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In Judaism, particularly from an Orthodox perspective, are Samaritans seen as fellow Jews? Sometimes I see their religion referred to as 'Samaritanism', sometimes as Judaism.

Also, is it halachically appropriate for a Jew to pray in a Samaritan house of worship?

  • As usual, be weary of the accuracy but the old standby, Wikipedia has a lengthy entry that might answer your questions. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritans – JJLL Nov 2 '14 at 2:10
  • they are like goyim see chullin 6a we pasken like Rav Ami and Rav Asi ,and see Tosfos 3b in chullin converts inspired by lions or dreams – sam Nov 3 '14 at 2:10
  • I have a Samaritan acquaintance, and he said they are not Jews. They consider themselves Israelites, but not Jews. – Yehuda Shapira Jul 30 '18 at 8:07
  • @A.Concerned.Lurker Haven't read everything here, although I should. I remember researching this question awhile ago. I think we say that they are considered Jews for matters in which they agree with us (=~d'oraisas) and non-Jews in matters in which they don't. I'm sure the halachic reality is way more complicated than I have just explained, but maybe it's a start – SAH Dec 11 '18 at 19:41
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Samaritans are not Jews.

R Yosef Eisen at chabad.org explains why

When the Assyrians exiled the Ten Tribes, the conquerors brought in a foreign people called Cutheans to populate the vacated territory. These people were idol-worshipers, and G‑d sent lions to decimate them. Out of fear of the lions, the Cutheans converted to Judaism, but the rabbis of the Talmud debated whether their conversion was valid or not. The Cutheans’ Torah observance was spotty — extremely strong in some areas, but very weak or nonexistent in others.

Settling in the Samaria region of Eretz Israel, over time the Cutheans became known as Samaritans. Fearing that the Jews returning from Babylonian exile would reclaim their ancestral lands, the Cutheans became bitter enemies of the Jewish people, even going so far as to attempting to sabotage the construction of the Second Temple. Disguising their evil intentions, the Cutheans offered to help build the Temple. Realizing the Cutheans’ real goal, the Jews rebuffed their proposed aid. Stung by this rejection, the Cutheans convinced Ahasuerus that the Jews wished to foment rebellion against Persian rule, so he suspended construction.

On a number of occasions during the Second Temple Era, the Cutheans were an anathema to the Jewish people. Finally, when the rabbis of the Talmud discovered that the Cutheans were worshiping idols and not keeping the commandments, the sages expelled the Cutheans from the Jewish fold and declared them to be gentiles. Although most of the Cutheans eventually died out, a small group exists today, living around Mount Gerizim in Israel. While they have ancient scrolls that bear some resemblance to the Five Books of Moses, these descendants of the ancient Cutheans have no connection to the Jewish people.

Ohr Somayach explains further

The Samaritans were non-Jews brought to Israel by the Assyrians to populate the North after the exile of the Ten Tribes. They ostensibly converted to Judaism, but in reality they continued worshipping idols, save for a period when they were mistakenly considered genuine converts; hence the Samaritans were not considered Jews, neither by Jewish law nor by the Jewish people.

They did not accept the Oral Tradition, which forms the overwhelming bulk of Jewish law. They also did not accept any books of the Bible except for the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua. Today, the Samaritan version of the Torah manuscript differs from ours by about 800 letters.

The Samaritans often acted as enemies of the Jewish people. They tried to destroy the Temple and to inform against the Jews to Roman authorities. The parable of the "Good Samaritan" was actually an anti-Semitic story intended to discredit the Jews.

For references in the gemara see e.g., here and there.

As to whether you can pray in their house of worship, you do not say if you mean it as part of an organized prayer service (very likely forbidden by all) or alone. Circumstances are important as one issue at play is marit ayin (giving the impression their religion is authentic Judaism). Since their religion is not avoda zara1 it could possibly be permitted to pray there alone (see bottom of here and bottom of here) but it is a halachic dispute and you need to CYLOR.

1 To be sure, I asked Aaron Shaffier (also here on MY), a religious tour guide who has been many times to Har Gerizim. He wrote that "As far as anyone can tell they are complete monotheists".

  • 1
    This does not quote contempory Halacha to support your notion that they ar not Jewish, a lesson in history the does not legitimise the answer so look at the other answer for those who require proof and don't want to rely on this very nice persons parole alone – user15464 Dec 19 '17 at 21:38
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The Shomronim/Samaritans were Populating the area of Samaria in Israel by Sancherev and were orriginally from several places included Kutta hence they are referred to by there orriginal names in the Gemara Chullin 6a as the "Kuttim" See Melachim 2 17,24:

וַיָּבֵא מֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר מִבָּבֶל וּמִכּוּתָה וּמֵעַוָּא וּמֵחֲמָת וּסְפַרְוַיִם וַיֹּשֶׁב בְּעָרֵי שֹׁמְרוֹן תַּחַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

There is a Machlokes Rabbi Meir and Rabbanan whether Kutim were Jewish or not But even Rabbi Meir accepted in the end that since they found a graven idol of a Dove that they were not Jewish see Chullin 6b

