Before she died my grandmother always maintained that her mother’s parents were Jewish. For various reasons nobody ever gave it much credence and the idea up to recently had died with her. Now, though, one of my aunts has gotten into genealogy and found the paper trail she believes proves it.
My argument is simple: No, we’re not. Our family is poor white trash. That is our culture. We celebrate the popular Christian holidays. We don’t observe any Sabbath. Our dialect shows no more Yiddish or Hebrew influence than any other local family’s. While we may have a possibly Jewish ancestor or two somewhere way back in the misty past that doesn’t make us so any more than our about as recent black ancestry makes us black.
Hers is that none of that matters. She firmly believes that, just because she has some documents allegedly proving her mom’s mom’s parents might have been immigrants from a stereotypically Jewish area somewhere in Russia, that automatically makes her Jewish. And not only that but she goes further in claiming that all of her kids are Jewish too, along with my mother and other aunt and their kids. Because somehow a line of daughters takes precedence over everything else.
So… Who’s right? Are a few records, a DNA test, and a family tree really enough to make this claim? Or does it take more than a couple ancestors somewhere last century to determine ethnos?