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How Does One Quit Judaism?

How Does One Quit Judaism?

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Question:

Although I was raised in a traditional home, was brissed and barmitzvad (sorry about these spellings) I have never had any faith or "religious" belief. I am now aged 34, and would describe myself as an atheist. I have no wish to be buried in a Jewish cemetery (and my Will will also make this clear) and have married a non-Jew in a civil ceremony.

My question is, can I consider myself officially non-Jewish, by my effective opting-out, or do I need some sort of form or dispensation to be officially no longer Jewish?

Many thanks for your help with what is perhaps an unusual question.

Best wishes,
Edward

Answer:

Dear Edward,

I would like to help you, but I feel there's nothing I can do.

According to your question, you have done everything possible to negate your Jewishness: in practice you do not keep Jewish tradition; in belief you are an atheist; in family life you have married a non-Jew and thus won't have Jewish children; and even in death you are determined not to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

One would think that all this would be enough to confirm your un-Jewishness.

But no! For some reason, you are still unsatisfied: you still feel Jewish! So much so, you feel you need official dispensation!

And so, being an atheist, who do you turn to to solve this problem? A doctor? A psychiatrist? The civil celebrant that married you? No... You turn to a rabbi!

I'm reminded of the child who ran away from home, but ended up just going around and around the block because his parents told him never to cross the road by himself.

I'm sorry, Edward. There is nothing more you can do. You are as Jewish as Moses, Ariel Sharon and the Chief Rabbi of Wales!

In fact, it seems that being Jewish is the most dominant factor of your personality. It is even influencing the place you want to be buried! (Why would an atheist care about where they are buried?)

Edward, Jewishness is not a belief, a feeling, a conviction or a lifestyle. It is a state of being. We can either celebrate it or fight against it. But it will always be there. So why not celebrate it?

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Anonymous USA December 13, 2017

This is the only comment I was able to make without an Email.
As of today, I am renouncing my Judaism, which I thought about for some time. My parents are gone, so as far as I'm concerned, I no longer have family, just blood relatives (if I can glorify them as such).
I graduated college late as I had a tough curriculum. My graduation present, while I only wanted a frame for my diploma as a gift, was a preliminary notice of eviction from my father. I has been the legal tenant for 141/2 years, and have been battling homelessness ever since - 21 years and counting.
To those who would say, "get a job", try negotiating with a shelter for a work pass. He also did his best - and often succeeded - to turn the other relatives against me. With a day's exception, not one relative took me in for one night.
What's making me change my religion is that my name came up on the waiting list for a Section 8 apartment - 30% of my monthly income. Person who gave word to get me there changed mind. Reply

Anonymous US November 9, 2017

Without God there is no moral standard A person claims to be "moral" or "kind" despite not believing in G-d.
Then they see an article online where someone is accused of "abusing" animals.
What is the so called "abuse", they push a cat off a chair, so they can sit down.
Then mr/mrs "moral and kind atheist" gives a thumbs up to a comment saying the "animal abuser" should be "thrown down 6 flights of stairs" relative to the size of the chair compared to the cat that was pushed of it.
And this is not just a theoretical example, this is the response to an actual story like that and an actual comment made regarding the story, and they got over 100 thumbs up, and no one not one person out of the 55,000 who read it (according to the claims of readership, made by the website), said anything against that comment. And there are many many other so called (usually false charges) stories like this full of similar comments with not one single person opposing such comments. Reply

Anonymous tucson November 7, 2017

Add a comment...Born in orthodox Jewish home. Wonderful kind grandparents escaped from Pogroms and poverty to live the American dream. I became a scientist and historian, can not accept the logic of the Torah etc or the Shoah, Yet I feel comfortable with Jewish acquaintances and the melodies at a synagogue, Orthodox, conservative or secular. Einstein is right, I am as I was born, still a proud snail (Jew). My children range from orthodox believers to agnostics but all Jewish and good kind, moral intelligent human beings.. Reply

Sarah New York November 8, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Jewishness is not a religion. It is a way of life.

You may follow it as a set of Mitzvos given by Gd, but that does not make it a religion. It is a way of joyfully celebrating our love for Gd.

