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Jewish Genes, Identity, and Citizenship

posted by mkress

In juxtaposing “blood and genetics,” by which I presume he means those born of a Jewish mother, with those who “identify with the Jewish people and adopt a certain lifestyle,” by which I presume he means those who self-identify as Jews by their feelings or actions, Rabbi Stern misses one critical component of Jewish identity: citizenship.

In the United States, citizenship is not the same as residency. People can live in this country for years and feel part of our culture, yet not be able to vote or hold office unless they go through the steps of becoming citizens. The same is true in Judaism.

I am sure Rabbi Stern would agree that, under Jewish law and history, a person can become a member of the Jewish people through two means: being born of a Jewish mother or converting to Judaism. Conversion is accomplished by study, commitment to the mitzvot (commandments), immersion in a mikveh (ritual pool), and for a male, brit milah (ritual circumcision), or tipat dam (taking a drop of blood if the male was already medically circumcised).

It is unfortunate that years ago the Reform Movement dropped these requirements for Jewish citizenship through their decision on patrilineal descent and the choice various Reform rabbis make to skip mikveh and milah as part of the conversion process. However, Reform Movement recently began to encourage conversions, as we have discussed here before. Perhaps that will also stimulate a further commitment to mikveh and milah as well.

As Rabbi Stern intimates, it is true that there is a move afoot in the organized Jewish community to broaden the definition of who is a Jew to include self-identity. This was a major issue around the National Jewish Population Survey. Such lack of distinctions does us no real good in the long term.

Throughout history, there have been many who truly loved Judaism and the Jewish people and lived their lives around the Jewish calendar. The Talmud refers to sabbatoi, Sabbath observers who clearly identified with the Jewish people, lived their lives as Jews, but had not yet officially converted. I have such people in my congregation. Some go on to convert; others do not for many diverse reasons. They are wonderful people who add much to my congregation. But they are not yet officially Jewish, even though they self-identify with our community, because they have chosen of their free will not to make the faith commitment to become officially Jewish.

There is nothing wrong with finding ways to welcome those who are not yet ready to embrace such a faith commitment while retaining our expectations for conversion (citizenship) and the distinctions between those who are citizens and those who are not. While citizenship is not a guarantee of Jewish continuity, i.e., having Jewish grandchildren, commitment certainly is one of many prerequisites.

Unlike Rabbi Stern, what I find so shocking about the decision of the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to limit Jewish identity to those born of a Jewish mother is not the rejection of Reform and Conservative conversions (nothing new there) but also of Orthodox conversions. It is true that there are Sephardic precedents to reject converts, probably born of a long and painful history with Christian and Islamic powers who severely punished the individuals and communities accused of proselytizing. However, such fears certainly have no grounds in the Jewish State.

On one hand, Rabbi Amar is flattening the playing field between all three movements. On the other, his decision points to the dangerous narrowing of the definition of acceptable Jewish life and community under the right wing rabbinate in Israel as they continue to tighten their boundaries of who they consider is Jewish.

Certainly in Israel, such actions and attitudes by the rabbinate serve only to distance Jewish citizens, those born of Jewish mothers who live in Israel, from their Judaism, which they see as coercive and discriminatory. This, perhaps more than anything else, threatens Jewish continuity and commitment in the Jewish State.

