Who is a Jew?

who is a Jewhalf-JewishJewJewishJewish descentethnic Jewsethnically Jewishfully Jewishhalf-JewJews
"Who is a Jew?" is a basic question about Jewish identity and considerations of Jewish self-identification.wikipedia
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Conversion to Judaism

converted to Judaismconvertedconversion
Orthodox Judaism and Conservative Judaism follow Jewish law (Halakha), deeming a person to be Jewish if their mother is Jewish or they underwent a halakhic conversion.
A formal conversion is also sometimes undertaken by individuals whose Jewish ancestry is questioned, even if they were raised Jewish, but may not actually be considered Jews according to traditional Jewish law.

Law of Return

entitled to Israeli citizenship from birthIsraelJewish Law of Return
Israel's Law of Return stipulates that a Jew is someone with a Jewish mother or someone who has converted to Judaism and is not a member of another religion. Karaite Jews are eligible for Aliyah under the Law of Return.
The Law of Return (, ḥok ha-shvūt) is an Israeli law, passed on 5 July 1950, which gives Jews the right to come and live in Israel and to gain Israeli citizenship.

Jewish identity

identityJewish rootsJewish identification
"Who is a Jew?" is a basic question about Jewish identity and considerations of Jewish self-identification.
While the absolute majority of people with this identity are of Jewish ethnicity, people of a mixed Jewish and non-Jewish background or gentiles of Jewish ancestry may still have a sense of Jewish self-identity.

Matrilineality in Judaism

matrilinealJewishMatrilineal descent
Orthodox Judaism and Conservative Judaism follow Jewish law (Halakha), deeming a person to be Jewish if their mother is Jewish or they underwent a halakhic conversion.
In practice, Jewish denominations define "Who is a Jew?" via descent in different ways.

Mamzer

bastardmamzerimmamzerut
If either parent is subject to a genealogical disability (e.g., is a mamzer) then the child is also subject to that disability.
However, since these rules are regarded as applying only to Jews, and since traditional Rabbinical law regards Jewish status as only transmitted through the mother, the child of a male mamzer and a non-Jewish woman cannot be a mamzer.

Jewish religious movements

Jewish denominationsJewish denominationJewish sect
However, there are differences in interpretations when it comes to non-Orthodox Jewish denominations in the application of this definition, including "Ethnic Jews" include atheists, agnostics, non-denominational deists, Jews with only casual connections to Jewish denominations or converts to other religions, such as Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam.
Within Judaism, individuals and families often switch affiliation, and individuals are free to marry one another, although the major denominations disagree on who is a Jew.

Aliyah

immigratedimmigrantsolim
Karaite Jews are eligible for Aliyah under the Law of Return.
It is enshrined in Israel's Law of Return, which accords any Jew (deemed as such by halakha and/or Israeli secular law) and eligible non-Jews (a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew), the legal right to assisted immigration and settlement in Israel, as well as Israeli citizenship.

Samaritans

SamaritanCutheanSamaritanism
This was done for the lost Ten Tribes of Israel and the Samaritans.
While the Israeli Rabbinic authorities consider Samaritanism to be a branch of Judaism, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel requires Samaritans to officially go through a formal conversion to Judaism in order to be recognized as Halakhic Jews.

Jewish assimilation

assimilationassimilatedassimilated Jew
Like people of any other ethnicity, non-religious ethnic Jews often assimilate into a surrounding non-Jewish culture, but, especially in areas where there is a strong local Jewish culture, they may remain largely part of that culture instead.
This led some Jews to philosophical questions of Jewish identity and Who is a Jew?.

Messianic Judaism

Messianic JewsMessianic JewishMessianic
Reform Judaism regards such people as apostates, and states regarding Messianic Jews: "'Messianic Jews' claim that they are Jews, but we must asked [sic] ourselves whether we identify them as Jews. We can not do so as they consider Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah who has fulfilled the Messianic promises. In this way, they have clearly placed themselves within Christianity. They may be somewhat different from other Christians as they follow various Jewish rites and ceremonials, but that does not make them Jews."
Many adherents of Messianic Judaism are ethnically Jewish and argue that the movement is a sect of Judaism.

