My grandmother (mother's side) is 100% Jewish and even living in Israel. As far as I know, that makes, me a Jew, too. But it feels a little bit strange to say that I am Jewish just because my grandmother is.

If someone with one Jewish grandparent - maternal grandmother - and no Jewish upbringing goes to a rabbi and asks for help in living as a Jew, would the rabbi find that strange? Would the person really be accepted as a Jew, right off the bat?

  • judaism.stackexchange.com/q/52891/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 4:52
  • 1
    There are many Jews who go to their LOR (Local Orthodox Rabbi) and get help in returning to Judaism. You are indeed Jewish according to halacha (Jewish Law). This actually puts you in a harder position than a nonJew who wants to convert, because you are required to live according to Jewish law. I am sure that Chabad would have someone near you. You can also go to Israel and get in touch with Aish HaTorah (aish.com). They have helped many people in your situation. Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 2:22

4 Answers 4


Among those Rabbis that I know, if/when they are approached by someone who wasn't raised as a Jew but has a Jewish maternal grandparent, they welcome them with open arms as Jews, albeit Jews who have been estranged from their own religion. I have known this to have occurred on multiple occasions (although I was never personally involved in any).

It may be useful here to distinguish between various forms of "Jewishness". According to halakha, that is, Jewish Law, such a person is completely Jewish in the sense that person is bound by Jewish Law (as opposed to Noahide Law) and if that person is a woman, her children retain that status as well.

However, if someone doesn't identify with the Jewish people, then they can lose some of their "Jewish rights". This includes a share in the afterlife as well as in the good fortune of the Jewish people that is promised to them by the Prophets (Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 3:11). This is likewise true of Jews who don't believe in the 'Jewish beliefs' (Rambam's Introduction to Perek Cheilek). There are also several laws in the Torah that differentiate between Jews and non-Jews (such as the fact that shehita, ritual slaughter, can only be done by a Jew), and many of those laws only consider those who personally identify with the Jewish faith to be Jewish. This loss of "Jewish rights" is applicable equally to a person was raised in the most traditional Jewish family and someone is merely Jewish by virtue of having a Jewish maternal grandmother, once (s)he could no longer identifies with the Jewish faith.

But, to re-emphasize, such a person is still considered a Jew regarding his/her own legal status (i.e. that person is considered bound by Jewish Law and, if female, will have Jewish children), so once/if such a person decides to identify as a Jew, that person will be 100% Jewish in every respect, and not require any form of conversion ceremony.

  • 1
    Very nice answer, identify, first you have to know what jew is, if you don't really know, aren't you then tinok shenishba? Like somebody really didn't know what does it mean to be jewish, what one have to perform and observe?!
    – havarka
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 11:28
  • "loss of "Jewish rights" is applicable equally" ... I think that overstates it. In fact, there are opinions someone who wasn't raised with it has more "Jewish rights", although Shechita probably isn't an example of the difference.
    – Yishai
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 14:54
  • @Yishai true, I should probably link to one of the questions here that discuss it, as there have been a few recently.... Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 15:23
  • Your "identify with the Jewish people" and "identify with the Jewish faith" and "identify as a Jew" sound like they mean "self-identify as a Jew in the sense of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-identity ". Do they?
    – msh210
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 21:09

No, the rabbi wouldn't find it strange. & Yes, he would accepted you at the spot as 100% jewish.

And I can tell you from my own personal experience they would be even very happy!


I was in a similar situation a decade ago. The Rabbi of the orthodox shul looked into my background and accepted me and made me feel welcome. You never know where such things lead and I'm now on the shul's board and am an assistant gabbai.

You're halachically Jewish and will be recognised as such. What you do with that is up to you.


The answer may depend on the movement or denomination with Judiasm. I am Jewish. My daughter chose a different religion for herself. Her daughter, who was not initiated into any religion by her biological parents and who I legally adopted this year, has asked to follow my religion - to be Jewish. We approached a Reform rabbi after visiting a couple of times, and were told she would need to be converted, even though she is my biological granddaughter.

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thank you for sharing your experience. How old is your granddaughter -- pre- or post-bat-mitzvah? And did the rabbi say she would have to convert, or did he recommend it "just in case"? Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 15:31
  • Note that the Orthodox rule is that she is Jewish by birth as what your daughter did had no effect. However, based on what happened with the conversos who later managed to escape from Spain, it might be a good idea to have something to acknowledge that she is returning. However, you should speak to an Orthodox Rabbi so that she can actually learn properly what Judaism involves and her responsibilities. Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 20:33

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