Those who regularly read this blog know my feelings on intermarriage and Jewish identity, but for clarification's sake: a Jew is a person who self-identifies as a Jew. Halakha and certain segments of our community may disagree with my definition and they have the right to do so. In the interest of fairness to all sides, I have presented two opinions different from my own, below.
Reb Chaim HaQoton has some very definitive opinions about who is Jewish and who is not. And he should. He is considering the issue from an Orthodox halakhic perspective and traditional halakha has a definitive opinion on who is Jewish:
…the Mishna in Kiddushin 66b states that if a child's mother is not Jewish, then the child is "like her"—that is—not Jewish. This Halacha is codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer §8:5), without mention of any dissenting opinion; no one argues… Despite all the pilpul, in practical Halacha, a child whose mother is Jewish is Jewish and a child whose mother is not Jewish is not Jewish, regardless of the status of the father. A popular, yet controversial, term amongst the more assimilated sects of world Jewry is “Half-Jewish”; however, such a term is both meaningless and baseless. One is either a Jew or not a Jew.
He then goes on to clarify in what ways intermarriage is wrong, according to rabbinic literature. Newsflash: rabbinic literature does not approve of marrying non-Jews. Shocker.
The rabbi at Jewishanswers.org differentiates between being Jewish halakhically and acting Jewish. He says that it’s not enough to feel Jewish; you must also be Jewish (according to traditional halakha), which means, “that one has a spiritual-karmic link to the Torah that was instilled on the nation at
So you half Jews out there? You do not exist. Those feelings of splintered identity and confusion? “Baseless and meaningless” because you are either a Jew or you’re not. There’s no confusion. That means you, JewishyIrishy, and all the contributors to Half/Life have written a book about nothing. Sad to waste all that ink.