Recognition of Jewish Patrilineal Descent

by Maskil on November 2, 2007

If you have a stake (personal or theological) in the issue of what has come to be termed Jewish Patrilineal Descent, here’s a site that needs to be on speed-dial on your bookmarks/favourites or your preferred link management software:

Although commonly referred to as the issue of Jewish Patrilineal Descent (I prefer the term “equilineal descent”), what is essentially being advocated is the idea that Judaism is acquired through either parent, not just a mother. According to the website’s home page:

Jewish Justice is dedicated to achieving recognition of patrilineal descent by all Jewish organizations, including and especially Israel, through peaceful protest. Knowledge is power, and this web site is designed to empower all those who believe in this cause with the knowledge they need to defend their beliefs. You will find a complete analysis of the Torah, Haf-Torah and other Jewish texts such as Talmud and the writings of Josephus, as they relate to this topic.

(The section for the Talmud and later commentators is in progress and should be published by end-2007.)

Don’t be put off (or fooled) by the use of clip-art or the sometimes confrontational approach to issues or people. This site falls into the intellectual heavyweight category, and will do more to advance the theological arguments in favour of widespread recognition of patrilineal descent than any other resource I have come across. Be ready to unlearn everything you ever thought you knew about Matrilineal Descent, including how long and how firmly it’s been a part of Judaism.

The site is not just about the theological dispute however. In some ways, it’s more about justice than theology (hence the name, Jewish Justice). Jewish Justice essentially calls for justice for anyone who happens to have the “wrong” Jewish parent, i.e. a Jewish father rather than a Jewish mother. It embraces all “hyphenated-Jews”; those branded by some “half-Jews”, “non-Halachic Jews” or even “non-Jews”.

The site includes some sample protest letters you can edit and forward to the various Jewish denominations, as well as Israeli authorities. You can request to be included on a mailing list for updates, and there is also a basic forum for comments/feedback. If you’re going to advance the usual arguments against Jewish Patrilineal Descent, though, this is NOT the place to do it… There is also a Links Page; this site (Altneuland) takes pride in having been included here.

Some of the content is now available in Spanish and Russian, and a French version is also planned.

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  • Yehudi01

    Good post. I’ve always believed that lineage should be traced through either parent. I have a Jewish friend who’s father was Jewish, mother was not, but was raised in a very Jewish home. He was “more” Jewish than most of our friends, but he still had to go through Conversion to be recognized by the Jewish establishment and Israel. Seems silly to me, and even a bit insulting. Keep up the good work here, Maskil!

  • Yehudi01

    Good post. I’ve always believed that lineage should be traced through either parent. I have a Jewish friend who’s father was Jewish, mother was not, but was raised in a very Jewish home. He was “more” Jewish than most of our friends, but he still had to go through Conversion to be recognized by the Jewish establishment and Israel. Seems silly to me, and even a bit insulting. Keep up the good work here, Maskil!

  • Maskil

    Hi Yehudi,

    Thanks for stopping by, and for your welcome comments. It can get lonely out here on the J-Blogosphere!
    I think just about all of us can relate a story similar to the one you mentioned, and with inter-marriage becoming almost the norm amongst the non-Orthodox, we need to stop pretending that our current approach will suffice.
    Justice and egalitarian principles tell us that we need to treat all offspring of inter-marriage the same, DNA testing means that there can no longer be any doubt as to parentage. The theological arguments in favour of retaining Matrilineal Descent start to look more like just inertia, and Jewish demographics cry out for a “soft landing” for those with (at least) one foot already in the Jewish tent.

    Regards,

    M

  • Maskil

    Hi Yehudi,Thanks for stopping by, and for your welcome comments. It can get lonely out here on the J-Blogosphere!I think just about all of us can relate a story similar to the one you mentioned, and with inter-marriage becoming almost the norm amongst the non-Orthodox, we need to stop pretending that our current approach will suffice.Justice and egalitarian principles tell us that we need to treat all offspring of inter-marriage the same, DNA testing means that there can no longer be any doubt as to parentage. The theological arguments in favour of retaining Matrilineal Descent start to look more like just inertia, and Jewish demographics cry out for a “soft landing” for those with (at least) one foot already in the Jewish tent.Regards,M

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