This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
One of my congregants, whom I shall call Dave, professes dual religious loyalties. He was born of a Jewish mother, who rejected Judaism and raised him in the Greek Orthodox Church. He is presently a member both of our local Foursquare Church (which he serves as a deacon) and of our Temple (which he serves as a director and chair of the Building and Grounds Committee, and he participates actively in social action work and in the Bible study sessions). He is circumcised, wears kippa and tzitit, as well as a beard, and dons tefillin for his morning devotions. He considers himself an authentic Jew, and as his am satisfied that there is no contradiction in his religious life and therefore find his activities at Temple acceptable and welcome. However, this satisfaction is not shared by either his pastor (with whom I am otherwise good friends) or by a number of members in my Temple, one of whom has also written to your Committee. My friend, the pastor, "deeply appreciates and admires Dave's dedication and enthusiasm" [in the church] but feels "some discomfort" about it, as do "dissenting voices in his congregation." My convictions in the matter can be stated as follows: 1) we do not feel that we have the right to "deligitimize" anyone else's Jewishness if his/her expression of Jewishness is rational and sincere; 2) we consider it a credit to our own generation that, for the first time in 1900 years, it is possible for a person to be a "Christian Jew" without suffering total rejection or even life-threatening violence for practicing such a faith. The position I have taken has created considerable controversy in my congregation, which has, on occasion, become passionate. While we serve a congregation affiliated with the UAHC, I have an Orthodox ordination. Rabbi Abraham I. Raich, Santa Maria, CA)
We will address your two above-noted points in order, for they do indeed touch on the main points at issue. 1. Under traditional halachah, a claim can be made that Dave was born of a Jewish mother, regardless of whether she converted to Greek Orthodoxy before or after he was born. But he would have to acknowledge his exclusive return to Judaism in order to be accepted in the community. If he was born a Jew but raised as a Christian he would not be considered an apostate; rather he would be like a tinok, a 1 2 babe growing up among Gentiles category that was applied to the Karaites. Such a person returns to the community through an affirmation ceremony. The approach is different under the patrilineal doctrine of the Reform movement, Dave would have to convert even if his mother had never accepted another faith, for as one born into a mixed marriage he is 3 only presumptively Jewish. Reform conversion ceremonies require renunciation of the convert's former 4 faith.
2. There is no question that Dave has rediscovered his roots and has made an effort to live as a Jew in one segment of his existence and has adopted important practices of Judaism. By joining and actively participating in your congregational activities and services he now identifies himself as a Jew. Though he so identifies himself, we are not constrained to follow suit. The Jewish people have established rules which categorize one person as Jewish and another as not Jewish. As you yourself state, Dave belongs to that new phenomenon of bi-religious persons who call themselves "Christian Jews." He confesses belief in Judaism and at the same time he is convinced of the authenticity of Christian scriptures. Like the great majority of our people, Reform Jews have vigorously opposed the claim of "Christian Jews" or "Messianic Jews" to continued Jewish identity, and several of our responsa have spoken to this matter. Thus, in 1981 the Committee said: Could we...consider a "Messianic Jew" as still a Jew? He may define himself in this manner, but do we? A "Messianic Jew" is one who has designated himself as Jewish, but believes that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and has come to fulfill the messianic promises. By making these assertions that individual has clearly identified himself as a Christian...Unless the young man renounces his belief in Jesus of Nazareth and becomes a Jew rather than a "Messianic Jew," we must consider him a Christian...5 We do not question Dave's sincerity and will assume for the moment that he has no intention of inviting members of your congregation to share his dual beliefs. But their worry that he will do so is apparently, and understandably, very real, and it behooves us to respect their desire to safeguard their precious religion. Judaism was, and in today's Diaspora is, an embattled minority that struggles to maintain its pristine identity. Jewish congregations exist to safeguard and enhance and not to dilute it. This is the reason why a number of your members are so disturbed about his presence and activities. We appreciate their concern. The issue is exacerbated by the fact that Dave has been elected a director and in that capacity becomes a guiding force in your Temple. Furthermore, he participates in your Bible classes and possibly brings to them more learning than many of your congregants. This in turn enhances his status as a "Christian Jew" and legitimizes his syncretistic position. You say that Dave is concerned about all of this and has offered to resign from the congregation. You do not say, however (nor has his pastor said) that he has offered to resign from the church. In a choice between the two he evidently considers Christianity the more important and, to use the language of "Christian Jews," the more fulfilling. There is a final point and not the least important. His presence has divided your congregation and threatens it seriously. That in itself should give you and Dave every reason to make the decision which seems to me to be the only one that can be taken: he should voluntarily remove himself from either the congregation or the church. The choice is his, which means that you are not asked to "deligitimize" him, but you are asked to save the spiritual wholeness of your Temple.
1. BT. Shabbat 68b. 2. Resp, Radbaz, II, 796; Resp. Mabit, III, 22. In the 19th and twentieth centuries certain halachic authorities applied this category also to non-Orthodox Jews; see R. Ya'akov Ettlinger, Resp. Binyan Tziyon Hachadashot, # 23. 3. See the discussion and sources cited in our responsum 5754.13; p. 4. In the Rabbi's Manual (1988), p. 201, the second question asked of the prospective convert is: "Do you accept Judaism to the exclusion of all other religious faiths and practices?"
5. American Reform Responsa , p.473; see also R. Solomon B. Freehof, Modern Reform Responsa, pp. 169 ff., with the relevant traditional literature.