“As a Reform Jew, with a Catholic maternal grandmother, I’m now told that I’m not really a Jew at all. I’m not considered a Jew to the Orthodox or Israeli government. I find this very upsetting. Any easy way to rectify this?
My 3 other grandparents are Jewish. My mother was raised as a reform Jew. I was Bar Mitzvahed in a Reform synagogue. If my mother was Jewish, and father was Catholic, I would be considered a Jew. If I convert, I have to adhere to all 613 mitzvahs, including keeping strict kosher, and not driving on Shabbos. If I deviate from these, I can be declared a non-Jew again. People who are so-called born Jews, do not have to adhere to these requirements. I find these rules to be insulting, and exclusionary. I don’t know whether to blame Judaism, or the reform synagogue that deceived me when I was a child, and didn’t know better. I’m going to a synagogue now, and being made to feel like a bastard child, but not by the Shul. I’m welcome there, but not technically a Jew, which is truthful, based on Jewish law.”
The Jewish law is that Judaism is passed down only through the mother or through an orthodox conversion. It is a shame (as you said) that the Reform and Conservative movements are not forthright about this.
That being said; you should know that generally to convert from your position (meaning with Jewish ancestry) the barriers usually put up are lessen some what.
Also I think it is important to realize that first of all it is not possible to keep 613 commandments 1. many (over 200) are only in law when we have the Temple, 2. (ashas said on his entertaining lectures of being a Jew) you are unlikely to be married, divorced, a woman, a man,a cohen and israelite, all at once. In other words, you start breaking down the laws and you will only have some that apply to your life.
You are right; kosher, shabbos and laws of purity are considered very important and will influence your life tremendously. (If you ask an orthodox Jew in most cases he will tell how these laws enhance his life even if they seem to be difficult – at first. Like anything that is worthwhile – there is always a hardship to overcome.)
I have a challenge to make to you. If you are not interested in keeping the very mitzvots that make a Jew different from the rest of the world and mark you a as a Jew – what do you care what the Orthodox says? If your sum total meaning of being a Jew is eating bagels, feeling good in some sort of synagogue and once a year eat matzoh – you don’t need to be a halacha Jew to do that. You can call yourself a “cardiac Jew” – one who feels in his heart that he is Jewish but not in action.
Yet if you want to pass down the 5000 year heritage of the Jewish people – don’t you think you should look and see what that means? Why were Jews willing to burned at the stake to not eat pork? Why are there more and more Jews returning to the Orthodox way of being a Jew even though they were born with the stamp of approval? Why are only the orthodox able to say they have a low tolerance of infidelity? have grandchildren who are authentically Jewish? Have children who know why they are Jewish?
Good luck. You have a tremendous challenge ahead of you. May you have a meaningful journey.