About/Message Board

This is the Half-Jewish Network message board. Please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion, idea or question. We see and respond to all messages that are left on this page. 

Here is some information about our email Half-Jewish Network Newsletter and our Message Board that will make it easier to use them:

1. SUBSCRIBING TO FREE MONTHLY EMAIL NEWSLETTER:  

If you want to stay in touch with us, please sign up to receive our monthly email newsletter, using the “Email Subscription” box in the upper right hand corner of this web page.

The email newsletter will contain information about our activities, links to information about half-Jewish books and films, access to various media articles on half-Jewish people, and much more.

All you have to do is enter your email address in the box and then respond to an email from our website that will confirm your subscription.

People who are half-Jewish and people who are not half-Jewish are both welcome to subscribe to our email newsletter.

2. SUBSCRIBING TO THE FREE MESSAGE BOARD: 

If you would also like a second subscription to see any replies that people make to your message or to see messages from other half-Jewish people who post in the future, just post a comment on “About/Message Board” below.

You then will see a check box under your comment asking “Notify me of follow-up comments via email.” Just check that box.

By doing this, you can socialize with, support and advise other half-Jewish people from all over the world as they contact our group.

Now here are some guidelines about posting on the message board –

3. MESSAGE BOARD GUIDELINES:

We have separate guidelines for half-Jewish people and people who are not half-Jewish.

Half-Jewish People: Adult children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other descendants of intermarriage  — we ask you to show courtesy and respect for other commenters’ multiple viewpoints and lifestyles.

The message board is reserved for postings by people who are half-Jewish. People who are not half-Jewish – members of interfaith couples who are born Jews, Christians and members of other faith-based cultures, outreach professionals, researchers, media, writers, journalists, reporters and people selling commercial products — see our “People Who Are Not Half-Jewish” guidelines below.

We ask half-Jewish people who email the Half-Jewish Network privately that you show courtesy and respect in your email for our website volunteers — including words like “please” and “thank you” in emails are helpful to us.

Be aware that your first comment will probably be held for moderation. If your comment goes to moderation, it should be approved within 24 to 72 hours. Please keep in mind that the website and message board are maintained by volunteers, so please be patient. 

We will remove any postings that violate our guidelines. Thank you for respecting our guidelines! It is much appreciated!

People Who Are Not Half-Jewish: People who are not half-Jewish — members of interfaith couples who are born Jews, Christians and members of other faith-based cultures, outreach professionals, researchers, media, writers, journalists, reporters and people selling commercial products —  please do not post on our message board.

Instead, please go to our “About/Contact/Leaders” page and connect with us through the email address listed there. 

People who are not half-Jewish are also welcome to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter.

The reason that we ask that only half-Jewish people post on our message board is that we try to maintain our message board solely for half-Jewish peoples’ questions, stories and issues. Our message board is one of the few spaces on the Internet entirely devoted to the needs of half-Jewish people in a respectful manner.

Questions from people who are not half-Jewish are answered privately by contacting us through our email address shown on our “About/Contact/Leaders” page. If we cannot answer your questions, or we are not the correct group to deal with them, we may refer you to another group with appropriate resources.

We ask people who are not half-Jewish that if you email the Half-Jewish Network privately, please show courtesy and respect in your email for our website volunteers — including words like “please” and “thank you” in emails are helpful to us.

Thank you for respecting our guidelines! They are intended to make life easier for all of us.

329 responses to “About/Message Board

  1. Dear Friends: Our first message — how did you find our website? Cordially, Robin

  2. Elmer

    Are there trips to Israel for young persons that have a Jewish parent but raised Christian??? Thank You.

  3. Dear Elmer: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    If you have switched over to Judaism from Christianity and have some type of membership in a Jewish organization, you may be eligible for a Birthright Israel trip. But they will only take you if you can prove that you have switched over to Judaism.

    With regard to trips to Israel for Christian-identified half-Jewish young people, I would suggest you do a Google search using the words: “Christian youth trips to Israel” and see what pops up. When I did it, here is one link I found:

    http://www.randalldsmith.com/my_weblog/2009/06/christian-youth-experiences-israelchristian-travel-study-programs-ltd-announces-the-beginning-of-a-new-series-of-adventure.html

    I don’t know if those trips are free or not. But it looked like that search brought up a lot of different trips through different Christian groups.

    Whether you go on a Jewish trip or a Christian trip, be sure to read the Half-jewish Network essays on Israel at:

    http://halfjewishnetwork.wordpress.com/israel/ and

    http://halfjewishnetwork.wordpress.com/israelamf/

    Also, be sure and sign up for our posts through an email subscription or an RSS feed, and we will keep you up to date on the latest news.

    In addition, if you send me a private email, I will send you an information email with a lot of material that is not on this website. I can be reached at: binarystar [at] aol [dot] com

    Please let us know if you find any free or low-cost Christian trips to Israel for young people and then we can list them as a resource.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  4. Rebecca

    Hello everyone! My name is Rebecca, and I am the daughter of a Lutheran mother and a Jewish father. I traveled to Israel for the first time on the Aish Jerusalem Fellowships trip…and certainly can provide a unique perspective on what was taught during that trip regarding half-Jews and intermarriage as a whole. I decided to give Israel another chance and studied abroad at Tel Aviv University, which I loved. If anyone has any questions, or just wants to talk about the unique challenges which we face, please post back and I would love to chat :)

  5. Dear Rebecca:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! be sure and sign up for our posts through an email subscription or an RSS feed, and we will keep you up to date on the latest news.

    In addition, if you send me a private email, I will send you an information email with a lot of material that is not on this website. I can be reached at: binarystar [at] aol [dot] com

    Cordially,
    Robin

  6. Dear Friends: Here is a truly annoying article about an Israeli Orthodox organization that fights intermarriage. Their latest activity is trying to prevent Israeli Jewish women from socializing with Israeli Arab men whom they meet at the beach:

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4096350,00.html

    Cordially,
    Robin

  7. My grandmother who brought me up was a ashkenazi jew, i only found this out recently but i makes so many things clear like some of the things she used to do etc.
    My mother was christened a protestant in Germany when she was born, my Grandmothers jewishness was never spoken about. What i would like to know is am i considered jewish as i understand it is passed down the maternal side of the family. I would love to learn as much a possible about the jewish faith and lifestyle and follow it if possible in honour of my grandmother who had to hide her heritage! Can anyone help me and answer my question and point me into a direction as to were to start!

  8. Dear Alexandra: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! It is an immensely emotional thing to discover a part of your family’s heritage later in life. I will send you a private email packet with some information responding to your questions.

    With regard as to whether you are are considered Jewish, have a look at the essay on this website, “Who Is A Jew.” With regard to resources on Judaism, have a look at our “Jewish Resources” page.

    With regard to living as a Jew — before you decide to live as a Jew, I would suggest that you learn about Judaism, but also visit Jewish communities and see if you would be comfortable socializing and worshiping with them. Sometimes when people find a lost part of their heritage, there is a strong emotional pull to affiliate with that “half” of themselves, but they have not yet learned enough about that :”half” to know if they would be comfortable in that community.

    I will send you more information by private email.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  9. lobwedge83

    I recently stumbled upon your site. After 40 something years of life I recently came across my Jewish lineage on my biological Fathers side. I have enjoyed discovering all the history on that side of my Family and I’m proud to be half Jewish. I appreciate your efforts on this site and enjoy reading the information in the different sections. Thank You!

