Would I be Jewish ? Some orthodox say yes some no

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    I have a bit of a issue and am trying to resolve this. I would appreciate before responding someone take the time to fully read this. My mother converted via the conservative movement in 1978 before major reforms were made before a Beth din of 3 rabbis, it took a year for her to go through conversion.

    My dad was born jewish and was a halachic Jew, he was a cohen which I understand converts are usually forbidden to marry, my dad was of Sephardic background.

    I had a Brit Milah done by 3 rabbis which made up a Beth din, two I know are orthodox without a doubt, Noah Wolff who was the mohel in Chicago, rabbi Jay karzen who is orthodox and lives in Jerusalem, and the 3rd name listed was rabbi Lawrence charney.

    From my understanding the conservative movement in the 70s did things a lot differently until the 80s and 90s when the biggest reformations occurred,

    I talked to chabad about it as well as a Sephardi synagogue and they said that they would accept some conservative conversions depending on the year and case by case scenario. Chabad in some cases has said they would accept it depending on who I talk to. I talked to Jay karzen who said that I was converted as a child if he recalls possibly due to my mothers conversion and a Beth din was organized to partially complete my conversion and the rest would require mikvah,

    I talked to rev Noah Wolff who said that he recognized my mothers conversion and that as there were 3 rabbis that I was halachic jewish by orthodox standards but that some orthodox that are more strict might take issue to it but he considered me jewish and if I lived my life to modern orthodox standards then it would be fine.

    I spoke with the Chicago rabbinical center and was told rabbi charney was traditional but as far as they were concerned he wasn’t orthodox, however northwestern congregation in Morton grove claims he had orthodox smicha possibly as ordination. The crc Beth din said they couldn’t accept my mothers conversion which lead me to ask if they accepted my conversion at birth if this was the case and they said they didn’t have a way to verify it.

    According to most modern orthodox I talked to they said it would be halachically valid if my mother intended to follow the mitzvahs, however it has left me questioning and wondering,

    From my understanding the conservative movement had the same standards as the orthodox for conversion in the 60s and 70s, I believe even rabbi meir kahane served at that time in a conservative synagogue.

    Avram in MD

    Hi ColombianJew,

    I did take the time to read your post. What question are you posing specifically to the CR? None of us here would have as much knowledge about your case as the people you have already asked.

    Are you a practicing Orthodox Jew currently? I know there are a lot of difficult emotions involved with this, but if I were in your shoes, I would ask myself if I were comfortable with my status being uncertain in many places. I personally would not be comfortable with that, and would probably ask the CRC something similar to:

    Worst case scenario, both my mother’s and my conversions were invalid, and I am not halachically Jewish, although for most of my life I believed I was Jewish. I consider myself an Orthodox Jew, and fully intend to keep the mitzvos and serve Hashem. What is the best way to resolve this? Would this course of action change if those previous conversions were potentially valid?

    oot for life

    I’m sorry you have to go through this. The only bit of advise I can offer is find a competent caring Rav and stick with one. Running around trying to find different suitable answers is only going to drive you nuts. Go with one answer, stick with it, and do whatever you need to do.


    OP, there are two aspects to this: first, what you hold for yourself. Second, if others are accepting of you.

    For the first part, as oot said, find yourself a Rav and stick with him! But don’t choose the Rav based on his answer to this question. Don’t even tell him about it until you’ve decided to follow him.

    For the second part, do you care about it? If you do, then it depends how important it is to you. You may have to go through a geirus l’chumrah to satisfy everyone.



    ColombianJew: In line with what Avram wrote, why not obtain a geirus l’chumra and convert under Orthodox auspices to resolve any lingering doubt?


    Another relevant question is are you living an Orthodox Jewish observant life today?

    It is also notable that the Conservative movement has been outside of acceptable Jewish practice far longer than you assume. At least as far back as in the early 1950s there are formal rulings (by such as the preeminent Orthodox legal decisor Rabbi Moshe Feinstein among others) that the Conservatives are not considered to be practicing Judaism and is considered heretical. Indeed that would be the case from before the ’50s as well.


    The situation is quite common with Baalei Tseuvah, and will increasingly be so in the future since after several generations it will be impossible to determine the validity of the conversion of one’s maternal-side great-great-grandmother.

