Article Discussion: The Truth About Matrilineal Descent

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This topic has 4 voices, contains 9 replies, and was last updated by  Seffi Kogen 925 days ago.

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April 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm #1192

admin

Click here to read the article: The Truth About Matrilineal Descent

July 31, 2009 at 10:39 pm #3486

Unregistered

Thank you for this. I grew up in an environment where both of my parents backgrounds were respected. Unfortunately as I have gotten older I have experienced what you so rightly expressed as entrenched discrimination within the Jewish community. This is the first time that I have ever seen it written that way and I can’t convey (although you already know) how appropriate that reference is, and how much these beliefs trouble me and those I know with a similar background. Thank you.

October 6, 2009 at 8:45 am #3831

Unregistered

I agree that members of the Jewish community could be more sensitive to patrilineals like us, and I am still hurting over the way I was treated when I first encountered the Jewish community bearing a Jewish sounding name but not having a Jewish mother. I could nurse that hurt, or set it aside a little and learn more, see things from different perspectives.

I am now integrated into a chassidic community, but my kids know to be sensitive to anyone who is a little different. I use my hurt to foster greater sensitivity to others, but not to bend halacha as one does a gauze bandage to soothe that hurt.

Patrilineals who do not choose halachic conversion to Judaism may consider the Seven Laws of Noah as a spiritual path that validates their Jewish identity while maintaining halachic integrity. There is a place for everyone in Torah.

October 6, 2009 at 6:10 pm #3835

Hebrew Catholic

I’m just guessing, but I would think that a person of patrilineal Jewish descent who self-identifies as a Jew would not be particularly comforted by the “Seven Laws of Noah”, because that way of life is explicitly presented as being for non-Jews, and the fundamental issue is that they DON’T consider themselves non-Jews.

That doesn’t mean that I think all Jews are obliged to fall in line with the Reform definition of Jewish identity.  I just think it’s better to say, “I’m sorry, but this is how we define a Jew, and although we respect that your decision to define it differently was made in good conscience, we cannot in good conscience agree with you.  You will have to decide for yourself how important it is to you to be a Jew by our definition.”

January 8, 2010 at 9:13 am #4203

Nicole Czarnecki

“I use my hurt to foster greater sensitivity to others, but not to bend halacha as one does a gauze bandage to soothe that hurt. Patrilineals who do not choose halachic conversion to Judaism may consider the Seven Laws of Noah as a spiritual path that validates their Jewish identity while maintaining halachic integrity. There is a place for everyone in Torah.”

If anyone’s bending or stretching halakah, the foolish cohanim who say that patrilineal Jews aren’t Jews are really stretching, bending, and breaking halakah. Keep in mind that Yitzchak ben-Avraham was the first and, at the time, only Jew because he was the only one born of the promise. Ya’akov and Esav were patrilineal Jews; as were bnei-Ya’akov, as were bnei-Yehudah and bnei-Yosef, then bnei-Menashe. These cohanim need to start reading Tanakh for what Tanakh is instead of through their Baveli (Talmud-Bavel) filters.

March 10, 2010 at 5:59 am #4429

Susan

I understand how upset people are, but using an article written by a non-rabbi, and drawing all the conclusions from non-rabbinical sources is not going to change the fact that Judaism is matrilineal, the rule comes from Torah itself and, in order to be Jewish any other way, you have to convert. If I did it – & yes, I did – you can, too.

March 10, 2010 at 5:40 pm #4431

Debbie B.

Susan, I would modify your statement to “Orthodox and Conservative Judaism are matrilineal”. Otherwise, the implication is that the Reform and Reconstructionist movements are not Judaism, a view that while held by some, I firmly reject even though those movements do not represent my own Judaism. It is not so simple that “the rule comes from Torah”. For example, you can say that all the non-Jewish wives of important figures in Torah “converted”, but this is not stated directly in the text. And tribal affiliation is definitely patrilineal (e.g. Cohen and Levi status). I listened to all six lectures of “Conversion and Apostasy” by Mechon Hadar (an Egalitarian Yeshiva) and learned about the many historical complexities involving Jewish identity and about sources indicating both matrilineality and patrilineality in ancient times. But none of that changes what is held in the Orthodox and Conservative movements. Similarly, it is pointless to push for a change in kashrut policy by arguing that there is no Torah prohibition on mixing chicken with milk.

My own children and many members of my husband’s extended family are patrilineal Jews or children of patrilineal Jews with more than one case of multi-generational intermarriage. Some converted (one with an Orthodox conversion), and some did not, with the latter group either affiliating with Reform synagogues or totally secular. I also have friends who are patrilineal Jews and who underwent Conservative and Orthodox conversions (one resented having to do so; another is proud of being a “convert”). So I have empathy for people who have felt that they were treated badly because of their non-standard Jewish ancestry. My own opinion is that people who want to be a part of a Jewish community need to choose a community that is a good fit for them. If they are patrilineal Jews who feel strongly that they do not want to go through a conversion process, then they are better off affiliating with Reform and Reconstructionist communities. If they want to be a part of an Orthodox or Conservative community, then they need to do what is necessary to be accepted by those communities.

My husband and I chose to convert our children under Conservative auspices which  enabled their acceptance in the Conservative synagogues and the independent “Conservadox” congregation that we affiliated with. My own later conversion was also Conservative. However, if any of us wishes to join an Orthodox community in the future, we understand that it would probably require an Orthodox conversion. I see it as a requirement that is not unlike the expectations that our lifestyle (Shabbat and kashrut observance, for example) would conform to the standards of that community.

That said, lack of Orthodox and Conservative recognition of Jewish status of patrilineal Jews and the general feeling that even a person with a Jewish mother, but non-Jewish father, is “less Jewish”, leads some people to act rudely and say demeaning and hurtful things to those people. And some these rude people probably see the book of Ezra as biblical support for this kind of nasty behavior, while unfortunately choosing to ignore both Torah and rabbinical support for a more positive attitude and approach toward other people irrespective of their “Jewish status”.

December 27, 2010 at 6:22 pm #5346

J.R. Wilheim

First of all, my article was reviewed by a Conservative rabbi prior to publication. He found nothing wrong with it from a scholarly perspective.

Second, my purpose in writing this was mainly to show that there is a rationale on which the Conservative Movement could change its policies–that the reasons it typically gives for maintaining its positions don’t in fact make a lot of sense.

December 30, 2010 at 6:09 am #5358

Unregistered

Dear J.R. Wilheim,
We need to address one more point to win the battle.
Torah says that if a hebrew slave is given a wife (presumably not hebrew wife), and she bore a child, when this hebrew man is up to being freed from slavery, his child should stay with mother in slavery. If the child was a Jew, he/she can’t be a slave for ever.
This argument can be beatable only partially as i tried to do that.

interesting that Rabbis don’t emphasize this argument strongly, though do mention it.

i’m not conservative, but a shomer Shabbath/kashruth jew having children from not jewish mother.

shalom, moshe

March 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm #6667

Seffi Kogen

Fascinating article, but Ezra wasn’t a king.

You should probably fix that dude…

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