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Generally, a Jew knows if their origins are Ashkenazic or Sephardic.

One may even know if they come specifically from Lithuanian, Hassidic, Moroccan, Tunisian or any other community but they might also not, or they might not be sure.

In any case, a lot of Baalei Teshuva aren't certain enough about their Jewish heritage to know for certain which traditions were kept and what Halacha was followed by their family.

In this type of circumstances, how is one to establish which Halacha to follow?

Can one just choose the more lenient opinion in this case?

I'm using Shema as an example but this can apply to a lot of other things.

My Jewish ancestors were in Western Ukraine between late 18th century and the Russian revolution and I don't know where they were before then. My understanding is that MGA is Polish and that GRA is Lithuanian so I am guessing I should be following MGA.

Update: my question was closed with references to two questions that discuss the broader issue of choosing Ashkenazi vs Sephardic customs. I noted this right at the beginning of my question and intended to ask specifically about differences within the Ashkenazi community itself.

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    Classically, you would follow the customs and practices of whichever community you ended up joining. I realize that today the idea of a single community with its own norms is much less prevalent.
    – Joel K
    Nov 26, 2023 at 6:40
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    In addition to Joel K's comment, the traditional advice is to follow one Rav, and ask him what opinions you should follow. It might depend on your personal circumstances and how advanced you are on your journey
    – mbloch
    Nov 26, 2023 at 6:58
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    You have to get a rav to ask all these questions to.
    – N.T.
    Nov 26, 2023 at 10:28
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    @יהושעק Some minyanim (e.g. on shabbat or more chassidically inclined or located in more extreme latitudes or located in weird time zones) make neither of those times for keriat shema
    – Joel K
    Nov 26, 2023 at 13:12
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    This isn't a "are you from Lithuania or Poland" question, this is a "what is the halacha" question, which doesn't fall out neatly on geography-of-ancestry lines.
    – Shalom
    Nov 26, 2023 at 14:13

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