jews” describe Jews that were forcibly converted to Christianity or Islam but continued practicing Judaism in secret. Bnei Anusim, translating to “children of the converted ones,” are the descendants of these Jews, many of whom, in recent years, have sought to formally reconnect with their Jewish heritage. Halacha (Jewish law) formally recognises Anusim as a category of Jews who were forcibly converted to other religions. This is important to note because, as mentioned earlier, in order to claim belonging to a tribe, the tribe has to claim you back.
According to Halacha, Jews who abandon Jewish observance by choice become “meshumadim” (an example being Messianic “Jews” of Jewish ancestry). Though still considered Jewish by lineage, they cannot claim any privilege pertaining to Jewish status. Anusim, by contrast, qualify as Jews for all purposes, including privileges, such as participating in a minyan.
For Bnei Anusim, the process of “converting” to Judaism is considered not so much a process of conversion, but rather, a process of formal return to the ways of the tribe.
It bears repeating that Judaism is a closed practice, and as such, if you discover Crypto-Jewish ancestry and wish to return, it’s important to respectfully engage with the Jewish community.
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