A Jew refers to any person born by a Jewish mother or one who has passed through the formal conversion process. Generally, being a Jew does not have anything to do with what a person does or believes. A person born by parents who are not Jewish parents and believes in everything that an Orthodox Jew believes, as well as, observes all Judaism laws and customs, but has not gone through the formal process of conversion is still a non-Jew (Elazar). In addition, a person born to a Jewish mother who is an atheist and does not exercise the Jewish religion is considered a Jew, even by the ultra-Orthodox. Judaism in this sense is, therefore, like a nationality than like a religion.
The Judaism religion is a set of ideas concerning the world and the way of living (NSW Board). The religion is studied among other religious studies courses and is taught in Hebrew schools to Jewish children. The belief in the Judaism religion has a lot of flexibility and a lot of disagreement concerning the specifics. However, many of the Jews are known to have no belief in the Judaism religion at all. About 50% of the Jews in the US do not belong to any synagogue. Although they may be involved in some of the Judaism rituals and holidays, they do not term these actions as religious, related activities. However, these people are still considered Jews by most of the liberal Jews as well as the traditional Jews, irrespective of their disbelief. This clearly shows that there is more in being Jewish than just being in religion.
In America, many of the secular American Jews consider their Jewish status as a matter of ethnicity or culture. When these people think of the Jewish culture, the main aspect that is considered is the food, some limited holiday observances, the Yiddish language, and the cultural values such as the emphasis on education. These aspects differ from the aspects held by the Jewish followers. Many Jews do share common traits making them feel comfortable around other Jews. However, people who do not share the same culture aspects are not lesser Jews than those who share the aspects (Rich). Therefore, being Jewish does not define belonging to a certain religion, cultural, or ethnic identity.
Elazar, Daniel J. Jewish Religious, Ethnic, and National Identities: Convergences and Conflicts. 2012. 5 October 2012.
NSW Board. Jewish Identity. 2012. 5 October 2012.
Rich, Tracey R. What Is Judaism? 2011. 5 October 2012.