CCAR RESPONSA

Contemporary American Reform Responsa

57. Russian Immigrant Couple with Mixed Background

QUESTION: A Jewish man from the Soviet Union married a non-Jewish woman simply for the purpose of enabling her to emigrate from the Soviet Union. They also brought a teen-aged child along, who is really not their child but needed to leave the Soviet Union. During the period that this family has lived in the United States, they have identified with the Jewish community, although neither wife nor daughter are Jewish. The young lady has fallen in love with a Jewish man and wishes to marry him. What is her status?

ANSWER: It is not our concern that her entrance to this country may have occurred under somewhat cloudy circumstances. She has maintained herself within this country, has been of no trouble to the authorities or the community. And as the general status of immigrants in this country is currently under debate, that matter need not be discussed.

It is clear that this young woman should be considered as a non-Jew who wishes to join us. Although her adoptive parents are reluctant to say much about her background or her parents in the Soviet Union for fear of the authorities, their influence on this young woman, and the fact that they have led a Jewish life for several years during the period of transition in their lives, has brought her to Judaism in an informal manner. It would be appropriate now to formalize this through converting the young woman as we would convert anyone else.

Many of us have experiences with individuals who have been attracted to Judaism through Jewish friends, customs, practices and ideas. Some of them have moved in Jewish circles for a long time, yet we would not consider them Jewish without some more formal instruction and an official acceptance into the Jewish community. The same path should be followed by this young woman. This would resolve all questions about her identity on her part or that of her family.

September 1983

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.