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August Lazarev
August Lazarev

All Of My Ancestors Were Jews

Geneticists such as David Goldstein, formerly of University College London and now of Duke University in the United States, have argued that the Ashkenazi communities of central and northern Europe were established by Jewish men who migrated from the Middle East, perhaps as traders, and married women from local populations who converted to Judaism.

All of my ancestors were Jews

Some of my relatives knew our secret, others refused to see, and some were kept in the dark for years. Me, on the other hand, decided that it was time to come out of the darkness and live as my true self, like the Jew I always was.

My family lived in times when they had to conceal their religious identity to survive. They lived discreetly, keeping Jewish practices that would have put them in danger had they been discovered. They risked expropriation of assets, jail, torture, and even death. My ancestors overcame many obstacles, oppression, fear, and betrayals from their friends and family. But they persevered, and they did it with dignity, bravery, and the determination to keep alive our Jewish heritage. Our legacy. Our Jewishness.

Originating in the area bounded by Mesopotamia in the east and Egypt in the west, Judaism is one of the oldest religions on earth. Their neighbours, Sumerians, Canaanites, and Egyptians all worshipped many gods but the Jews were convinced that there is but one God. In contrast to many of the gods worshipped by surrounding peoples, the Jewish God is just, righteous and loving, and demands moral behaviour from his people (Palmer et al.).

The Sephardim typically used regular surnames which is a genealogical blessing. By this date there were also Ashkenazi Jews in England; they were originally from the Rhine Valley in Germany, but had subsequently settled in Poland, the Baltic States and Russia. Their native language was Yiddish, a form of German written in Hebrew characters, and some were skilled craftsmen but most were labourers. They opened their first synagogue in 1690 in Duke Street, London. More Ashkenazi Jews arrived in the 18th century so by 1800 there were approximately 23,000. Thousands more came in the 19th century following persecutions in central eastern Europe as well as Russia. Many were desperately poor when they arrived having been stripped of their possessions in Germany, Poland, Russia and other Eastern European lands. Their educational levels, however, were generally well above the English poor of the time

To a greater extent than other immigrants Jews have remained within their own self-supporting communities, tied by language, religion and tradition. They have always been hardworking and resourceful and most have thus prospered, even though the original immigrants may have arrived penniless. Although there are many exceptions, the majority of present-day British Jewish families have only been in Britain for four or five generations and are Ashkenazim. This has the advantage that fairly modern records of their origin were probably kept, and thus research can proceed in those countries with the help of Latter-day Saint resources.

Although most Jews settled at first in London, there were several other early nuclei of Jewry, for example in Bristol, Canterbury, Chatham and Falmouth, and histories are available (Roth). The records of Kentish Jews are summarized by Webster. Wenzerul includes a bibliography of Jewish histories in these specific places: Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Canterbury, Cheltenham, Cornwall, Falmouth, Gateshead, Glasgow, Grimsby, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Northampton, Nottingham, Oxford, Portsmouth, Scotland, Sheffield, South West England, Sunderland, Twickenham and Wales.[1]

The Jews kept meticulous records, were very reluctant to part with them, and were not requested to deposit them by the Registrar General in the mid-19th century, thus they remain with the Jewish community. They may be at synagogues, Jewish institutions, or Jewish cemeteries and burial societies. Some have been deposited into the care of local or county archives and much has been microfilmed, to be found under FamilySearch Catalog - COUNTRY - (COUNTY) - (TOWN) - JEWISH RECORDS, not under CHURCH RECORDS. The Exchequer Court of the Jews contains the early records of taxes for Jews and civil litigation between Jews and Christians. Many of their records have been transcribed and published by the Jewish Historical Society of England and are in the FamilySearch Library, for example the Calendar of the Plea Rolls 1218-1272 in FS Library book 942 B4j.

These ceremonies of achievement of puberty and responsible behaviour were the Bar Mitzvah for a boy which took place on the Saturday closest to his 13th birthday, and the Bat Mitzvah for a girl at age 12.

