Patrilineal Descent--A Discussion

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cnorman18

Re: Patrilineal Descent--A Discussion

Post #11

Post by cnorman18 »

goat wrote:
From what I hear (Since I never went through a conversion program), many of the Reform synagogues have actually tightened up the requirements for conversion, just so that the issue about 'are you really a Jew' does not arise.
That wouldn't surprise me. Reform Jews were at one time commonly almost militant about being different from Conservative and Orthodox - in the early years, they commonly worshipped on Sunday - and were not only nonobservant, but actually actively discouraged observance. Twenty years ago, ushers at Temple Emanu-El, the largest Reform shul in Dallas, would ask Jews from other branches to remove their yarmulkes for services. That is an absolute fact. They don't now, and yarmulkes are common. Some Reform Jews even keep kosher now.

Lenny Bruce used to joke about "Jews so Reform they're ashamed they're Jewish." At one time, that was almost true.

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Post #12

Post by Jrosemary »

Hey Goat & Cnorman,
goat wrote:From what I hear (Since I never went through a conversion program), many of the Reform synagogues have actually tightened up the requirements for conversion, just so that the issue about 'are you really a Jew' does not arise.
Yeah, Reform is trending more toward Conservative nowadays. I think, however, that the requirements for conversion are very much up to the discretion of individual rabbis and beit dins. In other words, on rabbi may insist on a mikvah, another may not, etc.
cnorman wrote:That wouldn't surprise me. Reform Jews were at one time commonly almost militant about being different from Conservative and Orthodox - in the early years, they commonly worshipped on Sunday - and were not only nonobservant, but actually actively discouraged observance. Twenty years ago, ushers at Temple Emanu-El, the largest Reform shul in Dallas, would ask Jews from other branches to remove their yarmulkes for services. That is an absolute fact. They don't now, and yarmulkes are common. Some Reform Jews even keep kosher now.


The ushers at Temple Emanu-El in New York had the same rule--no one was allowed to wear a kippah (yarmulke.) But they've softened up and you will see Kippot now.

As for Reform Jews being hardcore anti-observance in the past--well, let's not forget the infamous Treif Banquet! Back in 1883, the first graduating class of Hebrew Union College went out of their way to serve non-kosher food. That act so horrified some folks that they founded JTS and Conservative Judaism.

However, with Reform Judaism moving to the right and Modern Orthodoxy moving to the left--well, Conservative Judaism is in a bad way. We're bleeding members to both groups. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I think we'll come back strong and find our niche again, but time will tell.

Back to the subject at hand:
cnorman wrote:Okay, as often happens here, I find my position changing.

I personally have always accepted, like you, that anyone who is accepted as a Jew in any branch of Judaism is a Jew. I'm not especially pleased with having my own Jewishness questioned by the Orthodox, so I'm not eager to pass judgment on the Jewishness of another.

My concern is with friction between the branches. The Orthodox have already dealt themselves out of that hand, and I find that disturbing enough; but I'd hate to see the same thing happen among the other branches. From what I've been reading, if the Reform branch formalizes the recognition of patrilineal descent, within a generation the same de facto schism will exist between Reform and Conservative as between the Orthodox and everyone else. My own Conservative shul - well, one of them - has close ties to Reform; my own instruction in my conversion class was conducted by a female Reform rabbi.

I suppose it's acceptable if every branch has its own standards and everyone agrees that conversion or reconversion is necessary if one is going to affiliate with or marry into a stricter branch. That's where we are now with the Orthodox, anyway. I guess I'm advocating that the strictest standard ought to prevail, and unless I'm willing to buy into Orthodoxy, that makes no sense.

In my own community, Reform shuls usually require milah but not mikvah for converts, unless the convert requests both. Weird, but whatever. That seems to be because some of the local Conservative rabbis will accept a convert without mikvah, but not without circumcision.

I think it's good that we have no central authority to rule on these things. I guess a certain amount of chaos is the price we have to pay for that freedom.

By the way, I agree with your judgments on "Messianism." "Messianic Jews" are properly called "Christians." If an ethnic Jew wishes to worship Jesus and still self-identify as a Jew, okay, but that should be qualified as "a Jew who does not practice the Jewish religion."

Question: there are in fact five branches of Judaism. Do you recognize those who practice Humanistic Judaism, which is explicitly atheistic in nature, as Jews? I think I do, if they are born into that branch.

They also have a ceremony or procedure analogous to conversion for non-Jews; no circumcision or ritual bath required, of course. Of the Jewishness of those who "convert" to that branch, I am not so sure. Maybe.

It's my understanding that many if not most Israelis are growing sick of the dominance of the Orthodox over religion and marriage policies. There are more Messianic "synagogues" (I hate that term for them too) in Israel than Masorti (Conservative), and I think that's an atrocity.