If you imagine Gd is not real, you can still celebrate the Jewish way of life as your cultural heritage. Why object to it? Do you imagine an Englishman would go out of his way to marry an Italian or an American Indian or a Korean in order to disavow his own Englishness? Why in heaven would he do such a thing?

Perhaps if he were ashamed of being English he might take the steps our atheist has taken. But why be ashamed of being English? & why be ashamed of being Jewish???

Glory in being whatever you are. Gd loves you, whether you believe in Gd or not. Just be a decent person, & treat everyone with respect, dignity, kindness, love.

Keep your sense of humor.

For your own sake, be who you are. Glory in your heritage, rejoice in it, celebrate it, be it Jewish or English.

I, in my Jewishness. Reply

Sean Scotland September 13, 2017

This was very amusing. And while I too am an atheist, always enjoy a great mind when I see one. Reply

Guy Gardiner Brisbanen November 5, 2017
in response to Sean:

The Jewish faith is so nice! Reply

Pinchus USA May 28, 2017

RE:"Atheism is not a religion".

That is not necessarily true. There are two kinds of Atheism and the Dictionary, due to liberal political biases, recognizes only one kind.

The first kind, the one the Dictionary recognizes is the kind where the atheist simply goes about his life not believing in G-d. That is not a 'religion' and indeed is the lack of any belief in any kind of religion.

The second type however is the exact opposite of the first type. This type is one which causes it's adherents to attack and vilify anyone who does believe in G-d. They cannot rest as long as someone still believes in G-d, and they must stamp out such belief in any way they possibly can, including through threats of, and in some cases, use of, violence.

They worship their 'non belief' and have even made Atheist churches. Anyone who believes in G-d is blaspheming their Atheist religion. Reply

Anonymous Tucson April 5, 2017

Dani There are 179 comments. I don't have the time to read all of them. I recall that I was puzzled that an atheist would bother commenting in a site run by a Chabad organization. Maybe my puzzlement is what you took as criticism. Chabad is as religious as a site can possibly be. Of course, atheism is not a religion. it is the rejection of all religion. To call it a religious belief is quite a stretch, since it rejects any religious belief whatsoever. To say, though, that atheists know more about religion than anybody else, is very presumptuous. There are theologians who study religion all their lives and know all the ins and outs of religious belief, know more about religion than practically anyone else, and remain non-atheist. My father grew up as a Lutheran, my mother as a Methodist, and I as a Presbyterian. Nobody gives a damn about it. I'm not a Lutheran, a Methodist, or a Presbyterian. I embraced Judaism and am suddenly considered a Jew, at least by those who know I converted, Reply

Hanalah Houston May 29, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

We Jews (speaking for the majority) are happy to have you among us. Gd bless you. Reply

Gordon Portland, Oregon March 29, 2017

I too wish there was a way to renounce my Jewishness. I simply feel hypocritical participating in any Jewish cultural events or identifying as Jewish in any way simply because I do not believe in a god. I am like the original poster -- despite growing up with Hanukkah, Shabbats, Purim and all that, as an adult I do not participate in any way in anything Jewish, yet Jews still consider me Jewish. It's annoying. I don't want to be part of any religion, I don't believe in bronze age fables, and the cultural aspects of Judaism are irrelevant and meaningless to me, although I respect that they are highly meaningful to others. Reply

Simcha Bart for Chabad.org April 6, 2017
in response to Gordon:

I appreciate being honest to your beliefs. Yet, let us consider the ramifications of what the article said - if G-d doesn't exist and there is nothing that makes you inherently Jewish, then why fight it? Why yearn to renounce that which you know doesn't exist - your being Jewish? As far as the concern about others - if you know who you are, does it really matter what others think about you? Perhaps your discomfort is in reality a result of a spiritual voice inside of you trying to come to the surface.

I will therefore suggest a radical approach to your problem.

Explore your Judaism in practice, instead of trying to renounce it. See what happens to the inner voice after putting on Tefillin, or eating Shmurah Matzah at the Seder night this year. Matzah is the "Food of Faith" and can be a catalyst to uncover that inner Jewish self that may be the real source of all this angst.