–Posted by Rabbi Susan Grossman



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curious

posted November 29, 2006 at 10:01 pm


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Deborah

posted December 2, 2006 at 4:22 pm


Dear Susan, I don’t believe that we will ever change or become any other descent that we are born, but Gentile Christians are ‘adopted’ into the vine, being Jesus, the Jewish people. We can adopt some Jewish ways in keeping with the whole scripture and our own hearts, and our own salvation, and delight, each blessing one another, but whatever you are born, is what descent you are. The Lord said not to worry about genealogies. In other words, if it is delightful to you and others anc causes no one to stumble or fall, it is wonderful, If it is burdensome then it is superfluous and not to be focussed on. God made a provision for absolutely everyone and everything, and if we look for them like treasures, the smile that floods the soul will keep our thoughts on the Lord in a light and constant way, loving us, wooing us, and being with us, single or married, ‘young or old’, lifting us even out of the depths of despair when they occur. A beautiful flower, a lovely bird, a butterfly that is pure joy, and a lightening bug that lights up the night, enjoying you and you enjoying it and the gentle night. However, after Christ, God made not distinction of loving only the Jews, but accepting the Gentile into the fold, for our sakes, but especially for your sakes (Gentiles being heathen, disobedient, sinful, not knowing God, being like little children wanting their way, having no care for anyone else but themselves, and there is grace, God’s grace abounds with sin for all our sakes. He punished and disciplined the Jews doubly for they are His Beloved, His Cherished, and He loved them so, He didn’t want them to fall into the hands of heathens or pagan, they were too sensitive, and childlike, and naive themselves to ward off the evil intended for them and God always knew that. But if you win other’s over, like God did with His people and through His people when obedient to Him, then even your enemies can say or do nothing to you. Perfect, He is. And with God’s ways it is for our benefit especially,but it benefits Him as well. Thus, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you.’ Must have been his whole plan, but always keeping a remnant for Himself. A very loving, faithful, God and Father, very generous, but like us needing a ‘few’ that are especially close to Him. Which is a very simple and sure way of knowing that we are like Him, even when our hearts condemn us, He is greater than our hearts. Oh, thank God for our God, and Savior, our Precious Ones, Our Beloveds, and finally in essence, Our Own Beloved, Lord God of Israel.



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Robin Margolis

posted December 2, 2006 at 6:43 pm


Dear Friends: As the Coordinator of the Half-Jewish Network, an organization for adult children of intermarriage, I would like to respectfully dispute what I think are historical errors in Rabbi Grossman’s view of Jewish identity in Jewish history. First, many reputable Jewish scholars currently believe that the model of Jewish identity presented in the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible, Old Testament) indicates that children were considered Jewish if they had a Jewish mother or a Jewish father, provided that they were raised as Jews. There are innumerable examples of patrilineals (children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers) in the Tanach, who are clearly regarded as Jews by the people around them. There is no indication in the text most of the time that their mothers ever converted to Judaism. The same is true in reverse of matrilineals in the Tanach. They were treated as Jews because they had a Jewish mother and were raised as Jews, but their non-Jewish fathers do not seem to have converted to Judaism. Rabbi Grossman also suggests that it was “unfortunate” that the Reform movement chose to accept patrilineal children of intermarriage in the 1980s. She is apparently not aware that the Reform movement patrilineal decision was preceeded by Reconstructionist Judaism in 1968. Reconstructionist Judaism was the first movement to officially accept patrilineals, but for some reason, Reform is always credited (or blamed) for being the first to do so. In addition, patrilineals are accepted by the Humanistic Jews, and by many segments of Jewish Renewal. The decision to accept patrilineals was not “unfortunate” from Reform’s point of view — their membership in America has grown so fast since they did this, that their movement displaced Rabbi Grossman’s Conservative movement as the largest Jewish movement in America. Rabbi Grossman’s Conservative movement, which still officially accepts only the matrilineal children of intermarriage as real Jews, is currently offering a new initiative to allow patrilineal children to attend Conservative movement schools and camps until age 13, after which time they must formally convert to Judaism. (Previously the patrilineal children were excluded from many Conservative movement schools and camps.) I am happy that the Conservative movement is now trying to outreach the patrilneal children. I would respectfully urge Rabbi Grossman to support this new policy. I am not a member of either Reform or Conservative Judaism, but I have been alarmed by the Conservative movement’s “graying” (high portions of middle-aged and senior members) and falling numbers. The Conservative movement is vitally needed worldwide as a “center” between the Orthodox and the more liberal/left Reform, Reconstruction, Humanistics, and Renewal. If we lose the “center” of Judaism, it will be very bad for Jewish faith and culture. Cordially, Robin Margolis