  10. Dear Lobwedge83: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! We are very pleased that you like our website and congratulations on discovering information about your father’s Jewish heritage. We are sending you a private email with more information that is not on our website.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  11. Benjamin Rosenblatt

    Hey, I just found your website. My father was jewish, my mother catholic, I practice neither. I’d be interested in any information you can provide about patralineal half-jews. Also, why in Israel do politics fall so far to the right, when in America my jewish family and most celebrity jews seem center left to left wing? Am I just seriously misinformed about the politics regarding jews here?

  12. Dear Benjamin: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! I have sent you two emails. One is our free email info packet, that has a lot of information about patrilineal Jews. I also recommend that you review our essays on this website, “Who Is A Jew?” and “Israel.”

    The second email contains an essay I have been working on about why Israel is so much further to the right than the American Jewish community. Your perceptions are correct, and I hope the two informational email packets will answer your questions.

    Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter. There is a subscription form, entitled “Email subscription,” on the upper right hand corner of this web page. That way you can stay in touch with us.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  13. Victoria

    Hi All,

    I have planned a trip to Israel in October of this year. I thought that I had worked out dates to avoid major holidays but it turned out that I was not very good. I will be in Jerusalem for Yom Kippur. From what I have read the city shuts down for the day. When I first realised this I was disappointed as I saw it as a wasted day of my holiday. However, upon reflection I think that this will not be such a bad thing. I am not religious at all and was not brought up practicing Judaism so I would not feel comfortable attending services. But I wondered if there might be opportunities to help at a shelter or other charity working with vulnerable people who might not be with their families on such an important day for Jewish people. I am a social worker in real life so I realise the kind of checks that are normally needed for someone to work with vulnerable people and that I might have left things too late … but I thought that I would ask if anyone had any suggestions or contacts.

    Also, while I am in Israel I wondered if there are any places to visit of particular interest to half Jewish people like me that you know of.

    I should say that I live in the UK.
    Thanks.

  14. Liora

    I am a Muslim girl in a relationship with a Jewish guy, I was wondering if there were any people who could share some advice and experience? :) I would love to hear from someone in a similar situation, how did your families accept it? I should also mention we are also both living in the heart of the middle east..

  15. Duality

    Dear Victoria: L’shanah tovah (a happy Jewish New Year!) I am sending you a private reply with information addressing your inquiry about charities that you could work with during your visit to israel and also about places to visit that might be of interest to half-Jewish people.
    Cordially,
    Robin

  16. Duality

    Dear Liora: L’shanah tovah (a happy Jewish New Year!) I also understand that the Islamic festival, the Eid al-Adha, is coming up on Monday, November 7, so accept our best wishes for that day.

    Regarding your inquiry about getting advice from other Jewish-Muslim couples on this website — this website is used primarily by adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage.

    We are always happy to advise interfaith couples, but if you need to talk with other interfaith couples, you will need to also visit websites where interfaith couples post and visit.

    I will write you privately and make some suggestions as to websites that you might visit to locate other interfaith couples.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  17. Dear Friends: Our first “blog post/email newsletter” has been posted on our “About/HJN Page” — be sure to have a look at it!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  18. Linda Phillips

    Dear Friends, I only discovered in my late teans that my father was Jewish, my grandfather was the only person in our family who ever spoke of it.. Our family was also German, another well kept secret, they emmigrated to the UK before WW2. I always feel as if there is this precious hidden part that is longing to re-connect somehow, thank you so much for your site. I grew up in the UK and now live in Canada. kindest regards Linda.

  19. Liora

    Dear Duality,
    Sorry I don’t think you can send me a private message because I posted as an anonymous user.
    I know this site is more for the half-jewish audience, but that’s exactly why I joined. Our children will be half jewish, and I wanted to know how life for half jewish children is, and what kind of problems we might need to think of before starting our family. We will raise them fully knowing both of our religious backgrounds. But I know that can sometimes be hard to live with, although it is also one of the best gifts a child could be given to be raised with such love. Speaking from experience I was raised in a half christian half muslim home, you grow up with an open heart, I think thats one of the reasons I was brave enough to start a relationship with my jewish boyfriend, in addition to him being an amazing person.

  20. Liora

    Oh, thank you for your wishes,
    L’shanah tovah

  21. Ron F

    I guess the name of this Web site is a settled issue, but one might have also pondered aloud using terms like Semi-Semite, Isreal-Lite, Half-brew, Less-saic, etc.

    Maybe we can still talk about a symbol. If you want rainbow colors, fine – but how about using them to paint a Star of David missing its bottom half?

  22. Duality

    Dear Linda:

    Linda: Thank you for sharing your story! Other half-Jewish people visiting this website are always really happy to see the stories of other half-Jewish people and know that they are not alone in their concerns.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  23. Duality

    Dear Liora:

    Liora: I think you did eventually send me an email with an address — did you receive an information packet from me? If not, please contact me again, and I will be happy to resend it.

    If you are curious about how half-Jewish children think and feel as adults and their childhood issues, then you have definitely come to the right website, and you will read many comments and opinions from them as the website grows and develops.

    As someone who grew up in an interfaith family, you have a head start on our issues that most intermarried couples do not have.

    Many blessings on you and your husband for a happy family and children.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  24. Duality

    Dear Ron F:

    If I understand your message correctly, you are wondering why the Half-Jewish Network was given this particular name when it was founded in 2005.

    You may want to have a look at this explanation from our “About/FAQ” (Frequently Asked Questions) section:

    “2. Why was the organization named “The Half-Jewish Network”?

    When we first started thinking about a name for our group, we realized that we would have to come up with a term that the adult children of intermarriage would recognize immediately, wherever they saw it.

    It would have to be a term that the adult children of intermarriage and other descendants frequently used about themselves and regarded favorably. It would also have to be a term that internet search engines could locate easily. “Half-Jewish” was the term that best met these criteria. It was the term that half-Jewish people appeared to use most frequently.”

    There is additional information about why we chose this name located at:

    http://half-jewish.net/frequently-asked-questions-faq/

    See my next comment below responding to your inquiry as to why didn’t we choose a more light-hearted, humorous name for the group.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  25. Duality

    Dear Ron F:

    Now with regard to your inquiry as to why we didn’t pick a more humorous name like “Semi-Semites” and a logo showing half of a Star of David — well, I co-led and co-founded the first attempt to start a U.S.-based international organization for half-Jewish people in the middle 1980s, and we did just as you suggested.

    We had a humorous name — “Pareveh: The Alliance for Adult Children of Jewish-Gentile Intermarriage” — foods that are “pareveh” or “parve” in Orthodox Jewish law are foods that can be eaten with either meat or milk products, which we thought reflected the situation of half-Jewish people symbolically. We thought that was very amusing and would lighten up the discussion.

    We also had a logo that was a half of a Star of David.

    Well, we learned the hard way that humor didn’t work. First, Jewish groups were offended by the use of a food term. Intermarriage is a serious subject for them. They were not too happy with the half of the star of David either.

    Second, many Jewish groups didn’t “get” the name at all — we started getting mail from Jewish Orthodox kosher food and cooking groups. Christian groups totally didn’t get the name.

    Third, most half-Jewish people are not raised as Jews but as Christians, secular, or “both” because the Jewish community has been so reluctant to reach out to interfaith families — so they had no clue what “pareveh” or the joke behind it meant. It made it much harder for half-Jewish people to find us.

    Fourth, a lot of half-Jewish people didn’t think their issues were that funny. It’s a serious subject to them.

