3

In the absence of documentation to prove Jewish identity, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has accepted FamilyTreeDNA mtDNA (matrilineal DNA) tests to prove Jewish identity since 2019. If someone does not have documentation to prove uninterrupted matrilineal Jewish ancestry, take the FamilyTreeDNA mtDNA test and If the result is on FamilyTreeDNA's list of Jewish mtDNA branches, will that person need giyur l'chumra to be considered fully Jewish? If so, can giyur l’chumra be made in Brazil? I know that normal conversions cannot be done in Brazil, and I also know that the Modern Orthodox and Religious Zionist rabbis consider this decision by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to be contrary to Halacha, but the Haredi rabbis accept this 2019 decision.

5
  • 1
    For the first part of your question, it's extremely difficult to give an answer that's acceptable generally. Different communities will accept/not accept your evidence, and the best way to find out is to ask the rabbi of your community/ask the community BD for a Jewish status determination Commented Jul 7 at 2:29
  • 1
    Haredi means "extra-strict"; you're saying they're more lenient on this position than the MO/RZ? Perhaps you have it reversed? Fundamentally your question is how this will work vis-a-vis the Israeli Chief Rabbinate? You'd have to ask someone who knows their systems well.
    – Shalom
    Commented Jul 7 at 2:33
  • 1
    @shalom From a different point of view, one may argue that not accepting someone whose mtDNA shows their Jewish matrilineal descent is the more lenient position (since you're potentially rejecting someone very likely to be a Jew).
    – user9806
    Commented Jul 8 at 0:48
  • @Shalom accepting someone as possibly Jewish is a stricter position in general, since it means he may be a mamzer.
    – msh210
    Commented Jul 8 at 2:01
  • I think you turned an occurrence into a phenomenon. As with any court, the CR considers each case separately and does not set new general guidelines for giur.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 10 at 16:34

1 Answer 1

3

The shift is towards accepting mtDNA as a supplementary form of evidence of halakhic Jewish identity. Rabbis Israel Barenbaum (Moscow) and Ze’ev Litke (Jerusalem) co-authored a halakhic work titled בירורי יהדות לאור מחקרים גנטיים (Clarifying Jewish Identity by Light of Genetic Investigations) advancing the argument in favor its use. Genetic evidence is not typically utilized as stand-alone basis for affirming Jewish identity but rather as a means of corroborating other forms of evidence thought to be tenuous or weak by itself. As this informative article in the Times of Israel characterizes the position advanced by the two rabbis:

It must strictly act as corroboration in cases where other documentation is available, and only as a last resort.

R. Litke notes that despite the more conservative tact he and R. Barenbaum advocated for (ibid):

there have been several “unusual” cases in Israel in which some people have been confirmed Jewish based on the genetic results alone

I do not know what fact pattern in the particular border cases are that elicited such a result, nevertheless, the tact that the Israeli rabbinate seems to primarily be taking is that advanced by the authors. Which is to accept genetic evidence when considered in tangent with other forms of existing evidence (e.g. marriage/birth certificates, photos, documents of ancestors, graves, etc.) in order to confirm halakhic identity as Jew. Where the court finds that a person is Jewish, no further steps are necessary. A Jew is a Jew.

However if the court deems the particular fact pattern in a case, along with whatever evidence has been presented do not lend towards such identification, giyur might be advised (or at times told that they are not Jewish, with no advisement being made on how to proceed, such as was initially the case with Veronika Zacharova in the aforementioned TOI article).

I don't know about the situation in Brazil, but giyur lehumrah is procedurally the same as a regular conversion. Though it is performed in order to eliminate halakhic doubt, it is ultimately a conversion. Accordingly, you answer your own question - if conversions are not performed by Jewish courts in Brazil, then that includes giyur lehumrah.

As for whether a particular case will necessitate giyur lehumrah depends on the nitty gritty details, totality of circumstance and the court's analysis thereof. This is true of any properly constituted Jewish court that handles conversions. As always, for practical guidance consult a competent halakhic authority.

0

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .