Posted Nov 18, 2012 by Michael L. Brown

1 Clayman, “The Law of Return Reconsidered,” Jerusalem Letters of Lasting Interest, No. 318 18 Tammuz 5755/16 July 1995, link Clayman states, “In the wake of the horror of the Holocaust, this law was meant to ensure the right of every Jew to find refuge and to build a new life in the Jewish homeland. Indeed, the Law of Return was the infant state’s conditioned response to the British White Paper of 1939, which slammed shut the gates of Palestine and doomed the Jews of Europe.”

2Clayman, ibid., observes; “At that time, it seemed inconceivable that anyone but a Jew would claim to be a Jew.” Rabbi Joseph Telushkin commented, “How ironic that the Law of Return – a law that symbolizes to all Jews their personal stake in Israel’s existence – has led to bitter fighting and divisions within the Jewish community.” Jewish Literacy (New York: William Morrow, 1991), 335.

3 The Issue of Who Is a Jew: In a Historical Legal Perspective (Hebrew; New York: Sepher Hermon, 1975), ix (from the English Preface).

4 New York: Bloch Publishing, 1976.

5 Woodstock, Vermont: Jewish Lights Pub., 1998. This subtitle is actually taken from comments made by Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, in his interview in this same volume, 129-138.

6 Recontsructionist 29 (1964), 10-14.

7 American Zionist 55 (1965), 13-14.

8 Israel Law Review 5 (1970), 259-63.

9 Judaism 19 (1970), 9-13

10 The Jewish Week, Nov. 21, 2002.

11 The Impossible Dilemma, 94.

12 “Summary of Definitions on Who is a Jew?”, WZO, Jerusalem, 1987, rev. 1997; link

13 Raines, The Impossible Dilemma, viii.

14 From an article from the Ahavat Israel website (specific author unattested), “Orthodox, Conservative, Reform,” link

15 Bloom, “Societal Time Bomb.”

16 Israeli Justice Berinson, opining on the Shalit Case of 1968, as summarized by the Jerusalem Post Law Editor Doris Lankin, reprinted from the Jerusalem Post (January 25, 1970), 18.

17 Cited in Hyman, Who Is a Jew?, 97. For further discussion, see Rabbi Uri Regev, “The Truth About the Conversion Bill,” May 29, 1998, link

18 Orthodox Jews trace the Jewish blood line through the mother (matrilineal descent) while Reform Jews also accept Jewish parentage on the father’s side (patrilineal descent) as valid, so long as the child is “raised Jewish.” (We will return to the question of what it means to be “raised Jewish” below.) For the historical background (from an Orthodox perspective), cf. Lawrence H. Schiffman, Who Was a Jew? Rabbinic and Halakhic Perspectives on the Jewish-Christian Schism (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1985); for recent developments within Israel, cf. Haim Shapiro, “Israel Reform Movement Conference Debates Patrilineal Descent,” link Of course, one might still ask the question, “What makes one’s mother [or, father] Jewish?”, pointing again to the potential ambiguity of the issue.

19 Cf. Tracy R. Rich, “Who Is a Jew?”, in Judaism 101, : link “After that time, the word Yehudi could properly be used to describe anyone from the kingdom of Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi, as well as scattered settlements from other tribes.”

20 Reflecting later Jewish thinking, Rich states, “It is important to note that being a Jew has nothing to do with what you believe or what you do.” See Judaism 101, link

21 The first example of the pork-eating atheist is meant to be hypothetical albeit entirely feasible; the second example of the secular Israeli actually reflects current practices. For the rise of alien healing clinics in Israel, cf. Adrian Dvir, X3, Healing Entities, and Aliens (Israel: Gal Publishing, 2003); for the rock festivals in question (including Boombamela, Shantipi, and Bereshit), cf. Barry Davis, “Spiritual Yuppies find a home,” Jerusalem Post, April 13, 2003; idem, “Surrounded by war, young Israelis give peace a chance,” Jerusalem Post, July 6, 2002; idem, “Green, calm and collected,” Jerusalem Post, September 9, 2001 (Rosh Hashana).

22 It was my own father who shared this with me – immediately after hearing it from his rabbi – early in 1972. Anecdotal support for this is found in the fact that groups such as Jews for Judaism and Outreach Judaism tacitly or explicitly recognize Jewish followers of Jesus as Jews by the very fact that they specially target them in their outreach efforts. They certainly aren’t investing this kind of time and effort in reaching Gentile Christians. Interestingly, when Rashi’s son-in-law, Rabbenu Tam, was asked about the status of Jewish children whose parents converted to Christianity and had them baptized, he asked, “for what does it matter if a minor was put into the water?” See Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance: Studies in Jewish-Gentile Relations in Medieval and Modern Times (West Orange, New Jersey: Behrman House, 1961), 73.

23 Exclusiveness and Tolerance, 70.

24 Ibid., 71.

25 Ibid., 71.

26 Ibid., 72. Katz notes that there was limited opposition to Rashi’s rulings, but his views ultimately carried the day.

27 The entire paragraph in question reads: “The rights of a Jew under this Law and the rights of an oleh [immigrant] under the Nationality Law (5712—1952), as well as the rights of an oleh under any other enactment, are also vested in a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion.”

