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Joe Settler has a guest post at The Muqata that made me think about an ongoing debate I have had with some friends. Actually it is a discussion that has been ongoing for years. In simple terms you could say that the topic of the discussion is matrilineal versus patrilineal descent.
For my non-Jewish readers if you want some background on this topic you might want to try reading this and potentially you might also look at this. And don’t forget that two Jews equals three opinions.
Years ago I was very much against recognizing patrilineal descent. It made me uncomfortable. I didn’t like it at all. To be honest, I didn’t really spend any time thinking about it. All I did was accept the position that had been spoonfed to me by others.
However after some consideration I reversed my position on this. In part I base this upon experiences I shared with my own family. For the purpose of clarity my family consists of Orthodox (Both MO and Black Hat), Conservative and Reform Jews as well as those who have intermarried and are raising the children outside of Judaism.
At a family gathering some years ago I had a conversation with a cousin who had become a BT. I grew up on the West Coast and he on the East so we didn’t get to see each other too often. What I did know was that while both parents are Jewish he wasn’t given any sort of religious training. No Bar Mitzvah, just a couple of summers at a Jewish camp.
Not unlike many BTs he came at me with a lot of energy and fervor as to why falling off of the derech was nothing more than a temporary position and how he could help me get back on. During the course of this conversation we landed upon the question of denominations, authentic Judaism and who was right about this and that.
He didn’t like patrilineal descent. He parroted the opinions of some others about watered down Judaism and told me that we couldn’t pick and choose. I disagreed on all accounts. In regard to the topic of the post I found myself arguing in favor of patrilineal descent because of its inclusivity.
Sixty years after the Holocaust I look around and think that there is no reason for us not to try and embrace all Jews and bring them into the fold. I know so many people whose mother may not be Jewish but father is. What does it hurt to encourage them to look at their heritage and to try and bring them home.
Orthodox Judaism is never going to be for everyone. But it is not the only way. Why shouldn’t we make it clear that we would be happy if they were Conservative or Reform. With all the people out there targeting us for conversion I want to get to our own people first because if we do not we know that someone else will be waiting for them with open arms.