You are currently viewing You Just Found Out You’re Jewish – 3 Things You Need to Consider

You Just Found Out You’re Jewish – 3 Things You Need to Consider

In an unexpected plot twist to your life, you just found out you are Jewish. You may or may not already realize that in the twenty-first century this has become quite common. For several reasons, more people now than ever before are discovering their lost Jewish heritage:

  • 3 generations after the Holocaust, many survivors are revealing secrets they never told their children and grandchildren, and Jewish identities are finally coming out of the shadows.
  • Because of the internet, people who were adopted, put into foster care or otherwise estranged from their birth parents have more resources available to them for tracing their family tree.
  • Because of DNA testing, individuals are now able to get answers to the missing pieces of their ancestry that would have otherwise been lost forever.

Whatever your unique story is, you now have a new facet of your own identity to wrestle with, which is very appropriate since Israel literally means “to wrestle with God.” Welcome to the struggle!

Here are 3 things to consider as you wrestle with what it means to have Jewish ancestry:

1. Who is a Jew?

The definition of a Jew is highly contested within the Jewish community itself and continues to evolve over the millennia. 

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the children of Israel (the Jewish people) are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jacob’s twelve sons who came to be known as the tribes of Israel. Tribal identity was passed on through a child’s father.

Today, for a variety of reasons, Rabbinic Judaism is matrilineal. Any child of a Jewish woman is automatically considered a Jew by the religious Jewish community. The Israeli government has also affirmed this definition.

The widely accepted understanding in the Jewish community concerning individuals with Jewish ancestry, but not a Jewish mother, is that they are the “seed of Israel.” The seed of Israel is a term in Jewish law (called halakhah) applying to anyone with a non-Jewish mother but a Jewish father, or one Jewish grandparent that is not a direct line from grandmother to mother. Millions of Jews have immigrated to Israel under the “Law of Return,” which grants Israeli citizenship to the descendants of Jews, the seed of Israel.

2. Being Jewish is more than a heritage; it’s an experience.

Whatever source your Jewish ancestry comes from, you have an undeniable right to claim that as a part of who you are. But when someone says, “I’m Jewish,” they often mean a lot more than just their lineage; they mean the experience they have had of being part of a unique and often marginalized people.

If you recently discovered you are of Jewish background, and you want to unpack what that means, take the time and intentionality to engage in the Jewish experience. Here are some opportunities you might want to consider:

  • Read: The most influential book of all time, the Bible, was written by Jews. If you’ve already read that one, a great place to turn next is with a reading list. There are many Jewish book lists to be found online, as well as print and digital publications.
  • Meet: Go out of your way to connect with other Jewish people. Ask them what types of classic Jewish experiences they would recommend to you, and ask them what being Jewish means for their own lives.
  • Visit: Holocaust museums and memorials can be found in 33 different countries. Even if you have been to one before, you may view it with different eyes now that you have a more personal connection to the Jewish people. 

3. Rediscover the Jewish Jesus

Ironically and sadly, most Jewish and non-Jewish people have never really considered Yeshua (Jesus), the greatest Jew who ever lived.  Many Jewish people write him off simply as being “the God of the gentiles.” If you’ve grown up in a non-Jewish community, and if your upbringing included going to church, then there’s a good chance that the only Jesus you’ve ever encountered is a Jesus very much removed from his Jewish heritage and mission.

Jesus the man was born of a Jewish woman, Miriam (Mary), in the Jewish city of Bethlehem. He followed Jewish law and the Jewish traditions of his day all his life. As a teacher, he gathered a large following of Jewish people from every walk of life in ancient Israel, and he selected twelve individuals to be his special messengers or “apostles,” all of whom were Jewish. And what about his mission?

That was distinctly Jewish as well.  He claimed to be the Jewish Messiah, promised to us in the writings of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. One very significant messianic passage from the book of the prophet Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would die as the payment for his people’s sins, rise from the dead, and restore us to a correct relationship with the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.  Seven hundred years before Jesus walked the earth, the prophet Isaiah wrote:

He was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities…He poured out his soul unto death and made intercession for the transgressors

Those of us who are Jewish followers of Yeshua believe that the most Jewish thing we can do is believe in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, and the Savior of the nations.  

Want to know more about what it means to be Jewish and what it means to be a follower of Jesus, the greatest Jew who ever lived? Contact us. We’d love to tell you more

Leave a Reply