On Jewishness


The question “What is a Jew?” is asked in various places throughout the internet and unless the answer was formulated by a particularly weak Reformist, I do not qualify as Jewish.


Let’s survey the facts:

  • I have studied at a Yeshiva.
  • I have had my cook taught how to make tahini-laced hoummous, latkesmujadara and knishes.
  • My mother’s father, Srimaan Thomas Thekethil Mathew Ethrayum Bahumanapetta, was Jewish according to Jewish law, which is to say his maternal line would lead back to the Jews of Biblical times (in theory). His paternal line probably would too but that’s irrelevant. He was a Christian and a member of one of the most ancient Christian communities, the Nasrani of Kerala. “Nasrani” itself means “Nazarene” or “of Nazareth” as in “Jesus of Nazareth”. DNA testing recently proved their ancient claim of being Jews is true. Their church services are conducted partially in Aramaic and they keep some Jewish customs.
  • I use Yiddish words and expressions every day.
  • Christianity is meaningless if Jesus was not the prophesied Jewish Messiah. According to Christian thought, Jews are the ones deviating from the religion of Noah (by not recognising the Mashiach), not us. Consequently, it is supposed that we are the real Jews, not them. This is an awkward argument to fault theologically, but it is sufficiently offensive that I am not inclined to make it a significant part of my claim.
  • I read a lot of Jewish websites.
  • None of those things actually make me a Jew.


There is something known as a “Jewish soul”, which is a term used in different ways by different people. It’s not for me to say if I qualify under those criteria, but I would like to think I do. Should I find myself beheaded at some point, let it be known that I identified as a Jew and had the greatest sympathy for Daniel Pearl.