    Fifth, a lot of the Christian, secular and “other” half-Jewish people weren’t too happy with a term which implied that only the Jewish ‘half’ of their identity counted.

    Sixth, a lot of other organizations, Jewish and Christian — few Muslim groups at that time had interfaith Jewish/Muslim couples or descendants of Jewish/Muslim intermarriages — anyway, few Jewish and Christian groups took an organization with a ‘joke’ name seriously. It totally detracted from our credibility.

    So you can see why we didn’t go down that path a second time. I will go ahead and include this information in our “FAQ.”

    Cordially,
    Robin

  26. Dear Ron F: I have added my response to your questions about the group’s name to our “About/FAQ” page, as it is likely that others will have the same questions. Thank you for helping us to improve this website!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  27. Hanna

    Hi,
    I want to convert to Judaism. I have been wanting to do that for a few years now. However, my kids do not want to convert. We are not religious but I was raised celebrating Christmas and visiting churches. I “tried to be catholic” but it alway felt really wrong. Like a big lie.
    So, can I convert while my kids stay Christian and we will celebrate Christmas for the tradition not for the religion?
    BTW, I am single so “what my husband” thinks is not an issue.

  28. Duality

    Dear Hanna: You can convert to Judaism, even if your kids do not want to convert.

    Now, some rabbis insist that if the mother converts, the children must do so also, but there are rabbis who don’t insist on that.

    I would suggest that you check out the liberal synagogues in your area — Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal or Humanistic — and see how you feel about their practices. Once you have found a synagogue that you like, make an appointment with the rabbi or cantor who is running it, and get his or her advice.

    You may also want to have a look at the “Jewish Resources” web page on this website, which has two rabbis who can advise on long-distance conversions.

    If none of these options work out, please contact me directly at:

    binarystar [at} aol.com

    and we will think of something else.

    Also, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter using the “Email subscription” box in the upper right-hand corner of this web page.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  29. Caro

    Hello everyone. I’m very pleased to be able to write here. I’m a patrilineal Jew from Latin America. After a long period of thought, I’ve decided to convert through a Masorti community. I have a very strong desire to live my life as a Jewish person, and raise my children Jewish. However, I still find sometimes strange the word “conversion” since I’ve always felt Jewish, I visited Israel with Birthright, I’ve celebrated all the Jewish holidays with my family and feel very attached to our culture, but when it comes to marry a Jew or raise my children in a Jewish framework, I’m still not considered Jewish by the community, and so would be my children. I would appreciete to contact other half Jews who converted, to share our unique experiencies.
    Kind regards,
    Carolina

  30. Chana (Annette)

    I was active on this site a long time ago, and recently had contact with Robin. I came back here to see how things were going!

    My situation is very complex; I was raised an Orthodox Jew, in an Orthodox community, by a born-Jewish father and a mother who though raised Italian Roman Catholic (before Vatican II), chose to convert to Orthodox Judaism…a few years later, she met and married my father (this was in the late 1940s; I was born in the late 1950s).

    Because most of my father’s family was dead by the time I was born, I consequently was closer to my mother’s family. They were very unassimilated Italian Catholics, very traditional religiously, and very upset about the changes that took place in their church in the late 1960s. I used to over hear snippets of their conversations, and began watching old Catholic movies to learn more (or so I thought!), like The Bells of St Mary’s, Going My Way…I adored the nuns in their long habits, and how serene they looked! They looked that way when they walked through our working-class neighborhood too, on their way to Catholic houses.

    Judaism never felt fulfilling to me; it felt like a religion of laws and not much else. I remember associating it with death, because it seems so much revolved around sitting shiva, funerals, and lighting yahrzeit candles. When I was in my late teens, I went on a trek to find the lost church my Mom’s famly told me about. I discovered Traditional Latin Masses being said in motel rooms, because the mainstream church had kicked it to the curb, so to speak. Traditional Catholics were holding fast to their faith in spiritual catacombs, if you will. I joined them, but it was more as a way to identify and feel close to my Mom’s family.

    Years passed; I went back to Judaism when my father was very ill; it was my way of identifying again, with a parent, in the hopes it would make him feel better. But I was miserable, and unhappy. I CRAVED contemplative, prayerful spirituality, which I’d only found in the traditional Catholic church.

    To make a long story short, I returned to the Traditional Catholic Faith earlier this year, and have never been happier. Except that this time, I REALLY DO BELIEVE. I don’t identify as Jewish anymore, and probably never will again. I was turned off by a lot within Judaism, not only the lack of true spirituality, but also, their obsession with ethnicity and bloodlines. I wanted to escape that too….I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and for the restoration of all of fallen Creation, both human and animal. I believe He is above all racial, ethnic and blood barriers and ties; in fact Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female; for you are ALL ONE in Christ Jesus”. That passage more than any other made me see the difference between Judaism and Christianity. The New Testament also says that Christ has “broken down the middle wall of partition between us”; this is a reference to the walls that existed in the Bais haMikdash, the Temple, separating Kohanim from other Jewish men, and Jewish men from Jewish women, and all Jews from the Gentiles who also worshipped the One God there.

    I am so indescribably happy. I am at peace. And I thank God for all He has done for me. I sometimes think my mixed background caused all this lifelong searching, and it probably did. But I think in many ways I am so much richer for it, because I have learned so very much.

  31. Dear Carolina and Chana/Annette:

    Thank you for leaving such detailed accounts of your rich life experiences as half-Jewish people. I hope other people seeing these messages will respond.

    Very cordially,
    Robin

  32. Rachel

    Hello, I just stumbled on this website today and was happy, for the first time, to see life stories of people like me.
    My father comes from a purely Jewish background. He even has a few notable Jewish scholars in his ancestry. My mother is Italian/Sicilian and was raised Catholic. Some time around the time she met my dad she became disillusioned with Catholicism and converted to Judaism.
    I was raised Jewish though compared to most Jews I’ve met, it was a fairly secular environment. Other than going to temple for the high holidays for a few years while I was young, we basically celebrated only Passover “lite” and Chanukah in our house. We never went to synagogue regularly though my parents did make my brother and me go to Sunday school so we could have our bar/bat mitzvahs but once that was done we never had to go again, and didn’t. In addition, my parents were very close to my mother’s parents so we happily celebrated the major Christian holidays with them. There was a lot of resentment with my dad’s family as they did not did not care for my mother (apparently because she wasn’t a born Jew) so we didn’t see them much and my memories of holidays with them are slim to none.
    As an adult I practiced no religion at all but married a Jewish man (though I thought I never would). He considers himself to be Jewish but really is non-practicing (but he grew up in NJ in a fairly Jewish area while I was the only Jewish kid in school). About 10 years ago I realized that I just couldn’t continue to consider myself Jewish as I felt aboslutely no connection to the religion and thought I would be a hypocrite if I pretended to practice it just for my children. I explored liberal Protestantism and also Unitarian Universalism. Currently I think that my beliefs fit into the UU category but have not been to services in a while. I think that I am half-Jewish. I recognize and respect my Jewish ancestry but also respect my Italian ones as well and really feel no connection to the Jewish religion. It’s just all kind of confusing because technically I am Jewish because my mother converted but I really don’t think I was raised very Jewish and I enjoy celebrating the Christian holidays.
    Anyway, thanks for this website. I can’t wait to check it out some more.

