Is Claudia Sheinbaum Jewish? – OpEd


When Claudia Sheinbaum swept to victory in Mexico’s presidential election, she gave the country of more than 120 million people a woman leader and a Jewish leader for the first time.  The former mayor of Mexico City, Sheinbaum’s election makes Mexico by far the biggest country to have a Jewish head of state. 

Only Israel (9.5 million) and Ukraine (38 million) currently have Jewish leaders. But President Javier Milei of Argentina has increasingly shown public interest in Judaism and even expressed intentions to convert to Judaism. 

Sheinbaum, 61, had Jewish grandparents who immigrated from Lithuania and Jewish grandparents who left Bulgaria to escape the Holocaust. Like her parents she is not religious but she has never become something else. 

Some people question her Jewishness. Local Jews say she is not involved in Mexico’s Jewish community. Yet she does not identify as a Catholic or any other religion and she faced some antisemitism on the campaign trail when her detractors characterized her as not fully Mexican.

So what makes a person Jewish? Although Jewish people usually, but not always, share a common gene pool, they are not a race because any non-Jew who converts to Judaism will be recognized as being Jewish by all those rabbis who share a commitment to the same denomination of Judaism as the rabbi who did the conversion. 

For example, a few years ago a Korean American woman, Angela Buchdahl, was named Senior Rabbi of Manhattan’s Central Synagogue. She is the first Asian-American senior rabbi of one of North America’s largest (2,400 families) Reform synagogues.

Born in South Korea in 1972, Rabbi Buchdahl, and Chinese American Reform Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin, rabbi of Temple Sinai in Oakland, California. exemplify the new, ethnically and racially diverse face of the worldwide Jewish community, which now includes between 300-500,000 non-Jews who have become Jewish – formally by conversion or informally by acculturation into the Jewish people and its culture.

Orthodox Rabbis would not accept these two Reform Rabbis because (1) they do not want to accept any Jewish woman as a Rabbi, (2) they do not want to accept any Reform Rabbis as Rabbis, and (3) because they do not want to accept Reform converts to Judaism in general. They only want to maintain a monopolistic control over Judaism.

When it comes to Jews who are non-religious or even anti-religious, they are considered secular or cultural Jews, unless they are converts to another religion. Orthodox Jewish law still considers even apostates to be Jewish because for over fifteen centuries Jews were frequently subjected to persecutions and forced conversions, which meant that thousands of Jews who were baptized still believed in the One God of Israel. 

What might be considered the Jewish Nation? Like most nations, Jews have a national language, a shared history, which is much longer than most nations, and a style of cooking and thinking that is as distinctive as that of many other nations. 

What they have lacked for most of their 4,000 year history is an independent State in one geographical area. However, states come and go (Yugoslavia) and go and come (Poland and Israel) so having a state is not the most important aspect of being a nation. 

More important is that the majority of Jews do not view “Jews for Jesus” or Messianic Jews as belonging to the Jewish community. 

The answer to the question of ‘what are Jews?’ is that since Judaism and the Jewish People are so deeply intertwined they cannot and should not be separated. Individual Jews act in all kinds of ways, but the historical community is a blend of Jews: by birth (genes), belief, behavior and belonging (including converts to Judaism).

New genetic studies show how over the centuries many non-Jews have entered the Jewish community and many Jews have, voluntarily or not, left the Jewish community. Today we can answer the complex question: are all present day Jews really the biological descendants of the Jews who inhabited the Land of Israel 3,000 years ago? The answer is: Yes and No.

Genetic analysis does support the historical record of Middle Eastern Jews settling in North Africa during Classical Antiquity, actively proselytizing and marrying into the local populations, and, in the process, forming distinct populations that stayed largely intact for more than 2,000 years. 

The study, led by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, states: “Our new findings define North African Jews, and enhance the case for a biological basis for Jewishness” However, as anyone who has been to present day Israel knows, Jews come in many different shades and looks because even in the diaspora, and even against the will of the ruling religious authorities, Jews quietly welcomed converts into the Jewish community. 

