Making a Half- Whole

A good counterpoint to Sue Fishkoff’s article on half-Jews is Deborah Sussman Susser’s op-ed in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix on her Jewish identity. It begins: “I didn’t think of myself as half Jewish until I’d been told I wasn’t [Jewish] at all.”

This is the other side of the coin of those who define themselves as half-Jews while the Jewish community insists on defining them as Jews or non-Jews. Susser considers herself Jewish, while society in general considers her half-Jewish and the traditional parts of the Jewish community consider her not Jewish at all.

I knew I was Jewish enough that the other kids at school made jokes about picking up pennies and told me I was going to hell, Jewish enough that my first “boyfriend” at summer camp had broken up with me when I told him my religion. “I hate Jews,” he’d said simply.

This sense of being both on the inside and outside of the Jewish community made affiliation difficult for her. In college, she worried that she would be “outed” at Hillel events. At synagogue, she cried. When she got engaged to a Jewish man, her Reform rabbi told them theirs was a mixed marriage. The amazing thing is, despite her bad experiences, she still identifies strongly as a Jew, lighting Shabbat candles and sending her daughter to Hebrew school.

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