Article Discussion: Joining Traditions

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This topic has 4 voices, contains 3 replies, and was last updated by  Virginia May Reynolds 7 years ago.

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February 12, 2010 at 5:16 am #4325


Click here to read the article: Joining Traditions

July 2, 2010 at 4:20 am #4799

Nicole Chernietskova

As a Messianic “mamzerah”, I have had a similar experience; except I found out that I am Jewish and come from a wildly-gentile, and crypto- and Messianic-Jewish background. I agree with your stepmother that “finding the common ground amongst the differences can bring us all closer together”.

July 2, 2010 at 3:24 pm #4802

Debbie B.


I suspect that you do not know the exact definition of the word “mamzer”. It is not simply equivalent to the English word “bastard” nor should it be used lightly due to the severe implications. A mamzer is a child resulting from a union forbidden by Jewish law such as incest. Note that a child born to a non-Jewish mother and a Jewish father is not a mamzer, but rather simply a non-Jew by traditional definitions. And if such a child were to convert to Judaism, that person would be a regular Jewish convert. A child born to a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father is fully Jewish by traditional definitions.

Here is a detailed description of “mamzer:

A mamzer is only allowed to marry another mamzer or a convert, and their children inherit the status of mamzer. (Although the child of a mamzer and a non-Jewish woman is a non-Jew, not a mamzer, and the child would not become a mamzer s/he converts.)  The inheritance aspect is why it is such a disturbing concept so that the word is thought of as almost an obscenity. Because of that, Orthodox rabbis usually try very hard to make the category almost inoperative (even not allowing tissue typing as evidence), the Conservative movement has ruled that it is inoperative, and Reform and Reconstructionist branches do not recognize the concept as relevant today.

Here is an example of why you should not use the word casually:
An observant woman was telling me about a big sign that was at the Orthodox mikvah that she used when it had stopped allowing use for non-Orthodox conversions and before the Conservative mikvah in our area was built, so people would be tempted to try to use it for that reason anyway. The Orthodox establishment hoped that the sign would scare away people who might surreptitiously try to use the mikvah for non-Orthodox conversions. Although it was clear from her description that the sign warned that children born to non-O converts using the mikvah would be “mamzerim”, the woman who was telling me the story would not actually say the word itself  because she thought it was so obscene, particularly used in this context of nasty name-calling. (Of course the irony to me is that since the Orthodox rabbis would consider a non-O conversion to be invalid, the non-O convert would be considered a non-Jew and his/her children could not be mamzerim.)

Thus the word is considered shocking and rude by observant Jews.

July 3, 2010 at 3:48 am #4806

Virginia May Reynolds

Great post, Debbie.

Well, even the English word ‘bastard’ is unfair because it’s often used to describe a person who is prone to bad deeds, not simply even an illegitimate child.  Society has moved on a bit in terms of acceptance of illegitimate children or children of interfaith couples, but some of the derrogatory words remain, in every culture and religion, sadly…

You are so right also about the Jewish tradition in terms of who is the mother and the father.  My husband, Dan had a Catholic father and a Jewish mother, hence he is a Jew; although all in all he remains so by choice because he has been exposed to different faiths despite having been brough up Jewish by his aunt after his parents were killed in an accident.  Now, he married me, so our child is not technically Jewish but we are both for him to decide that when he grows up.  We will certainly expose him to the Jewish faith.  Of course, he will get to know about my parents Christian faith and traditions as of course he’s a part of my family and well, I’m Wiccan and celebrate major festivals so I’m sure he will see those too (he’s nearly two years of age at present).  I know it sounds like we are almost set out to confuse the poor little boy but no, we agreed on a major household faith:  Jewish but of course, I cannot cut myself off or my parents so surely he will learn of all at some point.

Going back to your post, I thought it was terribly sad (although all cultures do it) to cast aside children of, as you mentioned incest.  Whilst I consider incest something against nature, I would not punish the children and I’m sure most human beings wouldn’t.  Good point and good of you to mention; not that I have ever met any (children resulting from incest), but hey, yeah, surely we must answer to God ourselves and not for the deeds of our parents.  What you said basically was very reasuring in terms of interfaith, that the Jewish community doesn’t alienate people born out of interfaith unions basically, which of course it is my experience.  Sometimes I wonder if I had been extraordinarily lucky to have my family and Dan’s aunt who accepted us without question.  I sometimes worry though that we have no less than four different faiths involved here if you take into account my son’s grandparents (two Church of England (mine – Christian) one Catholic, one Jewish – his), now my husband Jewish and me Wiccan!)  Mind blowing but I’m optimistic because we have a strong marriage (even lived together for 3 years before we married and we have now been married for 5 years).  I know there are lots of challenges ahead but yeah, I keep optimistic.  We are both deeply respectful and tolerant people and we agreed to bring up our children Jewish but with exposure to other faiths and very importantly we love each other dearly and our families love us, even if we sometimes argue.

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