Please feel free to explore this further through our Ask the Rabbi service.

Reply

Dani Neumann December 9, 2016

Atheism is not a religion (look it up in the dictionary) I just got an email from I don't know who. He opposed my comment and made some very ignorant comments. First of all atheism is not a religion. It's the opposite . Atheism means the
Rejection of the supernatural and superstition. It has not got a set of beliefs. Faith is the suspension of critical thinking. As evidence is found we simply change are opinions when the evidence proves a point .
Second I was criticised for even coming to this site and leaving a comment because if I'm an atheist I should just stay away.
I personally have a great interest in religion, all religion. The history, the sociology and the psychology of religion. No one knows more about religion than atheist. If you study religion for long enough atheism is the outcome of studying all these things. It's about being rational and happy having an intellectual attitude to ideas and a great interest in scientific discoveries. To believe in something that there is no hard evidence for is extremely dangerous. Reply

Anonymous Tucson Arizona September 27, 2016

Einstein Commenting on his Judaism, Einstein said, "you can take the shell off of a snail but it is still a snail." Reply

Meira Shana San Diego September 26, 2016

Don't want to be a Jew? Don't be!!

I believe those 2.5 words to be sufficient information.

Just as I could or would not ever choose to be a non-Jew, you have the right to be whatever you choose.

I do not know of any group of Jews who would murder you for your beliefs - as was done to Jews by Christians.

Go and be happy ... but please do not kill us for our beliefs. Reply

Linda Buffalo September 26, 2016

You can "pass" as white, but if you are Arab or Italian or Greek or Hispanic or Asian or Jewish, you are stuck with it.
So enjoy it. Squeeze out every drop of culture--the food, the songs, the stories, the dances. Go for it.
If you don't want to worship, nobody's forcing you.
But you cannot get rid of the identity. It's what you are. You might as well do your best to go for the enjoyment.
I'm not saying it's a race. It's a tribe. But if it's yours, it is yours. If your mother was a Jew, and her mother was a Jew, then you are too.
If your mother was not a Jew, you can honestly say you are not a Jew either. You are whatever your mother is (or was). Reply

Guy Gardiner Brisbane November 5, 2017
in response to Linda:

Yes! Reply

Anonymous New Zealand August 21, 2016

I'm not religious and wouldn't want to be buried in a religious graveyard. What someone does or does not is their choice and should be respected. So long as they don't hurt others. Nor do I subscribe to guilt. Many religions do not allow an exit process (that's common) and use guilt should you desire to do so (which is a disappointing thing to do). My suggestion is to create your own private ceremony - perhaps with your wife in attendance. Write you own words. Spirituality comes in many forms and there are many other religions out there they may be more relevant for you. Either way, a person does not have to wear a religious label to be a good person. I set up a children's charity helping disadvantaged kids in need (over 11,000 children assisted to date), and I'm not religious. And no - you are not Jewish if you choose not to be. Reply

Itzhak Chicago April 7, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

If he feels this strongly about it--so much that he asks in a Hasidic website--he is not going to be satisfied with something he makes up.

He wants the Hasidim to declare him free of his Jewishness.

But he cannot unmake the promise he made when he stood at Sinai, and he knows it.

He has to live with the fact that he is breaking his promise from the depths of his soul.

But why does this matter to him if he doesn't believe he stood at Sinai in the first place?

What does he care what the Hasidim or the Jews think?

Let him go hang out with secular Jews, or with non-Jews, or both, or whatever. Reply

Anonymous Texas May 12, 2016

Find a Cure! There must be somewhere in the oral and written laws which prescribes a way for a Jewish convert to revert back to a goy. I must always struggle with the guilt of disregarding my obligations because my neshama was destroyed beyond my capabilities to restore it. Reply

Hanala Chicago April 7, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

You have a godly soul which remains forever innocent and cannot be destroyed no matter what you did and no matter what anyone did to you.

Contact Manis Friedman, who wrote a book about innocence called "Doesn't anyone blush anymore?" He has an entire chapter on guilt, shame, and reclaiming our innocence.

