At the hospital 2 newborns get swapped, one Jewish for one not. 20 yrs later someone realizes what happened & informs both kids of the mistake, does their status change? Does the ‘non Jewish’ boy who was raised to be a proud observant Jew need to officially convert now? And would the Jewish boy raised ‘non Jewish’ have to convert to Judaism now or was he always considered Jewish?

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    Certainly the actually Jewish one is still Jewish. There’s no way to lose your Jewish status. – DonielF Jun 6 '19 at 16:26
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    Let's give the kids names at least. How about Yehuda and Antoninus? – user6591 Jun 6 '19 at 16:41
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    Yevamot 11 discusses many cases of mixed up babies, but not where they later figure it out. I don't know what the doubt is in this case: once we figure it out that's it, no? – Double AA Jun 6 '19 at 17:08
  • It appears that everything depends on "informs both kids of the mistake" - is that a valid testimony, is that before a valid Beis Din, etc? Keep in mind that to remove a person's status (Chazakah) a decision of a Beis Din is required! It is not sufficient that a doctor calls the parents and informs them - maybe it's a scam. – Al Berko Jun 6 '19 at 18:55
  • Assuming it's a boy, would the Brit Milah + toiveling at some point not serve as an ersatz, undocumented conversion? – Josh K Jun 6 '19 at 19:07

According to Jewish law, a person is only considered part of the Jewish people, if they were born to a Jewish woman, or they formally converted to Judaism.

Also according to Jewish law, a person who was born Jewish, but was raised secular, as a non-Jew, is still considered to be a Jew, even if he wasn't even circumcised.

So in the hypothetical case of the OP, assuming that it was unequivocally proven that in fact they babies were switched, then the Jewish boy raised ‘non Jewish’ does NOT need to convert to Judaism, since he was he always Jewish. His "Jewishness" was conveyed to him by his biological mother.

On the other hand, the boy born from a non-Jewish woman, never had any "Jewishness" formally conveyed to him. The fact that he observed Jewish laws and customs is immaterial, since as a biological non-Jew, he requires a formal conversion process, which he never underwent.

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    I disagree with the later. It appears that since 1. he was circumcised 2. he accepted Mitzvos at 13, he's considered automatically converted. – Al Berko Jun 6 '19 at 19:01
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    @Al he presumably toiveled at some point or at least went swimming in a kosher mikvah, as well – Josh K Jun 6 '19 at 19:40
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    @JoshK and because he was Katan, his consent was not required. – Al Berko Jun 6 '19 at 19:57
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    @JoshK Immersion in a mikva per se, without the auspices of Beis Din, is ineffective for conversion. This is clear from the sugya in Yevamos 45b. Despite the argument among the Rishonim, as to the exact meaning of the Gemara, the common denominator is that BD is required. The same is for the Gemara in Yevamos 47a. – IsraelReader Jun 6 '19 at 20:20
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    @AlBerko The point is moot. I wrote that we're assuming that it was unequivocally proven that in fact they babies were switched. That covers all bases. – IsraelReader Jun 6 '19 at 20:56

The gemara in Gittin 42b discusses whether a slave owned by a Cohen that has been freed, but has not been given a formal document of freedom (גט שחרור) can still eat Terumah. The gemara attempts to bring a proof that he may eat Terumah from the following Mishna (Yevamos 99a):

כהנת שנתערב ולדה בולד שפחתה הרי אלו אוכלין בתרומה וחולקין חלק אחד על הגורן הגדילו התערובות משחררין זה את זה

If the wife of a Cohen mixes up her child with her maidservants' child, the 2 children may eat Terumah, and collect a portion of Terumah (together). When they grow up they both free each other.

The implication is that the slave is effectively considered "freed" since you cannot work them since they may be Jewish, yet they were not formally freed with a גט שחרור and the Mishna says that they may eat Terumah.

The gemara rejects this proof:

הכי השתא התם אם יבא אליהו ויאמר בחד מינייהו דעבד הוא קנין כספו קרינא ביה

That case is different because If Eliyahu Hanavi would come and identify which one is a slave, they would indeed revert back to being in the possession of their owner.

From here It seems clear that even a child who was raised as Jewish, but Eliyahu Hanavi revealed that they are not, they would indeed have the status of a non-Jew.

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    A slave isn't exactly a non-jew. More like a half Jew. – Double AA Jun 6 '19 at 17:12
  • You can't learn from Eved to a Jew. Rambam (end of Melachim) rules that regarding the ancestry one who's considered a Kosher Jew can't be withdriven that status, I think. – Al Berko Jun 6 '19 at 18:52
  • @AlBerko I don't understand the comment. This gemara shows that if Eliyahu would come and tell someone presumed as a Jew that they are, in fact a slave, they would revert back to being a slave. The Rambam in Melachim 12:2 (if thats what youre referring to) says that in the Yemos Hamashiach Eliyahu is not going to invalidate people's lineage. But that doesn't mean that if he would do it, it wouldn't work. He just isn't going to do it. – Silver Jun 6 '19 at 19:10
  • As DoubleAA commented, it seems that your learning from one case to another is far fetched. Unless you bring a source, that learns that explicitly. – Al Berko Jun 6 '19 at 19:15
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    My point was just a matter of precision. There is no reason to think it matters. @AlBerko please don't invoke my name next to incorrect claims – Double AA Jun 6 '19 at 20:44

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