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Would someone with Jewish heritage from a distant foremother on their maternal grandfather's side be considered Zera Yisrael?

In other words, does the person fit the definition of Zera Yisrael since their status as a Jewish person is in doubt, but it is acknowledged that they have Jewish ancestors?

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They would not if they can be proven to be Jews –  Shmuel Brin Jun 26 '13 at 22:41
Why is this tagged halacha? Is "Zera Israel" an halachic concept, one that comes up in halacha? –  msh210 Jun 27 '13 at 3:53
@MahaliaSamuels, are you asking whether the person is halachically Jewish or whether the person satisfies the definition (if there is one) of "Zera Yisrael"? If the former, then the halacha tag is very appropriate, but you wish to reword the question; if the latter, then I think the question is fine as is (but I personally doubt it will get any good answers). (And, no, I wasn't offended. I'm merely trying to make sure you ask what you mean to ask, so you get an appropriate answer.) –  msh210 Jun 27 '13 at 16:58
Is Zera Yisrael a technical term? I mean, I know what those words mean, but is it a halachic category or something? –  Monica Cellio Sep 22 '13 at 17:26
@Fred, thanks for the explanation! It would be great if that information could be summarized or linked in the question. –  Monica Cellio Oct 16 '13 at 12:51

2 Answers 2

From the intro to chapter 5 in זרע ישראל by Rav Amsalem, he describes Zera Yisrael as:

ויש להם לרוב צד יהדות ברור, שאביהם או סבם או סבתם וכדומה היו יהודים שנשאו נכריות

So he does include a Jewish grandparent in his definition. In almost every example after that, the book seems to uses the case of a Jewish father, but it seems that Rav Amsalem views it more broadly, with "צד יהדות ברור" (clearly somewhat subjective) as being the key deciding factor.

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SkinnyJ, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for contributing this on-point answer! I hope you'll look around and find other questions of interest, perhaps starting with our collection of 100+ am-yisrael-jewish-nation questions. –  Isaac Moses Feb 5 at 4:02
Although the OP doesn't really ask if "zera Yisrael" is a legitimate halachic category, I should mention that, from what I have read (a substantial amount) of R' Amsalem's book, almost none of the many sources he cites actually support his thesis that "zera Yisrael" is a real halachic category that deserves special accommodation wrt the laws of גרות (except for the opinion of R' Uziel, which is widely rejected by poskim). –  Fred Feb 6 at 2:49

As I understand it, Zera Yisrael(Seed of Israel) IS a halachic concept, applicable to non-jews who are patrilineal descendants of Jews. That is, some forefather along their direct paternal lineage was halachically Jewish, whether it was one generation ago or a descendant of the Bnei Anusim of the inquisition period or anything in between. This can mean they are either direct paternal descendants or it can mean a distant forefather's mother was Jewish. However if the father is not a halakhic jew or paternal Zera Yisrael, the children are not Zera Yisrael.

So if the only Jewish heritage is on your maternal grandfather's side.. Even assuming so far that your maternal grandfather is a halachic Jew... it would at most make your mother a Zera Yisrael, but not you.

I understand there is a lot of debate today, especially in the area of conversion of descendants of Bnei Anusim and other 'Crypto-Jewish' populations, and ESPECIALLY among paternal "half-jews".. whether Zera Yisrael should have a special status for an expedited conversion or even just be fully accepted as Jews. I am not informed enough to speak further on that.

Still, if you are a potential convert with any Jewish heritage, or none at all for that matter, and you seriously want to become an official member of the tribe, you will be more than welcome.

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Hayim, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for submitting this answer! It could be made much more valuable if you would edit in sources for your understandings. Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. –  Isaac Moses Feb 5 at 4:04
The nascent notion of "zera Yisrael" is sometimes attributed to responsa about the B'nei Anusim (e.g. Rashbash, §368). However, these responsa are not talking about children of Anusim fathers and non-Jewish mothers. Rather, they are talking about B'nei Anusim who are actual Jews. –  Fred Feb 6 at 3:17

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