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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q10.13 TOC Q10.15 >

Question 10.14:
What is the status of a child when the mother converts to Judaism during pregnancy?


Specific question: A child can be considered a Jew only if his mother is one. How do things stand when the mother converts to Judaism during pregnancy? Does the fetus become Jewish all of a sudden as though by miracle, or does it remain non-Jewish as it was at conception?

Yevamos 78a-b rules that the conversion works for both. No more of an "all of a sudden as though by miracle" for the fetus as for the mother. Nor any less. There are two explanations, depending upon one's take on another question.

While abortion is prohibited by halakhah in most cases, most rishonim do not consider the prohibition to be one of murder. The fetus is not necessarily its own person in the eyes of halakhah. In which case it would certainly be converted along with the rest of the mother.

The minority who do consider abortion to be a form of murder (although still not capital murder) consider the fetus a person. However, mother's conversion process can apply to two people. It's a full conversion for the child, but through a different ceremony than the mother's—immersion of carrying mother as opposed to acceptance of mitzvos and immersion of self. In other words, if the baby is born a boy, the baby would recieve a regular berit, not one for conversion—even though no one was circumcized to effect his conversion (the two differ only by intent and blessing, not procedure.)

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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