Once A Jew, Always A Jew?

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by R. Gil Student

We are generally taught that a Jew always remains a Jew no matter how often he sins – even if he converts to another religion. As the Gemara (Sanhedrin 44a) says regarding Achan (see Yehoshua 7), “A Jew, even though he sinned, is a Jew.” Yet, the matter is not as simple as some people believe.

In fact, the consensus of Spanish rabbis in the 15th century was that children and grandchildren of conversos (often called “Marranos”) were not, in fact, Jewish since they grew up observing Christianity, not Judaism. Furthermore, their parents often intermarried with Christians.

Rav Ya’akov (Mahari) Beirav – who left Spain at the time of the expulsion (he spent some time in Fez and Algiers and later settled in Egypt and Tzfas) – writes that children of conversos are both “conceived and born without sanctity” (responsum, no. 39). (His language derives from a mishnah [Kesubos 44a], which refers to the baby of a mother who converted while pregnant as “conceived without sanctity but born with sanctity.”)

Continued at The Jewish Press: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student recently served on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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