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Chana Silverman

posted December 4, 2006 at 3:54 am


A Christain is not a Jew because of a belief in a Jewish Rabbi they have turned into a Messiah, whom they worship. Jew’s are the people of “The Book” – which is the Torah. (Encluding) The Tanakh. The 10 commandments. We are very diverse, but we are not Christian. It is strange, to me, Christians see themselves as “included” – as Jews. Jews certainly do not see themselves as “included” in any of the Gentile Religions. it is also very strange, to me, that these people who consider themselves as “grafted into Israel” through Jesus have so many times been our persecutors! We are all of the family of man, so to speak, and all created in the image of G-d. We will all answer to Our Creator for how we have treated each other. Every race and religion has its purpose, and I believe HaShem has sprinkled the “Core Truth” – that there is only One G-d amongst all peoples, but only a Jew is a Jew and when you are a Jew there is a knowing what and who you are that defies an explaination. We have our legal definitions of who is a Jew. Why? We have legal definitions for everthing, so why not for who we are. Why? Because of the Covenant HaShem made with Abraham. It is the Covenant we take so very seriously that defines us.



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Jonathan Monnich

posted December 4, 2006 at 10:03 pm


Dear Rabbi Grossman, Perhaps Rabbi Amar should be reminded that Abraham, the first Hebrew, was not born of either a Hebrew mother or father, yet he is considered the father of our faith. I am a Jew by choice with a conservative conversion. I find it unfair that I may not be allowed Israeli citizenship by the Law of Return because I do not fit into his pattern. Many of the Jew in Israel are secular, while most of the Jews by choice are very active and spiritual about their Judaism. When is the voice of one rabbi going to be stifled and eyes opened the the realization that we are Jews, and in some ways more Jewish than those born to Jewish mothers? Jonathan Monnich (Adin ben Avraham)



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Deborah

posted December 5, 2006 at 2:44 am


No, Christians are not Jews, as I have written in some other posts, and yes we are accepted by God just as the Jews are, have the same blessings of Abraham, promised to us by Jehovah, Elohim, my God, too, I claim Him as more my God than many I have taken the time to read from other people’s writings and beliefs. Many Jewish people accept and/or allow Muslims who call God, Allah, and write a few wordings of the O.T. scripture in their book that I can testify as written not by the Jews, as the original record-keepers, or by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, or with any kind of understanding of God, the true God, and His infinite love. I have read of violence in one verse, actually telling the Islamic people to take revenge on others, trying to deceive others into believing God is like that. God takes vengeance not revenge, and He tells us not to. Everything God does is motivated by love, nothing in the Koran can measure up to or even give a glimmer of light of the Lord or the whole truth about Him, let alone any understanding. The book is motivated by human reasoning, trying oh so very hard to think like God. Can’t touch Him with a ten-foot pole. These people of Islam, and Buddhism, and etc., are widely accepted by the Jewish people. I had thought that it was because they were ‘stuck’ with ‘getting along with’ and people-pleasing and fear of bodily harm, since Jerusalem has been taken into captivity by Islamic people for around 1300 years. Now, after reading more accounts in historical readings and some more scripture, in the O.T., I’m believing for some, that they have just slidden into their idol-worshipping ways in a back-handed way. Christians do not condemn other religions, but we get continually condemned, and sometimes we get fed up ourselves, but the Lord does the judging of the ‘sinner’, not me or any of us and we know it, and that’s a perfect delight for me personally. But when it comes to the name, Jesus, some of you, speak as though it is a dirty word, in derision, or you are looking for God to have to stay David, fight all our battles for us, take our B.S. continually, sneer at him, murder his prophets, and then murder him, too, again and again, and then cry ‘peace’ by covering truth of God which is never insulting, just pointed, like a surgeon’s lance for a boil, and ignoring what is going on around you, being lied to and some even lying to those that really don’t know God. Maybe, I’m talking to the wrong people here. I know the Israelite people of the Bible, and they were not deluded, or caught in the serpent’s lair of deceit and lies. I know what it is like to be ‘sleeping’, maybe you still are, but I am wide awake, and I get sent these e-mails by the same people you do. I had a love for the Jewish people, and still have for the pure strain of the Israelites, because of God, and I know those people do love us and we thoroughly love them and that’s a forever thing. I don’t understand how any of you can accept all that you accept, yet treat Jesus as an absurdity, or a fake. I could understand if you didn’t accept any other religion but Jewish, and I really don’t care anymore who accepts Christ or not in any capacity. As far as I’m concerned we’ve got everything and eveyone we need, and enough is enough. If there was any wooing being done by me, just chalk it up to naivete’, and I wanted the Lord to come quickly to heal those Jewish people’s land and ours in America, and to speed the day on to the promises of God to His people, and those made to us, as well, to see the temple of Jerusalem built, worship on Mount Zion, and get to know one another and enjoy one another. That day will come and many of us know it. Excuse me, I thought I was talking to and tossing ideas around to the Jews, that have the same kind of heart I do, and others I have talked to and met and written to. I miss them very much, and I maybe it won’t happen for me until the New Heaven and New Earth. I am made to feel very unwelcome on some of these posts, even those not labeled as ‘Jewish only’. If I say the right thing, it’s O.K., if I say the truth or say Jesus’ name, I’m treated rudely. I know you don’t treat Muslims, and their ‘prophet’, Mohammed that way? Why? Everything else is accepted by some of you, but Jesus isn’t, even to speak kindly of. Oh, well what’s the use, anyway? I guess America isn’t so bad after all, condition-wise that is. May God bless each one of you richly.