  33. Duality

    Dear Rachel: Thank you for sharing your story. You are not alone. Sadly, many of us were distanced from one or both sets of grandparents due to resentment over intermarriage, and often given a “Judaism lite” or a “diet Christianity” that didn’t really give us any depth in either faith-based culture..

    We are glad that you are enjoying the website! Cordially, Robin

  34. Jesse I.

    Hi! My name is Jesse and my story is similar to that of Rachel. I am 22 years old. My Father is Irish/English and of a Christian background, and my mother Russian Jew & Hungarian Jew. I am often confused for being hispanic, italian, or arabic though this is due to my dominant features from my mother’s side. I attended Synagogue until the age of five and was distanced due to relocation from the area and my parents irreligious nature, as my Grandmother was the main influence in my attendance. I consider myself to be Jewish though I have had little to no interaction with the Jewish Community. My sense of Judaism is a basic belief in God, and due to my separation from those of my faith and race, I lack a fundamental understanding of Judaism, not in a book or information sense, but in the sense of something deeper. I wish to somehow network and learn more about these things, as I have a great longing towards doing so. The world is a strange place, and I strongly seek a sense of belonging. I am deeply troubled by events in history as well as currently. I consider myself Jewish due to the sacrifice and persecution of my ancestors, and it is my duty to them to adopt their faith and build a stronger community, dedicating myself to the blossoming of peace and love, to expand upon their religion, life, and struggles that fell together in the act of my creation and arrival here in this odd thing we call life.

  35. Dear Jesse: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network at the beginning of your spiritual and ethnic journey! We appreciate you sharing your story with other half-Jewish people. You have been sent a copy of our email information packet.

    Regarding living as a Jew — the best way to do that is to start visiting Jewish communities in your area and see if any appeal to you. If you are interested in studying Judaism, please have a look at our “Jewish Resources” page at:

    http://half-jewish.net/jewish-resources/

    Any Jewish community that you visit will also have Jewish study resources of various kinds.

    Regarding identifying as Jewish — examine the Jewish communities that you visit carefully. Read Jewish publications and books online. Ask yourself if you are comfortable with them and if what is said matches your particular ethics and spiritual or secular belief systems. If you are comfortable with Judaism, then explore formally affiliating with Jewish institutions.

    If you are not comfortable with Jewish communities and their teachings, consider exploring your other “half.” If you decide to affiliate with another belief system, you can still be of help to the Jewish people in various ways as someone who is concerned about their welfare and happiness.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  36. Victoria

    Hi All,

    I have just noticed that there is a documentary on British TV this evening (Monday 14th November 2011) that might be of interest to us.

    It is on BBC3 at 9pm and is called ‘Mixed up in the Middle East’. The documentary follows a half – Jewish / half Arab women as she visits the Middle East for the first time.

    It is repeated on 15th Nov at 01:05 am and 16th Nov 04:00 am. Programs are usually available to be viewed on the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/ for about a week after they have screened for those who miss it or are not in the UK.

  37. Dear Victoria: Thank you for mentioning this! That is very thoughtful.
    Cordially,
    Robin

  38. steve

    Robin,

    What happened to the actual message board with separate topics? This comments thread is less conducive to discussion.

    Thanks,

    Steve

  39. Dear Steve: Our old message board on the old Half-Jewish Network website was paid for by me, as was the rest of the old website. The total fees for the website, including the message board, cost me over $200 (U.S.) per year.

    I switched the website to WordPress to get a less expensive, more modern and flexible website with a nicer appearance. The new WordPress website is free except for the yearly domain name payment of about $9 per year. That is a lot less money than $200 per year.

    However, WordPress does not provide free message boards. I have been looking for free message board software to link to this website, but it would not be WordPress software. That raises a number of technical problems that I hope to resolve eventually.

    In the meantime, WordPress provides a way to send everyone a free monthly email newsletter, a capability that I did not have on the old website. As soon as I have resolved the technical problems involved in attaching a new message board to this website, you would be informed through our monthly email newsletter.

    If you sign up in the “Email Subscription” for the free monthly email newsletter, you will hear from us regularly. Each issue of the newsletter will link back to this website with room for comments on the content of the newsletter.

    Also be sure to subscribe to this “Message Board” comments thread by posting a comment and then checking a box under your comment asking “Notify me of follow-up comments via email.” You will then be notified of every new comment on this message board.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  40. Chana (Annette)

    Rachel, I would LOVE to be able to correspond with you! Our backgrounds are almost identical, to a tee, except for the unitarian thing.

  41. Rachel

    Hi Chana, I sent you an email that has my email address in it. Did you get it? Looking forward to chatting.

  42. Hi I have a Jewish Dad and a Christian Mother due to me borne in Germany during the Nazi Regime I have been christened at my birth but feel more Jewish than a Christian most likely from the treatment I received due to my Jewish Name growing up in Nazi Germany.
    I wrote my autobiography;
    maybe interesting to people with Jewish or partly Jewish heritage.
    With a message to all people considering entering in to intermarriage,
    “No matter how much in love you are! Go ahead it is your right and choice so live with it and enjoy your love and life.
    But before being selfish by thinking to bring innocent children in this World think about the burden you inflict up on them, with the possibility for them of not being accepted by either site of religion or race, therefore outsiders for ever during there entire life, ask your self the question;
    are you being fair?
    http://www.lostlostandlostagain.com or http://www.ernestgoldberg.com

  43. Chana (Annette)

    Hi Rachel, Yes I did, I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you yet! Life offline is very hectic for me right now, hang on and I WILL reply! :)

  44. Dear Ernest: Thank you for sharing your online autobiography. Sounds like you went through a very bad time during the Holocaust. I’m glad you survived. It is a credit to your personal strength.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  45. Dear Ernest: One more thing — I have sent you two emails with more information about the Half-Jewish Network, plus some information that might be of interest to you personally. I hope that you got the emails.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  46. I would to thank this website for existing! I have just uncovered my Jewish roots through my Mother and a father who pretty much abandon his being part of Judaism when he was young. Can someone tell me if there is a support group for people who have just discovered their heritage and would like to obtain knowlegde about Judaism? I want my daughter to have a story to tell.

  47. Reading your article I have stumbled upon answers for most questions that have been bugging me for long time now. Its troublesome to find coherent articles on the internet as plenty of those texts are written by someone with ignorant of the topic. Your publication is different and definitively worth recommending. I’ll return for more in some time.

  48. Hunter

    Great to see the new site! My name is Hunter and I’m currently studying Arabic in Egypt. My father is Ashkenazi Jewish and my mother is Norwegian-German (raised Lutheran); in the past (including a few census forms) I’ve referred to myself as Hebrew Viking. Both my parents have fairly ambivalent feelings towards their own religious backgrounds, so I was never Bar Mitzvah’ed or taken to church, but I’ve always felt a strong connection with my Jewish heritage in an ethnic if not religious sense (truthfully, I lean towards atheism).
    I figured I’d made my peace with being neither fully Jew nor fully non-Jew, but a few recent occurrences in my life brought the internal debate up again. Amusingly, one of them is studying Arabic in the Arab world. We never learned Hebrew beyond a few basic prayers and expressions, but I’m constantly struck by cognates, customs, and even mannerisms that remind me of my Jewish side. For one thing, the New Year here is “Ras es’Sana,” literally “head of the year” but with a profound resemblance to a certain Jewish holiday. “Day” is “Yom.” “Dog” is “Kelev” in Hebrew and “Kelb” in Arabic. My own Hebrew name, “Ze’ev,” is “Ze’eb”–”Wolf.” You see the hamsa, which the Jews call the Hand of Miriam and the Muslims the Eye of Fatima, everywhere. There’s a drama to interactions here that reminds me a lot of my Dad’s family. Arabic doesn’t differentiate between the act of liking something and the act of loving it–and how Jewish does that sound? It strikes me here how much of the Middle East really remains in Jewish culture. I’m frequently asked if I’m Lebanese or Turkish.
    Secondly, I recently got married to a wonderful woman of German-Irish background. I always assumed I would never have children, so the issue of what sort of exposure to Judaism to give them never came up. Turns out she wants kids. I would love to do what my family did for my sister and I–light the chanukkiah and celebrate seder, but also open presents on the 25th and put up a (originally pagan) tree. That said, I don’t want to leave any future children we have feeling as I have through much of my life–wanting a Jewish connection, feeling rebuffed by many Jews’ feelings on intermarriage, and coming to hate the fact of my Jewish ancestry.
    Whew! Sorry for the length of that!

