Can a Jew lose their status as being a Jew by performing any action (example: performing idolatry, disavowing core beliefs, converting to another religion, etc)? Or once a person is a Jew then they keep this status no matter what?

And if a person would always maintain their status as a Jew (in terms of other Jews viewing that person to still be obligated to follow the commandments), then what in practice would be the significance of a Jew converting to another religion?

  • 6
    On the phrase "status as being a Jew" - there are many things that define and qualify one's "Jewish status" that are incidental: what "abilities" or "privileges" a person has in performing certain functions in Jewish life and law. However, the rights that one accrues are at most secondary in terms of his essential "Jewish status", which is defined by his obligation to uphold the laws of the Torah (as they pertain to him). This does not change, regardless of what a Jewish person does.
    – WAF
    Commented May 24, 2011 at 14:02
  • I think the second paragraph should be made into a separate question. It is very interesting, and no one has answered it here.
    – SAH
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 14:11
  • judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/28158/…
    – wfb
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 16:03
  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/51259/… Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 15:16

9 Answers 9


For a person who has renounced their Judaism, it appears that while the person doesn't need to undergo a full conversion (on a Torah level), there is a custom to reaccept the Torah on some level and immerse in a mikvah before returning to the previous status. This seems to be especially true if the Jew literally worshiped idolatry. However, they are still a Jew in every sense of the word. (See https://aish.com/who-is-a-jew/) and (https://aish.com/status-of-baptized-jew/)

  1. Rambam, Hil. Mamrim 3:1-3: A person who doesn't believe in the Oral Torah, of his own will (ie: he was not mislead by someone) is no longer part of Israel - "כל אלו אינן בכלל ישראל"
  2. Rambam, Hil. Avodah Zarah 2:5: A Jew who worships idolatry is like a non-Jew in all respects - ישראל שעבד עבודה זרה--הרי הוא כגוי לכל דבר
  3. Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deiah 268:12, Rema: A Jewish apostate who performs Teshuvah (repents) does not need to immerse in a mikvah (in order to return to his former status, on a Torah level); on a rabbinic level he has to immerse and accept upon himself the mizvot ("דברי חברות") in front of three people.

If the person converted to another religion, there may also be procedural differences depending on what religion the person converted to (since some religions may have the status of being idolatrous, and some may not), or what they specifically did to disown their Judaism (or what beliefs they held that were against Jewish core beliefs).

Of course, this is a complicated topic with additional responsa literature, so please see a proper rabbinic authority if this is a practical issue for you.

Further reading:

  • 13
    +1. You never lose the obligations of being a Jew, but you can lose the privileges by sinning in certain ways (until you do teshuva). This is one of the reasons rabbis are traditionally reluctant to convert -- fear of creating a sinning Jew if the candidate turns out not to be committed. Commented May 24, 2011 at 13:08
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    To paraphrase @MonicaCellio Rambam says nothing of any obligation to immerse or reconvert. (Rather, he says that in some respects idolatrous Jews resemble non-Jews).
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 0:50

While I am not qualified to answer the question directly, this is not a new question. For some related sources, see the subject of Anusim on Wikipedia, specifically, and especially, the short section on Rabbinic Legal Opinions, here:

"Hakham Se‘adyá ben Maimón ibn Danan, one of the most respected Sephardic Sages after the Expulsion, in the 15th century stated:

Indeed, when it comes to lineage, all the people of Israel are brethren. We are all the sons of one father, the rebels (reshaim) and criminals, the heretics (meshumadim) and forced ones (anusim), and the proselytes (gerim) who are attached to the house of Jacob. All these are Israelites. Even if they left God or denied Him, or violated His Law, the yoke of that Law is still upon their shoulders and will never be removed from them.[4]

Hakham BenSión Uziel, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of the State of Israel, stated in mid-20th c.

