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D E T E R M IN IN G
JE W IS H
STA TU S
D eterm in in g
Jew ish
Id e n tity :
E th io p ia n
Jew ry
Rabbi Hershel Schachter
, u
R ecent
eH o rts
b y
th e
w o rld
Jew ish
c o m m u n ity
a im e d
a t
tra n s p o rtin g
the starving
a n d
p e r s e c u te d
J e w s o f E th io p ia to
I s r a e l
a n d
h e lp in g
th e m
a d ju s t to
m odern
l i f e
th e re
h a v e
b e e n
b a s e d
o n
th e a s s u m p tio n
th a t th e
recipients of this aid
a re
indeed Jew ish, as
d e fin e d
b y
halacha, or sufficiently Jew ish
t o
b e in c lu d e d
u n d e r
th e
B ib lic a l
im p e ra tiv e
o f
p ro v id in g
life -p re s e rv in g
h e lp .
T he
Jew ish
id e n tity
o f
th is
g ro u p
h a s
b e e n
d is c u s s e d
i n
o u row n
g e n e ra tio n
a n d
e a rlie r
e r a s
b y
r e s p e c te d
h a la c h ic
a u th o ritie s .'
T he
la y m a n ,
how ever,m ay
not be fam iliar w ith
som eo f
th e c o n s id e ra tio n s
th a t
g o
in to
a s c e rta in in g
a u th e n tic
Jew ish
id e n tity .
T he
h a la c h ic
c r i t e r i a
fo r
m a k in g
a
d e te rm in a tio n
o n
th e
v a lid ity
o f
th e
E th io p ia n s '
claim s
t o
b e
a
Jew ish
trib e
a re
fo rm id a b le .
T h is
p a p e r
w ill
c o n s id e r
b rie fly
som e
o f
th e
th e s e
is s u e s .
A m ong
th e
q u e s tio n s
w h ic h
h a v e
t o
b e
a d d r e s s e d
a re
th e
fo llo w in g :
1 .
H ow
is
Jew ish
s ta tu s
d e te rm in e d ?
C an
a n y o n e
w ho
claim s
T he
a u th o r
w ishes
t o
th a n k
h is
til/m id ,
M oshe
R osenberg,
fo r
p re p a rin g
th is
m aterial
fo r
p u b lic a tio n , e x c e rp tin g
i t
fro m
R av
S c h a c h te r 's,h ill,im .
1 .
See, for exam ple,R e s p o n S il R lld v lIZ ,V o l. 7,n o . 9;R e s p o llS llT z itz
E lie z e r ,V o l.
I I ,
n o .
2 5 ;
H aR av
O v a d ia h
Y osef:
B e 'lly a l
H IlG iy u ,
B e z m u n e llu
i n
T o r llh
S h e b e lll
P eh.
V o l.
1 3
(5 7 3 1 );
u n p u b lis h e d
le tte r
o f
H aR av
M oshe
F e in s te in ,
d a te d
2 6
S iv a n
5 7 4 4 .
R o sh
Y e s h iv a
a n d
R o sh
H a k o lle l,
Y e s h iv a
U n iv e r s ity
...
TH E
JO U R N A L O F H A lA C H A
d e s c e n t
fro m
Jew ish
fo rb e a rs
b e
g ra n te d
in s ta n t
re c o g n itio n
a s
a
Jew ?
W o u ld
s u c h
re c o g n itio n
e x te n d
to
g ra n tin g
perm ission
t o
m arry
w ith in
th e J e w is h
c o m m u n ity ?T heansw ersw ill hingeu p o n
w h e th e r h is c la im s
a b o u thim self are
s u ffic ie n to r
w h e th e rfu rth e r
p ro o f
m ig h t
h e
re q u ire d .
z .
E v e n
i f
a
c la im a n t
h a s
th e
rig h t
t o
b e
b e lie v e d ,
n e e d
w e
p ro b e
w h e th e r
h e ,
i n
g o o d
fa ith ,know s
e n o u g h
a b o u tJew ish
la w
t o
re a lly
k n o w
i f
h e
i s
a
Jew ?
3 .
A ssum ing
th e
E th io p ia n
c la im
t o
b e
Jew ish
is
a c c e p te d ,
w hat
h a la c h ic
p ro b le m s
m ig h t
b e
ra is e d ?
W hat
w o u ld
b e
th e ir
s ta tu s
i f
th e ir
c la im
w ere
n o t
a c c e p te d ?
4 .
H ow
m ig h t
th e ir
h a la c h ic
p ro b le m s
b e
s o lv e d ?
T he
T a r g u m
to
th e
f i r s t
v e r s e
o f
M e g illa t
R u th
l i s t s
te n
fam ines,
n in e
a lre a d y
p a s t,
a n d
o n e
y e t
to
b e
i n
th e
h is to ry
o f
m a n k in d .
T he
te n th
fam in e
is
t o
o c c u r
in
th e
d a y s
p r e c e d in g
th e
a d v e n t
o f
M ashiach
a n d
w ill
d iffe r
i n
n a tu re
fro m
a ll
th e
r e s t.
W hereas
th eo th e rfa m in e s
w ere
p h y s ic a l m a n ife s ta tio n s , th is
fin a l
o n e
w ill
not be
" a
h u n g e r
fo r
b r e a d ,
n o ra
thirst for
w a te r,"
b u t
ra th e r a
lo n g in g
fo r
th e
p ro p h e lic
w ord
o fG od.
T he
u n d e rly in g
id e ao f
th is
p a s s a g e
i s
fe lt m o s t a c u te ly
in
a p p r o a c h in g
a h a la c h ic
lo p ic o f th eso rtto be discussed herein.I n
the era beforeM ashiach,
h a la c h ic
dilem m as
w ill
a r is e ,
th e
n a tu re
o f