The term "Jew" lends itself to several definitions beyond simply denoting one who practices Judaism. The historical Israelites and/or Hebrews, who promulgated Judaism, were not simply a homogeneous assemblage united by a common ideology, that being the Jewish religion; they constituted an ethnoreligious group from whom a majority of modern Jews directly descend,[3][4][5][6][7] and therefore an ethnic form of Jewish identity exists alongside the religious form of Jewish identity. As such, the concepts of Jewish ethnicity, nationhood, and religion are strongly interrelated,[8][9] however, through conversion, it is possible for one who has no historical connection to the historical Jewish population to become a Jew, in that sense.

Reform Judaism recognizes a child as being Jewish if either parent is Jewish and the child is being raised Jewish. Voices within the Reform movement say that the law, which changed to matriarchal around 2,000 years ago (originally in the Torah the offspring was determined by patriarchal descent) and was based on the tragic circumstances the Jewish people were facing, was once helpful but is no longer relevant.

During the Middle Ages there was no need to ask the question "who is a Jew?", because the difference between the Jewish and the non-Jewish community was clear to both sides.[77][78] For example, a person born to a Jewish family was Jewish, marriages between Jews and non-Jews were not allowed, and the only way to leave the Jewish identity was through not only leaving the religion, but also cutting all ties to the Jewish community, including family and friends. To Medieval Jews the most essential difference between them and others was not about faith but about the peoplehood, to which their religious community was tied into, and they called themselves "Israel".[77]

As the emancipation for Jews in Europe became relevant,[77] the ideology of nationalism started rising[79] and in parts of the Western Europe religion became more clearly separated from ethnicity,[78] the question of what kind of a group the Jews were, religious, cultural, racial, national or something else, became discussed more. Due to emancipation, Jews were expected to assimilate into European nations. Religious difference was tolerated better than ethnic,[80] and Jews were now sometimes defined just as a religious group, e.g. Jews in Germany were defined as Germans who practice "Mosaic faith".[79][80] Jews themselves were usually not happy with this definition.[80] Yet, as seeking for equal civil rights and to prove that Jews can be a part of Western civilizations as well, some Central European Jews started highlighting their identity more as a religious group, with some rejecting ethnic definitions of Jewishness completely and some consciously getting rid of their "oriental" habits.[81] Many Jews however, especially in Eastern Europe, criticized Western Jews for losing their Jewishness.[82] Still, simultaneously, the concept of "Semitic race", which included the Jews, was coined. This also lead to pseudoscientific ideas of Jews being racially inferior to "Aryans".[83] Later the Holocaust caused some more Jews to avoid attaching ethnic or racial elements to being Jewish.[84][85] In the former Soviet Union, "Jewish" was a nationality by law, as with other nationalities such as Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians and others,[86] and Soviet Jews themselves had a strong sense of ethnic Jewishness ("Yiddishkeit") which would have separated them from surrounding ethnic groups.[87] There were certain restrictions on their civil liberties in the early years of the Soviet Union.[86]

Current Israeli definitions specifically exclude Jews who have openly and knowingly converted to or were raised in a faith other than Judaism, including Messianic Judaism. This definition is not the same as that in traditional Jewish law; in some respects it is deliberately wider, so as to include those non-Jewish relatives of Jews who may have been perceived to be Jewish, and thus faced antisemitism.

During the time of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, conversion to Roman Catholicism did not result in total termination of the person's Jewish status. Legally, the converts were no longer regarded as Jews and thus allowed to stay in the Iberian Peninsula. During the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal, however, many Jews were forced to convert, but thereafter were regarded by many people, though not in a legal form, as New Christians, distinguishing them as separate from the Old Christians of non-Jewish lineage. Since legal, political, religious and social pressure pushed many people to untrue conversions (public behaviour as Christians while retaining some Jewish beliefs and practices privately, a kind of crypto-Judaism),[c] they were still treated with suspicion, a stigma sometimes carried for several generations by their identifiable descendants.The limpieza de sangre ("Cleanliness of blood") required public officials or candidates for membership of many organizations to prove that they did not have Jewish or Muslim ancestry.

The Nazi regime instituted laws which discriminated against Jews, declared a race by the Nazis, and thus needed a working definition of who is a Jew as to its law-defined race system. These definitions almost completely categorised persons through the religions followed by each individual's ancestors, according to membership registries. Thus, personal faith or individual observance, as well as the religious definitions of Judaism as given by the Halacha, were mostly ignored. 041b061a72


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