  49. taboo

    Hi, I was just wondering if there were any other half-Jewish children of the now defunct communist party hiding in the woodwork. I was raised by militant athiests who believe that “religion is the opium of the people” but am increasingly coming to the opinion that Marx was a false prophet.

    P.S. Does anybody else feel a deep sickness in the pit of their stomach at the widespread demonization of Israel that is currently being indulged in by the Left?

    P.P.S. My grandfather’s name was Israel and he was born in a small village in Poland which no longer exists.

  50. Duality

    Dear Sandra:

    Please excuse the delay in replying to your messages — this is a volunteer website, so when outside work is heavy, replies are sometimes delayed.

    Sandra asked: Can someone tell me if there is a support group for people who have just discovered their heritage and would like to obtain knowlegde about Judaism? I want my daughter to have a story to tell.”

    Robin replies: Sandra, I don’t know of any such support groups. If you are trying to trace family history, I would suggest contacting Jewish genealogical online websites as they may have information.

    You may also want to visit DNA family websites, which allow you send DNA samples and then alert you when someone with similar DNA joins them.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  51. Duality

    Dear Nilistusa:
    Nilistusa said: “Reading your article I have stumbled upon answers for most questions that have been bugging me for long time now. . . . Your publication is different and definitively worth recommending. I’ll return for more in some time.”

    Robin replies: Glad you enjoy our website! Don’t forget to sign up for this comment thread and our email newsletter!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  52. Hunter said: “Great to see the new site! My name is Hunter and I’m currently studying Arabic in Egypt. My father is Ashkenazi Jewish and my mother is Norwegian-German (raised Lutheran); in the past (including a few census forms) I’ve referred to myself as Hebrew Viking.”

    Robin replies: Hunter, welcome back! Again, don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter, as well as this comment thread.

  53. Dear Taboo:

    Taboo asked: “Hi, I was just wondering if there were any other half-Jewish children of the now defunct communist party hiding in the woodwork. I was raised by militant athiests who believe that “religion is the opium of the people” but am increasingly coming to the opinion that Marx was a false prophet.

    P.S. Does anybody else feel a deep sickness in the pit of their stomach at the widespread demonization of Israel that is currently being indulged in by the Left?

    P.P.S. My grandfather’s name was Israel and he was born in a small village in Poland which no longer exists.”

    Robin replies: I don’t know if we have any other half-Jewish children of the now defunct Communist part, but we certainly have some members whose parents were socialists and leftists of other types.

    My two Jewish great-grandfathers were both born in Poland and left in the 1890s. I don’t know if their villages still exist. So much of the history has been lost.

    Regarding Israel — you may want to have a look at the “Israel” essay on this website here:

    http://half-jewish.net/israel/

    where we document in great detail the very poor treatment of half-Jewish people by the state of Israel.

    I would urge you to read it, as it is meticulous, and the information is taken mostly directly from Israeli Jewish newspapers I read, ranging from left-wing to right-wing. The essay is periodically updated as I get more information.

    I don’t think what is going on is “demonization” of Israel — I think, sadly, that for many years the Jewish community allowed no criticism of Israel at all, and now criticisms finally cannot be silenced any longer.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  54. Ryan

    Hello Robin I have visited and posted the old site many times in the past and this is a new posting on your new site. Your very last comment about how the Jewish community has allowed no criticism of Israel and cannot be silenced any longer is spot on!!! This criticism is long overdue!

    Anyway, I found a couple of interesting reads about half Jews that definitly shows we half Jews are being heard. Let me know what you guys think about the article. http://www.jewcy.com/religion-and-beliefs/why_many_jewish_outreach_workers_ignore_halfjewish_people

    http://www.jewishpost.com/archives/news/meet-the-half-jews.html

  55. Duality

    Dear Ryan: I am glad that you enjoy our new website. It is always good to welcome visitors from our old website!

    Thank you for posting links to the two articles on half-Jewish people. I feel that the more that is written about us advocating for our point of view, the better off we will be.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  56. Duality

    Dear Ryan: I am glad that you found my comment about Israel of interest. Israel’s behavior towards half-Jewish people is truly tragic, and I am hoping that if criticisms of this behavior are made, Israel will reconsider this behavior.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  57. Hi Robin. The new website looks very nice. I wanted to let you know about a book I co-authored (“self-published” direct to Kindle) on Jewish ethics: The Path and Wisdom for Living at Peace with Others: A Modern Commentary on Talmud Tractates Derek Eretz Zuta and Rabbah, which is based on Rabbi Arthur Segal’s online course and compiled & edited by me. I’m very happy about it. One can borrow the book either for free or about a dollar fifty if an Amazon Prime member, and I believe it can be shared with anyone. Also, I was excited to learn there is a conference this spring about descendants of intermarriage (finally?) – I noticed HJN is listed as a group that will speak. Very cool. Would love to hear about what happens.

  58. Catherine

    Taboo asked : “P.S. Does anybody else feel a deep sickness in the pit of their stomach at the widespread demonization of Israel that is currently being indulged in by the Left?”

    Yes, Taboo, I feel the same way !

    I’m a “Half-Jew” working in France as a psychologist (with Holocaust survivors and their offspring, also with “Half-Jews”, and with immigrant families from all over the world) and I teach in a university that has both a deeply-rooted Marxist tradition and a large body of Muslim students from foreign countries or born in France of immigrant parents.

    I have regularly been a witness to blatantly antisemitic slurs painted on classroom walls mixed in with antisionist slogans (for example : “Death to the jews and to Israel”, “Jew = Nazi”), many Jews I know (mostly secular and Left-wing) have become estranged from non-Jewish friends because merely supporting the existence of Israel amounts to being a fascist, Muslim youth (often living in poverty and themselves victims of discrimination on the part of mainstream society) generally make no distinction whatsoever between antisionism and antisemitism and openly express antisemitic thoughts based on their hatred of Israel (fed by satellite TV channels in arabic).

    As a direct result of this antisemitic-antisionistic propaganda supported by both the extreme Left and Islamic fundamentalists, in 2006, in Paris, a 23-year old man (Ilan Halimi) was set up and kidnapped by a group of kids and young adults (ages ranging from 16 to 28), tortured for three weeks, set on fire and abandoned in a ditch on the sole ground that he was Jewish. He died from his wounds in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.

