Sacerdotal/Jewish Personal Status

1. Historical background

Judaism in West Asia first emerged in Sumer in what is now southern Iraq. The Sumerian language is considered a language isolate with no known genealogical relatives, yet it is clear that Sumerian is structurally an African language as is obvious even to a non-specialist when comparing Sumerian to contemporary African languages as Sumerian simply put looks and sounds very distinctly African. However even Semitic languages genealogically belong to the otherwise entirely African Afro-Asiatic language family. Also, the tribal Middle East is considered by anthropologists as being culturally part of Africa.

Sumer was a theocratic yet early socialist, slave society where the ruling sacerdotal caste were both religious and political leaders. Agriculture in southern Mesopotamia required careful communal management and close cooperation for irrigation and managing floods and this is the context of economic history in which Sumerian civilization emerged.

The ruling caste of Sumer; the ENs (who still survive in Mesopotamia as Mandeans) were the first Jews in being the first persons in history in holding Jewish/sacerdotal personal status. With the collapse of Sumerian civilization in 1940 BCE the ENs fled Sumer but reestablished themselves in Canaan, Egypt, Iran, Anatolia, Greece, even in India and elsewhere in the wider region thanks to their advanced technological skills and advanced scientific knowledge.

The originally Edomite King David of Israel (who was transgender and anatomically female) established the unified monarchy of Israel and conferred sacerdotal status that had previously been limited to the Levites (Canaanite ENs) to the people generally. This was due to Canaan already being the sacred land Aratta (Hebrew Eretz for land) of Sumerian religion. This conferral marked the birth of the Jewish people and therefore also the broader Jewish nation. The unified monarchy was later split into the southern Kingdom of Judah and the northern Kingdom of Israel. This also marked the beginning of the historical split of Judaism into the Southern Jurisdiction of Judah and the Northern Jurisdiction of Israel.

The Jews of the northern Kingdom of Israel were deported to Media by the Neo-Assyrian Empire and later became instrumental in the establishment of the Median Empire. This caused the tremendous proliferation of the Judaism of the Northern Jurisdiction as Median Judaism became the religion of prestige in Media and was adopted by the ENs in Media (who of course were already Jewish) and their respective peoples. The Median Maggid Kohanim (descendants of David) known in Latin by historians as the Magi engaged in global trade which also involved the syncretistic proliferation of Median Judaism and thus conferral of sacerdotal/Jewish personal status to many different peoples around the world as e.g. most Japanese do remain halakhically Jewish as do Igbos who have remained faithful to Odinani (from Sumerian D*Inanna a.k.a. as Diana), the Igbo Crypto-Judaism.

However the deported Jews of the northern Kingdom of Israel opted for religious secrecy and religious dissimulation after arrival in Assyrian Media so as to be able to communally survive under Assyrian rule. This secrecy has now been maintained for 27 centuries and so the secrecy has therefore become culturally habitual indeed.

The people of the southern Kingdom of Judah were instead deported to Babylonia, later returned to the land of Israel and were in several waves dispersed to countries around the world. The peoples of both Judah and Israel thus very early on experienced globalization, yet Sumerian sacerdotal personal status was religiously retained throughout history.

The aggressive and intolerant religious imperialism caused Judaism of both jurisdictions to demographically contract. Jewish religious restrictions on conversion to both jurisdictions of Judaism appeared in response to the harsh intolerance of religious imperialism which forbade conversion to Judaism. Strict endogamy and therefore quite rare conversions thus became means towards maintaining sacerdotal personal status.

2. Modernity

Rabbinic Judaism in modernity began to splinter into different competing religious movements, namely primarily and in historical order of appearance Sabbatean Judaism, Hasidic Judaism, Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Orthodox Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, Humanist Judaism and Jewish Renewal. This caused the emergence of competing strategies for communal survival and disagreements about how precisely to confer sacerdotal personal status with regard to both descent and conversion.

The major religious divide in Rabbinic Judaism during the 20th century was between the non-Orthodox denominations of Rabbinic Judaism and the various sub-denominations of Orthodox Judaism. However, Rabbinic Judaism in modernity is a spectrum of degree and the main disagreement is not theological but rather about how to practically relate to the challenge modernity, namely hegemonic Western Christian culture/civilization. Relatively more socially conservative denominations of Rabbinic Judaism therefore overtly claim to not recognize the right of relatively more socially liberal denominations to decide how to confer sacerdotal personal status. They do so precisely in order so as prevent assimilation and ensure their own respective communal survival.

