What is a Jew?

Robert Desmond
May 24, 2018 · 3 min read

I grew up with a Jewish identity. I had a Bar Mitzvah (a ceremonial reading of the Torah/Bible at the age of 13 where I ‘became a man’), and attended a Liberal Jewish Synagogue.

However, I am not what defines a Jew. In fact, there is no such thing that defines a Jew because we are so diverse.

I have seen antisemitism in many forms, but the word “Jew” keeps coming back.

The problem with this is what someone means when they say “Jews” in a derogatory way; it almost certainly doesn’t cover all the people who can somehow be defined as Jews.

Image for post
Image for post
A note sent in 2018 to the Board of Deputies (a group who represent the Jewish community not Israel)

The problem with this note is that it was sent to representatives of Jews in the UK, who do not necessarily have a link to Israel — it’s not that simple.

It’s like sending a note about ISIS to a British mosque. ISIS might say they speak for all Muslims, but they don’t and it would be naive to think so (I should probably add that I am not comparing Israel to ISIS!)

The complexities of Jews

There are white Jews, there are black Jews, there are mixed-race Jews.

There are left-wing Jews, right-wing Jews, centrist Jews and all the things in between.

There are nationalist Jews. Jews who support the monarchy and Jews who criticise it.

Jews who voted for Brexit and Jews who vehemently oppose it.

There are Jews who support the state of Israel no matter what it does, there are Jews who criticise the State of Israel no matter what it does.

There are Jews who believe all Jews should go to Israel, and there are Jews who believe the ‘diaspora’ is the way for our community to flourish.

There are Jews who believe in God and study Torah everyday of their life, and there are atheists who think it’s a load of crap!

My Point

My point is: to generalise a group of people so diverse as Jews is ignorant.

From my experience of my Jewish community, there is a distinct appreciation that other people have different opinions and values and that is fine (as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody) and we are to respect those who we disagree with. A courtesy obviously not extended by racists.


There is an interesting phenomenon that Jews keep coming up as scapegoats in society yet there are so few of us.

Interesting facts:

Approximately 0.2% of the world population is Jewish (14 million people)

Approximation 0.4% of the UK population is Jewish (270,000 people)

The population of Israel is 8.5 Million people (roughly the population of London)


Like everything in life, there is a short answer and a long answer. My short answer is that it is complicated.

There are good and bad people on both sides and to say that ‘they are all bad’ or ‘they are all good’ is ignorant to the complexities of life and will not advance the world forward.

There are Israelis who live in settlements who you read about in all the headlines, and there are Israeli Jews who march with Israeli Arabs against it.

There are Israelis who volunteer in the occupied territories and Israelis who would never step foot over the line.

There are Jews in Israel who believe it is their God given right to be there and there are Jews in Israel who believe that Jews should not be in Israel at all (I don’t know what they are still doing there!).

Please Don’t

Please don’t generalise Jews, or any group of complex community (Whites/Blacks/Muslims/LGBTQ/Men/Women etc…).

You wouldn’t want it to happen to you so why continue to spread ignorance?

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