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Am I Jewish?


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#41 gdvirbh

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 12:45 PM

I'd like to ask a question...I know this is an Orthodox forum so I hope you don't take offense...
Different cultures have practiced Judaism differently (Sepharadim vs Ashkenazim, Hassidim, Ethiopians etc.) so there are many very different Halacha's and all these people still consider themselves Jewish by religion and part of the Jewish People.
You'll probably agree with me that hitler and his ilk would have considered all of these cultures equally Jewish and would have sent them to their deaths.

So my questions are:
1. Do you consider other "flavors" of Judaism to br valid? (as in misguided but still "our people")
2. Would a non-practicing Jew (Jewish mother, raised in a Jewish family) be considered a Jew?

Thanks for your time
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

#42 ijs

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 01:55 PM

Different cultures have practiced Judaism differently (Sepharadim vs Ashkenazim, Hassidim, Ethiopians etc.) so there are many very different Halacha's....


This is actually two different things you've said here. There is only one halacha; Jewish law is the same in every culture. However, there are things not covered by halacha, and so these are matters of custom. It doesn't change the law, though.

... all these people still consider themselves Jewish by religion and part of the Jewish People.


Whether someone considers himself Jewish is not a matter of faith or opinion. If one's maternal grandmother is Jewish, then one's mother is Jewish, and therefore one is Jewish. If not, then not. There isn't any gray area there. Whether one does Judaism – i.e., practices Judaism according to halacha – is an entirely separate matter.

You'll probably agree with me that hitler and his ilk would have considered all of these cultures equally Jewish and would have sent them to their deaths.


Most certainly, but not because of the profession of faith, since as I've indicated Judaism is a matter of heritage rather than faith (as distinguished from Xianity and Islam, for example). But that has nothing to do with whether anyone is Jewish. We are defined by HaShem, not the Nazis.

Do you consider other "flavors" of Judaism to br valid? (as in misguided but still "our people").


Depends. The only thing of relevance is whether the "flavor" adheres to halacha. None of your "flavors" listed above are different in this respect, though of course individuals might no longer be observant. However, there are other groups that do not follow halacha completely, or even find it to be binding. Examples of this would be Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal, Humanist. But again, whether they follow these groups has nothing to do with whether any of them is Jewish. (And note that conversions performed by these groups are not halachically valid, which causes some problems across the generations.) On an individual basis, the person is either Jewish or not.

Would a non-practicing Jew (Jewish mother, raised in a Jewish family) be considered a Jew?


Based on the answer to the first question, the answer to this one is "yes."
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Chaim Yosef ben Yaakov Avraham

חיים יוסף בך יעקב אברהם

#43 gdvirbh

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 02:10 PM

Thank you for your response.

Another one if you don't mind:

"עַמֵּךְ עַמִּי וֵאלֹהַיִךְ אֱלֹהָי"
Based on this Passuk from Ruth I've always been taught that it was possible for a goy to be "recruited" so to speak if he/she really shared the same belief and connection to Jewish heritage.
Meaning, without strict adherence to the laws (which can be interperted as more restrictive or more lax (Beit Hillel vs. Beit Shamai)
In your opinion is there any merit to this argument or is it a superficial way of looking at the issue?

Again, thanks for taking the time to answer.
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

#44 ijs

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 02:28 PM

Yes, a Gentile can convert to Judaism, which I alluded to in my post (though admittedly only in passing). However, if a man converts, while he will be fully Jewish, his children still won't be Jewish unless he marries a Jewish woman. And if a woman converts, she will be fully Jewish, and her children will be Jewish. In other words, they are basically then no less Jewish than someone born Jewish. Oftentimes, a person is discouraged from converting before being accepted for beginning the process, because non-Jews have a place in the World to Come simply by following the seven Noachide Laws, rather than taking on all the mitzvot for which Jews are responsible. And non-orthodox conversions (e.g., Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist) are not considered halachically valid, probably (this really isn't my area) because their education is severely lacking, so some consider these Jewish while others do not.

Thus, while a person may indeed decide to convert, he or she is still not Jewish until Jews say so.
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Chaim Yosef ben Yaakov Avraham

חיים יוסף בך יעקב אברהם

#45 usuario

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 06:35 PM

And non-orthodox conversions (e.g., Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist) are not considered halachically valid, probably (this really isn't my area) because their education is severely lacking, so some consider these Jewish while others do not.


Actually some Conservative conversions demand over a year of learning and practice on the part of the convert. I believe the reason why the Orthodox do not consider these conversions to be valid is because, due to the fact that the people on the beit din (religious court) do not have an Orthodox understanding of halacha (Jewish law) and thus rely on leniencies that the Orthodox consider unacceptable, they are not to be considered valid witnesses for the purposes of forming a beit din and therefore the convert does not properly accept the yoke of the commandments (kabbalat ol hamitzvot). Many Sephardic rabbis have accepted Conservative conversions on a case-by-case basis, including R. Ovadia Yosef, but I don't know of any Ashkenazi rabbis who would.

I believe that the process of conversion was probably much easier prior to 50 years ago before the shift to the right of Orthodox Judaism. There are instances in rabbinic literature that deal with conversion outside of a Jewish community (impossible nowadays), and the case of a convert who did not know the laws of Shabbat (nowadays there must be complete 100% perfect observance before conversion is allowed to happen). Nowadays even if you have an Orthodox conversion, many Orthodox Jews will not accept your conversion until you convince them that the rabbis on the beit din were frum (pious) enough. You will often have to recovert (geirut l'chumra) if you move to a new community that doubts your conversion or your mother's conversion. In addition, if a convert becomes lax in their observance, their conversion may be retroactively annuled by claming that the convert never had the correct mindset and intention to convert.

#46 MattHakor

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 01:15 AM

B'H that my Mom is Jewish and I don't have to worry about those kinds of complications in my life. I wish those willing to take on the difficulties of a kosher conversion the best and give a lot of credit to those who make it all the way through the process to become a Ger Tzedek successfully.
"If you will it, it is not a dream." Theodor Herzl




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