CARR 68-69


Contemporary American Reform Responsa

39. Patrilineal Descent and a Questionable


QUESTION: A young man who grew up in England was a

child of a mixed marriage and now wishes to marry an American Jewish girl. His father was

Jewish and his mother was Anglican; both are deceased. The father was affiliated with the

United Synagogue and the youngster believes he was ritually circumcised (berit milah)

and named in the synagogue, although no formal record of this exists. He has had virtually no

Jewish education. What is his status as far as we are concerned? We should note that the couple

intends to settle in England. (A. D., New York, NY) ANSWER: We base our

decision on the resolution of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, March, 1983, and the

responsum”Patrilineal and Matrilineal Descent.” The Resolution reads: “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 parents and child, to Jewish

life. “Depending on circumstances, 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). For

those beyond childhood claiming Jewish identity, other public acts or declarations may be added

or substituted after consultation with their rabbi.” As this young man can produce no

evidence that he was ritually circumcised and named in the synagogue, and as he has had no

Jewish education nor been involved in any subsequent acts which would affirm his Jewish

identity, we would require conversion on the part of this young man as the affirmative way of

establishing his Jewish identity.October 1983

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.