with us slowly starting to take more mitzvot (or pseudo-mitzvot) on, the idea of belonging to a community that actually purports to follow some version of halacha-- in both positive and, perhaps "restrictive" ways, no longer feels quite so at odds with our own philosophies. Mrs. Yid told me shortly before we got married that for her to feel connected, she needed to feel like she was actually doing Jewish things, and I think there's something to that.
...Though I'm still not exactly sure how much halacha I'm prepared to personally accept, I think I'm becoming more comfortable with the idea of being part of a community that at least seriously considers what halacha has to say, and I think worship style is part of this evolving sensibility as well. However, some of our foundational core values are also inclusiveness and diversity, so I think balancing those two elements is going to be an ongoing process as we try to take our Judaism and our community-building more seriously.So that's background to this interesting piece by Rabbi Jason Miller, where he mulls over what to do about intermarriage and non-halachic Jewish kids.
it is important to understand that the Reform Movement's 1983 resolution allowing patrilineal descent didn't create this mess, but it did complicate it further. In the almost 30 years since that decision, there has been much crossover between the Conservative and Reform movements in America. Thus, when the Reform movement issued its resolution (which was in the works for more than 35 years), it might have thought the implications would be wholly positive and would really only impact Reform Jews (the resolution specifies "in Reform communities"). However, that resolution has had negative impacts on both the Conservative and Modern Orthodox movements. The question of "Who's a Jew" has less implications for the Orthodox Jews in America as it is unusual for them to marry outside of their sect. It is when a Modern Orthodox or Conservative young person wants to marry an individual who has been considered Jewish through the Reform movement's notion of patrilineal descent that we are posed with the problem. Jewish young people in these more liberal denominations interact throughout adolescence and the college years in youth groups, summer camps, Israel trips and college Hillels. Additionally, following college Jewish communal organizations like Federation and B'nai Brith do not distinguish between patrilineal Jews and matrilineal Jews at young adult singles' events.
...this issue must be resolved for Jews from the more liberal movements of modern Judaism (Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Modern Orthodox) whose followers are marrying each other and raising families together.
Over the years, there have been several recommendations to fix this matter. Some have suggested mass conversions for all Jewish children before bar or bat mitzvah. Others have recommended that all brides and grooms go to the mikveh as a form of conversion before the wedding to assure Halachic Jewish status.
My proposal is to set a time limit on the status quo. Until the year 2020, matrilineal descent is the only accepted form of passing Jewish status genetically. Jewish individuals who are raised Jewish in a home with a Jewish father and identify as Jewish are to be considered Jewish from a cultural perspective, but must undergo a formal conversion for recognition as Jewish from a Halachic understanding.
After the year 2020, it will be understood that because of modern genetic testing (DNA tests) it is now possible to ascertain patrilineality with complete certainty. Therefore, a Jewish individual with at least one Jewish parent will be considered Jewish from a Halachic perspective for all matters. While the Orthodox will not agree to this, it will not have the same negative implications as the fissure between the Reform and Conservative movements that has existed for the past three decades.More than almost any other issue, I find patrilineal descent and "Who is a Jew?" to be one of the most painful and raw problems in contemporary Jewish society today. On the one hand, as a person who has patrilineal Jewish cousins (and matrilineal cousins who have never set foot in a synagogue and were raised Christian), I find the standard Orthodox response that my uncle's kids are less Jewish than my aunt's both unreasonable as well as downright insulting. (Particularly given the scholarship suggesting that at various points matrilineal descent was not the determining factor of Jewishness.) At the same time, I also acknowledge that my standard response ("My future kids can deal with their Jewish status if they want to at a later date") may be on the overly-glib side.
The real issue comes down to whether you accept halacha (or Jewish customs/folkways) as in any way binding, and if you do, how you integrate that understanding and worldview into modern life, including the important value of treating others with respect and decency. As such, though I'm not sure that Rabbi Miller's solution is necessarily workable, it's refreshing to see someone from the liberal community at least treating the topic as an actual issue that needs to be thought about and that needs some sort of resolution, even if it's not the one he proposes.