Yale Zuckerman: Josh wanted to know, “Am I a Jew?”

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by Yale Zuckerman

Josh wanted to know, “Am I a Jew?”

About two months ago I received a call from this young man Josh, age 22, who lives in Baltimore, MD. He wanted to know if he was Jewish. After about eight weeks of research and investigating, we know the answer. Now I can tell the story.

Josh’s father is Jewish, his mother is Catholic, that is she belongs to a Catholic Church. For secular and Reform Jews, Josh would be considered Jewish because one of his parents is Jewish. For Conservative or Orthodox Jews, he is not Jewish. For them, the religion is determined by that of the mother. Josh had been studying with my cousin, an Orthodox Rabbi in Baltimore, for about a year, working toward his conversion. Something told Josh that maybe he was already Jewish. My cousin knew I was deeply involved in genealogy so he referred Josh to me. Since that phone call, I have spoken to Josh dozens of times and have devoted hundreds of hours to determine if Josh is Jewish. Here are the results.

We have gone back seven generations, from Josh to Josh’s Great, Great, Great, Great Grandmother, all of this in about two months. I might mention that I have been researching my own family for over 16 years and can only identify five generations. Why is this so? My parents came from Europe. All seven generations of Josh’s family lived in Baltimore.

As I mentioned before, Josh’s Mother considers herself Catholic. Josh’s Grandmother also goes to a Catholic Church. Josh’s Great-Grandmother, as a child lived in a Catholic orphanage. She is buried in a Catholic cemetery. Josh’s Great-Great-Grandmother, Great-Great-Great-Grandmother, and Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother were all Jewish and are buried in a Jewish Orthodox cemetery in Baltimore.

This information was presented to a leading Baltimore Rabbi who declared that Josh is Jewish. He is ecstatic. He still continues his study of Torah with my cousin. I am pleased that I was able to help Josh in his successful search and I thank my cousin for referring him to me.