Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Half Jews II - or Patrilineal Jew or Israeli

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post Half Jews:

i'm a "patrilineal jew" which according to you is no jew at all. i don't identify as anything other than that - i'm not "half" something or other, i am that i am - ibri, israeli.

according to your hashkafa someone whose great great great maternal grandmother was jewish, and has no knowledge or concern for yahdut and masorot is a jew. this is hard to understand. i am coming to israel (sorry!), and i think rather than doing conversion i will join the karaite movement. it is a hard decision because i grew up to know and respect rabbinic judaism but of course was always rejected by it - i don't blame anyone for this - zeh pashut kacha.

the reason i do not want to do giyyur is because it has a degrading and insulting aspect - the halacha states that my father is not my father and i cannot call myself "ben ----". i do not object at all to tevilah and hatafat dam but only this grave disrespect to my father's, mother's and my honour. someone from two non-jewish parents who wants to convert is lucky in this regard because they will not have to worry about this issue.

all the best, i hope that you will consider these thoughts i have shared with you. please have some rahamim and keep in mind that of course there are people whose identity is confused (both those children of intermarriage from jewish mothers but of course, probably more from jewish fathers) and rather than belittling, judging or laughing about it maybe consider the pain that such people may feel, and the desire for some true refuat nefesh.

13 comments :

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    all the best, i hope that you will consider these thoughts i have shared with you. please have some rahamim and keep in mind that of course there are people whose identity is confused (both those children of intermarriage from jewish mothers but of course, probably more from jewish fathers) and rather than belittling, judging or laughing about it maybe consider the pain that such people may feel, and the desire for some true refuat nefesh.
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    DT responded.

    I appreciate that you took the time to share your views on this matter. I am not sure why you decided to post on my blog - but there is no reason to think that anyone here will laugh or ridicule you.
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    Anonymous wrote:
    he reason i do not want to do giyyur is because it has a degrading and insulting aspect - the halacha states that my father is not my father and i cannot call myself "ben ----". i do not object at all to tevilah and hatafat dam but only this grave disrespect to my father's, mother's and my honour.
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    DT responded:
    You are obviously correct in that if you convert than you are not viewed halachicly as the son of your biological father.

    But it doesn't mean that the halacha views that he is no different than any other human being. The Netziv (Haskoma to Ahavas Chesed) writes that in fact that there is an obligation to honor your biological father.

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  2. to Anonymous:

    It's not a matter of haskafa at all, nor is it anything judgmental or personal.

    There are some aspects of Jewish law that allow no room for interpretation.

    Requiring a Jewish mother to be a born Jew is one of those things.

    The pain you are experiencing is one of the many tragic consequences of intermarriage, and what's truly unfair to you is that you did nothing wrong.

    I wish you well on your journey.

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  3. I think Reb Moshe would allow people to be called ben-biological-father in certain cases like this. It should be somewhere in Iggros Moshe. Daniel, what does your index say?

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  4. I have heard it in a Young Israel where the Mora d'Asra was a student of Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl. and also in a shul where the Mora d'Asra was a student of Rabbi Gifter of Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland.

    I have been taught that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef rules that one should call a man to the Torah by the name that he is known on the street. I have heard men being called to the Torah by their English or Arabic names as well as one gentleman who was called as "Gingi".

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  5. I think that orthodox rabbis should make it easier for half-jews to convert:many are really willing to "come back",but it's so hard(and expensive!)But the jewish people will eventually die out,with this attitude of closed doors.

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  6. giorgio333,

    "I think that orthodox rabbis should make it easier for half-jews to convert"

    I'm not sure what you mean by this. Are you implying that the standards for conversion are generally more stringent for half-Jews (i.e. non-Jews with a Jewish father) than they are for "complete" non-Jews? Or, are you implying that the standards for conversion should be lower for half-Jews than they are for "complete" non-Jews?

    "many are really willing to "come back",but it's so hard(and expensive!)"

    Hard, I understand. But expensive? Are you referring to expenses that are inherent in being shomer mitzvos (e.g. buying kosher food, tefillin, etc.)? I assume you must be referring to something else altogether because this is a financial cost that is borne by all Jews who are shomer mitzvos, whether or not they are converts. Are you talking about classes on basic Judaism that a potential convert would most likely take in preparation for conversion? If so, are they really that expensive?

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    Replies
    1. The cost for an actual conversion with a recognized orthodox beit din is at least $1000 for 3 meetings with the beit din and a dip in the mikveh. That's not including the cost for classes on Judaism and so forth, which would raise the cost even higher. That cost is just for the single act of conversion itself. That's also not considering that at that point, the beit din could vote not to let you become a Jew after all of that time, investment, and money. That's expensive, especially for younger Jews, who make up the majority of the children of intermarriage who would be interested in conversion.

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  7. anonymous "patrilineal"July 17, 2008 at 1:02 PM

    thanks for the supportive comments (and for posting the tshuvot from igros moshe).

    the reason i chose to post on this blog is that in "issues of jewish identity" this problematic case often comes up, and i wanted to make some input to the discussion. from the point of my "personal status" it is unfortunate that due to circumstances beyond anyone's control my mother did not complete the full process of geirut (she did do the study), but had it been otherwise perhaps i would have been complacent and not seeking so fervently - it seems to me that this is a nisayon through which i will (bs"d) reach fulfillment of an upright jewish, spiritual life.