And we still have to clarify on the (subject of) Anusím, to whom the government forbids them to perform Halakhicly valid marriages, if it's necessary to say that their wives must have a Get to permit them (to marry another man), for the reason that, by force of the Law (Hazaqáh), a man does not have intercourse for promiscuity (zenút). . . (In our very case), we deal with those who converted and kept Torah in secrecy and hide their religion because of the gentile surveillance, we say that they do have intercourse for the sake of marriage.

It follows that Hakham Uziel considered anusím as Jews, because only Jews can give or receive a Get, a Jewish divorce.

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides) stated in the Mishneh Torah Sefer Shofetím, Hilekhót Mumarím 3:3

But their children and grandchildren [of Jewish rebels], who, misguided by their parents . . . and trained in their views, are like children taken captive by the gentiles and raised in their laws and customs (weghidelúhu haGoyím `al dathám), whose status is that of an ’anús [one who abjures Jewish law under duress], who, although he later learns that he is a Jew, meets Jews, observes them practice their laws, is nevertheless to be regarded as an ’anús, since he was reared in the erroneous ways of his parents . . . Therefore efforts should be made to bring them back in repentance (LeFikakh rawí leHah zirán biTeshubáh), to draw them near by friendly relations, so that they may return to the strength-giving source, i.e., the Toráh "

  • 1
    Seth, do you mind making the transliteration a bit more fluid? Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 1:56
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt, it is someone else's transliteration.
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 15:47
  • 1
    So do Bnei 'Anusim have a safek mamzerut ? Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 17:06
  • @NoachMiFrankfurt as luck would have it, Catholicism forbids divorce to this day. Anusim who relocated to the the British Empire or Netherlands could divorce, but of course they could live openly as Jews, as well. Commented Apr 7, 2022 at 18:36

Certain sins will cause a Jew to lose his status for many things, but not for marriage, divorce and children. I.e, a Jewish woman's children are always Jewish no matter what sins she's done, and they do not require conversion. However, if a person or group becomes completely disconnected from Judaism for many generations, they will completely lose their Jewish status for everything.

  • 3
    How many is many?
    – soandos
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 6:26
  • 2
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 0:51

For a great article on this topic see Is a Jew Who Converts Still Jewish http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1269075/jewish/Is-a-Jew-Who-Converts-Still-Jewish.htm A brief Quote: "Achan has broken “My covenant that I have commanded them”—interpreted by the Talmud to mean not only one detail, but the entire covenant of Torah. Yet he remains not only a Jew, but “Israel”—the entirety of the Jewish People in a single individual.

The principle extends not only to genealogical Jews, but converts as well. In Tractate Yevamot we learn that once a person has fulfilled all the requirements of a proper conversion, he is considered “like Israel in all matters.” The Talmud explains those last words to mean that even if this convert would return to his pagan ways, “if he marries a Jewish woman, he has the same status as an apostate Jew, and they are considered married.” Based on the above statement of the Talmud, the Jewish Code of Law rules that a marriage between a Jewish man and a Jewish woman who “convert out” is completely valid. Therefore, their children are considered Jewish and could also marry other Jews."

From my perspective, "Once a Jew Always a Jew;" because the Convert comes into the Community by vowing to uphold the 613 Mitzvoth (Commandments). Numbers 30:2 "When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said."

If he fails to keep the Mitzvot in their entirety, he will be punished like any other Jew (except he return [repent or make tshuva] to Hashem) whereas if he keeps the mitzvot in their entirety, he will be rewarded like any other Jew.

A good source to read about converts is, Converts and Conversion to Judaism, by Rabbi Josef Lifland.

