Let's start with facts: religiously, one can be a Jew only if their
mother is Jewish, or if they convert to Judaism. Your mother is not
Jewish, and you haven't converted to Judaism yet, so religiously
speaking, you're not Jewish.
"Being Jewish" is usually connected first and foremost with religion,
then with culture (which - even if you are from a family that was
originally Jewish - is now unfortunately gone), and with identity.
Of course, you can want to "be Jewish" because of liking Jews and
their culture (see below on becoming a Jew); or just because you're
like that dentist from Seinfeld - who'd converted to Judaism because
he was already half-Irish and half-Polish, and he wanted to cover all
of the jokes.
However, could you be of Jewish ancestry? I have checked your name.
Is Hayman a "Jewish" Name?
This is a popular Jewish name. However, it is not necessarily a Jewish
name. First of all, as your parents have said, it could be a
Pennsylvania Dutch name, and there are many non-Jewish people, with no
apparent Jewish connection, that have this name. Later, I refer here
to the term Pennsylvania Dutch: It has nothing to do with the Dutch in
Second, it also have other meanings, which are neither Germanic nor
Jewish. In fact, it seems that the Jewish Haymans are people who have
modified their names to sound more "English":
"What does the Hayman name mean?
Last Name: Hayman
1. English: topographic name for a man who lived by an enclosure,
from Middle English hay (see Hay 1) + man. The term was in many cases
effectively a synonym for Hayward.
2. English: nickname for a tall man (see Hay 2).
3. English: occupational name for the servant of someone called Hai
(see Hay 3), with man in the sense ?servant?.
4. English: occupational name for someone who sold hay.
5. Jewish: variant of Heiman.
6. Possibly an Americanized spelling of German Hamann or Heumann."
(SOURCE: Ancestry.com, "What We Know about the Hayman Family",
There are also people in history (famous and non-famous) who are
called "Hayman" but are not Jewish (in fact, most aren't):
Hayman Family Board
GenForum - Hayman Family Genealogy Forum
Hayman Genealogy as I Have Become to Know It
Some famous non-Jewish Haymans:
Hélène Valerie Hayman, Baroness Hayman
William Hayman Cummings
Horace Hayman Wilson
The Dutch Connection
So far, most of the Haymans were of English origin, with some Jews and
Germans, who have changed their names.
Where are your parents' Pennsylvania Dutch, then? "Pennsylvania
Dutch", has nothing to do with being Dutch, from Holland. This term
refers to people, who immigrated from Germany and Switzerland to
Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th century, and belonged to Protestant
denominations. The Amish, for example, are Pennsylvania Dutch. There
are some examples of Hayman who are cnnected to Pennsylvania Dutch,
Family Hart Database
It is therefore possible:
- That your parent are from a "Pennsylvania Dutch" family (which
means, that your ancestors probably came from Germany);
- That you are from a German family (or from a Dutch one), which
developed a "Pennsylvania Dutch" identity although they came later, or
not to Pennsylvania.
- That there are Jewish roots somewhere, but they've hidden it generations ago.
How to become Jewish
Maybe you're not Jewish, but you can surely be one! :-)
There are several streams of Judaism, and you'd better learn more
about Judaism and what being a Jew means, before you decide if you
want to become one. However, here are names of several people in the
Chicagoland area who might be able to help you more:
Rabbi Brant Rosen
Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
303 Dodge Avenue
Evanston, IL 60202-3252
Tel: (847) 328-7678
Fax: (847) 328-2298
Synagogues in Chicago(land)
Conversion to Judaism Home Page
Considering Conversion to Judaism
Conversion to Judaism
About Judaism - Conversion to Judaism
Let me give you a piece of advice
It is not important what your family name tells about you. What is
important, is what *you* make of it. William Cohem was the American
Secretary of Defence. Cohen is as Jewish as it can get. But Cohen was
not Jewish and did not feel Jewish. On the other hand, some people
have the most "non Jewish" name one can imagine, and still feel very
much "Jewish". If you would like to become Jewish, it doesn't matter
if "your Hayman" is not the Jewish one.
I hope this answers your question. Please contact me if you need any
clarification on this answer before you rate it.