Re: Am I Jewish ? #general

Judith Romney Wegner

My name is Irena Lydia Kusz Rivas and I live in Vina del Mar, Chile.
On my mother's family, we have no information about whether we are or not
Jewish, but my surnames are Rivas-V=E1squez and Gallegos-Melo which are in
Sephardic surnames pages ( although I'm not sure about

My parents were baptised Christians, on my father's side possibly because of
anti-semitism in Poland.
Dear Irena,

Although the Israelite religion was patrilineal during its first 1,200 years,
that changed during the talmudic period, and traditional Judaism has been
matrllineal ever since; therefore, according to traditional Jewish law,
Jewishness is determined by whether the mother is Jewish (on this view, your
father's background would be irrelevant).

But two of the progressive branches of Judaism (Reform and Reconstruction)
recently decided to recognize Jewishness through either the mother or the
father, thus accepting both the biblical view and the talmudic view. So in
those two branches, your father's Jewish origins could be relevant if you are
unable to find out whether your mother was Jewish or not. Note that
Conservative Judaism, the other progressive branch, still adheres to the
halakhah (traditional law) in determining a person's Jewishness.

Of course, all branches of Judaism also have a process for conversion, if a
gentile wishes to become Jewish.

The problem with Sephardic surnames is that very often they are also found
among the non-Jewish population -- in the same way as standard Ashkenazi
German names like Rosenberg). And of course your mother's sephardic surname
may have come to her >from her father rather than her mother. So it is not
possible to rely 100% on the "sephardic" surname; you would need to search for
some other kind of evidence.

Good luck!

Judith Romney Wegner

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