Jewish parentage is passed through the maternal line: the topic is closed!
In respect of whom of the parents the nationality is determined is a question of self-identification which was put very firmly in front of the Jews by their difficult history. Its right solution – that the Jewish parentage is passed through the maternal line – has saved the Jews as a nation.
Such an approach was not developed at once: during thousands of years there were debates among the Jews about how to determine nationality – through the maternal or paternal line; the final decision was made owing to a mix of historical, religious, biological and ethno-cultural factors.
Having conquered the kingdom of Israel at first and then the kingdom of Judea, foreign invaders exiled one part of the Jewish population forcibly. The other part was being assimilated with help of mixed marriages, emasculating national and religious self-consciousness.
These processes have put at threat the very existence of such a nation as Jews during the 6th – 2nd centuries B.C.
How the Jewish parentage is passed: juridical FAQ
The religious, family and social life of Jews is regulated by Halacha – a complex of written (Torah, Talmud) and unwritten (statutes of sages, decisions of rabbis) ethical and legal rules that constitute the traditional law of Judaism.
According to Halacha, Jewish origins may be “achieved” as a result of:
- Giving a birth of a child by a Jewish mother;
- Converting to Judaism (giyur).
A literal quote from Halacha: “A person is considered to be a Jew if he/she is born by a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism in accordance with religious canons”. Torah and Talmud are the sources of civil law in the State of Israel: they are taken into account by courts, and the laws enacted by the country’s parliament are even correlated with them.
“Our nation is a nation only thanks to Torah”. Saadi Gaon (9th century).
The law is categorical; however, both in society and in different currents of Judaism there is some inconsistency about its nuances (juridical status and citizenship of the State of Israel). The most important thing about it is that it fully represents the Jewish tradition – to pass the nationality through the maternal line.
At the same time the Jews, as a wise nation, don’t close the door for anybody having Jewish roots (in fact, in front of any person at all).
Jewish parentage in respect of father
An option for a really existing situation – the birth of children in mixed marriages – is passing through a formal procedure of joining the Jewish nation – giyur. It is a serious and not fast process that requires from a person:
- thoughtful studying of the traditions of Judaism;
- a sincere desire to follow the laws of Torah;
- a ritual ceremony – taking 613 commandments upon himself/herself, performing a bris (for men), immersing into the mikveh.
A mikveh in Judaism is a sanctified pool immersion in which washes off ritual impurity from a person.