    Ten years ago, a friend of mine who is a secular patrilineal Half-Jew, and also a high-level biology researcher and staunch critic of Israeli politics, decided, as an experiment, to wear a yarmulke to a very large antiracist demonstration organized in Paris after the leader of the extreme right came in second in the first round of the presidential election. My friend was physically attacked twice during the demonstration by young people yelling antisemitic and anti-Israel slogans.

    I myself have witnessed the burning of Israeli flags along with the yelling of “death to the Jews” during demonstrations in Paris protesting Israeli politics in which the Left and fundamentalist Muslims were seen marching together, while booming sound systems blared “Allah wakbar” (Allah is great).

    This has been the reality here in France since the second intifada in 2000.

    Scary, sickening and unjustifiable.

  59. Dear Catherine:

    There is an imbalance — half-Jewish people are always being invited to sympathize with Israel and defend Israel — but Israel continues to discriminate against us in laws and public policies.

    Unfortunately, all the anti-Semitism in the world, distressing though it is, does not justify how badly Israel treats half-Jewish people or entitle Israel to our automatic uncritical support. The discrimination against us in Israel is getting worse rather than better.

    It is hard to support a country where patrilineal half-Jewish people are referred to as “psuley hitun” — forbidden to marry.

    I invite anyone reading this message board to examine the long and carefully documented essay I have compiled on Israel’s poor treatment of half-Jewish people. It is updated regularly:

    http://half-jewish.net/israel/

    I am not surprised that anti-Semitism is on the rise in France and worldwide.

    I believe Israeli policies in many areas have fueled anti-Semitism, harming Jewish communities like your community in France. Israel needs to change some of its policies, which have a very bad impact on Diaspora Jews and descendants of intermarriage.

    Sincerely,
    Robin

  60. Dear Sarah Davies:

    Please excuse the delay in replying — things have been very busy here. I will contact you about your book, so that I can post your description of it and a link to it on our “Jewish Resources” page.

    Thank you for your kind words about the new Half-Jewish Network website!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  61. Catherine

    Dear Robin,

    Blaming Israeli politics for the rise of antisemitism in my country (France) and around the world strikes me as a little to simple, unfortunately. Israeli politics certainly add fuel to the fire, but the fire is there and needs to be recognized as such.

    Regarding the treatment of Half-Jews by Israeli institutions, I am well aware of the discrimination patrilineal Half-Jews are up against and have no intention of minimizing or justifying it in any way. However, as I’ve written to you in a private email, at least for many French patrilineal Half-Jews I’ve met and interviewed, moving to Israel can be a life affirming and even therapeutic experience. Regardless of politics and despite institutional discrimination. I’m referring primarily to Half-Jews who want to identify as Jewish and are having trouble doing so in their current environment (for lack of support on the part of family members and friends, or because there are no Jewish organizations or congregations in the area they live in, and so on). I think the reason this is so is that despite all its faults, Israel is the only Jewish country in the world today, and for people who have not had much access to Jewishness or Judaism, it is the only place where everyday life is collectively and constantly informed by Judaism (take the calendar for example). Of course, there are many vibrant Jewish communities with much to offer in the Diaspora, and hopefully they will continue to thrive, but Israel nonetheless stands apart in this regard.

    As a therapist, my focus is on helping people find ways of living their lives as fully and as happily as possible given their circumstances. I understand that as an activist, you’re focus is on consciousness-raising and promoting broader change which I deeply commend. We’re looking at this from different perspectives.

    Thanks for the work you put into building and monitoring this website.

    Best,
    Catherine

    PS : my research on the topic is currently written up in French but I will give a paper in English in July and will be happy to share it with you once I manage to get it written…

  62. Oscar

    My names Oscar, my moms from Israel, my dads Black. I consider myself full Jewish though because that is my religion, and thats what I believe in.

  63. Dear Catherine and Oscar:

    Catherine: I look forward to seeing your research paper in July. I’d like to read it if you would send me a copy!

    Thank you for your kind words about the work I have done on this website.

    Oscar: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! A number of our members are biracial or multiracial and identify as Jews. I am sending you more information about us by email.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  64. taboo

    Dear Catherine,

    I am also living in France and have been quite shocked at the unconditional support for the Palestinians on behalf of the university educated left-leaning lapsed catholic population. If I mention that Hamas deliberately targets civilians, encourages the use of child suicide bombers and brutally silences any form of internal opposition or sympathy towards Israel, then I basically get yelled at and told I am an evil nazi fascist who is spouting out Israeli propaganda. The situation is not nearly so bad in Australia where I was born. Most people in Australia will admit to being disturbed by the situation and are reluctant to “take sides” from a feeling that they don’t really understand what is going on.

  65. taboo

    Dear Robin,

    I have recently done some reading on the “status quo” in Israel. It seems to me that the decision to give the Orthodox Jews authority over “births, deaths and marriages” was a political calculation with the deliberate intention of keeping them out of mainstream politics, which is more or less dominated by secular Zionists. This seems to me a fairly laudable solution to Israel’s own “fundamentalists” problem. I personally would not want religious extremists in the government, nor would I be comfortable with a communist-style “outlawing” of certain forms of religious expression – despite the fact that I have many problems with orthodox stances on women, gays, etc…

  66. Dear Taboo: I don’t know what sources told you that handing over Jewish status decisions to the ultra-Orthodox was ‘laudable.’

    It has been a disaster for Israel. Far from keeping the Orthodox out of politics, it has given their religious voter parties a stranglehold on coalition politics in the Knesset, where they have steadily eroded the rights of other Jews — especially half-Jewish people like us.

    Here is an article about a patrilineal who has given up and left Israel because of her poor treatment on status issues:

    http://www.jewishjournal.com/rabbijohnrosovesblog/item/jessica_fishmans_sad_story_and_the_threat_to_israels_civil_society_20120210/

    The article also discusses how the Orthodox religious parties in the Israeli government are trying to widen their control of other Israeli citizens.

    Is this what the rest of us want for ourselves in a supposedly Jewish state? Is this a democracy? What about the human rights of half-Jewish people?

    I strongly suggest that you read the Israeli Jewish newspapers online and see what the Israelis think of their theocracy. Here’s a sample:

    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/gideon-levy-let-s-face-the-facts-israel-is-a-semi-theocracy-1.2438

    I also urge everyone that before posting on Israel, please read:

    http://half-jewish.net/israel/

    an essay I wrote which explains the Israeli political system, how the Orthodox political parties gained power, and how half-Jewish people have ended up as second-class citizens in Israel. It is composed of information that I have obtained from Israeli Jewish newspapers and organizations.

    Finally, I don’t know how many people you have spoken to in Israel on behalf of half-Jewish people — but I have spent the last five years begging and pleading and rebuking on our behalf with various Israeli Jewish scholars and government folks.

    Consider writing yourself to Israeli scholars, rabbis and government officials on behalf of the half-Jewish people of Israel and the Diaspora each time you see an action against half-Jewish people. Suggest to them that treating us badly is harmful. Much of the time you won’t even get a reply. And the replies that you do get, you will wish you had never received them — they are sometimes very unpleasant.

    Sincerely,
    Robin

  67. Dear Taboo:

    One more thing regarding your concerns: “Dear Catherine,
    I am also living in France and have been quite shocked at the unconditional support for the Palestinians on behalf of the university educated left-leaning lapsed catholic population. If I mention that Hamas, etc..”
    ————————————————————————————
    Taboo: I have noticed that whenever I criticize the Israeli government’s poor treatment of half-Jewish people, people sometimes bring up the Palestinian factions fighting the Israelis.

