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