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Chana Silverman

posted December 5, 2006 at 5:01 pm


Dear Deborah, this is Chana again – I would like to add: There is a Pastor I have heard interviewed on NPR and an AM talk radio show, Pastor John Hagee. If you go to his web site, he has a publication titled “Christians Supporting Israel” – “For Zion’s sake I will not deep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet.” I really respect this man, he loves the Jews, prays for the Jews, sends boo-coo bucks to Israel providiing a way for Jews to immigrate. He is very passionate for the Jews and our G-d who is his G-d. He does not try to shove Jesus down our throats. He knows our faith is valid. He is amazing! He teaches and believes it is not the time for the Jews to believe Jesus is the Messiah. He does not talk to us or look at us as the “unsaved”. I just absolutely love this man to pieces, for what he has done for Israel and his strong preaching for Christians to support Israel. I may not agree with all of his beliefs but I sure agree with his love. It quite possibley might take a level of maturity for religious people to read, listen to the beliefs of others without feeling threatened or fear rhey will lose what they preceive they have gained on their own choosen pathway. This gentleman is one righteous Gentile I am very thankful for. Check out his web site. I think you will be being true to your own faith and maybe get a better understanding of ours in the process, or at least be at peace with the decision of your brother and sister Jewish people to NOT see Jesus the way you do. Shalom



