“Hebrew Christians” cannot be considered Jews under Israeli citizenship laws, according to a ruling last month by that nation’s Supreme Court. Jewish Christians in Israel and abroad are concerned by the decision, which ended an unsuccessful three-year effort by American-born Eileen Dorflinger to obtain citizenship in Israel.

Dorflinger, born of Jewish parents in Connecticut, had contended that she was eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return: the law defines a Jew as one born to a Jewish mother or one who has converted to Judaism, but who is not a member of another religion. She had been consistently refused citizenship, despite having a Jewish mother. She even obtained a personal interview with Prime Minister Begin in September 1977, who advised her to keep on trying. The high court agreed to hear her case two months after the interview (Feb. 10, 1978, p. 54).

In its ruling, the Supreme Court rejected Dorflinger’s argument that she was not a convert to another religion. Like many Jewish Christians, she believes that her Jewishness was fulfilled when she became a follower of Jesus.

The court ruled that a Jew’s membership in another religion must be judged according to the criteria of that religion, rather than to the criteria of Judaism. And since Dorflinger professed that Jesus is Messiah—a belief the judges called the most basic tenet of Christianity—she could no longer be considered a Jew.

To further their argument that Dorflinger was Christian and not Jewish, the justices said she had been formally baptized into a messianic Jewish fellowship in Connecticut in spring, 1975. Dorflinger contended that she had never been formally baptized, but that she had immersed her body in ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.