Non-Jewish But Raised Jewish


I grew up in a Jewish family, was raised going to shul, and had a bat mitzvah. I’ve been active at my university’s Hillel, and my Jewish identity is really important to me. I’m almost 22 years old, and I just found out that my grandmother on my mother’s side isn’t Jewish (although her husband, my grandfather, was). My mother and her family are from the Soviet Union, and she was raised with all of the stigma and struggle associated with being Jewish (as well as with Jewish cultural practices). My mom has always identified as Jewish, so I never thought to ask about our family history. I’m not quite sure what to do — I know that this means that I’m not Jewish, but my identity and how people view me hasn’t changed. I know that Jewishness is matrilineal, so I would need to convert in order for my children to be considered Jewish, but what would the conversion process look like for me? Would it be different than the standard process in any way?



  1. I truly empathize with your dilemma. As you write, Halachically you are not Jewish, which means that you would be required to convert in order to be Jewish. In similar circumstances, the Bet Din (Jewish court) have taken into account the fact that conversion candidate was brought up as Jewish and has a pretty good understanding of Jewish Laws and customs, and the conversion process was considerably faster than it usually is. I would imagine that that would be the same in your situation as well. However, everything is dependent on the Bet Din and the how the judges relate to your situation. Personally, I would suggest that you approach an Orthodox Rabbi (perhaps on campus) and ask for advice as to how to go about looking into your options.

    To take refuge under the wings of the Almighty is a process which has far reaching significance to one’s spiritual soul, both in this world and in the hereafter. It has both spiritual advantages and spiritual obligations, which, if not fulfilled can end up in a net loss. More importantly, if the conversion is not done with the proper preparation on the part of the potential convert, it just does not work.

    Best wishes from the Team