Conversion to Judaism in Europe was outlawed for over 12 centuries; and converts to Judaism were always in great danger.

For example, Count Valentine Potocki, a young Polish nobleman went to Paris to finish his education, There he met a Jewish teacher and asked him to teach him Hebrew. After some time Potocki decided to become Jewish and went to Amsterdam where it was safer to convert to Judaism. Later he and his family went to Israel.  But Potoki became homesick and took the dangerous step of returning to Poland. 

He settled in the Vilna district of Belarus posing as a born Jew and spent all his time studying Torah. When the police found out he was a convert he was arrested and sent to Vilna where the bishop tried to save his soul with reason, followed by torture, and then by being burned alive in the center of Vilna in 1749.

The rabbinical rule that one should not refer to any Jew’s convert status is evidence of the desire of Jewish leaders to keep proselytizing and conversion activities secret from the ruling religious authorities.

Now genetic analysis showed that modern-day Sephardic (Greek and Turkish), Ashkenazi  (Eastern European) and Mizrahi (Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian) Jews that originated in Europe and the Middle East are more related to each other than to their contemporary non-Jewish neighbors, with each group forming its own cluster within the larger Jewish population.

Further, each of the four geographical groups’ genes demonstrated Middle-Eastern ancestry, plus varying degrees of inclusion of converts to Judaism from the surrounding populations. This is true even though two of the major Jewish populations — Middle Eastern and European Jews — were found to have diverged from each other approximately 2,500 years ago.

The current study which extended the analysis to North African Jews, the second largest Jewish Diaspora group, found that they also were more related to each other than to their contemporary non-Jewish North African neighbors. 

The current study also included members of Jewish communities in Ethiopia, Yemen and Georgia. In all, the researchers analyzed the genetic make-up of 509 Jews from 15 populations along with genetic data on 114 individuals from seven North African non-Jewish populations. 

North African Jews exhibited a high degree of endogamy, or marriage within their own religious group in accordance with Jewish custom. Ethiopian and Yemenite Jewish populations also formed distinctive genetically linked clusters, as did Georgian Jews. 

Yet some converts to Judaism, and their genes, have always entered the Jewish gene pool. In the west today, many converts to Judaism are descendants of ex-Jews in previous generations who are now returning to the Jewish People, and bringing many non-Jewish genes with them. 

This unusual form of religious conversion, as a result of reincarnation, is a special aspect of Kabbalah: the Jewish mystical tradition. Unlike Buddhism and Hinduism, Kabbalah does not teach that reincarnation (gilgul) occurs over the course of millions of years to millions of different sentient species. 

According to Kabbalah, only the souls of self-conscious moral creatures like human beings reincarnate; and they reincarnate only when they have not fulfilled the purpose of their creation. 
Since Judaism is an optimistic religion, most Kabbalists teach that most people can accomplish their life’s purpose in one or two lifetimes. 

A few souls may take 3-5 lifetimes or more. The bright souls of great religious figures like Moses or Miriam can turn into dozens of sparks that can reincarnate several times. 

The souls of Jews whose children have been cut off from the Jewish people, either through persecution or conversion to another religion, will reincarnate as one of their own no longer Jewish descendants. 

These descendant souls will seek to return to the Jewish people. A majority of people who end up converting (or reverting) to Judaism and the Jewish people, have Jewish souls from one of their own ancestors. However, their genes are mostly from their non-Jewish ancestors. 

So can Jews be part of a Nation, and a Religion, and a Race? Yes they can; and most Jews are all three.     

One thought on “Is Claudia Sheinbaum Jewish? – OpEd

  • June 10, 2024 at 7:30 pm

    Anti-Semitism is bad ; Jewish Supremacism and Zionist imperialism is bad also.

    Free Palestine !


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