Sunday, November 15, 2009

Back Door Conversions?


Right now, there are approximately 300,000 Israeli citizens who are of Jewish ancestry, but are not Jews as defined by religious law.

This discrepancy occurred because Israel will give citizenship to anyone with one Jewish grandparent – Hitler's definition of a Jew. The official Israeli Rabbinate follows religious law and defines a Jew as either one born to a Jewish mother, or one that chooses to convert.

Conversion, in the eyes of the Rabbinate, requires that the potential convert learn the laws of practical observance and commit to following them.

The problem arises when you have people who would like to be considered Jews, for the purposes of national identity and/or to marry another Jew – but do not want to take on the obligations and restrictions of following Jewish law in their everyday lives.

The mishnah presents an interesting way for a mamzer (child of a forbidden union) to have children that will not be classified as mamzerim.

(Text courtesy of

Rabbi Tarfon says, mamzerim can purify. How so? If a mamzer weds a maidservant, the offspring is a servant. If he frees him - the son consequently is a freeman.

Rabbi Tarfon says, mamzerim can purify - their seed from blemish, so that their children will not be like them. How so - can they be purified? If a mamzer weds a - Canaanite - maidservant, the offspring - borne to him by the maidservant, is a servant - as was taught in the preceding mishnah: the offspring is like her. If he - the child's father, who is also his master, frees him - the son consequently is a freeman - he is an unblemished Israelite. The Gemara concludes (Kidd. 69a) that according to Rabbi Tarfon amamzer may even acquire a Canaanite maidservant and wed her in order to purify his offspring since a mamzer is permitted to wed a maidservant (Rabbeinu Nissim; see Tosefot Yom Tov); 

(end quote)

The question is, in our times, can we use this approach for back door conversions?

A Jew can take one of these 300,000 people as a gentile servant.

The owner can then subsequently free the servant – making him or her a full Jew according to Jewish law. In this way, they do not need to practice observant Judaism to become Jews according to religious law.

I have heard of mamzerim using the mishnah's advice in our generation, but I have not heard of back door converts using this method.

Is there any reason why this would not work according to halacha?

Search for more information about kashering conversions at

No comments: