Contemporary American Reform Responsa

58. Intermarried Russian Jewish Family

QUESTION: A Russian Jewish man has been married twice. His first wife was not Jewish and a daughter resulted from that union. The second wife is also not Jewish. They have a son and a daughter. All five have immigrated to the United States. The oldest daughter is twelve; the second is six and the third child is three years old. The husband has joined a synagogue and has now inquired about the status of his children.

ANSWER: We would answer this inquiry in keeping with the Resolution of the Central Conference of American Rabbis of March 1983: "The Central Conference of American Rabbis declares that the child of one Jewish parent is under the presumption of Jewish descent. This presumption of the Jewish status of the offspring of any mixed marriage is to be established through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith and people. The performance of these mitzvot serves to commit those who participate in them, both parent and child, to Jewish life.

"Depending on circumstances, mitzvot leading toward a positive and exclusive Jewish identity will include entry into the covenant, acquisition of a Hebrew name, Torah study, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and Kabbalat Torah (Confirmation). For those beyond childhood claiming Jewish identity, other public acts or declarations may be added or substituted after consultation with their rabbi."

These children would need to perform acts of Jewish identification to be considered as Jews. In this instance, it would mean their enrollment in religious school and subsequent Bar/Bat Mitzvah, as well as Confirmation. As the twelve-year-old girl can not fulfill the normal requirements for Bat Mitzvah before her thirteenth birthday, we would suggest that she undertake an intensive program, or better yet, delay her Bat Mitzvah until such a time as she has fulfilled those requirements.

If these children are raised as Jews and receive a Jewish education, we will consider them as Jews.

March 1984

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.