In this answer, someone said they got offended when people wore crosses, especially if they didn't know they were Jewish. I'm just wondering how someone can not know what religion they follow?

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    Rob, welcome to the site and thanks for asking this weighty question. I hope you stick around and enjoy the site.
    – msh210
    Jan 12, 2012 at 20:17
  • How does a Jew know they are a Jew if Abraham's genealogy was destroyed when the temple was destroyed? And 2000 years of word of mouth is difficult to accept. A proselyte could tell their children they are Jewish. DNA only proves one of your parents are Jewish. I'm not judging, just being realistic.
    – user1628
    Jun 18, 2012 at 5:57
  • Normally we rely on what is known as chazakah. However, these are interesting points that you are bringing up. Thanks much for your insights! Jun 18, 2012 at 6:05
  • I believe that even Jews who are born Jewish (i.e., not Jews by choice) must not only consider themselves born into the covenant and therefore physical offspring of Abraham, but they must also consider themselves to be spiritual offspring of him, even if not their genetic father. Jun 18, 2012 at 6:07

3 Answers 3


In Jewish Law, a Jew is a Jew and remains a Jew no matter what actions he or she takes.

You could even say, "once a Jew, always a Jew".

That means, if someone is born to a Jewish mother (because Jewishness is passed through the mother) and is never told that they are Jewish, they are still a Jew.

Judaism is not a religion like Christianity or Islam is. One's Judaism does not depend on what they practice or believe. You can convert ten times over and you will still be Jewish. Sorry ;).

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    That pretty cool, I guess I sort of knew the passed on from the mother part, but didn't know it stuck no matter what. That's pretty neat.
    – Rob
    Jan 12, 2012 at 20:20
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    @Rob. Yeah, we like to think so :D. Allow me to echo msh210's welcome, and I hope to see you around!
    – HodofHod
    Jan 12, 2012 at 20:23
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    @userunknown. I'll try to address some of your misconceptions, but a comment thread is not the best place. 1) Religion is supposed to be authoritarian. What G-d says, goes. Period. That is the basis for religion. If G-d doesn't set the rules, then is it a religion of G-d worship, or self-worship? Judaism actually does a wonderful job of reconciling that with a democratic halachic process which is too complex to deal with here.
    – HodofHod
    Jan 13, 2012 at 16:06
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    @userunknown. Continued. 2) Judaism is actually one of the most free religions I've heard of. It's the only one I know of that says non-members have a place in the world to come, and that does not punish sins committed in ignorance. Hence, those 64 Jews are blameless. I don't see how that's "unfree", especially relative to other religions where they would be considered sinners and deserving of punishment.
    – HodofHod
    Jan 13, 2012 at 16:06
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    @userunknown. Continued. 3) Saying "imho" does not make an arrogant statement humble. Calling a central principle of one of the worlds oldest and most influential religions "absurd" on the basis of one SE answer, is foolish and yes, not humble. A little more research into the topic would be proper.
    – HodofHod
    Jan 13, 2012 at 16:12

A person is a Jew if their mother is a Jew. If a jewish woman marries out of the faith and did not bring up her children as Jews they are still Jewish, even if they do not know it or practice it. And then her daughters children remain Jewish and at this point most likely they have no idea what it means to be a Jew.

  • For me, a person who decides not to be a Jew is no Jew. Jan 13, 2012 at 9:06
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    @userunknown, a person who decides not to be a Jew is a sinning Jew. We hold out hope that he will come back someday, and his halachic status as a Jew is not changed by how he feels about it. Dec 13, 2012 at 16:18

In totalitarian regimes wives would not tell their husbands they are Jewish. There is plenty of people who are Jewish (in maternal line) and do not know it today. Also, it was far more common for Jews to become (forced) Christians than otherwise. I have a bit of 'Jewish DNA' and found very very distant cousins among New Mexico conversos/'marranos' descendants and in other places. With very slight probability I could be born Jewish, and if I wear a cross, then I could offend someone. G-d only knows what is hidden in us. DNA can tell both maternal line and paternal line descent, but, unless one is extremely lucky, it can only tell approximate geographical area of origin, with no meaning for the Jewish faith. By the way, every Jew has sincere (otherwise they would not upbring Jewish children) converts 'blood' to various degrees, making it more difficult to track 'legitimate' Jews based on genetics only - it is practically impossible.

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