Dear Rabbi Moss,
Although I was raised in a traditional home, was brissed and bar mitzvahed, I have never had any faith or “religious” belief. I am now aged 34 and would describe myself as an atheist. I have no wish to be buried in a Jewish cemetery (I intend to make this clear in my will) and have married a non-Jew in a civil ceremony.
My question is, as a consequence of my effective opting-out, can I consider myself officially non-Jewish, or do I need some sort of form or dispensation to be officially no longer Jewish?
Many thanks for your help with what is perhaps an unusual question.
I would like to help you, but I feel there’s nothing I can do.
According to your question, you have done everything possible to negate your Jewishness. In practice, you do not keep Jewish tradition; in belief, you are an atheist; in family life, you have married a non-Jew and thus won’t have Jewish children; and even in death, you are determined not to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.
One would think that all this would be enough to confirm your un-Jewishness. But no! For some reason, you are still unsatisfied. You still feel Jewish! So much so, that you feel you need official dispensation! And so, being an atheist, to whom do you turn to solve this problem? A doctor? A psychiatrist? The civil celebrant who married you? No. You turn to a rabbi!
I’m reminded of the child who ran away from home, but ended up just going around and around the block because his parents told him never to cross the road by himself.
I’m sorry, Edward. There is nothing more you can do. You are as Jewish as Moses, Ariel Sharon, and the Chief Rabbi of Wales. In fact, it seems that being Jewish is the most dominant factor of your personality. It is even influencing the place you want to be buried. (Why would an atheist care where they are buried?)
You see, Edward, Jewishness is not a belief, a feeling, a conviction, or a lifestyle. It is a state of being. We can either celebrate it or fight against it. But it will always be there. So why not celebrate it?