According to Jewish law, the child of a Jewish woman is Jewish regardless of who the father is, while the child of a Jewish father is not Jewish if the mother is not Jewish. In other words, a Jewish woman has the ability to confer Jewishness, while a Jewish man does not. In practical terms, Judaism does not recognize the child of an intermarried Jewish man as Jewish unless the child converts to Judaism. But the child of an intermarried Jewish woman is Jewish regardless of what faith the child is raised in.
In my view, Jewish law on this point is completely insane, both genetically and sociologically. What possible point could there be in denying genetic Jews membership among the Jewish people? No other group works this way. For example, if you have an American parent, the American government does not care what gender your American parent is. It is happy to recognize you as an American citizen.
Oh, you say, Jewish law is different because we always know who the mother is, but we do not know for sure who the father is.
In ancient times, granted, but today, we have DNA testing so that concern is not a factor anymore. But the Shalomist Movement believes proof should never have been a factor. If a man says he is the father, and therefore claims that his child is Jewish, what is the problem if the man lied, or has been lied to by the mother? So we have a Jew we shouldn’t have had? How awful!
What is so important about keeping people out? Are we so pure? No! Are we so elite? Maybe we think we are, but the rest of world has usually treated us as just the opposite. It has not been so wonderful throughout history to be a Jew, unless you think scapegoating, pogroms, expulsions, and holocausts are a good thing. If someone says they are Jewish, God bless them for being part of us.
Hitler said if you had one Jewish grandparent, you were Jewish as far as he was concerned. So many “good” Christians were sent to their deaths by the Nazi regime because they had a Jewish grandparent, even if they were raised Christian and even though they had no idea they had any Jewish “blood”. Some of them were probably anti-Semitic and Nazi supporters, even unto their last breath.
I wonder if those Christian “Jews” are counted among the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Are we putting ourselves in the strange position that we claim those people as Jews for holocaust purposes but wouldn’t claim them as Jews if they were still alive.
My view is that if someone is Jew enough for Hitler, they are Jew enough for me. From henceforth, Jewish identity should now be conferred with one Jewish grandparent, without regard to the gender of that grandparent. We only help Hitler by saying legitimate Jews are not real Jews in our accounting.
But wait, you say, how can we just change Jewish law like that? Well guess what, the highest source of Jewish law says nothing on the subject. According to Rabbi Peter J. Haas, former Director of Judaic Studies at Case Western Reserve University and visiting professor at Spertus College of Judaic Studies, Jewish descent limitations did not come from the Torah, or even the Bible. He says that the rules concerning Jewish descent “are spelled out fully only in the time of the Mishnah (around 230 CE).”
That’s CE, not BCE. That means that the rabbis of that time, whoever they were, created these rules and, presumably, the rabbis of our time can change them.
They should do so — NOW and in our own time.
This generation should not pass without bringing sanity back to the laws of Jewish descent. We can ill afford to keep telling legitimate Jews they are not Jewish, especially in an age of rampant intermarriage. The Reform Movement has stuck its toe into the waters of change — it recognizes patrilineal descent if the child is raised Jewish. It should stick its whole foot into those waters and recognize patrilineal descent without conditions. And all the other Jewish sects should immediately follow!