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Patrilineal descent

Patrilineal descent

Sue Fishkoff correctly reports that Reform leadership around the world has refrained from adopting patrilineal descent (“Patrilineality divides global Reform movement,” Feb. 17). However, Reform people — at least in the United States — have widely done so.

As early as 1988, reporting on results from an American Jewish Committee-sponsored survey of American Jews, I wrote about the results to this question:

“Traditionally, membership in the Jewish faith was transmitted through the mother. Now, Reform rabbis say that someone who identifies as a Jew, but whose mother was a non-Jew and whose father was Jewish, is to be considered Jewish. Orthodox and Conservative rabbis would require such a person to convert. Do you accept the Reform rabbis’ definition of a Jew?”

About 60 percent answered yes, less than half as many (29 percent) rejected the Reform definition, and the remaining 12 percent were uncertain. Thus, by a two-to-one margin, the sample favored patrilineality.

The entire report can be read at

Steven M. Cohen
New York, NY

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