“Is it not possible for someone to return who was never ‘there,’ who has no memories of a Jewish way of life, for whom Judaism is not a personal but a historical or biological heritage, or no more than an epithet that gives him a certain meaningless identity?
The answer is unequivocally in the affirmative, for—on the more profound level—repentance as return reaches beyond such personal configurations.
It is indeed a return to Judaism, but not to the external framework, not to the religious norms that man seeks to understand or to integrate into, with their clear-cut formulae, directives, actions, rituals.
It is a return to one’s own paradigm, to the prototype of the Jewish person.”
From The Thirteen Petalled Rose, p. 127 by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz