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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

URL: www.scjfaq.org/faq/18-03-14.html
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< Q18.3.13 TOC Q18.3.15 >

Question 18.3.14:
Reform's Position On...How an individual's Jewish status is determined

Answer:

Reform's position is that the same requirements must be applied to establish the status of the child of a mixed (interfaith) marriage, regardless of whether the mother or the father is Jewish. Therefore, in 1983, the CCAR issued the following resolution:

The Central Conference of American Rabbis declares that the child of one Jewish parent is under the presumption of Jewish descent. This presumption of the Jewish status of the offspring of any mixed marriage is to be established through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith and people. The performance of these mitzvot serves to commit those who participate in them, both parent and child, to Jewish life.

Depending on circumstances(1), mitzvot leading toward a positive and exclusive Jewish identity will include entry into the covenant, acquisition of a Hebrew name, Torah study, bar/bat mitzvah, and Kabbalat Torah (Confirmation)(2). For those beyond childhood claiming Jewish identity, other public acts or declarations may be added or substituted after consultation with their rabbi.

(1) According to the age or setting, parents should consult a rabbi to determine the specific mitzvot which are necessary.

(2) A full description of these and other mitzvot can be found in Shaarei Mitzvah (Gates of Mitzvah), A Guide to the Jewish Life Cycle, CCAR, New York, 1979. ISBN 0-916694-37-2.

Note that this decision is sometimes called the "Patrilineal Descent" decision, although it does not say that Patrilineal Descent, as opposed to the more traditional Matrilineal Descent, is used. Rather, it says that a child of an interfaith couple must be raised with a continuing and positive association with Judaism to be Jewish.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <maintainer@scjfaq.org>