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Who is a Jew?

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Publication Date: January 1985

Publisher(s): Jewish Agency for Israel

Author(s): Martin Seiden

Series: Forum: on the Jewish People, Zionism and Israel, No. 57/58 (Winter/Spring 1985/1986)

Special Collection: Berman Jewish Policy Archive

Topic: Culture and religion (Religion and religious groups)

Keywords: Jewish Identification; Jewish Continuity; Religious Denominations; Israeli Law

Type: Other


The author explains the controversy between groups of liberal and Orthodox Jewish leaders over the "Who is a Jew?" Knesset legislation. He contends that this disagreement signals a shift in the balance between the two groups and is the first pan-Jewish issue of principle in which the Jewish State is exerting or seeking to exert an influence upon normative Judaism in the Diaspora. The author discusses the rationale behind the Knesset's imposition of a standard for Jewish conversion, the "desperate" situation of Diaspora Jewry, and the "inward" movement in Israel towards observant Judaism, among other topics. He concludes by calling for the redirection of Diaspora funds exclusively towards Jewish education and not towards social centers that have failed to thwart assimilation and intermarriage.