My (Jewish) great-grandparents came to the UK from Poland during the second world war, but due to their experiences of violent anti-semitism, hid their Jewishness from the public in the UK. The result was that both my maternal grandparents were non-practising Jews and so is my mother (my father is not Jewish).

My family has always considered itself Jewish and we have taken part in cultural activities, but (unlike my extended family who are very active in religious Jewish life, including some distant cousins who are rabbis), my parents and grandparents have never been members of a synagogue.

I'm 23 and since leaving home have become increasingly interested and involved in Judaism from a social and religious perspective (much thanks to connections to the community through the internet), and I would like to join my local synagogue. I contacted them and they sent me a membership form.

It asks if I'm Jewish by birth, and asks for details of my mother's or maternal grandmother's wedding location (synagogue). My grandparents and parents both had secular, non-religious weddings.

It also asks for details of any synagogues I am a member of currently or have been in the past - but I have never been a member of one before.

I consider myself Jewish by birth but I am worried that this will be challenged as I have no way of proving it.

Will I be allowed to join the synagogue and how should I approach this issue?

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya jfhc, your post is very m0ving. I think that for this kind of question the better is to talk directly with a rabbi. Be awake and you should find representants of original and genuine judaism.
    – kouty
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 13:32
  • I would suggest calling one of the contacts at the Orthodox Union who can help deal with your question. This article shows that it can be handled even without proof. Some people do a "conversion misafek" (because of doubt) to affirm their rejoining the Jewish people even when it is not required. Call the contacts and they will help you. Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 15:36
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    Potentially dumb question - would having your cousins who are active act as witnesses by writing a letter/email or phoning the synagogue folks help things out fir you? Especially if it's from your Rabbi cousins?
    – Gary
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 17:59
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    Just to echo and add a point. You know your jewish, and you are regardless of level of practice or membership to a synagogue. Don't feel that until you are a member that you can't pray either in that synagogue or any other. Nobody is going to kick you out because you haven't paid dues (although on packed days they may ask you to stand)
    – mroll
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:41
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    @Gary Since they are cousins, they would probably have acceptable evidence from their parents that may also apply to you. For example, your mother's sister (from the same mother) would be able to provide evidence that your mother is (also) Jewish. You mention that the problem starts with your grandparents so it may involve how close the previous two generations were and what they can certify. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 12:50

1 Answer 1


Yashar koach on becoming more involved in Jewish life.

We can't say what they will do (only they can answer that), but I'll address how you can approach it. You are Jewish because your mother is (and she is because her mother is, etc). Your parents (and grandparents) having had secular weddings doesn't affect that, though it could affect other matters of personal status, which may be why they want to know. If you need to prove your Jewish status it sounds like there is other information you could supply besides what they ask for (for example, information about your maternal great-grandmother). The form, being a form, asks for the information that is usually sufficient. It's not sufficient in your case.

I think the best step for you to take next would be to have a conversation with somebody there, either the person who sent you the form or the rabbi (to whom any questions of status will ultimately be referred). Tell that person what you've told us -- your maternal ancestors are Jewish, you don't have documents from your parents or grandparents that would prove that (but here's what you do have...), and how should you handle this application form?

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    the above advice is sensible. I hope it results in a positive experience. However, if not, I would encourage you to explore if that synagogue is comfortable for you in terms of the prayer experience. I.e. - one is not required to be a member to pray in that synagogue or any other. It doesn't hurt to explore a few places, if you can, and find the one that is most appealing to you, assuming that you have some choices.
    – DanF
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 15:22
  • I concur with consulting this synagogue's primary rabbi. They, not the Internet, will have the best answer. Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 20:43

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