    The underlying message seems to be: “Yes, Robin, the Israelis don’t treat half-Jewish people very well, but look at how badly Hamas behaves to Israeli Jews with two Jewish parents! Let’s change the subject to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — that’s much more comfortable! It’s too painful discussing how badly the Israeli Jewish government and some Israeli Jews treat us half-Jewish people!”

    This message board is not here to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are lots of other message boards for that. This message board is strictly for half-Jewish issues. I will have to remove postings that stray off onto issues that are not directly related to half-Jewish issues.

    Second — there are between 20,000 and 30,000 Israeli Jews married to Palestinian Arabs — and many of them have children who are half-Jewish and half-Arab. I am concerned about their happiness and welfare because as half-Jewish people, they are our brothers and sisters.

    The Israeli government and various ultra-Orthodox religious organizations are engaged in efforts to prevent and break-up their parents’ intermarriages. I was contacted by an Israeli social worker for help on the issue. He’s trying to publicize this discrimination against these intermarriages in hopes of stopping it.

    The Knesset recently held a day of discussion about how ‘bad’ these intermarriages are. Can you imagine the uproar if the Australian parliament had a day devoted to how ‘bad’ Jewish-Christian intermarriages are and how to prevent them, because the children might grow up to be Australian Jews instead of Australian Christians?

    So when you talk about the Palestinians, please keep in mind there are a lot of half-Palestinian, half-Jewish children who need our support and advocacy. The Half-Jewish Network is one of the few groups speaking out on their behalf.

    We could not advocate for these children and their parents, if we adopted the Israeli government hasbara (spin, propaganda) that “Palestinians = bad” and “Jews = good.”

    Sincerely,
    Robin Margolis

  68. taboo

    Dear Robin,

    I assume that as a patrilineal half-jew myself I am entitled to my opinion that there are far more pressing concerns for the jewish people, and for the world at large, than the Israeli Orthodoxy making a nuisance of themselves with respect to marriage laws. I respect the fact that you disagree with me.

  69. taboo

    As far as the halacha is concerned, matrilinearity does not have its foundations in the Torah, but rather in a specific historical-political crisis, namely the destruction of the second temple by the Romans. In my opinion, the holocoaust, and the re-establishment of the State of Israel are a historical-political crisis of similar magnitude and a valid case can be made for offering “full Jewishness” to anybody with partial Jewish ancestory, or indeed anybody who has showed consistant loyalty to the Jewish people through this trying period. I am more than willing to argue this point with any talmudically trained Orthodox rabbi who is willing to spare me the time of day.

  70. Dear Taboo:

    Actually, I would suggest that there is nothing more important for the Jewish people than how they treat half-Jewish people.

    People — and nations — are judged by how they treat their families.

    Sincerely,
    Robin

  71. Dear Taboo:

    I certainly agree with you that “a valid case can be made for offering “full Jewishness” to anybody with partial Jewish ancestory … I am more than willing to argue this point with any talmudically trained Orthodox rabbi who is willing to spare me the time of day.”

    If you are signed up for the Half-Jewish Network email newsletter, you will see links to articles sometimes where I urge our group members to post comments objecting to certain articles attacking us.

    I’d welcome the help.

    And it is not just Orthodox rabbis — articles attacking half-Jewish people are posted by Knesset members, Israeli Jewish scholars, non-Orthodox rabbis, and people who post “talk-backs” in Israeli newspapers, Diaspora Jewish media, Diaspora Orthodox and some non-Orthodox rabbis, etc.

    I try to ask Half-Jewish Network members to reply to only one or two articles at a time for which I supply links in our newsletter.

    Again, I’d welcome the help!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  72. Ryan

    I will help! Be glad to help! In fact I already did, in 23andme.com where I made some very valid points to an Orthodox Jew on a thread for people who share partial DNA (either patrilineal or matrilineal) who was trying to tell me there is no such thing as a half-Jew, another Jew had come to support me with some very valid points on how half-Jewish Jewish father’s important role on a half-Jewish person’s Jewish ethnicity actually does count. Specifically for the Cohens.

  73. Duality

    Dear Ryan: thank you so much for helping other half-Jewish people on the DNA website, 23andme.com. It is very important that we be visible.

    There are many DNA Jews who have contacted this website. That’s why I have set up a page just for them:

    http://half-jewish.net/dna-jews/

    It is very helpful when other half-Jewish people speak out on our behalf. I hope if you see any articles in the Half-Jewish Network newsletter where I ask for comments on online articles that you will offer your thoughts in their comment sections.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  74. taboo

    Dear Robin,

    One of the great strengths of the Jewish people is the spirit of lively, passionate debate, so I gladly take you as a valuable havruta partner and continue to vigorously disagree (though you might want to consider adding threads to this message board so that we don’t end up shouting everybody else out).

    Firstly, by middle-eastern standards, Israel is not a theocracy. Saudi Arabia is a theocracy. Iran is a theocracy. Were I a true orthodox Jew, I would be weeping and lamenting in unconsolable grief at the adultery and idolatory to be found openly practiced on the streets of Tel Aviv.

    Secondly, it is indeed an honourable prophetic calling to cry and bemoan the corruption and hypocricy which has engulfed Israels leaders and princes – a tradition which goes back to Isaiah and Jeremiah. However, I would advise taking a good look at the motivations and backgrounds of those crying “racism” and “human rights abuses” most loudly against Israel in the public media, and ask yourself if you truly want your name associated with these people.

    Sincerely,
    taboo

  75. Duality

    Dear Taboo:
    Nowhere in your reply do you mention half-Jewish people. This is not an abstract problem. Israel is becoming a theocracy — their Orthodox religious parties speak of this openly in Israeli newspapers as their plan for the future — they are proud of it — they plan to make halacha (Orthodox religious law) the law of the land, as the number of ultra-Orthodox voters grows.

    One part of this plan, which will directly impact on half-Jewish people — and the Orthodox religious parties mention this part of their plan repeatedly in the Israeli newspapers — is removing the right of patrilineal Jews to make aliyah and become Israeli citizens. They want a completely matrilineal standard of Jewish citizenship. This repeatedly comes up in the Knesset (Israeli parliament).

    I’ve been fighting this for years, writing letters to their newspapers and their officials. All of us need to start fighting this.

    I am not interested in supporting an Israel with “middle eastern standards” of governing and behavior. Israel repeatedly claims support in America on the basis of being the “only Western democracy in the MIddle East,” to use their favorite phrase.

    If Israel is a “Western democracy,” then let them treat their half-Jewish citizens and the Diaspora half-Jewish people as people with full civil and human rights. Treating us as second-class citizens is not acceptable. All of us need to protest this.