For example most rabbis of Orthodox Judaism claim to not recognize conversions performed by rabbis of Conservative Judaism. Yet, when converts to Conservative Judaism regularly pray in Orthodox synagogues and adopt a halakhically observant lifestyle, they are in most cases accepted as fully halakhically Jewish by Orthodox rabbis without requiring any Orthodox conversion whatsoever. Similarly, Sabbatean (Dönmeh) Jews may be asked by Orthodox rabbis to perform a giyur lechumra which literally means “strict conversion” in Hebrew but is actually a quickie conversion intended to remove any lingering doubt as to the sacerdotal personal status of the person in question. Also, officially not admitting that Sabbatean Jews are halakhically Jewish was considered necessary due to the fact that most adherents of Sabbatai Zevi (today totaling about one million) are not descended from Rabbinic Jews but are rather Jews of Alevi-Bektashi Judaism in the Northern Jurisdiction and whose Jewish sacerdotal status was kept secret by both leading rabbis (poskim) and Alevi Dedes and Bektashi Babas.

Jewish sacerdotal status was originally conferred patrilineally but this was changed to matrilineal descent in the Southern Jurisdiction probably sometime in Roman-ruled Israel. Karaite Judaism however which is part of the Southern Jurisdictions recognizes only patrilineage for conferring Jewish personal status through ancestry. However, non-Orthodox religious movements in Rabbinic Judaism have increasingly recognized patrilineage as equally legitimate to matrilineage for conferring sacerdotal personal status. Yet, there is a division on the issue of patrilineal descent even within Reform Judaism itself. Reform Judaism in the United States thus accepts patrilineage for conferring Jewish personal status while Reform Judaism in Israel in contrast does not. This means that an American Reform rabbi with a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother, yet not having converted would not be considered Jewish by most Reform rabbis in Israel.

In past decades, Orthodox Judaism has begun to itself increasingly splinter on the issue of conversion so as prevent the culture of intermarriage among non-Orthodox Diaspora rabbinic Jews from spreading to Orthodox Jewish communities. The various sub-denominations of Orthodox Judaism (Hasidic sects, Mitnagdim, Liberal Orthodox and Hardalim) are therefore increasingly becoming distinctive denominations in their own right whereby the relatively more socially conservative denominations in Orthodox Judaism claim to no longer recognize conversions performed by relatively more socially liberal denominations of Orthodox Judaism.

However all these disagreement regarding who is officially considered recognized as fully Jewish within the Southern Jurisdiction will become irrelevant once the Diaspora of the Southern Jurisdiction has been ingathered and returned home to Israel. This is so considering the fact that the disagreement about conferring sacerdotal personal status is primarily about ensuring communal, denominational survival in the Diaspora. There are three main demographic components within the Southern Jurisdiction; these are Rabbinic Jews, Karaite Jews and Rabbinic Crypto-Jews such as the Anusim Sephardic Crypto-Jews who number in millions and who also need to be substantially aided in reverting to Rabbinic Judaism and making Aliyah (immigrating) to Israel.

However, reluctance to welcome converts to Judaism exists in the Northern Jurisdiction as well. Median Judaism in the Middle East typically requires dual matrilineal and patrilineal descent and conversions to Alawism, Alevism, Druzism, Dönmeh Sabbateanism, Mandeanism and Yezidism are performed in complete secrecy while Bektashism and Yarsanism still openly welcome new converts to their own respective forms of Middle Eastern Median Judaism.

3. Reunification of Judah and Israel

Median Judaism being Jewish has been kept secret for 27 centuries now in religiously awaiting the political unification of the peoples of the Southern Jurisdiction and the Northern Jurisdiction. Reunification thus also involves the Southern Jurisdiction and crucially the State of Israel officially acknowledging Median Judaism and therefore also affirming the sacerdotal personal status of Jews within the Northern Jurisdiction as fully Jewish indeed. Religious leaders within Median Judaism will in turn have to end their own secrecy about their own denominations being fully Jewish indeed. Both jurisdictions acknowledging Median Judaism is therefore certainly something very much long awaited in both jurisdictions; yet also very much intrinsic to the coming political reunification of the peoples and lands of Judah and Israel.

The acknowledgement of and by Median Judaism and the beginning of the official political reunification of the peoples and lands of Judah and Israel is thus something that must necessarily happen in parallel. Indeed, one will not happen without the other as the acknowledgement process and the reunification process are intimately interconnected indeed. Official reunification cannot happen without official acknowledgment and so official acknowledgement should slightly precede the official start of reunification, including local communal reversions among Para-Jewish peoples historically “lost” to religious imperialism.