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by birth

Who is a Jew?

Different demoninations in Judaism have different standards for who is a Jew at birth. Some believe in matrilineal descent: if a mother is Jewish, her children are Jewish even if the father is not. Other demoninations accept patrilineal: if the father is Jewish, then the children are considered Jewish. For adoptive families, the subject is fraught, since it determines whether they can welcome their children formally into the faith as adolescents, through the bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah. Below is a brief overview of this complex subject.



Orthodox

maternal lineage chart
Matrilineal. According to the Orthodox movement, no affirmation or upbringing in Judaism is needed. As long as the mother’s Jewish, then the child is also considered Jewish. The Orthodox movement believes the lineage laws outlined in the Torah are divine and are not open to change. Orthodox is the only movement that is formally recognized in Israel.

Conservative

maternal lineage chart
Matrilineal, but discussing patrilineal. Conservative belief is similar to the Orthodox view in that if you are someone who was born to a Jewish mother, then you are automatically considered Jewish. While most Conservative Rabbis will not perform or attend an intermarriage between a Jew and a non-Jew, they will accept marriages between a born Jew and a converted Jew. The Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly confirmed their commitment to matrilineal descent in 1986.

Reformed

paternal lineage chart
Patrilineal, matrilineal, and more. In 1983, the Reform movement made a Patrilineal descent ruling. According to Reform Judaism, a person is a Jew if they were born either to a Jewish mother or a Jewish father. The movement accepts people who were raised Jewish, such as adopted children.

Reconstructionist

paternal lineage chart
By birth and by upbringing. According to Reconstructionist Judaism, children of one Jewish parent, of either gender, are considered Jewish if they are raised as Jews.

by birth

Being a Jew in China

Practicing Judaism in China is not as hard as some may think. Here's a map of China showing where to find synagogues, Jewish centers – and New York bagels.


View Being Jewish in China in a larger map