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My mother's father was a kohen but my father is not Jewish, growing up I was never told I was Jewish it was hidden from me and my sister so when my parents got divorced I learned from a rabbi at a camp I worked at that I was Jewish and after a few months I got my Jewish name and I chose to be "the son of" my grandfather. Does that make me a kohen or not? Thank you very much.

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    the status of kohen comes from one's father -- one cannot choose to be the child of someone one is not a child of.
    – rosends
    Commented Jun 26, 2022 at 1:23
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    Welcome to MiYodeya James and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Commented Jun 26, 2022 at 3:02
  • Title says mother's grand father, post says mother's father. Commented Jun 26, 2022 at 5:24

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You are correct that someone with a non-Jewish father is identified as "son of" the Jewish maternal grandfather; (some, alternatively, actually use the mother's name); however tribal identity is patrilineal. It doesn't matter how you choose to name yourself; if your father's not a kohen, neither are you.

That does leave to an interesting situation. If your mother's father is "Aaron, the Kohen"; you should not be calling yourself "James the son of Aaron-the-Kohen", because people will misconstrue that as "James, the son of Aaron, the Kohen." So it would just be "James the son of Aaron."

(The same comes up in a much simpler case: say that Aaron the kohen had a child, Chaim, with a divorcee, Brenda; Aaron then realizes that a kohen should not be married to a divorcee so he divorces her and is now behaving as a proper kohen. Aaron is a kohen, but his son Chaim was born to a kohen-prohibited union -- Chaim is not a kohen. Chaim, son of Aaron-the-kohen, is not a kohen. So he's just "Chaim the son of Aaron.")

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