susana mead <shoffar@...>
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At what point in history did the determination of "being Jewish", aside from
practicing the religion , was changed >from patrilineal to matrilineal? I
understand 2000 years ago Judaism was actively seeking converts, which is
not the case now. In fact many Jews today are really agnostic, or might go
to temple or synagogue at Yom Kippur and don't really know a lot about
In the Tannak we clearly see that it was the men who determined the status
of the progeny so when, and for the matter why was it changed?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Marc M. Cohen" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "DNA Testing, Ask the Experts" <email@example.com>
Cc: "Aimee Jones" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2002 1:50 AM
Subject: [dna] Re: Are people with certain genes automatically accepted?
***You hold the keys to unlock the potential***
Aimee asks about how people are considered to be Jewish, Cohanim
(Priests) or Leviim (Bearers of the Tabernacle and Keepers of the
Although I am not a rabbi or an expert, the following is my
understanding based upon a practicing knowledge of the Cohanic
rituals: Aliyah (blessing on the Torah), Birkat Cohanim (Priestly
Blessing) and Pidyon haBen (Redemption of the Firstborn Son).
Since all these determinations are established by halacha, Jewish
Law, that is roughly 2000 years old, DNA evidence (at least up to
now) has no effect upon these categories. I will attempt to explain
some of the reasoning, insofar as I can understand it.
To be considered Jewish, there are two ways: to be born to a Jewish
mother or to convert (I won't go into the issue of what is an
acceptable conversion). Being Jewish descends through the
Matrilineal line. The conventional wisdom says "At least you know
who the mother is." There is no requirement for a Jewish child to
have a Jewish father, although it is generally preferred. However, in
the unique case of artificial insemination, the great Rabbi
Solevichick of blessed memory held that it was actually preferable
for a Jewish mother to obtain sperm that came >from a non-Jewish man
as that would afford an additional gezira (fence) against
unintentionally committing incest. A child of a non-Jewish father
and a Jewish mother is Jewish but cannot be either Cohen or Levi.
To be considered a Cohen under halacha, one must be a male whose
father was a Cohen. The more restrictive aspects of halacha require
that the mother was married for the first time to the father or was a
widow when married to the father (i.e., not a divorcee). Male
Cohanim are strongly discouraged if not outright prohibited from
obtaining a get, a religious divorce. Insofar as I understand the
reasoning behind this restriction, the Birkat Cohanim is the only
blessing in all Jewish ritual that is said b'a havah -- with love.
That means that if the Cohen hates anyone in the congregation, he is
forbidden to do the Birkat. If he is divorced and the ex-wife were
in the congregation, he might hate her and would therefore be
spoiling the Birkat, thereby denying the congregation of the blessing
Of course, one must wonder if the authors of the halacha ever
considered that a Cohen could be trapped in an unhappy marriage and
might hate his still-married wife anyway. I suppose the idea is that
if divorce is simply not a possibility, the couple will be compelled
to work out their relationship in a positive and hopefully loving
way. It sounds a little bit like the Catholic church, I suppose.
I won't go into the new trend for women in some schuls to claim the
Cohen aliyah or the Birkat Cohanim if their father was a Cohen.
Being a Cohen descends through the Patrilineal line. One cannot
"convert" to being a Cohen.
To be considered a Levi under halacha, one must be a male whose
father was a Levi. Insofar as I know, halacha does not restrict
Leviim >from divorce, although it certainly does not encourage divorce
for them either. I won't go into the new trend for women in some
schuls to claim the Levi aliyah if their father was a Levi. Being a
Levi descends through the Patrilineal line. One cannot "convert" to
being a Levi.
As a final note, all Cohanim are also members of the tribe of Levi --
from which Aaron and Moses came -- which is why if no Levi is presentduring the aliyot, the blessings on the Torah, the Cohen may say the
Levi bracha, in addition to the Cohen.
I hope this answer helps clarify Aimee's questions.
[sorry if I misspell anything but this is all new to me]
I was just wondering what the general attitude is to people who
discover their heritage by DNA. For example, are men who carry the
Cohanim gene who were previously unaware of this accepted to be
Cohanim, and do they change their names accordingly? Also, do
previously non-Jewish women who find mtDNA matchs with Jewish women
automatically be accepted as Jewish if they choose to be? How far
can one use DNA proof to establish an identity? Also, as an unrelated
question, if a child has a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father,
what group would they associate themselves with [e.g. Kohen, Levi,
Ms. A. Jones
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