Published Date: July 22, 2016
Mary Beth read our last Ask The Rabbi column, which dealt with DNA testing, and had some comments which she posted on our Facebook page.
Here is our back-and-forth, as of this writing – it might expand!
Mary Beth wrote:
I find both fascinating and frustrating that someone with deep Jewish ancestry is not considered Jewish. I just found out I have a long line of Jewish ancestry… but somehow I am not considered Jewish. Huh?
Root Source responded:
you have a long line of non Jewish ancestry too 🙂 As I (believe I) wrote in that post, Jewishness is not just bloodline, it is the Jewish People’s self-declared rules. And at this point in history, it requires conversion if not born into a Jewish family, and one of the rules of that conversion is not being part of another religion or faith system.
Mary Beth responded:
Thank you for the response. I do understand all that, however my mother did not know her maternal line was Jewish until I confirmed it last week. It was ‘hidden’ from our family due to her GG grandfather having been orphaned.
There is the blood aspect and there is the religious aspect. According to the orthodox rabbi’s, it seems apparent that one can be agnostic or even a satanist and still be considered Jewish if their mother/grandmother was Jewish. However I am not considered Jewish because my mother and grandmother did not know about their ‘hidden’ ancestry.
Something just seems very wrong with the determining criteria. From my perspective and how I live out my faith, I am more Jewish than a ‘Jewish’ agnostic or satanist. Just confusing and sad.
Root Source responded:
I sympathise with your feelings. In fact, if your maternal grandmother was Jewish, you might probably need not undergo conversion if you would apply to convert.
Again, I am far from an expert in the laws of conversion, and they are complex, and one of the most hotly contentious topics in Judaism today, but as I wrote above, it is pretty much a consensus that you cannot convert to any of the three main streams of Judaism while retaining a Christian faith.
The real question, imho, is “mai nakfa mina” – talmudic Aramaic for “what difference does it make, what is the practical application?”
If you consider yourself Jewish while retaining your faith in Jesus when answering an Internet poll or even a government census, you won’t find too much opposition. If you are considering marrying an observant Jew but choose to conceal that aspect of your faith, or even reveal it, you will probably find strong disagreement, in spite of your lineage. If you feel that the rabbinic tradition on this issue is no more authoritative than yours or a Baptist minister’s who decides to call himself a Messianic Rabbi, then that is another story still.
The practical applications of whether or not someone is Jewish are few and most often just an opportunity for people to take personal offense, that can be finessed or let to slide. The fact that this seems to be an issue for more and more Christians is still not impacting mainstream Jewish policy. But as I write often, we live in a fast changing world, and if Rome wasn’t built in a day, the ultimate Kingdom of God for sure won’t be either:-)