Ivanka Trump Jewish? Ivanka is not alone: Everyone wants to be Jewish. “Millions of people in Israel and around the world see themselves as part of the ‘Jewish family,’ seeking an affiliation with the Jewish religion—with or without officially converting. Two researchers try to explain how, after 2,000 years of rejection and humiliation, Judaism has gained such a following.”
That is the topic of a recent story in YnetNews.com. And it gets even more interesting from there.
“Believers are calling it “the days of the Messiah,” while others are trying to sociologically analyze the unique phenomenon of millions of people who are knocking on the doors of Judaism, seeking to join the Jewish people—although not necessarily in a halachic way, making things quite complicated for the State of Israel’s religious courts and authorities.”
So says Dr. Netanel Fisher and Prof. Tudor Parfitt who recently wrote a book trying to interpret what is happening in the Jewish world today.
“For thousands of years, the Jewish people were perceived as a rejected group,” he says. “No one wanted to join. If there were any massive movement, it was in the opposite direction. Many Jews tried to shake off the ‘Jewish weight’ off their shoulders and assimilate into the general society.”
But now, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people around the world who identify with or consider themselves to be Jewish.
“So when did the dramatic change begin? Fisher points to “the 1980s onwards,” and the figures he presents are amazing: Israel has 300,000 residents who made aliyah under the Law of Return and are not considered Jewish according to the Halacha. Only 25,000 of them converted, and another 250,000 are part of ‘the Jewish family.'”
“They see themselves first of all as Jews,” Fisher stresses. “They speak the language, their children have Israeli names, and they light Hanukkah candles and fast on Yom Kippur. Who can tell them they’re not Jewish? They will say to you: ‘We’re not Jewish? You’re not Jewish!’”
In the United States, the numbers are quite close: Some 200,000 people whose mother is not Jewish define themselves as Jews. About 100,000 of them have converted, most of them not in an Orthodox process. They are married to Jews, they have a distant family relation to Judaism and they go to synagogue on Shabbat.
In South America, there are hundreds of thousands of such people. In eastern Africa, in Madagascar, in the Omuhimba and Lembaa tribes, many see themselves as Jews, or as the Bnei Menashe from northern India say, “We are descendants of the ten tribes.”
So the “problem” is this: there are hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world who consider themselves to be Jewish and/or part of Israel that do not meet the Orthodox Rabbinic halachic definition of being Jewish.
Even if you converted through a Jewish synagogue, unless it’s a synagogue that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel approves of, you’re not Jewish for the purposes of making aliyah (becoming a citizen of Israel). They typically reject conversions from Conservative and Reform synagogues.
And this is to say nothing of Messianic Jews, those who believe that Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) is the promised Messiah of Israel. They are flatly rejected as being Jewish even though non-observant Jews and even Jews who are atheists or openly hostile toward the God of Israel are considered Jewish so long as their mother or grandmother was Jewish.
“The [Orthodox] approach looks at this phenomenon with horror,” says Dr. Fisher. “The [Orthodox] are afraid that the great mass of new members will seriously damage authentic Judaism and the identity that has been preserved for so many years. Their solution is simply to raise the walls, create more and more difficulties for those seeking to join and to allow the conversion of very few.”
So you have an unprecedented world-wide movement of people who want to convert and be faithful to the God of Israel, and the powers in control in Israel are against it and hindering it. Sound familiar? It does to us too. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
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