Article Discussion: Half-Jewish: Starting a Wholesome Conversation

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July 19, 2010 at 4:00 am #4878


Click here to read the article: Half-Jewish: Starting a Wholesome Conversation

July 19, 2010 at 8:05 pm #4887

Debbie B.

It is not clear in the study whether “half Jewish” respondents were chosen based only on their own self-identification or by the researchers’ definition.

For example, I think my children would probably say that they are 100% Jewish and half Chinese (and a quarter Cuban/Spanish and a quarter German/Polish) and that they have relatives who are not Jewish. Their father is a Jew by birth. I was not Jewish when they were born so we converted them under Conservative auspices. Our household has only observed Judaism—even me before I converted. We have worked hard to give them a solid Jewish identity, which is why I cannot simply ask them now what they think: my son is up at Camp Ramah, the Conservative Jewish summer resident camp, and my daughter is in Israel on a BBYO youth trip.

They have had other people question their Jewish status, but are pretty confident in their own Jewish identities. My son told me that when (Jewish) kids at school questioned his Jewish status, he felt confident in his identity because he felt “more Jewish” than his questioners since our family is much more Jewishly observant than they are. As for non-Jews questioning their Judaism, they would just try to correct the misunderstandings and perceptions of people who don’t know a lot about Judaism anyway. Of course this doesn’t hold if they are challenged by Orthodox Jews, but my kids don’t feel that everyone has to understand their status as they do any more than it bothers them that our Orthodox friends think our minyan is wrong for not having a mechitza. It will be more problematic if they should ever wish to make aliyah.

July 20, 2010 at 8:35 pm #4896


Interesting, Debbie – I have found that as I pursue Jewish studies on my own, and take on various aspects of Jewish practice (prayer, meditation, torah study, shabat observance) I feel a greater sense of ownership of my Jewishness, and I no longer care what others think about how Jewish I am – it’s really none of their business. All that matters is what God thinks. Having said that, there certainly are a number of petty, mean-spirited people out there who don’t understand their own religion and think it is okay to be rude to, or dismissive of, descendants of intermarriage. It’s a problem because it is so wide-spread, and effectively shuts out children of intermarriage. I’m very lucky – I have been blessed to study with a spiritual rabbi independently. Still, I look around and see a lot of non-spiritual behavior in synagogues and Jewish organizations, and I don’t want or need to be around that kind of energy – and I don’t have to be, because I’m no longer that desperate – I’ve learned how to learn on my own. Ideally, everyone could find the resources to learn and grow as a Jew, and thus become better able to ignore idiots with too much time on their hands, but truly spiritual rabbis and communities are hard to find. If the greater Jewish community doesn’t learn how to welcome people, they’re ultimately hurting themselves (and damaging Jewish continuity.) I hope your children continue to remain strong in their identities and spirituality. You’ve given them a great gift.

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