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Orthodox Judaism/adoption and jewish status


Hi Rabbi Ari,

I was adopted at birth (three weeks old). I was born of a Jewish mother and it was a closed adoption. My parents were not married and my birth father is not Jewish. My adopted parents are not Jewish but I had a wonderful upbringng and my adopted parents are best parents one could have.

I diacovered my Jdwish status when I briefly met my birthmother 20 years ago. For a number of reasons we have no relationship and no contact.

I have made a affirmation and complted mikveh (conservative) and the view from rabbis was that as an adopted person I was to be given the benefit of the doubt about my claim, given that I have no paper work and only verbal evidence. They also took he view that I was not responsible for my situation.

In any case, my birth record records me under another name so I cannot even prove I am the child of my birth mother. I have been a member of a conservative shul for almost 20 years now.

How would you as an Orthodx rabbi approach someone like me if I wanted to join your shul? Could I be accepted on the basis of my story? I am thinking there must be other Jews out there with similarly complex backgrounds but who have that strong spark and drive to be Jewish.

Thank you so much.



Hi David

Thank you for your message! You certainly have an intriguing story.

The Talmud long ago defined a situation such as yours and, without getting into the full details, Orthodox (a.k.a. Torah) Judaism would expect someone in your situation to undergo a complete conversion.

As you mention, many people have a strong Jewish spark and yearning, which would hopefully inspire them to go through the complete process to guarantee their Jewish status.

Kind regards,

Rabbi Shishler

Orthodox Judaism

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Rabbi Ari Shishler


I am a rabbi who loves teaching, through writing and speaking. In 1999, my wife and I started our own Chabad House and it's grown exponentially. I'm also the learning director at Chabad House of Johannesburg, a high school teacher and the father of young children. As you can imagine, I get to answer lots of questions every day. I'd be glad to answer your questions on Judaism, Jewish spirituality and practice.


I have been a practicing Orthodox rabbi since 1997 and have headed my own community since 1999. I teach Talmud at a religious high school in Johannesburg and give daily lectures to adults on Jewish practice, spiritualty, Chassidic philosophy and Kabbalah. I'm the campus rabbi at our two major universities in Johannesburg.

Chabad-Lubavitch South African Rabbinical Association.

Monthly column in Jewish Life magazine, South Africa. Jewish Tradition, South Africa. Jewish Report, South Africa. South African Union of Jewish Students annual Holiday guide. Jewish Observer, South Africa. Nshei Chabad Newsletter, NY. Jewish Online Magazine.

After completing high scool, I spent six years studying in Rabbinical seminaries in South Africa, Israel and New York.

Past/Present Clients ChaiFM ( Jewish Life magazine

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