Gd bless your nefesh and your ru'ach and your neshamah (various levels of souls). You are forever part of Gd, regardless of your religion. Reclaim your soul. Reply

Meira Shana San Diego March 13, 2015

{{{Edward}}} No magic words - those will have to be found by you, from the depths of your own being.

Some people struggle to Be and some struggle to Not Be.

Ahhh, Shakespeare must have had It!!

"... to thine own Self be true ..."

Oh, and you might consider using: aka. Also Known As -- deny thyself and show yourself as whatever you want. It's your life. You get to choose how you want to live it, in spite of all thoughts of others. YOU are It, Edward. Reply

Samuel Asadi Turkey February 24, 2015

Dear Edward; Please consider your thoughts again. I feel I'm Jewish, not recorded, and I'm doing a research on my roots to find out the truth. I can tell you it's a privilege to be Jewish. It's the most benevolent thing almighty G-d can give to someone. Reply

John February 13, 2015

I am a jew and I can't get rid of it No matter what we do, the curse will follow us forever as the mark of Cain.
You can live your life as whichever faith you wish but for every other person outside the Jewish faith we will always be Jews. Some are born with autism, some with a.l.s... some with Judaism. If it wasn't clear by the way, I am Jewish. Reply

Luiz Ernani Viterbo Lazio Italy October 4, 2014

WHY ? I born from jew father and christian mother and every single day I pray that i would like to be born and accept was jew and I do most of the things.
And a guy who born as a special one from G'd wants to deny this WHY?
That's the G'd's people and you want leave this blessing and heritage so great you must be crazy.
I change the with you without thinking one second. I will love to be one of that people and I do everything to enter and be and if I make enough money to go and Live in Israel next year I will do, man you must be sick. I do not believe om that. Reply

Rafael Boston May 29, 2017
in response to Luiz Ernani:

Luiz, you can convert. You can become a Ger Tzedek.

Once you do this, your soul is as Jewish as any of ours.

Go for it.

As far as living in Israel is concerned--it is good but it is not the same as being a Jew. Being a Jew is more important. If that is what you want, come join us and welcome! Reply

David Aharon Lindzon-Lindsay Toronto, Ontario Canada June 11, 2014

to Anonymous With the moderator's consent, could you email me a PDF copy of the Te'udah Excommunication so I can verify it being valid by a Rabbi here.

To Hanalah, Yes he's missing out. There was a story I read some time ago of a Jew who tried to coonvert to Catholicism and was told by the priest to eradicate all the Jewish symbols he had... 6 months later he returns to the priest and weary eyed tells him I can't stop eating Shmaltz Herring [a delicacy eaten at the Shabbos morning kiddush]
Reply

Adrian Dallas May 29, 2017
in response to David Aharon Lindzon-Lindsay:

I have never been able to tolerate the smell of shmaltz herring so I have never gotten close enough to it to taste it.

My mother's mother's mother all the way back were all Jews and so am I. I keep kosher and Shabbos and, despite being born into a non-observant community (Conservative) I keep learning and adding to my observance.I light candles on erev Shabbos and erev Yomtov and go to shul the next morning. I attend shiurim to learn more and more.

But I have no intention of getting within smelling distance of shmaltz herring. Reply

Anonymous Pasadena,CA June 3, 2014

On; Quitting Judaism B"H Bah, Humbug! I'm tellin' you guys that I really do have a Genuine Certificate of Excommunication available for the price of $249.99 + tax, and shipping. I can even give say,.... 16% to Chabad so that I don't ruffle any Chabadnik feathers. Of course I'd have to say netillat yadhaim a few hundred times to feel clean again, but I can't evangelize it's against Talmud in some circles to do so in my case. So, why not make a buck or two off the disillusioned, who's gonna notice anyway? Bah! Like I said, Bah! Shalom Reply

Hanalah Columbus June 2, 2014

To David Aharon Among the people who heard Gd speak at Sinai was this man who wants to opt out .

He was there too. He was one of us. He, too, said, "We will do and we will listen."

He said it, and he can't unsay it.

He knows this. That's why he came here asking for the way out.

He had hoped that someone could enable him to unsay what he said.

Poor him.

He's missing out on the intimacy Gd offered each of us and still offers each of us.. Reply