Your last point is well taken, too. Chances are that if we knew our total family history and enforced halakhah strictly, very few of us could call ourselves Jews.

And I DO wish someone had the authority to standardize transliteration of Hebrew to English. I know of eight ways to spell Hanukkah - that, Hanukah, Chanukah, Hanuka, Chanuka, Hannukah, Channuka, and Channukah.
That's nuts.
I appreciate the way you've reconsidered this difficult and complex issue. And I agree that the different standards we apply to figuring out who's Jewish is an acceptable price to pay for our autonomy and lack of a central authority.

Regarding the fifth group, Humanistic Jews: You know, I've never given them much thought. I have nothing against atheistic humanist Jews and I see no compelling reason not to view them as a legitimate branch of Judaism. So I'll tentatively say that I'll view their converts as Jews (although their website doesn't say much about how one goes about converting to their branch.)

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Re: Patrilineal Descent--A Discussion

Post #13

Post by Jayhawker Soule »

goat wrote:From what I hear (Since I never went through a conversion program), many of the Reform synagogues have actually tightened up the requirements for conversion, just so that the issue about 'are you really a Jew' does not arise.
I do not believe that to be accurate. If you convert through a reform synagogue and let that fact be known at your local Chabad house, the wine you pour better be mevushal no matter how tight the requirements.

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Post #14

Post by RAS TAFARI »

Greetings
There are 12 Tribes of Israel. Which one do Askenazi Jew's come from? What is Judaism? I know of the God of Abraham,Isaac,and Jacob,but Jew-"ISH"/"ISM" is Foreign to the Scripture.

cnorman18

Post #15

Post by cnorman18 »

RAS TAFARI wrote:
Greetings
There are 12 Tribes of Israel. Which one do Askenazi Jew's come from? What is Judaism? I know of the God of Abraham,Isaac,and Jacob,but Jew-"ISH"/"ISM" is Foreign to the Scripture.
I shall assume that you really don't know these things, and not that you are attempting to promote antisemitism.

The Ashkenazim are simply Jews descended from those who lived in Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages. The other major group, Sephardim, are Jews descended from those who lived in southern Europe and North Africa.

"Judaism" and "Jew" are both derived from Judah, the name of the Southern Kingdom in Biblical times and Judea, the name of the Roman province that encompassed the ancient land of Israel. The term "Jew" is used rather often in the New Testament, not that that matters. "Denomination" is an idea foreign to Scripture too, but it seems to be useful enough.

What was your point (I hesitate to ask)?

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Re: Patrilineal Descent--A Discussion

Post #16

Post by alex00ander »

I think if someone wants to be Jewish and only has a Jewish father he should not have to convert to Judaism. The reason that Judaism is not mast on patrilineal descent is that in the past there was no way to confirm a child's father. Everyone knew the who the child's mother was because she gave birth to him. Because not knowing the father's identity was more likely Judaism is based on matrilineal descent.
Even though this will not happen because it is tradition, I think all denominations could consider someone with a Jewish father fully Jewish. Being Jewish should not be a genetic matter, it should be if you follow the laws of the Torah and halchah.




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cnorman18

Re: Patrilineal Descent--A Discussion

Post #17

Post by cnorman18 »

alex00ander wrote:I think if someone wants to be Jewish and only has a Jewish father he should not have to convert to Judaism. The reason that Judaism is not mast on patrilineal descent is that in the past there was no way to confirm a child's father. Everyone knew the who the child's mother was because she gave birth to him. Because not knowing the father's identity was more likely Judaism is based on matrilineal descent.
Even though this will not happen because it is tradition...
It IS happening in many Reform congregations. But...
, I think all denominations could consider someone with a Jewish father fully Jewish. Being Jewish should not be a genetic matter, it should be if you follow the laws of the Torah and halchah.
Being Jewish was never determined by one's observance, but only by birth or formal conversion under the supervision of a rabbi and a Bet Din, or rabbinical court. You can keep kosher and go to shul and act as Jewish as Moses, but if you weren't born to a Jewish mother (or perhaps father), and if you weren't formally converted, you ain't Jewish. It's similar to being an American citizen; you can be born so, or be naturalized by an American court. No other way there. You can live here, learn English, love this country, sing all the songs, etc., but none of that matters. You aren't American except for those two reasons.

As I said, some Reform congregations have already begun to recognize patrilineal descent; but that has nothing to do with halachic observance, since the Reform movement as a whole is non-halachic; that is, they no longer recognize a need to adhere to Jewish religious law.

Oh, and no one but Jews gets a vote on these issues. Only the members of a group get to determine who properly belongs to it. In the same way, Catholics get a say on who's Catholic, but Jews and Baptists and Muslims don't.

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