28 Clayman, “The Law of Return Reconsidered.”

29 “An Open Letter To the Supreme Court of Israel from the Executive Committee of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America and the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues,” printed in the Jerusalem Post, May 5, 1990. See link

30 Cf. the responses given to Patrick Harrington by Rabbi Beck, a leader of the ultra-Orthodox group Neturei Karta (the questions are in bold; see further, below, n. 43): “PH: What for you then is the definition and essential nature of a Jew? The definition of Judaism is that Jews have received the Torah from Mount Sinai. They handed over the Torah from one generation to the next. This is the only possible definition of Judaism. There is no other definition. PH: So then, a Jew essentially is one who upholds the given Law? The Torah? One hundred per cent! PH: What is your attitude to the Reform Movement?The Reform Movement has left Ultimate Truth. . . . PH: What then is the Zionist opinion of what a Jew is if they have gone away from the definition of someone who accepts the Torah and practices its precepts? The true definition of a Jew is faith and Torah. Zionism says it is nationalism.” The interview was conducted in 1991 and was published by Third Way Publications, P.O. Box 1243, London, SW7 3PB, United Kingdom; it is reprinted on. link

31 Rich, Judaism 101, link This same article notes that, “the Rabbinical Council of America (the rabbinic arm of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America) immediately issued a strong statement disassociating themselves from this ‘hurtful public pronouncement [which] flies in the face of Jewish peoplehood.’”

32 See David Berger, The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference (Oxford: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2001); for specific reference to the Montreal rabbi, and see ibid., 2, 56, 114, 118, 121, 143. For a Lubavitch response, see Chaim Dalfin, Attack on Lubavitch: A Response (Brooklyn: Jewish Enrichment Press, 2002).

33 Cited in Michael L. Brown, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 1992), 96. See James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue: A Study in the Origins of Antisemitism (New York: Atheneum, 1985), 394-398, for further references.

34 For discussion and documentation, see Brown, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood.

35 Coming from a somewhat different – albeit related – perspective, Jean Marie Cardinal Lustiger once commented, “I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that’s unacceptable for many. . . . For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That’s my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it.” This statement was made two years after he became archbishop; see John Vinocur “A Most Special Cardinal,” NY Times, March 20, 1983. In the same article, Lustiger made the striking comment, “For me, this nomination was as if all of a sudden the crucifix began to wear a yellow star.”

36 As summarized by Berger, The Rebbe, 131, Prager (to Berger’s dismay) proposed that “Jews for Jesus be embraced by the Jewish community as long as they change their name, cease proselytizing, formally declare that they accept the messiahship of Jesus but not his divinity, and break off relations with those who reject these requirements.” See Dennis Prager, “A New Approach to Jews for Jesus,” Moment (June 2000), 28-29. For a Jew for Jesus to accept this proposal would be tantamount to spiritual suicide.

37 See his Messianic Judaism: The First Study of Messianic Judaism by a Non-Adherent (London/New York: Cassell, 2000).

38 Baltimore, MD: Lederer Books, 2001.

39 Ibid., xiv.

40 Ibid., xx.

41 Cf., e.g., the articles on the Israel Religious Action Center website. link

42 Who Is a Jew?, 193, my emphasis.

43 As stated in the “Open Letter” from the Messianic Jewish Alliance (see above, n. 29), “Jewish national identity has never been, nor is at present, contingent upon the faith held by a person of blood-Jewish lineage. . . . a person who is born Jewish is Jewish, and their national identity cannot be affected by the content of their faith.”

44 See link For similar statements from other ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups who vigorously reject the validity of modern Israel for these very reasons, see the articles posted on , link the official website for “Jews United Against Zionism.” Rabbi Teitelbaum even argued that those celebrating the Israeli Independence Day sinned in a way that was “much worse than accepting idolatry, because they not only accept it [viz., Israel], but celebrate and rejoice in the terrible rebellion against G-d and His Holy Torah. There are many sinners and even deniers of the Faith, whose hearts trouble them, because they are not serving G-d, but they are unable to stand up against temptation and against deceitful ideologies that confuse them. However, those who rejoice in this sin, are guilty of much worse, blasphemy.” Telushkin notes that the Neturei Karta today consist of only several hundred families, arguing that, “pointing to the Neturei Karta to prove anything about Jewish life is pointless. This tiny group is as unrepresentative of Jewish views as the snake-handling sects of West Virginia . . . are of Christianity” (Jewish Literacy, 336). The Satmar Hasidim, however, represent a more prominent movement, numbering into the tens of thousands, while the late Rabbi Teitelbaum was himself a man of great influence.

45 Cf. the comments of Chief Rabbi Sacks in his book One People? Tradition, Modernity, and Jewish Unity (London, UK : Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1993), cited in Hyman, Who Is a Jew?, 133.


Sign Up or Login to post comments.