If being raised within Jewish culture constitutes as being ethnically Jewish, then what would you call someone who is genetically Jewish? Would there be any differentiation between the two?
Someone who’s genetically/biologically Jewish but wasn’t raised culture/ethnicity and this is somehow relevant to the story is what you just described: genetically or biologically Jewish. Yes, there’s a difference.
Take me. I’m Sephardi — biologically, ethnically, religiously. Why I identify as Sephardi is irrelevant, as long as it’s a legitimate claim. I’m also genetically Amazigh — I do have Amazigh ancestors way far back, but wasn’t raised as a part of the community or knowing anything about Imazighen (so, forget ethnically, and since Imazighen are not an ethnoreligious group, cross the religiously part; most Imazighen nowadays are Muslim if I recall correctly).
The fact that I do have Amazigh ancestry does not mean that I can barge in and claim the culture for myself — it’s not like it’s a close by ancestry such as a grandparent. There are boundaries: for all purposes and effects I’m an outsider. I’ve never gone through anti-Amazigh sentiment/racism; I don’t know what’s to grow up or even be involved at all with the culture, I have no idea of their struggle, or their joys. So how can I come in and just start taking a space that isn’t mine? (Answer is: I can’t!)
It’d be unacceptable for me to do that, and offensive and disrespectful of Imazighen. I recently made an Amazigh friend who was born and raised in Morocco, and we were talking exactly about that a month ago, and her opinion is the same as mine: I’m Jewish, and that’s it. Just like she has some Jewish blood from way far back, but isn’t Jewish, she’s an Amazigh Muslim.
It doesn’t mean that we can’t remember our ancestors and where they came from. But there are boundaries that we all must respect.
And then there’s my friend Alexis (hi @agnellina!). She’s Ashkenazi — ethnically, religiously. She wasn’t conceived in a Jewish womb, but she was born to a Jewish family who chose to welcome her in their family after her biological mother gave birth to her. Biologically she is Western European. She was raised Jewish. And guess what? Unsurprisingly, she goes through a ton of antisemitism (because she’s Jewish!). And some people think that’s okay, because ~she isn’t Jewish anyway~. (I’m still upset at finding out someone called her a “white girl who wants to be oppressed so bad.”)
“Genetically” and “ethnically” are not the same — it does not by any means mean that one is lesser than the other. (And I have a major issue with people who do use the terms to divide us and demean some.)
The issue that I have with the implications of the genetical/biological part is that it’s (or should be) absolutely irrelevant if one is part of a community. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. There should never be such a thing as a “lesser than” Jew (i.e. one whose identity is seen as less legitimate or just overall “less than” others).
But when the person is not part of the community and does not wish to be, this is used to silence Jews who do know what’s like being Jewish. Which is a problem. Just like a few paragraphs above I said that I can’t just barge in an Amazigh community and start talking over Imazighen, people with long lost ancestry and no connection to Judaism can’t do this to Jews either. There are boundaries to be respected.
But since we are an ethnoreligious group, one can make this connection at virtually any point by officially joining or re-joining the Jewish people. And they’re welcome to do so.