MembersConcerning “Zera Yisrael”

by Arthur Schwartzman

Who is a Jew? And who has the right to decide who’s Jewish?

Zera Yisrael and the Book of Ruth. Who is a Jew?
Photo: Ari Dudkevitch /Flash90

Shavuot brought with it a table full of dairy goodies, white clothes and Torah studies into the night. In addition to digging into Talmudic polemics, it is customary in most Jewish communities to read the Book of Ruth, which deals with a Moabite woman who joined the House of Israel and from whom King David was descended. And just as every year, the discussion brought up the controversial topic of giyur (conversion) in Israel.

Israel can be confusing, and it can also be paradoxical. It’s a unique country that self-determined itself as the Jewish state, thus building a home to a once wandering people. The determination of ‘who is a Jew?’ is done by Judaism, meaning the Halacha (Jewish Law). In this way, an Israeli’s nationality is interchangeably linked to his religion, or to the halachic definition thereof.

So, you may ask, what’s the problem? The Israeli Jews have serious concerns.

After WWII, when 6 million Jews were swallowed up by the Nazi beast, nobody asked any...

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