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We've had a few questions similar to this one that deal with assuming that you have a minyan, when in fact you don't.

Shuls are, generally, open to anyone. We usually assume that when a stranger enters the shul, and you have 9 people, you are thrilled to see that 10th male coming in so you have your minyan. I'm unaware that any rabbai, gabbai, or anyone else in the shul even thinks to ask the stranger, "Are you Jewish?" (Maybe Chaba"d does this? They ask me on the subway if I'm Jewish - as if my Mets cap doesn't answer the question!)

In light of the possibility that the 10th person, the stranger, may, in fact, NOT be Jewish, is there a halachic requirement to inquire? If so, what would be a good way to approach such a stranger without offending him?

Note: - If it were a weekday Shacharit, I guess if you saw that he wasn't wearing a tallit or tefillin, that might be a hint, but not necessarily. A Jewish man in my shul attends daily minyan but never wears tefillin.

  • I've heard one approach to the "how" that works on torah-reading days (but not others): ask if he is a kohein, levi, or yisrael. I don't remember where I heard this. As a stranger showing up on a weekday I was once asked if I had a yahrzeit. – Monica Cellio Oct 20 '15 at 14:24
  • For Chabad, they assume, unless they are informed otherwise, that anyone who goes into one of their schuls is Jewish. – Noach MiFrankfurt Oct 20 '15 at 14:24
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    As suggested elsewhere, a gentile attending services where there is barely a minyan should tell the rabbi or gabay (person in charge of making sure the services run smoothly) that he's not Jewish, so that he doesn't get counted toward a minyan. – msh210 Oct 20 '15 at 14:26
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    Once you're about it, why not worry that he doesn't keep Shabbos: וְכָל הַמְחַלֵּל אֶת הַשַׁבָּת בְּפַרְהֶסְיָא, הֲרֵי הוּא כְּעוֹבֵד כּוֹכָבִים לְכָל דְּבָרָיו – Danny Schoemann Oct 20 '15 at 14:31
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    Strangers walking into a synagogue might not know anything about the minyan nor understand it if someone verbally celebrates that a tenth person has come in and now they have a minyan. The responsibility to report one is not Jewish should not rest on the visitor. – user2411 Jun 21 '16 at 15:47
1
+100

There would seem to be a chazakah that someone who enters a shul to daven is Jewish, especially if you see them davening.

This is no worse than the chazakah that someone who comes to Yerushalayim to eat the korban Pesach is assumed to be Jewish (until proven otherwise as in the case of Bava ben Buta).

If they are not Jewish, at worst you have been over an issur de'rabanan of saying borchu, birchas ha'torah etc. without a minyan. In the case of the korban pesach you would be over a deoraisah (kol ben nechar lo yochal bo etc.).

So kal ve'chomer we assume the minyan is Jewish.

  • I see some practical problems with the implications of your 1st sentence. My shul has become a community "warming hut" for some homeless people. On a few occasions, we have had strangers walk into shul while we were davening and sit themselves in a back row and not daven. The gabbai and rabbi, to some degree, figures that a man wearing torn jeans a torn coat and checkered shirt on Shabbat is prob. non Jewish. That's a poor way to determine someone's status, IMO. Similarly, someone well-dressed who prays from a Burnbaum prayer book in English can also be non-Jewish, even though he is praying. – DanF Jun 22 '16 at 15:42
  • As this bounty is about to expire, and you have the only answer, I am awarding the bounty. Your answer is credible, though, I would like to see it strengthened, at least with some link to sources. Also, see the above comment. I realize that what I mentioned may not have been a concern at the time of the ruling, but, it may be a practical issue, now. Perhaps, at some point, I'll need to edit my question and put up another bounty; just to gain more interest and better answers. Thanks for your post. Kol Tuv. – DanF Jun 27 '16 at 18:38

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