If you have a question, please email the rabbi at email@example.com. She will respond to you and may anonymously post your question here.
QUESTION: Rabbi, I'm not really comfortable coming to a synagogue because I don't know anyone there.
RESPONSE: Many people who have not been to synagogue recently do feel uneasy. That's why we work to make new people feel welcome. To learn what we do, you can watch our YouTube Channel to see one of our regular Shabbat services. Sign up for our newsletter, view our albums on Facebook, or contact me. The only way to get acquainted with the community is to show up. Attend a Shabbat Service with us or one of the classes.
QUESTION: Rabbi, Can you explain why in Jewish tradition someone is considered Jewish because of their mother, not their father? Note: The following response answers this question from an academic and halachic standpoint. Read the bottom for TBOR's position on this issue. Matrilineal descent - Apparently scholars think that it was NOT a Biblical principle re: Matrilineal descent, however, the orthodox, naturally derive it from Torah.
RESPONSE: TORAH ALLUSIONS TO MATRILINEAL DESCENT "In Deuteronomy 7:1-5, in expressing the prohibition against intermarriage, G-d says "he [i.e., the non-Jewish male spouse] will cause your child to turn away from Me and they will worship the gods of others." No such concern is expressed about the child of a non-Jewish female spouse. From this, we infer that the child of a non-Jewish male spouse is Jewish (and can therefore be turned away from Judaism), but the child of a non-Jewish female spouse is not Jewish (and therefore turning away is not an issue). Leviticus 24:10 speaks of the son of an Israelite woman and an Egyptian man as being "among the community of Israel" (i.e., a Jew). On the other hand, in Ezra 10:2-3, the Jews returning to Israel vowed to put aside their non-Jewish wives and the children born to those wives. They could not have put aside those children if those children were Jews."http://www.jewfaq.org/whoisjew.htm
ON MATRILINEAL DESCENT FROM THE ACADEMIC PERSPECTIVE
"Prof. Shaye D. Cohen is the Literature Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy at Harvard University...found that matrilineal descent evolved from an original policy of patrilineal descent. In the Torah, a person's status as a Jew seems to come from his father. Joseph was married to a non-Jewish woman, and his children were considered Jewish. The same was the case for Moses and King Solomon. The change to a policy of matrilineal descent came in late antiquity. Prof. Cohen has two theories about how this came to be. One is that the Tannaim, the rabbis who codified the concept of matrilineal descent, were influenced by the Roman legal system of the time. According to two sources from the end of the second century CE and the beginning of the third century CE, in a marriage between two Romans, a child would receive the status of his father. In an intermarriage between a Roman and a non-Roman, a child received the citizenship status of its mother.
Cohen presents both theories, but admits that neither have been conclusively proven." http://wwwww.myjewishlearning.com/ask_the_expert/at/AsktheExpert--Matrilineal_descent.shtml "Matrilineal descent, the passing down of a child's Jewish identity via the mother, is not a biblical principle. In biblical times, many Jewish men married non-Jews, and their children's status was determined by the father's religion. According to Professor Shaye Cohen of Brown University: "Numerous Israelites heroes and kings married foreign women: for example, Judah married a Canaanite, Joseph an Egyptian, Moses a Midianite and an Ethiopian, David a Philistine, and Solomon women of every description. By her marriage with an Israelite man a foreign women joined the clan, people, and religion of her husband. It never occurred to anyone in pre-exilic times to argue that such marriages were null and void, that foreign women must "convert" to Judaism, or that the off-spring of the marriage were not Israelite if the women did not convert." Talmudic Times "Sometime during the Roman occupation and the Second Temple period, a law of matrilineal descent, which defined a Jew as someone with a Jewish mother, was adopted. By the 2nd century CE, it was clearly practiced. The Talmud (Kiddushin 68b), which was compiled in the 4th and 5th centuries, explains that the law of matrilineal descent derived from the Torah. The Torah passage (Deut. 7:3-4) reads: "Thy daughter thou shalt not give to his son, nor shalt thou take his daughter to thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods." Some scholars believe that this new law of matrilineal descent was enacted in response to intermarriage. Others say that the frequent cases of Jewish women being raped by non-Jews led to the law; how could a raped Jewish woman's child be considered non-Jewish by the Jewish community in which he or she would be raised? Some believe that the matrilineal principle was borrowed from the Romans.
TEMPLE BETH OR Those who are of patrilineal descent are welcome to join our congregation. Please contact the rabbi for further details.