Matrilineal Descent and Mitochondrial DNA: The Jewish Approach to Establishing Motherhood and Jewishness
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Undergraduate honors thesis / Opt-out
In the Book of Ezra, too, there seems to be evidence for this rule of matrilineal descent in Judaism. Upon discovery that many of the Jews who returned to Israel from Babylon had intermarried while in exile, Ezra was deeply upset; he began weeping, praying, and prostrating himself before God as other Jews joined him and sobbed too. Then, Shechanya the son of Yechiel stepped up to Ezra and expressed that while the Jews have gravely sinned by marrying non-Jewish women, not all hope is lost for the nation of Israel. Rather, they must expel the foreign women and their children3. While it may at first seem strange that Shechanya suggested that the children be sent away in addition to the gentile women, it is understandable when the principle of matrilineal descent is taken into account. Even though the fathers of these children were Jews, the children that were born to them were not Jewish since the women who bore them were gentiles.¶ Being that a child inherits the status of being Jewish from his or her mother, and that mitochondrial DNA is passed on to offspring from only the maternal figure, there are various modern-day questions that arise regarding the use of mitochondrial DNA technologies in determining one’s religious status. (from Introduction)
Levine, D. (2022, April 28). Matrilineal Descent and Mitochondrial DNA: The Jewish Approach to Establishing Motherhood and Jewishness. Undergraduate honors thesis, Yeshiva University.
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