NOTE: These criteria guide our evaluation of congregations for UMJC membership and are not to be taken as a final statement on Jewish identity. Nothing in this statement is intended to preclude further discussion and action on this issue.
Jewish identity is best understood as neither a strictly religious category nor a strictly ethnic category, but as membership in a people.
The primary criterion for defining Jewish identity is Jewish birth. Traditional Judaism recognizes one born of a Jewish mother as Jewish. Based on biblical precedent and reflecting the practice of some elements of the wider Jewish community, we also consider one born of a Jewish father and a Gentile mother to be Jewish, if he or she has identified with the Jewish faith and people through public, and formal actions or commitments. Therefore, for the purposes of UMJC membership requirements, the minimal standard for Jewish identity is at least one parent with Jewish identity that can be objectively verified.
Since Jewish identity is not strictly ethnic the discovery of Jewish ancestry beyond ones grandparents does not in itself render one Jewish. One who discovers Jewish ancestry and feels drawn to identify with the Jewish people should be encouraged to learn and grow in awareness and practice. He or she may be an appropriate and active member of a Messianic Jewish congregation, but would not help meet the UMJC standards for congregational membership.
As we renew our commitment to serving Jewish congregations for Messiah Yeshua, we also affirm the many Gentile members of our UMJC congregations who, as our definitional statement notes, “have a confirmed call to participate fully in the life and destiny of the Jewish people.” We recognize the love and calling of the members of all our congregations, who together empower this Union of congregations to fulfill its calling.
UMJC Delegates, July 16, 2015