Yeshivat Hadar's Approach to Jewish Identity and Status
Jewish identity is highly personal and the sovereign domain of every individual. Jewish status is subject to different working definitions in different communities and schools of interpretation. At Hadar, we try to think about these issues with sensitivity and nuance. The Summer Beit Midrash and Beit Midrash Fellowship are distinct from other learning opportunities at Hadar. They are designed for cohorts characterized by shared obligation in mitzvot and halakhic practice, including daily minyan. For these programs, Hadar has a working definition of Jewish status that is anchored in halakhah, while being sensitive to its thoughtful application in our contemporary world.
As a starting point and emerging from current convention, halakhic Jewish status is expressed through matrilineal descent and/or affirmative embrace of the covenant through formal conversion to Judaism (involving immersion in the presence of a beit din of three, and circumcision where required). We also recognize the way that definitions of Jewish status are often used to exclude and to harm rather than to include and heal. We strive to help our fellows feel seen and valued, and we believe that the Torah we teach at Hadar on these matters helps to affirm the beauty of lived connection to Torah as constructive of Jewish status.
In written applications, all applicants are asked to reflect on the particularities and complexities of their own Jewish background, in preparation for a program that is intended to deepen one's sense of Jewish identity and practice. We honor and embrace the diversity of our students’ backgrounds, including families where the relationship between biology and parentage may be less straightforward and families of mixed religious heritage. Halakhic status in these cases can be more complicated, and varies significantly based on each person’s unique circumstances, sometimes requiring an affirming process in order for a person to mark the significance of their life choices and fully participate in a community of halakhic practice.
If you have any questions about this approach to Jewish status as it relates to you, please reach out to Rabbi Aviva Richman or Rabbi Ethan Tucker prior to submitting an application to begin a respectful conversation around your Jewish journey and halakhic pathways to honor your identity as a full part of a community of shemirat mitzvot. We know that Jewish status can be deeply personal, sensitive, and sometimes painful in the contemporary Jewish landscape. Our goal is not to create barriers or close doors, nor is it possible to outline a comprehensive set of policies for every unique family story.
We hope that you’ll learn at Hadar - whether you apply for the Beit Midrash Fellowship, the Summer Beit Midrash, or participate in any other of our programs.