My wife and I (no known Jewish heritage) are adopting an infant child. The child's birth-mother was herself adopted and raised as a Jew by Jewish parents. We do not know of any Jewish heritage through the birth-mother's biological parents.

I have heard that rabbinical authorities will recognize people as Jews under certain criteria and that one of those is Hebrew naming. Other answers to similar questions I have found indicate that a child of a Jewish mother is automatically considered a Jew, but in the case of our child, that seems to beg the question. In our case, it seems that for our child to be considered Jewish, it would have to suffice for either the biological or the adoptive mother to be Jewish.

Basically what I want to know is, is there something I should be doing now that would give our child the ability to be recognized as Jewish later in life if desired (for example, to qualify for the right of return to Israel)? Or is that basically impossible in our situation? Are there some authorities that might recognize our child as a Jew and others that would not?

  • 4
    wberry, welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for bringing your question here. As you can see from Michoel's answer, you're going to need to look for documentation; how you do that will depend on whether you have contact with the child's birth-mother and can ask. Good luck in your search. Commented Feb 3, 2013 at 0:59

1 Answer 1


There are two possible criteria for being considered Jewish: A Jew is any person whose biological mother was a Jew, or who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism. Being adopted by a Jewish mother or having a Jewish name is of no relevance.

If your adoptive child's birth mother did undergo a conversion before the child was born, the child is considered Jewish and nothing further would need to be done. Conversely, if the birth mother did not formally convert, the child is not Jewish and there is nothing that you could do at this point to influence that.

  • Makes sense. Supposing the birth-mother did formally convert, how would we establish that that was done?
    – wberry
    Commented Feb 2, 2013 at 12:58
  • @wberry: Do you have contact with the child's previous mother?
    – user2088
    Commented Feb 2, 2013 at 17:30
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    @wberry Practically, it is likely the birth-mother received some document signed by the officiating beit din at her conversion, if it happened. Then it's just checking references etc.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 3, 2013 at 3:09

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