I ask specifically in the context mentioned below:

... It’s not just that you can’t get away with apostatizing from Islam: that if you’re a Jew you can’t convert to Christianity. If you want to exit Judaism, the only way you can do it is by converting to Islam ... On the Jewish side, I’m thinking of Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah where he talks about Rabbanites and Karaites. There’s a fierce bit where he says Karaites are apostates from Judaism and should be killed. Then he says, “I’m not talking about the descendents of those Karaites — it’s not their fault, we get along fine with them — but the people who actually apostatized from Judaism, they should be killed.” ...

from this article.

As I don't know jewish tradition, scripture and history, I don't really understand the point the scholar is making about "Jews can only exit by converting to Islam, and not Christianity". Can somebody clarify and clear my confusion?

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    Welcome to MiYodeya and thanks for this first question. Can I recommend you take the tour to get a sense of how the site works? Great to have you learn with us! – mbloch Nov 12 '19 at 8:27
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    Technically, Judaism is not a religion, it is ethnicity and practice. Nobody asks you what you believe, it's either "was your mother Jewish" or "do you keep Jewish laws". – Al Berko Nov 12 '19 at 17:02

I believe you have misunderstood the text. The interviewee is saying that in Islamic law it is forbidden to change from any one religion to any other religion other than Islam. So according to Islamic law, converting from Judaism to Christianity would be forbidden but converting from Judaism to Islam would be permitted (and presumably encouraged). I have no idea if this is true or not according to Islamic law.

According to Jewish law, of course, it is forbidden to convert away from Judaism.

  • In your last sentence, do you mean forbidden or pointless? Some authorities believe one may 'convert' to Islam under certain duress, but of course it's pointless as one would still actually be Jewish. +1 in any event. – user6591 Nov 12 '19 at 21:11
  • @user6591 many things are permitted in certain extenuating circumstances. In general, practicing another religion is forbidden. – Daniel Nov 12 '19 at 23:23

Judaism is not just a religion but also a status. Once someone is a Jew, whether by being born into it or by converting, that person is always a Jew according to halacha. A Jew who "converts" to Christianity or Islam is a sinning Jew. This article from Chabad provides a good introduction to the topic.

A Jew who was raised by secular parents, or who abandoned Judaism without practicing another religion, can return freely. Such a person is called a ba'al teshuva. From this we learn that Jewish status doesn't depend on continuous observance. A Jew who abandoned Torah to instead practice some other religion and then does teshuva might be required to undergo some special processes before fully returning to the Jewish community, but the person is nonetheless still a returning Jew, like the ba'al teshuva, not (say) a convert from Islam. Converts would follow a different process.

  • I've heard a pre-bar/bat mitzvah person can renounce one's Jewishness halachically, even a convert. Is this true? – veAnx Nov 12 '19 at 18:31
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    @veAnx I believe that someone who was converted as a child can (don't have a source handy), but I'm not aware that a born Jew can ever renounce it like that. Anybody can reject torah and go live a secular (or other-religion) life, of course, but that person would still be a Jew. – Monica Cellio Nov 12 '19 at 18:46
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    It's that someone who was converted as a minor can disclaim desiring such a conversion upon attaining majority, whereby retroactively the conversion, which we allowed on the assumption that it would be welcome in the future, is voided. – Double AA Nov 12 '19 at 19:14

The Talmud says: A Jew, even though he may sin, remains a Jew. (Sanhedrin 44a)


First, that article is from a Muslim website. Maimonides never says to kill anyone. He believed in universal. All people are created equal and are in the "image of G-d." Second, once you are born a Jew you are always a Jew. If you converted to Judaism you are considered a Jew and cannot leave the faith at any time.

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    FIrst: That is not a Muslim website. It's an article from a transcript of a topic related to Islam, but the Pew Research Center is not a Muslim organization. Also, saying "Maimonides never says to kill anyone." as a blanket statement is categorically false. It is trivially easy to find multiple references to capital punishment throughout Maimonides' works, and frankly, probably not that difficult to find the idea metioned in the article. – Salmononius2 Nov 12 '19 at 15:01
  • @Salmononius2 The article is about conversion to Islam, so I think it is a Muslim article 2. Maimonides has written about the death penalty for breaking Shabbat, capital punishment, etc. But Maimonides did not say to stone Jews who leave the faith. Maimonides believed in universalism. And, even if he did write it, I'm sure it was a "necessity" but not his true opinion. – Turk Hill Nov 12 '19 at 16:06
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    @TurkHill "The article is about conversion to Islam, so I think it is a Muslim article". A Muslim article wouldn't necessarily mean it came from a Muslim website. Furthermore, non-Muslims can and do write about conversion to Islam. Even this site has a question about conversion to Islam, and there are Islam tagged questions. That doesn't mean they are Muslim articles, or that this is a Muslim website, does it? – Tamir Evan Nov 12 '19 at 19:44
  • The death penalty is for worshipping other gods. Accepting Islam, while certainly forbidden, is not that. – Mordechai Nov 12 '19 at 22:05
  • Judaism does not warrant pagans to a cruel death. Unlike Islam, which in a totalitarian Islamic state warrants the death penalty for any worship other than allah. – Turk Hill Nov 12 '19 at 22:11

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