Question:

Our daughter is dating a young man age 27 who professes to be a Christian. My daughter is a committed Christian. We met his parents last night and found that they were orthodox Jews. Are they obligated to disown their son if he professes to them that he is a Christian?

Answer:

Judaism is really quite unique – can you imagine a person who does not believe in Christ calling himself a Christian? Or someone who does not follow the teachings of Mohammed and the Koran calling himself a Muslim? A Buddhist is one who follows the teachings of Buddhism, and a Hindu practices Hinduism – otherwise he is not a Buddhist or a Hindu.

Yet we have Jews who are perfectly happy to be known as “Jewish atheists,” Jews who follow Buddhism, even “Jewish Christians.” How can that be? Aren't these contradictions in terms? The answer is that, while a Jew should act as a Jew, being Jewish has nothing to do with “religion” or “Judaism.” What makes a person Jewish is the Jewish soul with which he was born, a certain spark of G‑dliness that is the core and the fiber of his existence. This spark – while it may lie dormant, or sometimes, G‑d forbid, even comatose – can never be extinguished. Even if it is rejected, it is still there. Its existence does not depend on the deeds it performs or the beliefs it holds. Those deeds and beliefs connect the soul to G‑d; they do not create the soul. A Jew who has never performed a mitzvah in his life is no less Jewish than the greatest Rabbi. He’s just less connected.

While it most certainly causes great pain to parents, and probably generates quite a bit of friction in the family, parents may or may not reject a child who rejects Judaism and/or who professes to be a Christian. There is always the hope that he will return to the heritage of his parents and his people.

However, Jewish parents have traditionally disowned children who have married out of the faith ‑ remember Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof? Why? Two reasons:

1. In the case of a Jewish man who marries a non‑Jewish woman – since Judaism is matrilineal, their children will not be Jewish. With this marriage, the 3000 year old chain of Judaism is effectively terminated.

2. Marrying out of the faith, and establishing a non‑Jewish home is the ultimate rejection of Judaism.

Your daughter's boyfriend has done her a dis‑service if he has not shared this information with her. He is a Jew and always will be a Jew. If your daughter is considering marriage with this young man, she should be aware that they can never really accept her as a daughter‑in‑law, or her children as grandchildren.

Yours truly,

Chaya Sarah Silberberg