While the letter from Shel Haas in your January 11th issue contains several factual errors, the most grievously misleading is the statement that the Torah says that Jewish (Israelite) status is based upon the faith of the father, and that the rabbis changed it.
Firstly, the Torah says no such thing – ever. The Torah specifies patrilineal descent to determine a person’s classification only in the cases of the Kohanim and the Levi’im.
Secondly, the matrilineal descent law is derived logically by the rabbis directly from the Torah. Deuteronomy 7:3 forbids parents from entering their male or female children into intermarriage. Verse 4 states “For he will cause your child to turn away from after me and they will worship other gods…” The “he” obviously is the non-Jewish man married to a Jewish woman, and the fact that their offspring is referred to as “your child” shows that the product of such a union is classified as a descendant of the grandparents – that is, that such children are Jewish from birth. Were they not, they couldn’t “turn away” from Judaism. Because there is no corresponding verse for non-Jewish mothers, their offspring are not Jewish from birth.
As Charles Krauthammer has said on at least one occasion, “When it comes to determining Jewish status, the father is nothing more than an appendage.”