    However if someone has grown up thinking they are Jewish, and is already Shomer Mitsvos, and then discovers a reason to believe they may not be Jewish afterall, geirus is not a big deal (nothing to learn since they’ve learned it already, no concern about observance since they have been observing). The “problems” with conversion deal with the convert having to learn enough to know what they are getting into so they can make a valid choice, and resolving doubts about sincerity — none of which are applicable when someone who is already living a frum life discovers the non-Jewish ancestor that creates the safek.


    This was the response I got from Jay karzen which seems to be slightly different from the original replies I had received.


    Yes, you are Jewish and Rev. Noah Wolff, acing as Mohel, is certainly qualified and accepted by all modern Orthodox Rabbis in USA…

    I knew that late Rabbi Charney well and he was indeed Conservative. But the fact that Wolff did the Brit Milah on you is significant and should not change your status. You are Jewish! jkarzen

    Original Message

    My Sephardi friend is saying that at the Sephardic synagogues it’s not an issue. I consider myself modern orthodox. My current rabbi is a Israeli Jew of Yemenite background and he is also aware of the situation but has accepted it as valid.


    Why not undergo an Orthodox conversion that would be acceptable to all right now? What possible downside could there be?


    I agree with that if Rav Wolff considers your conversion a good one it is.

    🍫Syag Lchochma

    i happen to know that Noah Wolff was very conscientious about the brissim he performed. If the mom is a convert, he would look into the matter and determine if the baby needs a conversion. He often had boys accompany him to questionable brissim to be available as eidim. The name on the “certificate” will usually reflect that by saying so-and-so ben Sora.


    “I consider myself an Orthodox Jew.”

    What does this mean? Since your conversion, have you always kept shabbos and kashrus? Did you do anything when you were 13?

    How old were you when your mom converted?


    The mohel is responsible for verifying whether the baby is halachicly Jewish?

    Menachem Melamed

    To Colombian Jew –

    I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you what I would do. If any major rabbonim would question if I was Jewish, I would do a geirus l’chumra as soon as possible. If you are observant it is no challenge to do a geirus l’chumra. I wouldn’t take any chances with something so important.


    Noah Wolff has a very good reputation on a lot of things. He is mohel with many decades of experience and integrity. But is he a qualified dayan on conversions? If he sat together as one of three, one of whom was traditional/conservative, well that is a little questionable.

    lebidik yankel

    I am no halachik decisor, and my opinion is just that. There is an old halachik issue about if (old-style) conservative gerus works. Rav Moshe Feinstein considered the conversion valid, others disagreed.

    So we are down to a halachik question that is still open, to the best of my knowledge. Why run with one side of the issue when a simple five minute gerus will put an end to all speculation??


    The first question you have to ask yourself is, if you want to be jewish altogether? Why is this a question now? What changed?

    There is no such thing in judaism as conversion at bris. Conversion to judaism can only take place if the person is 13 or older.

    Rav Tuv

    Not sure I understand. Rev. Wolff was not at your mother’s conversion. How can he possibly have an opinion of whether she or you are Jewish? Reb Moshe Feinstein was clear that non orthodox conversions are not kosher PERIOD.

    IIRC Rabbi Karzen who is from Chicago, Had a Traditional congregation. So he is also not Orthodox.

    I agree with those saying you should have a geirus l’chumra ASAP and then there are no questions.


    ColombianJew: I notice you posted your story on a couple of other sites about five years ago. Since that time have you yet had the opportunity to seek additional Orthodox rabbinic guidance on this matter?

    🍫Syag Lchochma

    musser zoger – remember ovadiah?


    I have spoke to several Orthodox organizations and the answers I receive vary, Chabad in some cases is willing to accept it, many Sephardic Orthodox congregations will accept it, many individual modern orthodox accept it while some groups such as lubavitch and the haradeim would not accept it.

    The answers i’ve received have varied over the course of time, anything from I was converted at birth to I was born halachic Jewish, in other cases I’ve been advised to convert to be sure, so it’s created a complicated situation for me.


    I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but there is a very simple solution. Go to some orthodox institution, and convert.


    you wrote

    “Chabad in some cases is willing to accept it…..while some groups such as lubavitch and the haradeim would not accept it.”

    please clarify, as that is a bit of a contradiction


    Columbian Jew: What do you want the answer to be?

    YW Moderator-127

    Columbian Jew, you need to consult with a Rabbi who is an expert in this field and can get to know you personally. We wish you much success in your journey.

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