w h ic h
w e
h a v e
n o t
p re v io u s ly
e n c o u n te r e d ,
a n d
fo r
w h ic h
w e
h a v e
n o
e s ta b lis h e d
m e th o d s
o f
a d ju d ic a tio n .
W hen
f a c e d
w ith
s u c h
c o m p le x
a n d
p r e s s in g
problem s,
w e
w ill
b e
consum ed
w ith
th e
lo n g in g
fo r
D ivine assistance
t o
h e lp
us reach
th e
p r o p e rc o n c lu s io n s .W e
w ill
la m e n t
th e
a b s e n c e
o f
R u a c h
H akodesh,
fo r
th e s e
q u e s tio n s
s e e m
b e y o n d
hum an
k e n .
A ny
n o tio n
th a t
a n
in d iv id u a l's
b la c k
s k in
c o lo r
p e r se
w ill
have an effecto n
his Jew ishness m ay be discarded
fro m
th e o u ts e t.
T he
M is h n a1
i n
B e c h o r o t
e x p lic itly
m akes
r e f e r e n c e
to
a
b la c k
2 .
4 5 b .
T he
d is q u a lific a tio n
stem s
n o t
fro m
d is c rim in a tio n
b a s e d
o n
c o lo r,
b u t
fro m
th e
B ib lic a lly -d e riv e d
ru le
o f
" e in o
s h a v e /!
b e z a ,'o
s h e l
A h " r o n ."
S ee
g lo s s e s
o f
R abbenu
G ershom .
S ee
a ls o
M is h n a
N e g llim
2 :1 .
2 a .
R .
C h a im
V o lo z h in
in
S tftr
C hut
H "m tshuklsh,
H S ,
s ta te s
th a i
p e o p le
w ho
A R B IT R A T IO N
K o h e n a n d , w h ile d is q u a lify in g s u c h a K o h e n fro m
Tem ple service,
th e M is h n a
c le a rly c o n s id e rs h im
a Jew . M ore
re le v a n tto
th e
to p ic
w ill
b e
is s u e s
b e a rin g
o n
th e
tru s tw o rth in e s s
o f
a n y
c la im
t o
m em bership
i n
th e
Jew ish
p e o p le ,l'
Establishing Jew ish
Id e n tity
T he
c ru c ia l q u e s tio n
t o
b e d e c id e d
is
w hether a person's
ow n
c la im
to b e J e w is h m a y
be presum ed sufficientto confer thats ta tu s
u p o n
him ,
I s
h is
lo n e
testim o n y
e n o u g h
o r
m ust he offer
fu rth e r
c o rro b o ra tio n ?
T heT a lm u din P e s a c h imJ
relates how
a certain non-Jew
w o u ld
re g u la rly
tra v e l
t o
Y e ru s h a la y im
fo r
Pesach, and,
im p e rs o n a tin g
a
Jew ,
w o u ld
p a rta k e
i n
th e
Paschal sacrifice, H is
p a rtic ip a tio n
w as
dir& tly in contradiction to Biblicall
a
~
,
a n d y e t h is c la im
toJew ish
id e n tity
w as
h o n o r e d ,
u n til
th e
s a g e
a d v ic e
of Rabbi Yehuda
b e n
B e te ira h
" tip p e d
o ff"
th e
Jew ish
a u th o ritie s
a n d
e n s n a r e d
th e
g r e e d y
im p o ster.W hy
d id
the Jew ish
B e th
D in of the
tim e
b e lie v e
th is
c h a rla ta n ,
w ith o u t
d e m a n d in g
p ro o f
o f
h is
s u p p o s e d
Jew ishness? D oes this story
im p ly
th a ta n y c la im
to b e in g J e w is h
is
ta k e n
a t
fa c e
v a lu e ?
T he
T o s a f o to n
th es p o t re fu se
to
com e
to
s u c h
a c o n c lu s io n .
T hey
s u g g e s t,
ra th e r,
th a t
m ost
p e o p le
i n
J e r u s a le m
a t
th e
tim e
w ere
Jewish, and
th e
p rin c ip le o fR ov
(m a jo rity ) e n title d
the Jew s
t o
assum e
a n y
p a rtic u la r in d iv id u a l
to
b e
p a r t o f th e
m a jo rity ,
I n
Y e v a m o t',
how ever,
th e
T o s a f o t c ile
R abbenu
T am
a sc o n c lu d in g
fro m
th e
p a s s a g e
i n
P esachim ,a s
w e ll a s
fro m
other sources,th a t
o n e
w ho
claim s
t o
b e
a
J e w
is
b e lie v e d
a n d
g ra n te d
a ll
c a n n o t
s p e a k
Y id d isn
a n .'n o t
t o
~
a c c e p te d
a s
Jew ish,
T he
C h a z o l1
I s h ,
in
E ven
H < l'e z.e r
1 1 7 '8 , c o m m e n ts
th a t o b V io u s ly
R .C h a im 'swords are
n o lt o~
ta k e n
lite ra lly ;
h e
was speaking
a b o u tR ussian\u00b7 P o lis h

Jew s of his lim e.T h is passage indicatesIh < lt eX lernal considerations< lre also a faclor, nol just halachic o n e s .

3 .
3 b .
4 .
Shm ot
1 2 :4 3 .
"K olb e n
n e c h llr
1 0
y o c h lllb o ."
5 ,
47a.S e e , how ever, Chllzon
I s h
E venH ll'e z e r 1 1 7 :1 7 , w h o a rg u e s th a iT o s a f o tin
Y ro llm o t
h o ld s
th a t
th e y
a re
b e J ie v a i
d u e
t o
th e
ru le
o f
r o v .

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