  • Could you summarize some of the contents of the linked page?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 4:26

Rambam gives a list of 13 foundations of the religion. At the conclusion of this list he writes:

וכאשר יהיו קיימים לאדם כל היסודות הללו ואמונתו בהם אמתית הרי הוא נכנס בכלל ישראל וחובה לאהבו ולחמול עליו וכל מה שצוה ה' אותנו זה על זה מן האהבה והאחוה ואפילו עשה מה שיכול להיות מן העבירות מחמת תאותו והתגברות יצרו הרע הרי הוא נענש לפי גודל מריו ויש לו חלק והוא מפושעי ישראל וכאשר יפקפק אדם ביסוד מאלו היסודות הרי זה יצא מן הכלל וכפר בעיקר ונקרא מין ואפיקורות וקוצץ בנטיעות וחובה לשנותו ועליו הוא אומר הלא משנאיך ה' אשנא וכו (Qafih translation)

And when a person upholds all these foundations, and his belief in them is true, he enters into the group of Israel and it is an obligation to love him, and to have compassion for him, and all that Hashem commanded us regarding love and brotherhood for each other. And even if he has done what can be of the sins due to his desires and the overpowerment of his evil inclination, he will be punished commensurate to the greatness of his rebellion but he still has a portion and he is of the sinners of Israel. But when a person doubts one of these foundations he has left the group, and denied God, and is called a sectarian and a heretic and a cutter of shoots, and it is an obligation to hate him, and of him it is said "do I not hate those who hate you, Hashem?"


Today it is hard for a Jew to lose his status as a Jew since Rabenu Ovadia Yosef says that this generation has the status of tinok shenishbah.

On the other hand there are sins that have the punishment of caret, so his soul would be cut off from the Jewish people after his death.

Even though someone might maintain his status as Jew, he may gain the status of someone that can't be trusted (with food or testimony).

  • 6
    I don't believe that's what caret means.
    – Ariel
    Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 1:34

We found in the Talmud (Yev 17a), about descendants of the lost tribes that could become a great problem:

לא זזו משם עד שעשאום נכרים גמורים

"They did not move from there before they made them [=Sages considered them] full gentiles"


This question is really dependent on how we view the status of Kutim. The Tosfos Yom Tov (Niddah 7,4) asks that if Kutim are in fact true converts, who later turned out to be unfaithful, why does the corpse of a Kuti not create tumas ohel like any other Jew? One approach is to answer like the Shach (y.d. 159,2) that Chazal have the ability to uproot a Torah prohibition through their enactments, so they were able to undo a tumah created by the Torah. however, the Chasam Sofer (Hagahos Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 39,4) says that Judaism is an exclusive club; if we collectively agree to kick someone out, then he's no longer Jewish.
This is, in turn, dependent on the machlokes how to read Tosfos in Yevamos 16a; according to Maharshal there, he understands like the Chasam Sofer, but the Maharsha disagrees and says that once someone is a Jew, he's always a Jew.


There is a concept of "cutting off from Israel". I.e Shemot 12:15. Whoever eats leaven on Passover is cut off from Israel. Such person is definitely not Jewish. There are other similar prohibitions in the Torah. I.e Shemot 30:33, 38, Vaikra 7:20. Etc.

  • 2
    Karet (being cut off) doesn't mean one loses once Jewishness - it is a spiritual punishment where once neshama is cut off from Hashem, see e.g., here
    – mbloch
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 8:12
  • 1
    Bereshit 17:14, Shemot 12:15, Vayikra 7:20 all use karet in conjunction with nefesh (the soul). It is the nefesh which will be disconnected from Hashem, not the Jew who is not a Jew anymore. The latter is nowhere found.
    – mbloch
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 16:55
  • 1
    You are welcome to write and think what you want, I am just telling what the traditional explanation is for karet. No one would claim that a Jew having transgressed Shabbat (which is punishable by karet) is not a Jew anymore. B'shalom
    – mbloch
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 17:43
  • 1
    @mbloch Sure, that is fine what tradition says. I am just saying what Written Torah says. These are clearly two different things for most people here. Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 18:04
  • 1
    @AleksandrSigalov This is based on the mefarshim and on masechta Krisis, 5th masechta in sedr kodshim. A Jew cannot be turned into a gentile. "A Yisrael even though he sins is still a Yisrael". If he were not a Yisrael, he could not be punished for sinning as a gentile is not subject to the punishment. Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 21:25

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