For example, people who discover to have Jewish descent and begin feeling themselves as being Jewish as well, because the feeling of "brotherhood" towards other Jews is strong. Is it a Jew, semi-Jew, absolutely not a Jew or is there a specific term for it?

  • Hi Rodrigo. I remember reading an article on this very topic. I will try to find the source. I once worked with a person who everyone assumed was Jewish because of his strong Jewish ties. He was Polish-Catholic. I worked with another person of Hispanic descent who as a child had dreams containing distinct and unknown to him Jewish imagery that he didn't understand until he met Jewish people who explained what the images were. We all started thinking that maybe he was a descendant of Marranos. He eventually married a Jewish girl. – JJLL May 25 '14 at 0:15
  • Here is one source, I'll find others: religiondispatches.org/archive/atheologies/7336/…. And another: pewforum.org/2013/10/01/… – JJLL May 25 '14 at 0:17
  • Oh, I almost forgot! The term is "Jewish Affinity". – JJLL May 25 '14 at 0:28

According to traditional Jewish Law (Halacha), a person is considered a Jew if his mother is Jewish. Therefore, if his mother's mother's mother's mother was Jewish, then he himself is also Jewish, even if all of those female ancestors married non-Jews. On the other hand, if even one person in the chain of mothers was not Jewish, then the person himself is not Jewish, even if they all had "Jewish" families and married Jews.

Self-identity has absolutely nothing to do with a person's Halachic Jewish status. Just because someone does not feel Jewish does not mean that he is not Jewish and bound by the laws of Halacha. On the other hand, someone who "feels Jewish" but who does not have a Jewish mother is not Jewish according to Jewish Law (unless s\he goes through a formal conversion process).

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    Yes. It's important to note that while some religions confer formal membership based solely on what a person affirms, that's not true with Judaism. Living a Jewish life is neither necessary nor sufficient for one to be considered by halacha to be Jewish. – Monica Cellio May 25 '14 at 2:57
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    So even if the s\he doesn't follow Judaism, there's a Jewish status because of the mother's lineage. Or, if s\he converts to Judaism. Are these two the only standards for the definition (at least within the Jewish community)? I'm more interested in the "social rule" (what actually happens) than the "religious rule" (what should happen). – Rasshu May 25 '14 at 18:10
  • @RodrigoSiejaBertin I don't understand what you are asking. Are you asking whether that person will be recognized as a Jew? In that case, the answer is "no". Even in Reform circles, a person simply affirming a feeling of Judaism is insufficient to make one Jewish. He needs to go through formal conversion. If that is not what you are asking, please clarify what you mean by "social rule" – Daniel May 25 '14 at 18:18
  • Exactly. I mean people with reasons not related to Judaism. By "social rule" I mean what's only socially accepted and not exactly correct according to Halacha. I'm asking this question to know if there's a solid concept to define ones "Jewishness", since some people - outside Judaism - consider it automatically, if there's a single "Jewish characteristic" in one's life. – Rasshu May 25 '14 at 19:03
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    @RodrigoSiejaBertin One's "Jewishness" is defined by halacha and no other way. – Daniel May 25 '14 at 20:01

One has to check the lineage, specifically motherhood. That makes him a Jew, whatever the feeling he might have.

  • Several years ago, an English court handed down a ruling concerning a youngster who had a Jewish father and Christian mother. His government funded Jewish Day School kicked him out because he was not halakhally Jewish. The boy ate kosher, attended Shabbat services and essentially functioned as an observant Jew. The court ruled in favor of the family stating that it was not up to the court to determine Jewishness. If the boy acted Jewish and considered himself to be a Jew the school could not discriminate against the boy if it received government funding. An interesting twist to the topic, no? – JJLL May 25 '14 at 0:33
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    @jjll it would be interesting if the court claimed to be acting according to halacha, but a secular court not ruling according to halacha isn't particularly surprising – Daniel May 28 '14 at 15:14
  • You're correct. Not positive but I think that the court stated they could not rule on matters of faith only the fact that a school funded by government could not discriminate against, in this case, a self-declared Jew. Interestingly, the school could refuse to accept a student of another faith. – JJLL May 29 '14 at 22:25

Another argument would be that the term Jew and Jewish is connoted as being a race which despite much inter-marriage between Jewish communities, still doesn't justify the term race. It is a belonging to a group of people that is widely encouraged to support and justify the need for the state of Israel. Therefore, if being Jewish isn't a race then quite simply any individual who wants to practice the Jewish faith should be a Jew, the same way people convert to any religion. Of course the Jewish establishment and clergy would vehemently disagree but it's a fact that Jews are not a race.

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    No it is like citizenship in a nation. It is not a "race" but must be done according to halacha, not just "feeling" – sabbahillel Nov 30 '16 at 10:41
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