Jul 27, 2011

A Simple Clerk Should not Be Deciding Who Is A jew

A prisoner, Thomas Feldheim, in a New Jersey prison, biding his time until he would be extradited to North Carolina on charges of raping a 13 year old girl made a request of the prison services for kosher food.

Corrections Authorities asked for confirmation of his need for kosher food from a local Chabad rabbi. Rabbi Carlebach asked Feldheim if his mother was Jewish, and Feldheim told him his mother is not, but his father is.

Rabbi Carlebach told the correction center that Feldheim is not Jewish, and they denied his request for kosher food.

A big deal is being made of this, as if the county is making a decision as to who is a Jew, reviving the old debate.

The ACLU drafted a complaint and sent it to the corrections center, saying the state should have no say if an inmate is sufficiently religious or not, and his religious affiliation is a personal belief.

The state complied and gave him back his kosher meals, until he was transferred in June to North Carolina.

Who Is A Jew?
Is Feldheim a Jew? Obviously not, by our standards as Orthodox Jews, as we reject patrilineal descent. However, I don't see how a state, a non-jewish state that believes in, or allows for, multiple streams of religion, can possibly make such a decision. It was probably just some hasty official not realizing he was getting involved in a major civil liberties decision, and just figured he wanted to do the right thing. As soon as they filed a complaint, he immediately backtracked. There must be some way where these sorts of situations must be processed through official channels following certain methods of policy making.

I don't know that he deserved the kosher food, and I find it difficult to support his request considering he is  not a Jew in my opinion, but in the USA it seems you don't need to be a Jew to request kosher food at the taxpayers dime. Even a non-Jew who just wants to identify with Judaism or kosher food, or somebody who considers himself Jewish as per Reform standards, can request it.


  1. Is it remotely possible that the Chabad rabbi has an axe to grind?

  2. I dont think the chabad rabbi did anythign wrong. he was asked his opinion. he checked, and found out the guy isnt jewish, and said so.
    question is if the State should accept that opinion or not, or even ask it.


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