Read this From Pirkei derabbi Eliezer Ch37 that According to Rabbanan that the Kutim were Geirei Arayot i.e they weren't genuine, the Cuttim were banned from the people of Israel in the time of Ezra, even though initially they were thought to be jewish:

וכשגלו ישראל ממקומם משומרון לבבל שלח המלך עבדיו והושיבו אותם בשומרון להעלות מס למלכות מה עשה הב"ה שלח בהם את האריות והיו הורגים בהם שלחו ואמרו למלך בבל אדוננו המלך הארץ ששלחנו עליה אינה מקבלת אותנו כי נשארנו מעט מהרבה שלח המלך וקרא לכל זקני ישראל ואמ' להם כל השנים הללו שהייתם בארצכם לא שכלה אתכם חיית השדה ועכשו אינה מקבלת אתכם אמרו לו דבר של עצה אולי ישיב אותם לארצם אמרו לו אדננו המלך הארץ ההיא אינה מקבלת גוי שאינו נמול אמ' להם תנו שנים מכם וילכו וילמדו תורה ודבר המלך אין להשיב ושלחו וקראו את ר' דוסתאי ואת ר' ינאי ומלו אותם והיו מלמדים אותם תורה שבכתב נוטריקון ובוכים והגוים האלה היו הולכים בחוקות התורה ובחוקות אלהיהם את ה' היו יראים ואלהיהן היו עובדין עלה עזרא מבבל וזרובבל בן שאלתיאל ויהושע בן יהוצדק והתחילו בונים בהיכל שנ' באדין זרובבל בן שאלתיאל וכו' ובאו עליהם השומרונים למלחמה מאה ושמונים אלף וכי שומרונים היו והלא כותיים היו אלא על שם עיר שומרון נקראו שומרונים ועוד שבקשו להרוג נחמיה שנ' לכה ונודעה יחדו ועוד שבקשו לבטל מלאכת שמים שתי שנים והיתה בטלה עד שנת היובל מה עשה עזרא וזרובבל בן שאלתיאל ויהושע בן יהוצדק קבצו כל ישראל אל היכל ה' והביאו שלש מאות כהנים ושלש מאות שופורות ושלש מאות ספרי תורות והיו תוקעים בהם והלויים משוררין ומזמרין ומנדין את הכותיים בסוד שם המפורש בכתב הנכתב על הלוחות ובחרם בית דין העליון ובחרם בית דין התחתון שלא יאכל אדם פת כותיים עד עולם מכאן אמרו כל האוכל בשר משחיטת כותי כאילו אוכל בשר חזיר ואל יתגייר אדם כותי ישראל ואין להם חלק בתחיית המתים שנ' לא לכם ולנו לא בעה"ז ולא בעה"ב ועוד שלא יהיה להם חלק ונחלה בירושלם שנ' ולכם אין חלק וצדקה וזכרון בירושלם ושלחו החרם אצל ישראל ועוד הוסיפו עליהם חרם על חרם והמלך כורש קבע עליהם חרם עולם שנ' ואלהא די שכן שמיא תמ.

The Shulchan aruch Orach Chaim 215,2 says:

אם היה המברך אפיקורוס או כותי או תינוק, או היה גדול ושנה ממטבע הברכות, אין עונין אחריו אמן
I.e a Kutti is not Jewish so we Don't say "amen" to his Brochos.

The Mishna Berura says:
?ואע"ג דבגמרא אמרינן שאף בכותי עונין אם שמע כל הברכה מפיו היינו קודם שמצאו להן דמות יונה בהר גרזים שהיו עובדין לה אבל אח"כ לא דכונתן להר גרזים
Even though the Gemora talks about Theoretical cases of Kutim this was before an idol of a dove was found on Mount Gerizim which they were worshipping but after (e.g nowadays) they are idol worshippers and not Jewish

So we can't pray in their temples as we consider them idolitors.

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    I am asking if they still have an idol today and are praying towards it. Did you see this mentioned somewhere? I didn't despite looking for it – mbloch Dec 18 '17 at 13:51
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    in 1933 the chafetz chaim was still around and he said this (see above) so for 2500 years nothings changed, thats good enough proof for me – user15464 Dec 18 '17 at 13:54
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    With huge respect due to the CC, many things changed in Israel in the last 84 years. To be sure, I asked Aaron Shaffier, a religious tour guide who has been many times to Har Gerizim. He wrote that "As far as anyone can tell they are complete monotheists". – mbloch Dec 18 '17 at 14:22
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    even though initially they were jewish What does it mean to initially be Jewish? How does one stop being Jewish? – mevaqesh Dec 19 '17 at 15:42
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    @mevaqeshthe fact that they are not Jewish and were once considdered Jewish gives legitamacy to the pirkei Drabbi eliezer that the Beis Din of Ezra removed their Jewish status, as Halacha in Shulchan Aruch says they are goyim nowadays according to everyone and The Rabbanut have confired their non Jewish status here books.google.co.il/… – user15464 Dec 19 '17 at 16:08
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Although they are not Jews they are Israelites and we might as well call them Jews

After the death of King Solomon, the Israelite kingdom slipt and the northern kingdom was called Israel, recalling Jacob, Israel, while the southern kingdom was called Judah, after the tribe of Judah. Thus, the term Jew is shorted for Judeans.

