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Am I a Jew if my mother's mother's mother's mother's mother was a Jew? Even if along the line one of my foremothers converted to another faith? I'd just like a better understanding of matrilineal descent in Judaism.

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Without a source handy, the short answer is that, in most cases, the rabbis will make someone convert after 3 generations. Why? In large part because it's very difficult to establish definitively that someone that far back was indeed Jewish. In rare instances, when someone discovers Jewish ancestry (and wants to marry a Kohen, for example, which would make conversion a problem), a Beith Din may declare that the person is Jewish without having to convert based on the evidence presented. But I know s/o who has been in limbo for some 20 years because he doesn't want to convert. –  Seth J Sep 12 '12 at 17:21
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@SethJ, I agree 100% that rabbis will make such a person convert: but the question seems to be asking whether someone with a Jewish maternal-line ancestress is Jewish, and the answer is yes, despite what rabbis do due to inability to establish that fact. In other words, your comment is correct but doesn't quite address the question (which I suppose is why it's good as a comment :-)). –  msh210 Sep 12 '12 at 20:15
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Even with the existence of credible records, would such an individual have to convert formally? –  Malka S Sep 13 '12 at 9:14

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You would still be a Jew. The lineage of a Jew never breaks, regardless of a person's apparent conversion to another religion. The lineage is through one's mother and that is unbreakable. There exists no such thing as conversion from Judaism according to Jewish law.

See the Gemoro (Sanhedrin 44a):

אע״פ שחטא ישראל הוא

Even if he sinned, he is still a Jew.

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Are you referring to Yevamos 17a at the top? –  Double AA Sep 12 '12 at 19:43
    
@DoubleAA the hebrew term is something like yisroel af al pi shechoto (nikra) yisroel (hu) –  Yehuda Sep 12 '12 at 19:50
    
@DoubleAA Sanhedrin 44a, probably. –  HodofHod Sep 12 '12 at 20:28
    
@HodofHod correct, 3rd line from the top. can someone who knows hebrewbooks perhaps link to it? –  Yehuda Sep 12 '12 at 20:31
    
@HodofHod Yes I figured. I was pointing out the contradictory gemara. –  Double AA Sep 12 '12 at 22:20

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