Friday, July 30, 2010
[Reinhard Heydrich. A Jewish nose?]
I'm wondering if there is any physical or mental characteristic which distinguishes Jews, even Jews whose families have been Jewish as far back as anyone can remember, from gentiles.
The answer is apparently, no.
In other words, if a forensic anthropologist were to autopsy a recently deceased person and he chose to run every DNA test and examine every organ and bone, I don't believe he would be able to answer the question "Is this a Jew or a gentile". DNA can merely indicate if some of someone's ancestors were probably Jews. The famous Jewish nose seems to be a poor criteria as well.
Mentally, there is the Jewish high IQ, or "Yiddishe kopf", however obviously there is a very wide range of intelligence among Jews and gentiles even if the average may be higher among Jews of Central European origin. Being smart in and of itself surely does not prove Jewishness.
So in any case, the "Jewish race" is simply a myth, probably originating with anti-Semites. (The expression "jüdischen Rasse" was used by Hitler, and not in a positive way.)
So what does make a Jew a Jew? As an Orthodox Jew, I would say it is the possession of a very elevated, very holy soul which a person aquires by either converting to Judaism or by having inherited it through matrilineal descent from someone else who converted. The event at Mount Sinai was a mass conversion. (See Way of God by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto 2:4 for more details.)
From the point of view of an atheist, however, since he does not believe that he has a soul, and he does not believe in the Jewish religion, there is in fact no difference between himself and any other atheist. Therefore expressions like "Jewish atheist" or "Jewish skeptic" are really nonsensical. The Jewish atheist or agnostic or secular humanist should logically drop the "Jewish" label since he does not believe that he differs in any way from anyone else. Some of his ancestors practiced Judaism, that's all. Some of my ancestors were Catholic, however I hardly would introduce myself as a "Catholic Jew".
Posted by jewish philosopher at 1:08 PM