Similarly, the name Samaritan is named after Samaria, north of Jerusalem. They claim to be Israelites since they say they are from the Northern tribes of Israel, “The Ten Lost Tribes”. Today we might call them Jews since we refer to beta Israel (Ethiopia) as Jews, despite the fact that they are not from Judea. The idea that the Assyrians displaced all of the Jews in the Northern kingdom of Israel with Cush “Cutheans” is mistaken. The vast majority of Jews remained. Rabbi Bar-Ron explains:

The inhabitants of Samaria were, for the most part, the remainder of those tribesmen who were vacated by Assyria, only subdued. Only the warriors, the educated elite and highly-skilled had been exiled. That the majority remained, for which we have the official Assyrian records and hints in Na"Kh (Prophets and Writings) to prove it... The inscriptions of Sargon II clearly show that a total of 27,280 people were deported. (Nimrud Prisms, COS 2.118D, pp. 295–296) Even if one adds several thousand who would have died in the war, it is clear that a healthy majority remained in the Land. Samaritan traditions do recall the influx of many foreigners into the land, brought in by the Assyrian conquerors, but their paternal genetics (overwhelmingly J1 and J2) support Samaritan oral tradition that they accepted no men into their community from among those foreigners. Only women, who were converted. It is the exact same pattern as we see for Jewish communities throughout history. (In fact the mtDNA of the females of the community is nearly identical to that of the females of the Jewish Iraqi community.) Rabbi Akiva clearly suggests those conversions were recognized, in his words brought in the Talmud Bavli Qidushin 75a). Their purity as Israelites and even the purity of their path was not lost to the Nassi of the Sanhedrin in his day, Rabban Shim`on ben Gamliel, who held them to be as kosher Jews in every regard (" רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר כותי כישראל לכל דבר"

  • Jer. Talmud, tr. Demai 14,1). The Mishnah ruled that the could be counted to form a "zimmun" for Birkath HaMazon (BT Berakhoth 45a).
    The Nassi went as far as to say, “any religious duty which the Samaritans preserved, they observe with far greater punctiliousness than Israelites [Jews].” ( "כל מצוות שהחזיקו בהן כותים הרבה מדקדקין בהן יותר מישראל" - ibid. 47b and Tosefta Pesaḥim 2,3). In II Chronicles ch. 30 we see that after the exile of the Kingdom of Israel (the Ten Tribes), the king of Judah was sending messengers to the Northern Tribes still in the Land (see II Chr. 30:5) to join Yehudah in a great Passover celebration. Large numbers of the Israelites of those regions were never exiled! That is what empires like Assyria did to defeated kingdoms. To transfer an entire population was not only unnecessary overkill, it would have been prohibitively expensive. On the contrary, they would effectively "decapitate" their defeated peoples: taking captive their ruling class, military men and the educated, leaving the simpler masses (kohanim, farmers, ranchers, etc.) unable to rise and achieve independence.

When II Kings says that all the Jews left this is hyperbolic and means “many.” This is why the Samaritans call themselves Bnei Yisrael, Israelites.[1] Thus, they are monotheists and we can pray at their houses of worship.

[1] In the Bible, the Hebrews, or Israelites of the Bible are also called Bnei Yisrael.

Also, see this essay here, which argues that Jews and Samaartians unmistakeably share the same genetic information (common ancestry).


PS If we can pray at a Muslim mosque (Muslims are monotheists), which is halachically acceptable even though they hate us, I find it a degradation that answers here tells us that we should not worship alongside our brothers.

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    "Although they are not Jews they are Israelites and we might as well call them Jews". This sounds like nonsense. – robev Dec 24 '20 at 19:34
  • @robev Here is the question: Were the “The Ten Lost Tribes” miraculously to reappear today, would you call them non-Jews? You'd probably call them Israelites and you'd most definitely call them "Jews." Therefore, where is the difference between Samaartians, karaites, or beta Israel (Ethiopia)? – Turk Hill Dec 24 '20 at 19:38
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    For someone who reveres the Rambam so much, I find it fascinating that you ignore the fact that he calls them non-Jews. – robev Dec 24 '20 at 19:45
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    I don't know who "we" is. Some people always agree with the Rambam. I thought you were one of them. Some don't always agree with him. In any event, it's an explicit gemarra that Chazal made them non-Jews. You don't have that by Karaites or Beta Israel. I believe the standard halacha is the Karaites are Jews, so it's forbidden to lend to them on interest. Genetics are irrelevant to Judaism. – robev Dec 24 '20 at 20:05
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    Of course the Samaritans disagree. That doesn't make them right and Chazal wrong. You're welcome to follow their religion, but normative Judaism follows the rulings of Chazal. Again, genetics are irrelevant here so whether Chazal err in science or not is a strawman – robev Dec 25 '20 at 7:38

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