Jewish atheism

Jewish atheistatheismno longer believes in God
"Ethnic Jews" include atheists, agnostics, non-denominational deists, Jews with only casual connections to Jewish denominations or converts to other religions, such as Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam.
Based on Jewish law's emphasis on matrilineal descent, even religiously conservative Orthodox Jewish authorities would accept an atheist born to a Jewish mother as fully Jewish.

Jewish views on marriage

marriageJewish view of marriageJewish marriage
The Israeli Chief Rabbinate requires documents proving the Jewishness of one’s mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother when applying for marriage.
There are also differences between streams on what constitutes an intermarriage, arising from their differing criteria for being Jewish in the first place.

Society for Humanistic Judaism

liberal Jewish congregations
The Society for Humanistic Judaism defines a Jew as "someone who identifies with the history, culture and fate of the Jewish people".
The name humanorah is a portmanteau of "human" and "menorah," representing the convergence of Humanistic beliefs with Jewish identity.

Marriage in Israel

marriageconfessional systemIsraeli marriage law
In relation to marriage, divorce, and burial, which are under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Interior Ministry, the halakhic definition of who is a Jew is applied.
There does not seem to have been any dispute at the time of who was a Jew.

Beth din

dayanrabbinical courtbeit din
The traditional halakhic requirements for conversion are instruction in the commandments, circumcision (if male), and immersion in an acceptable body of water before valid witnesses, and acceptance of the commandments before a rabbinical court.

Groups claiming affiliation with Israelites

some groups claiming affiliation with Israelitesbelieve that they are the descendantsbelieve they are descendants
In that context, claims of affiliation to the Israelites gives raise to questions of "who is a Jew?".

Matrilineality

matrilinealmatrilinematrilineally
Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism accept both matrilineal and patrilineal descent.
In practice, Jewish denominations define "Who is a Jew?" via descent in different ways.

Israeli identity card

Teudat Zehutidentity cardsIsraeli ID Card
In the registering of "nationality" on Israeli identity cards, which is administered by the Ministry of the Interior, a person had to meet the Halakhic definition to be registered as a "Jew".

R (E) v Governing Body of JFS

R (E) v JFSabout the school's admissions policyR (E) v Jewish Free School
A 2009 ruling, R(E) v Governing Body of JFS, determined that the definition of Jewish religion based upon descent constituted discrimination on ethnic grounds, and therefore contravened racial discrimination laws.
*Who is a Jew?

Chief Rabbinate of Israel

Chief Rabbi of IsraelChief RabbiChief Rabbinate
The Israeli Chief Rabbinate requires documents proving the Jewishness of one’s mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother when applying for marriage.
There does not seem to have been any dispute at the time of who was a Jew.

Mischling

Mischlingehalf-Jewsfirst-degree Jewish hybrids
A person with one or two grandparents enrolled in a Jewish congregation could be classified as Mischling, a crossbreed, of "mixed blood", if they were not a member of a Jewish congregation at the time the Nuremberg Laws were enacted.

Lemba people

Lembangoma lungunduLemba Masarira clan
The Lemba, group of people from southern Africa, primarily Zimbabwe and South Africa, speak the Bantu languages spoken by their geographic neighbours and resemble them physically, but they have some religious practices and beliefs similar to those in Judaism and Islam, which they claim were transmitted by oral tradition.
Halakhic Jewish status in Orthodox Judaism is determined by documenting an unbroken matrilineal line of descent or by conversion to Judaism.

Israelites

IsraeliteChildren of IsraelIsrael
There are various groups besides Jews that have claimed descent from the biblical Israelites.

Interfaith marriage in Judaism

intermarriageinterfaith marriageintermarry
Different movements in Judaism have different views on who is a Jew, and thus on what constitutes an interfaith marriage.

New Mexico

NMState of New MexicoNew Mexican
A small Hispano group of Sephardic Jews in northern New Mexico may be one of the oldest groups of practicing Jews in North America, dating back to the early Spanish settlers of Jewish descent who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism as Conversos or New Christians, or both after 1492.
Also 10-15% of the population, mainly in the north, may contain Hispanic Jewish ancestry.