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Rabbi David Sperling

Nisan 23, 5771
Dear Rabbi, How should we approach people who identify and live as Jews even though they aren’t halachically Jewish? I’m specifically referring to non-orthodox converts and their children, as well as, to those who attribute their Jewish status to their fathers. I realize that such persons cannot be counted towards a minyan, receive aliyot, perform mitzvot on behalf of other Jews or have orthodox weddings/funerals. However, are we permitted to call them ’Jews’ for the sake of peace and respect? Can we work with them - let’s say, on a Jewish Community Council? Are we obligated to protect them from anti-Semitism? Thank you.
Shalom, Your question is a difficult one, and much of the answer depends on community policy that should be discussed with the local Rabbinic authorities in each location. Certainly issues such as joint projects and communal leadership need to be addressed in relation to each city and situation. In general though, and certainly on an individual level, my opinion is that one should always act with respect and love to all people, and all the more so to those who are drawing close to the ways of Torah and the Jewish people. There is a concept called "zerah Israel" which means those from the seed of Israel (a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother). These people should be especially drawn close, in the hope that they (or their children) may one day return to the Jewish people through conversion. Even those who converted through non-orthodox conversion, if they are sincere, should be treated with the utmost respect and be drawn closer to a true service of Hashem, through encouraging them in all things Jewish. These people, should certainly be protected from anti-semitism. On the other hand, whilst not offending anyone, one does not have to deny one's own beliefs, and if asked explicitly, one should not lie about who the Torah says is truly Jewish. A person needs to be true to themself and their own beliefs. I have found that if a person is truly respectful of others, and at the same time open and unashamed of your own beliefs, other people will respect you and be appreciative of your honesty and integrity. Blessings.
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