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Deborah

posted December 7, 2006 at 9:18 am


Dear Chana, Thank you for taking the time and the care to write to me as another human being. It means much to me, and I am delighted. As far as Christians persecuting Jews, I never knew of if. I guess because i never did it, don’t know any Christians who ever did it, and wouldn’t do it. If it came down to being persecuted by the Jews or persecuting the Jews, I would be persecuted. If the Jews were being persecuted for loving God, I would be persecuted, too. I am perscuted in many ways, becauee of my Christ, and obedience to the Lord God of Israel. I never thought I was better than a Jewish person, or that they should ever be treated unkindly. I find that my own personal love and understanding, perhaps as a child, is supported with scripture, all over the place, and I find my love for the Jews, of which we are speaking, out out of love for the Lord first and His love, not duty. I refuse to love anyone out of duty only, individually, and especially with my whole heart and soul, because i don’t want love marred. I always tried to be wha6 Jewish people wanted me to be, the best I could be, but now, because I get nervous, and because I know that God loves me just as I am, I don’t put that burden on me or the Jews. I don’t like to put my trust into mankind anymore, I always did that to some degree and I was always disappointed. I guess when no one but God will do, no one but God will do. Also, I learned that being a people-pleaser, or putting faith and trust, in mankind, over and above the Lord, makes for deep wells of disillusionment. When my faith is in the Lord, I am free to love deeply and know that I am loved deeply. If a Christian makes you feel that they are less of God’s creature than they are, then I wouldn’t say they are Christians, but if a Jew made a Christian feel they were less of God’s creature, what would you call them? I would call them ‘not understnading’, llke little children, etc. As far as Christians persecuting Jews, the Catholic people perscuted Jews and Christians alike back when, and the Catholics were not and are not Christians today, some of them nice people. There may be a few believers scattered in there, but on the whole, they’re not Christians, and if any of you that are Jews are not afraid to read other religions, I’ve read a few myself in the long ago past, then read the N.T. It says Christians will be known by their ‘fruit’, and do not take the Lord’s name in vain. Meaning if you’re going to wear his name, walk the walk and talk the talk. Anybody cna feel insecure about themselves or others, and we all have and all do at some time or another. I have felt very unwelcome to some of these posts, not to Jewish people on the whole, because I know Jewish-Christins, or Messianic-Jews, and the old Jews of films, mainly music and dance, and I’ll always love them throughout time and space, and nobody will ever take away from me what I believe and truly love, whether I live or die on this earth, but some of this really hurts. The Lord is the only one who can make it right for me anymore. It’s not just about my faith, it’s about a deep pain, and sorrows, and grieving. Thank you anyway. You can make me understand your point of views, from explaining to me and showing me scripture, but if you never understand my point of view, too, I will have gained and you will have lost. I can learn of God through anything, and still adhere to his commands pretty closely. If I understand you, which I would like to, or I wouldn’t be writing on these posts and reading them, too, then you will ‘feel’ good, but if you don’t understand me, then I am still grieving. I guess that is O.K., but God says to grieve, but not like we have no hope, for we do. You, also, asked me if reading and accepting other religions is idolatrous. God knows you, it is written in your own scripture, one of the Jews sins was to fall into other people’s ways, worshipping other ‘gods’. It is written and recorded as a reminder to the Jewish people in love, originally, and to everybody else of us that arw weak-willed in any way, and I know to be strengthen by reading the Word and then doing it. I know what I have to stay away from, now, and I don’t believe that the Jewish accounts or scripture should have to be used like an old shoe, but I believe that you are missing the final ingredients of your God and my God’s plan, which is crucial in ending a never-ending thirst and hunger that do not satisfy. Please, don’t get angry, in this. If you can read so much other stuff and never get angry, and still keep on looking, then just read some of this, logically, as well. Jesus is just information to you, so it shouldn’t make you have any emotional charges, for I don’t write to you to ‘take away from you’ or to be condescending, Heaven forbid, but we are all human beings first, Jew or Gentile, and God says when you do something sinful, you get punished and disciplined for it, accoding to God’s measure, no matter who we are, that belong to the Lord. Your own scripture says, the scripture I read says the same thing, O.T., N.T. God shows no favoritism. Persecution is when there is no reason for it, except when sharing in the persecutions of the Lord and his people from time to time, and the ‘sharing with the Lord’ was him sharing in our miseralble sins, and taking every single one of our punichsment which is death. God said we all deserved death, I didn’t, I’m sure none of you did, but I know ‘we did’ and we do. Much mercy and grace was given us by that act of love and obedience, and averted God’s wrath from the Jews as well as everybody else He was having to deal with at the time. We’re very blessed indeed, whether everybody know it or not. Anyway, Jesus, didn’t just lay down and die for anyone, but he did obey his Father, my God and your God, unto death, arisen on the third day, and after 40 days, I believe of coming to his followers, they way him ascend into Heaven, back to the Father, leaving us wonderfully independent, and fully dependent on the Lord and His love for us and His promises. I would like you to tell me what you believe from your own thougts, and scripture, too. I think it would be delightful. Once Again, Thank you, May God Bless You According to Your Own Desires and God’s Will For you Specifically, Peace to You and Goodwill to Men! Smile,