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  8. anonymous "patrilineal" said...

    it seems to me that this is a nisayon through which i will (bs"d) reach fulfillment of an upright jewish, spiritual life.

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    I hear some interesting conflicting emotions in your posting and the fact that your education is not as strong as your intellect in these matters.

    I would suggest you have a serious discussion with a competent and sensitive rabbi (i.e., not all rabbis are both competent and sensitive). You might mention to him you would like to understand the views of Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky zt"l regarding your situation.

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  9. I hear some interesting conflicting emotions in your posting and the fact that your education is not as strong as your intellect in these matters.

    quite so - i have some religious education in Chumash (and there only limited to the years of elementary school) and modern Hebrew. your advice is appreciated.

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  10. To Chizky:I was indeed suggesting that it was made easier to convert for "half-jews",and I was complayining about some people who make you pay hard cash for the privilege of studying with them.

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  11. As another patrilineal something, I understand where the patrilineal anonymous poster is coming from in posting spontaneously.

    What strikes me unfair about telling someone whether or not he or she is a Jew- is that it seems at odds with Jewish beliefs, in both a simple and spiritual way:

    1) Most patriarchs and some prophets could not be considered Jewish, yet they are important to Jewish tradition.

    2) The censuses in Numbers are patrilineal.

    3) Ritually and spiritually, being Jewish for Jews is a process- circumcision, Bar Mitzvah, Torah study, leaving the yetzer hara and learning to be a faithful, happy person, and repentance. To be a good Jew requires certain actions that must be fulfilled. Being Jewish is about reaching this potential, and repenting when one does not.

    Now, telling someone that they are not Jewish means two things- they are not Jewish now (fine, an objective fact) and secondly, they will not be encouraged to become Jewish, or even will be discouraged to be Jewish. Even though the individual has the potential to be Jewish by conversion, for some reason this is not mentioned or is not encouraged or is actively discouraged. What do these statements tell the person about the his potential? He inherently has less potential? It will be bad for him to try to be good? This is where the most bitterness and confusion comes from.

    4) Lastly, according to the Hasidic tradition, a person's spiritual soul is higher than their body soul. The body soul is found in the blood, and may correspond to blood lines or genetics. To deny someone spiritual help who has a spiritual yearning on the basis of their lower soul is to say that the lower soul is actually more important than the higher soul.


    I have spent some time thinking about this, because the more I read about Judaism the more I love the religion and its books and culture. I have come to the opinion that negative or apathetic treatment toward aspiring half-Jews or non-Jews is unethical. The BeSHT held that anyone who is suffering should be helped. Since non-Jews have the potential to be Jews, once a person expresses that desire to be a Jew to a Jew, it is entirely in the recipient's mind whether or not that person deserves to be Jewish, and whether he wants to see a non-Jew or a striving-Jew. It is up to him whether he encourages or discourages that person, and I do not think there is much moral ambiguity about the right thing to do in that situation.

    The Torah section from which the matrilineal descent custom was adopted states: "(Deut. 7:3-4) reads: "Thy daughter thou shalt not give to his son, nor shalt thou take his daughter to thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods.""

    This statement explains a reason why the statement was made. So if the descendants of such a union do wish to serve the God of the Torah, how does rejecting the offspring rather than the marriage meet this reason? If to turn away the offspring prevents them from serving God, it is unclear why this approach is consistent with the statement. If the goal is to keep Jews facing God, it is unclear to me why any Jewish community should use the first half of the Torah sentence to make it more difficult for some Jews to pursue their religion.

    *Also note that 'thy daughter thou shalt not give to his son' equally seems to outlaw matrilineal descent. Perhaps we would do better not to be strict about biological descent, and rather look to the spiritual essence of the Torah statement- are we encouraging and helping people that want to serve the God of the Torah?

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  12. You are dead on in this topic.
    "2) The censuses in Numbers are patrilineal." I don't even have

    In the Book of Numbers (Torah) when the "whole of the congregation" went forth to fight for the Nation of Israel a census was performed and they were enumerated by the scribes in the following manner:

    "Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers' houses, according to the number of names, every male, by their polls;" (Numbers 1:2)

    "And they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month, and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by their fathers' houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward, by their polls." (Numbers 1:18)

    So if Moses was to take a census today all "patrilineal Jews" would be included in the "congregation of the children of Israel". Also Israel (aka. Jacob) is our founding Patriarch who were claim "inheritance" from.

    Furthermore to exclude those who are in "congregation of the children of Israel" is a sin against the commandment to "Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18)

    The Torah says more than I ever could and in these hard times we must support and love our brothers and sisters and not bear false grudges against them because we are spiteful that their fathers have married a stranger. Jospeh, Moses and Boaz (father of David) married strangers. According to the Book of Ruth all the strange women need do is take the Our G-d as her G-d our people as her people and agree to raise a Jewish family.

    Trust me, most women who love a man enough to marry them would be more than willing to do this if we did not hate them so much.

    By creating false divisions within our own kind we have made ourselves weaker than we need to be. In light of the Holocaust and the current hate campaings against the State of Israel this is unacceptable.

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