Jewish Atheist

An agnostic atheist perspective
from a once orthodox Jew.

ismael-sarepta asked: Are Jews Semites? How does Judaism see its identity in relation to its Middle-Eastern origins (both its ancient, medieval and contemporary origins/influences) vis-à-vis its Euro-American-secular identities, and Orthodox Jewish life?

Whether Jews are semites can get complicated due to our long history in the diaspora and the influx of non-semitic converts. That said, it doesn’t really matter to me, to be honest. I’m not being flip either. For me, personally, the term “semite” is only important in the practical sense that “anti-semite” denotes someone who’s a bigot and racist against jewish people - regardless of their origin. Whether the term “anti-semite” is absolutely the best term to use is another matter. After-all, it could refer to arabs who are also “semites”. Yeah, ok. But that’s not what the term means, in a colloquial sense, so until a new term catches on, I’m sticking with it.

As for our roots: Well, Judaism definitely sees its roots as being in Jerusalem, even though its “trunk and branches” have wound their ways through many foreign lands. But the “leaves” - our identity in the now - can be very different. Judaism definitely focuses on Jerusalem as a main part of its identity (just as many religions focus on the past). But if you’re asking about individuals, and not the religion itself, it gets a bit different. Many jews see their identity as American or whichever country they live in. many jews still see themselves as ‘exiled israelis,’ in a sense, yearning to go back “home”. Many jews have both, and many also consider their past from the beginning of the diaspora: e.g. “I’m an American, Sefardi Jew.” - I was raised in America, my family used to live in the “sfardi” regions (e.g. spain, morocco, etc), and we’re jewish and so feel a connection to Israel.”

Caveat lector: Having been raised religious, that’s the sense I get. Having not been irreligious for very long, I can’t speak with as much certainty about secular-jews.

Hope that helps. Cheers!

P.s. Gratuitous Colbert gif:

  1. jewishatheist posted this