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Chana Silverman

posted December 7, 2006 at 1:55 pm


Hi again Deborah, This blog page is being replaced with new material so do not know if you saved yor original site. I am not angry with you! Actually I find I really like you and enjoy your posts. I hope reading the stuff on Jewish sites adds to your spiritual life. You know, inspite of differences we are all in this together – this game of life – this journey of spiritual growth. I believe HaShem (meaning “The Name’ – of our Merciful G-d) , as I posted before, has sprinkled truth and knowledge amongst all peoples and given all people freedom to choose how to approach Him. So Jews do not look at any any race or religion as doomed as we believe we are judged by our actions, not our beliefs. Beliefs grow, mature and change. We definetly believe in “boundries”, but our boundries do not include drawing lines for the beliefs of others. If the fruit is there than the Spirit of HaShem is there regardles of religious labels. The Torah is our boundry – the fence around our soul, the light for our actions, the nourishment for our spiritual hunger, – and we can if we so choose drink deeply from it’s wells of salvation. We can experience “deliverance from Egypt” personally, and – as if we where personally there when Moses led the Hebrews out. I think one of the hardest things for Christians to believe, accept or undersand is that a Jew does not need a “mediator” – a go between person, to approach HaShem. These misunderstands may come from not knowing and understanding what the Temple Sacrifices were really all about, thus contributing to the belief only a “human sacrifice” of a son of G-d can make forgivness of sin possible. I do not want to explain that to you. If you want to know you need to check out the subject of Temple Sacrifices on Chabad.org or inner.org. I brought a friend to a service and we went to a Reform synagogue. (I am Orthodox) I felt a service mostly in English would be more meaning ful for my friend. He came away from the service deeply touched and one thing he said to ne gave me some understanding of the Christian viewpoint. He said “Wow”, “you guys go directly to G-d! You just jump right in there! But since I am not a Jew I don’t want to take any chances – I think I will play it safe and go to G-d through Jesus!” hehe – He made me laugh. I have been to Christian functions – the services I do not like. (My Mom was married to a Christian for a short while in her old age). I found these references” “and THE JEWS came to Jesus and ‘THE JEWS’ said this and ‘THE JEWS’ did that” pretty weird and anti-semitic sounding. It made me uncomfortable to say the least and I came away feeling – these people are so clueless to who the Jewsih people really are! The media sure does not help with the way movies portray us sometimes. A movie I would recomend for you is “The Choosen” – gives a glimnce of two different Jewish religious life styles that is pretty accurate. I recently went to a Christian wedding. It was lovely – beautiful people – but as far as religious or spiritual substance – it was empty – for me anyway. Maybe it felt meaninless because I am “full” in my own tradition with love for HaShem and Spiritual inspirtation that I do not need the blandness I felt was offered there; However, it wa so good to see peole really want to do their best, living moral and ethical lives, and commiting themselves to G-d. If you want to learn more about us – and I am sure at times we must really seem like a stange bunch with ways of serving HaShem that do not make sense to you at all, (and that’s okay), check out the Chabad website. Chabad.org – click on daily Torah study, then go to the “Parsha in a nutshell”. Various words will be highlighted to click on. That would be one way to understand us a little better as they bring up very thoughtful and ispiring stories. Nothing about them is “preachy” – no one will try to make you feel bad or convert you. They are simply Jews speaking to Jews. Surely understanding what we get from our Torah can perhaps be enriching for your own faith. Thanks – Love and Shalom, Chana



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