42

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?

  • 5
    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 May 24 '11 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 Aug 20 '14 at 14:11
25

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), they do need 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.

  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:

  • 10
    +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. – Monica Cellio May 24 '11 at 13:08
  • 1
    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 Feb 1 '16 at 0:50
4

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? – Noach MiFrankfurt Apr 6 '16 at 1:56
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt, it is someone else's transliteration. – Seth J Apr 6 '16 at 15:47
  • So do Bnei 'Anusim have a safek mamzerut ? – Noach MiFrankfurt Mar 20 '18 at 17:06
1

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.

  • 2
    How many is many? – soandos Aug 17 '12 at 6:26
  • 1
    Source????????? – mevaqesh Feb 1 '16 at 0:51
1

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?"

0

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).

  • 5
    I don't believe that's what caret means. – Ariel Apr 12 '13 at 1:34
0

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 Sep 26 '16 at 4:26
-6

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 Jan 31 '16 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 Jan 31 '16 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 Jan 31 '16 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. – Aleksandr Sigalov Jan 31 '16 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. – sabbahillel Feb 14 '16 at 21:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .