A comprehensive study examines the attitudes of Jews in Israel regarding the question “Who is a Jew?”
Most Israeli Jews feel that Jews are those who were born to a Jewish mother.
This significant fact must be taken into account in any arrangement regarding conversion, marriage, Law of Return eligibility, and more. However, the consensus on this point is not total, which puts Israeli Jewry in a position of disagreement with many Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
Most Israeli Jews view Jewishness as an identity that cannot be partial.
The demand for identity-exclusivity could pose difficulties both for mixed families in Israel, and for Israel-Diaspora relations, given that Diaspora Jewry comprises a growing number of people whose Judaism is partial, including at the self-definition stage.
Despite clearly disagreeing over the details, most Jews feel that the rules establishing a person’s Jewishness should be identical everywhere – in Israel and in the Diaspora. This consensus creates an opportunity for those wishing to undertake an effort to reach a broadly supported definition of Jewishness. However, our research shows that finding such a definition, one that would be accepted in Israel and abroad, would be a complicated, challenging affair. Therefore, the benefit would have to be weighed against the damage that an endeavor so fraught with controversy might be expected to produce.
Pursuant to the previous point: Only a minority of Israeli Jews feel that the authority to implement the rules establishing Jewishness should be vested in a single central entity. What this means is that, even if an effort is made to reach a widely-agreed-upon definition, its implementation would presumably remain decentralized, which would leave a considerable grey area with regard to implementation.
Most Israeli Jews accept those who have undergone Conservative/Reform conversion as Jews, especially if the process took place in Israel. This fact has ramifications on the state’s ability (even should the conversion process undergo reform) to significantly increase the proportion of those who choose Orthodox conversion, which is naturally more stringent in its demands on the prospective convert.