An open letter to “The Initiative Facilitating team” – facilitating Jewish unity from Israel

“The Initiative Facilitating Team” is a group of people who are in charge of a new project by Israeli Government (Benjamin Netanyahu) and Jewish Agency for Israel (Natan Sharansky) aimed at strengthening Israel-oriented Jewish identity in all countries where Jews live.

Dear “The Initiative Facilitating Team”,

In order to facilitate and strengthen Israel-oriented Jewish identity we have to have a concept of such identity agreed upon by a great Jewish majority in all countries with visible Jewish presence and of all Jewish spiritual beliefs – orthodox, conservative, reform, and atheist. Right now there is no such agreed upon concept, and without it your great and very necessary initiative may become another money-consuming bureaucratic effort.

To prevent failure, we have to create a Jewish-identity concept and we may begin with setting up a website where all interested, and I hope we have many of them, may present their thoughts on Jewish identity for deliberations.

The problem is that the existing traditional identifiers – by rituals of faith, by ancestry, by birth to Jewish family, by culture – don’t identify all Jews as one spiritual entity. Indeed,

all Jews cannot be identified by rituals of Jewish faith – each Jewish spiritual stream has its own dissimilar rituals;

all Jews cannot be identified by the fact that their ancestors came from the Holy Land – most of the ancestral Jews were born in Europe;

all Jews cannot be identified by the fact of being born to a complete Jewish family – some Jews were born to Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, some were born to non-Jewish fathers and Jewish mothers;

and all Jews cannot be identified by culture – in the Judeo-Christian countries of the Western World the predominant culture of the Jews is the culture of a residence country.

Below are some quotes from various sources in support of this statement.

From “Who Is A Jew?” at

“The Jewish movements have different interpretations of theTorah, which lead to differentrituals, spiritual practices and beliefs. The diversity of beliefs and practices has led to different definitions of “Who is a Jew.” This question is not just philosophical, it has political and legal ramifications. In Israel, questions of Jewishness have implications for immigration, conversion, marriage, divorce and the allocation of government money.”

If it is so, the rituals, spiritual practices and beliefs cannot be a Jewish identifier.

From “Genetic Roots of the Ashkenazi Jews” at

“While the Jewish religion began in the Near East, and the Ashkenazi Jews were believed to have origins in the early indigenous tribes of this region, new evidence from mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on exclusively from mother to child, suggests that female ancestors of most modern Ashkenazi Jews converted to Judaism in the north Mediterranean around 2,000 years ago and later in west and central Europe. …

To further investigate the matrilineal lines of the Ashkenazi Jews, Richards and colleagues looked at mitochondrial genome sequences in living Jews and non-Jews from the Near East, Europe, and the Caucasus. Based on the results, the team concluded that, in contrast to the evidence for many Ashkenazi males, whose Y chromosomal DNA suggests a likely origin in the Near East, the female lineage of Ashkenazi Jews have substantial ancestry in Europe. Specifically, the researchers found that the four main Ashkenazi founder mitochondrial types were nested within European mitochondrial lineages, not Near Eastern ones, and an analysis of more minor haplogroups indicated that an additional 40 percent of mitochondrial variation found in Ashkenazi Jews’ mitochondrial DNA was likely of European origin. …

Historical evidence indicates that Jewish communities began to spread into Europe during classical antiquity and migrated north during the first millennium CE, arriving in the Rhineland by the 12th century. Local European women could have begun to join the Jewish population around 2,000 years ago or earlier, Richards and colleagues suggest, and the Ashkenazis may have continued to recruit additional women as they headed north.”

Thus, because most of the contemporary Jews originated from non-Jewish females in Europe, the female lineage from the Holy Land cannot be a Jewish identifier.

From “Religion matters: Beware the American ‘cultural Jew’” at

“When being culturally ‘Jew-ish’ in America means little more than lox and bagels and a vague duty to repair the world, Israel should also be worried. …

When American Jews say “I’m a cultural Jew” they tend to mean they like to pepper their speech with Yiddish words and expressions (often used incorrectly) and they have a fondness for lox and bagels. The attitudes and behaviors of Pew’s “Jews of no religion” are not the building blocks of a thick culture. Their attitudes and beliefs warrant no urgency to perpetuate them for future generations (indeed two-thirds of these Jews are not raising their children as Jews), nor do they embody any personal responsibility for or obligation to the Jewish people. A thick Jewish culture is rooted in language, literature and holidays, all derived from and in relationship with Jewish religion. Cultural elements such as these express the kinds of values that matter enough to want to see them perpetuated.”

Thus the culture is not a major American (and non-American) Jewish identifier – in Judeo-Christian countries, and most of the Jews are living in those countries, a dominant Jewish culture is a country’s culture.

So we have to looks for other identifiers, and many researchers including myself are looking for this identifier in a major Torah concept of the humans created in the “image and likeness of God”.

From “What ‘Made in the Image of God’ Really Means” at

“All our lives we’ve heard that we’re “made in the image of God.” It’s a nice thought, and probably one we’ve clung to when we need a reminder of our own value. But have you ever stopped to think about what it really means? ” …

Our confusion about whether or not we are God arises from our godlikeness. It’s described in the first chapter of the Bible. Genesis 1:26-27 reveals, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” 

… the truth about you is that you are creative because God is creative: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). 

… truth about you is that you are spiritual because God is Spirit: “The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2). 

… truth about you is that you are morally responsible because God is a moral being. “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17). 

All those characteristics of “image and likeness of God” are excellent individual identifiers for various unique human groups: the unique humans groups have to be creative in their own unique ways and their unique creative efforts should be aimed at building a better world for all peoples.

The Jewish people are uniquely identified among other human groups by their unique Torah-based design of a better world.

This design is being realized in Judeo-Christian countries of true democracies. The core of this design is preservation and further expansion of individual freedoms – after the Egypt’s slavery we don’t want anybody to be enslaved physically or intellectually (any authoritative government enslaves intellectually its citizens) contrary to other non-Jewish designs which are stressing a uniformed behavior for everybody (that means an intellectual slavery).

The Jewish design has been implemented, and continues to be advanced, in the Judeo-Christian countries of the Western world.

How do we know that it is a Jewish design? We know it since the major elements of a better world in the Judeo-Christian countries have been created or heavily influenced by Jewish individuals. The Jewish individuals have helped tailor the Ten Commandments to social, cultural, political and economic institutions of Judeo-Christian countries. The Jewish individuals have been doing all that instinctively – probably without thinking of the Ten Commandments. A disproportionally high share of Jewish individuals among the Nobel-prize winners is contemporary evidence to this. And now the state of Israel has to lead and be an example in creating a better world for everybody.

Dear “The Initiative Facilitating Team”, please setup an internet forum where all truly interested may try to reach an agreement on Israel-oriented Jewish identification which would strengthen the common Jewish identity in the state of Israel and in the Jewish communities everywhere.

About the Author
Vladimir Minkov graduated from the Naval Engineering Academy in the former Soviet Union, served in the Soviet Navy and there received his Ph.D. At the end of 1970s he immigrated to America where democracy and the Judeo-Christian spirituality of this country made it possible for him to actively defend both his scientific and spiritual ideas. In the USA he has found the place for his scientific public work in the spiritual realm of One God and Torah.