What is Zera Israel
Zera Israel (Hebrew: זרע ישראל, pronounced [zeˈra jisraˈʔel], meaning “Seed [of] Israel”) is a legal category in Halakha, Jewish religious law, that denotes the blood descendants of Jews who, for one reason or another, are not legally Jewish according to religious criteria.
According to the Jewish Halacha as found in the Mishnah tractate “Kiddushin” chapter 3:
“כל מי שאין לה, לא עליו ולא על אחרים קדושין, הולד כמותה. ואיזה זה? ולד שפחה ונכרית”
If a Jewish man joins with a gentile woman and she bears a child, the child will be as the mother- meaning, the child is not considered to be a Jew.
As determined by the Halakha, a Jew is the child of a Jewish mother. Furthermore, the Jewish religious law articulates that a child who is born to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother is considered to be a non-Jew (gentile), and is not obliged to follow Jewish religious laws.
Both offsprings to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother as well as offsprings whose both parents are non-Jews hold a religious status of non-Jews according to the Halakha. However, there exists an ongoing debate within the Jewish spectrum regarding the gross denunciation of offsprings who’s father is a Jew and while their mother is a non-Jew.
The debate revolves around the social-cultural aspects of their lives, and raises the question of how they should be treated by the Judaism, in regards to their conversion to Judaism and its importance to the jewish people.
The Book of Ezra 9:2 states;
“For they have taken of their daughters for themselves and for their sons, and the holy seed has become mingled with the peoples of the lands”.
כִּי נָשְׂאוּ מִבְּנֹתֵיהֶם לָהֶם וְלִבְנֵיהֶם וְהִתְעָרְבוּ זֶרַע הַקֹּדֶשׁ בְּעַמֵּי הָאֲרָצוֹת
In our world today we find many examples of these things put into question in Israel as well in the Diaspora. In Israel, there are tens of thousands of Israeli Russians with Jewish fathers who desire to go through a proper conversion. In the diaspora there are millions of Marranos (also know as “Bnei Anusim”) scattered across the globe. B’nei Anussim in Hebrew literally means “sons of the forced ones” (sons of the Marranos), term that designates the descendants of the Jews who at the time of the Inquisition were forced to convert to Christianity under pain of cruel death.
In the Iberian Peninsula, Jews forced to convert to Catholicism were called new Christians, anusim or Marranos (in a pejorative way), which in Spanish means pig. We also cite the term Crypto-Jewish, which is the practice of Judaism in a secret way, and publicly professed another faith, externalizing Catholicism.
It is known that in Brazil about 30% of Brazilians have some Jewish ancestry. What remains of the Jewish influence in Brazil is proven in Marranos habits, traditions and vocabulary, which have been handed down from generation to generation for more than 500 years. In the Northeast Brazil, many of the Jewish traditions remain alive and are practiced even without knowing the reason or being distorted, as a kind of Family Law.
Surprisingly, in Israel, the “ Law of return” states that anyone with a Jewish background or origin (i.e. biologically), and not necessarily one who is considered (according to Halacha) to be a Jew, has a right to go through this process and become part of the house of Israel.