The Amish are a widely-known group of religious fundamentalists primarily headquartered in North America.
Even so, little is known about them outside their communities, especially to those who don’t live around them in their everyday lives.
One of the few things that is known about the Amish is their iconic dress. They wear almost exclusively black and white, men wear hats, men grow beards, and women wear coverings.
This is similar to how another well-known (but often little-understood) religious group dresses as well — Orthodox Jews.
As a result, it’s common for people unfamiliar with the Amish to wonder who they are and what they believe.
This is why so many people want to know: Are the Amish Jewish?
We’ll answer that question (and several others) in this blog.
Are the Amish Also Jewish?
The short answer is no. The Amish are Christians. More specifically, they belong to the Anabaptist sect of Christianity.
Amish are much more closely related to Mennonites than any other religious group.
That answer is simple enough. But now that we know it, it’s important to ask a follow-up.
Why is it so common for people to think the Amish practice Judaism?
Why Do People Think the Amish Are Jewish?
So if the Amish aren’t Jewish, then why would someone think they are?
There are a handful of reasons.
1. General Lack of Knowledge
Because there’s so little known about the Amish outside of popular culture — which often misrepresents them anyway — it’s common for most people to know little about the Amish way of life.
This lack of knowledge is probably the biggest reason that people wonder about them. Very little is even written about them on the national or global stage, so finding reliable information can also be challenging.
After all, if you don’t know anything about a group of people, you’re going to wonder about them a lot. That curiosity might not have a direction, so it could lead to any number of different questions.
We’re not badmouthing it — this phenomenon is the main reason that this website exists.
However, there are other possible answers to this question that are more compelling.
2. Aesthetic Similarities
We mentioned this earlier, but the general dress of both Amish and Orthodox Jews looks somewhat similar, especially if you’re not familiar with the practices of either group.
From a color standpoint, there’s a lot of black. This could be for a variety of reasons in either faith’s belief system, but both groups express those beliefs in a similar way. This common use of black in personal dress could be the biggest reason why so many wonder about the relationship between the Amish and Jews.
In addition to that, the men of both faiths tend to sport iconic hairstyles. Amish men have their signature beard without a mustache, and Orthodox men have the payot (the Hebrew term for sidelocks and sideburns).
These two styles of hair are not the same decision, but the fact that they exist could potentially make someone think that they’re similar enough to indicate that the practitioners are related as well.
Next, both groups also frequently use black rimmed hats for a variety of practices. In both cultures, this is a form of formalwear that’s practiced by men exclusively. However, the hats often look very similar unless the Amish person in question belongs to a community that wears rattan-colored hats.
With all of these elements combined, the general aesthetic of Amish and Orthodox men are topically similar, though they differ widely in their actual practices and beliefs.
Still, if someone were unfamiliar with either culture (or both), then they could be forgiven for thinking they’re related — or even mistaking one for the other.
3. Cultural Reputations
Finally, the Amish and Orthodox Jews both have cultural reputations for being fundamentalist religious groups that structure their entire lives around their belief systems.
They’re the “diehards” of their respective faiths, and they take their faith as seriously (or perhaps more seriously) as any other element of their lives.
This manifests in a handful of different ways for each religion.
For the Amish, it manifests in the calling of “being in the world, but not of the world.” This is the maxim that has guided the Amish way of life since its founding, dictating that its followers do not partake of the modern technology, conveniences, or comforts of the world.
As a result, the Amish frequently seek transportation for work or other long distances from worldly friends or public transit. Their only other alternative would be to take a horse and buggy, and that travel time would be far too great for many Amish to do what they need to get done in a day.
Orthodox Jews share a somewhat-similar practice in which they rest on the Sabbath (Saturday). This belief certainly removes them from the world to some degree because the definition of “rest” may vary in different Jewish communities.
For some, the dictation of “rest” may prevent a practitioner from doing something as simple as flipping a lightswitch.
As a result, Orthodox Jews may choose to name a goy — a non-Jewish person who is able to do simple tasks for them on the Sabbath. While this practice isn’t often discussed in greater popular culture, there are several historical figures who are known to be Sabbath goys, including Elvis Presley.
This conceptual distancing of the Orthodox practitioner from the “work” of the world could also be similar to the Amish conceptual distancing from the world in general.
As a result, it would be easy for someone unfamiliar with either (or both) culture to think that they’re related.
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One thought on “Are Amish People Jewish?”
I am Jewish (Reform Jewish) and this post nailed it o Orthodox Judaism – almost. The extremely insular nature among very religious Jew is more like to be in Chabad/Lubavitch, not Modern Orthodox. Most Orthodox American Jews do live within and of the secular culture. And believe you me, as a former teacher in a Chabad school, the children know a lot more about the outside world than their parents think they do. lol