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  • Family and Society
  • Who is A Jew?

Maternal Line-Where?


Rabbi Chaim Tabasky

16 Adar 5767
My mother is Jewish, her parents were Jewish and so on and so on. My mother however married a non-Jewish man, and they had my brothers and me. I know and have always known that I am Jewish, but recently a friend (Non-Jewish) from school whose father is a Christian Minister, was asking me why a person is considered Jewish because thier mother is Jewish. I told him that it is because the soul is passed through the mother. I am conflicted with this issue, because he has told me that I am only a "half Jew" which I know is wrong, but it still gets under my skin. I just would like to find the passage in the Torah which would answer my question and his. He sits next to me in my Anthropology class and I want to end the debate before our semmester is over.
Deuteronomy 7:1-5, expresses the prohibition against intermarriage. In verse 4 the non Jewish husband is referred to as "leading your son astray, implying that the offspring of the marriage between a Jewish woman and a non Jewish man are Jewish. On the other hand we find that in the Book of Ezra those who returned to Jerusalem were commanded to send away their non Jewish wives and children, implying that the children of non Jewish wives are not Jewish. The child of Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak, carried on Avraham's tradition, not Avraham's son Yishmael, from a different wife. Rivka, not Yitzchak, knew to chose the son who would carry on Yitzchak's tradition. Apparently, on the level of :who is a Jew?" the woman's role is the crucial one.
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