Jewish Status

Question

Hi, I’ve seen an answer to a question on here saying that a person whose mother’s mother was Jewish is, by matrilineal descent, also Jewish. If it’s an unbroken matrilineal line, is this true 100% of the time or is there a limit regarding how far back the relative is?

I ask because my mother’s mother’s mother (my great-grandmother) was Jewish and, living in WWII Germany, she stopped practising. As such my grandmother, mother and myself were raised without religion. Are we all still considered Jewish?

I feel that I’ve been denied a part of my family’s culture, especially since I never got a chance to talk to my great-grandmother about it before she passed. I’d like to reconnect with it and come to understand my family better. Next year I’m moving to a city that has a beautiful Orthodox synagogue and I’m considering reaching out to the Rabbi but that’s a bit intimidating so I thought I’d ask here first.

3 weeks

Answers

  1. In theory there is no limitation to how far back the matrilinial line can go back. Therefore, if your mother’s mother’s mother was in fact Jewish, then you are as well. Even if you were not raised practicing Judaism.

    Nevertheless, for practical purposes, such as to marry someone Jewish in a Jewish religious ceremony under the supervision of a religious court, if there are several generations of unaffiliated (or unaware) Jews, then the person would likely need to furnish some kind of proof that they really are Jewish. Proof could be a photo of a great, great grandmother’s tombstone, or her marriage contract.

    Personally, in you case I think that perhaps the best way to proceed is to make contact with a local Orthodox Rabbi (or his wife) and ask for advice about your status. I hope that this answer is clear and helpful and please feel free to write again.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team