|Ask Rabbi Lerner|
My father is Jewish and my mother was not. I FEEL Jewish. Certainly, in Nazi Germany I would have been sent to the showers for my Jewishness yet Jews do not accept me as a Jew. What kind of insanity is that?
Thank you for writing and expressing your feelings. Occasionally laws appear unfair and at times they may even create unhappiness, such as you have expressed.
You are entitled to an explanation, even if it does not completely resolve your question and your feelings. For about 2000 years, until the time of Roman law, Jewish identity followed the father. For a variety of reasons - Roman law itself, protection of children who were the result of rape - the law changed to have Jewish identity follow the mother or formal conversion to Judaism.
Hitler passed laws declaring that "Jewish blood" - as if blood could be distinguished - reached back to grandparents. For that reason, Israel accepted under the Law of Return anyone who was Jewish by either parent or grandparent.
Today, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism accept patrilineal - that is when the father is Jewish, but they also require that the child be raised in only Judaism. No movement of which I am aware in Judaism permits a child to be raised in multiple religions if only because it is so confusing and unhealthy for the child and the family.
If you feel Jewish and would like to identify as a Jew, please contact a Reform
or Reconstructionist congregation. If you would like to formalize your identity
within Jewish traditional law, contact a Conservative or Orthodox Rabbi. If
you need assistance, don't hesitate to ask for assistance.
Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner
Foundation for Family Education (FFFE)