    I am proud to be associated with three Israeli Jewish groups fighting for the rights of half-Jewish people, among other causes, and recommend them to you and others:

    1. Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism at:

    http://www.irac.org/

    2. Association for the Rights of Mixed Families (in Israel):

    http://www.mixedfamilies.org.il/english/about.php

    3. New Family:

    http://www.newfamily.org.il/english.asp

    For more information about them, also see:

    http://half-jewish.net/israelamf/

    http://half-jewish.net/israel/

    Sincerely,
    Robin

  76. Joseph Montrym

    I am a 48 year old man who was raised as a Catholic, having grown up in San Francisco, CA, Ottawa, Canada, and the Boston, MA area. When I was in the second grade (40 years ago) my mother died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My father continued raising me and my older brother as Catholics, and we received the Catholiic sacraments of baptism, first communion, and confirmation. We almost never missed Mass.. Five years after my mother died, my father remarried a divorced Catholic woman. I accepted my new stepmother as “mom” without question for the rest of my childhood and well into my early adult years.
    I met my wife in 1992 when I was 28, and we got married the next year. She grew up as a Methodist. Although neither of us were strongly adherent to our childhood faiths, we had a Catholic wedding. Two years later, our son was born. For a number of years after he was born, we tried different Catholic and Protestant churches. We ended up not attending any regular religious services.
    In 2004, I came across my late mother’s journals. I found many pages in her journals where she had written the words “oy” and “oy vey”, usually whenever she was upset about something. I had no idea what these phrases meant, and I typed them into Google, where I learned that they were Jewish expletives.
    My mother was born in Canada in 1933 to recently arrived Polish immigrants. She was born in Saskatchewan (my grandfather worked for the Canadian National railroad). They moved to Toronto during WW II, and after graduating from high school, my mother obtained a bachelor’s and law degree from the University of Toronto, graduating in 1959. She then travelled to San Francisco and worked as a legal secretary. She also met my father and they got married (in a civil ceremony in San Francisco city hall) in 1961.
    After considering these aspects of my mother’s life, I have been thinking about the possibility that my mother (and her parents) were actually Jewish, and they were.concealing their faith to avoid persecution. If they were Jewish, then it is a good thing that they left Poland before WWII.

  77. Duality

    Dear Joseph:

    I think it is very likely that your mother was a Jew. A number of us are children of “runaways” — either Jews or Christians who secretly gave up their faith-based culture — and had their children raised in ignorance of that parent’s background. My mother opted to conceal the fact that she was a Jew from me. I didn’t find out until after her death, when I was an adult.

    You might consider getting DNA testing, which could suggest whether you are carrying ethnic Jewish DNA. If your maternal grandparents and mother were Jews, I am glad that they left Poland before WWII.

    I will send you a private email with more information that is not on our website. Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  78. el

    Coming from a situation where my parents hold differing beliefs. I decided that my son have a bris milah due to his dads background. Since the bris i as a mother have felt such anger and had some nitemares of being smothered. Though my son is very happy.

  79. Duality

    Dear el:

    We have difficulties as adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage — and then the same difficulties occur when we raise children of our own. We make decisions about how to raise our children, and then wonder if the decisions were right.

    I am sorry that you are feeling angry and having bad dreams after your son’s bris.

    If you continue to experience anger and dreams of suffocation, you may want to consult a counselor or a therapist to see what the dreams mean in your current life. It may be that you need to change course.

    Many blessings for Pesach (Passover) and Easter and for clarity about your current emotions.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  80. Nancy

    It is so nice to hear about people with similar stories. My grandmother and mother were most likely jewish, they lived in Lodz, Poland during the war. The catholic church took them in and hid them. Unfortunately, no one will confirm this, I have no documentation. My grandfather died alone in Lodz, while my mother grandmother and aunt escaped to Germany. I am trying to put pieces together but so much has been destroyed.
    I was raised without religion but find myself asking many questions now.

  81. Allie

    Hello all,
    What a great website – I never knew that half-Jews had a unified group, and I’m glad to find that we do.

    I am half-Jewish. My father is Jewish and I was raised with Reform Judaism. I had a Bat Mitzvah at age 12 in a Reform synagogue. Some Conservative/Orthodox Jews found out that my mother isn’t Jewish, so they told me that I would need to convert to Judaism in order to be considered Jewish. Doesn’t this seem a little bit ridiculous? The Reform synagogue should have given us a disclaimer that doing the whole religious school, Bat Mitzvah prep, Jewish youth thing would be a waste of time if I ever came into contact with non-Reform groups.

    I’m not sure how common this is – has anyone been through a similar situation? If so, how do you go about dealing with it? Honestly, the cards that have been dealt to me in terms of the “Who is a Jew” debate are enough to make me want to abandon it all and declare myself Unitarian.

  82. rhelburn

    Hi Allie.

    according to Reform Judaism, you are Jewish and if someone asks you (if you are Jewish), the simple answer is yes. I can understand that as a child growing up in the shelter of a synagogue and the traditions you were raised with that it might come as a bit of a shock that there are other denominations that don’t share the Reform view of Jewish identity. But hopefully by then you would be older and strong enough in your sense of spirituality and identity that it wouldn’t matter.

    I don’t believe that a Reform synagogue has any more obligation to put some “disclaimer’ on your identity than a pastor of an Episcopal church is obligated to tell his (or her) congregants that some other fundamentalist Christian group might tell them they are not “saved”. Religion is complex. No one needs to be told that.

    If you go off to become a ‘Unitarian’ (a Christian demonination) it should be because you embrace their culture and faith not because you feel that the Jewish community is trying to run you off. But it’s your choice.

    I too have a Jewish father only. I wasn’t even raised Jewish, but I embrace that side of my identity now ( i.e.. I have a synagogue though I haven’t gone in a while. I go to passover Seders at a friend’s house etc.) If someone wants to know whether I am Jewish, it depends on how close to me they are. For strangers on the street, I just say yes..

    robin h.

  83. Allie

    Robin H. -

    I’m so grateful for your reply. Happy Passover to you!

    Allie

  84. Dear Allie and Robin H.:

    Allie: We are glad that you like our group’s website! Your experiences are very common and one reason why this group exists.

    Robin H.: I think your advice to Allie is very good. I’m just going to offer a different perspective.

    Allie: You should be advised that Reconstructionist Judaism, Jewish Renewal and Humanistic Judaism also accept you as a Jew. Reconstruction and Humanistic Judaism officially accept patrilineal descent. In Renewal, the decision is left to the individual rabbi.

    I would respectfully disagree with Robin H. that it is OK for Reform, Reconstruction, Humanistic Judaism and some segments of Renewal Judaism to conceal or downplay in discussions with their patrilineals the fact that Conservative and Orthodox Jews and, in some instances, the state of Israel, don’t accept them. They are just ducking unpleasant discussions and are afraid of losing half-Jewish members.

    Certainly the Orthodox and Conservative Jewish groups make their policies on half-Jewish people very clear to their young half-Jewish adults. It is time that the other groups did the same thing.

    I also don’t think it is OK for Reform and Recon to conceal or downplay in discussions with young half-Jewish people that matrilineals and patrilineals raised outside of Judaism are considered “non-Jews” and required to convert in order to join Reform and Recon.

    Also, the state of Israel will not accept matrilineals whose Jewish mother or grandmother converted to Christianity or another faith. Humanistic Jews are very accepting; in Renewal, it depends on the rabbi.

    I also would respectfully disagree with Robin H. — but the choice is up to each half-Jewish person! — and there are many different views among us about this! — about not telling other Jews about your Christian mother. She is your mom. Other Jews need to get used to it. If other Jews who oppose acceptance of half-Jewish people aren’t aware that there are a lot of us in their shuls and organizations, their views will never change.

    I’m not suggesting that you tell every Jewish person the minute you meet them. As Robin H. wisely points out, there are some people who are not on a “need to know” basis, perhaps permanently. But I hope that you will never sit silently in a group of Jews when there are discussions about intermarriage and half-Jewish people. I hope you will speak up for yourself and the rest of us.

    Robin H.: In Christianity, my personal experience — your churches must have been different — is that churches are actually very open about how other churches might not accept your baptism or might not accept you for participation unless you have officially joined them.

    Allie: If you found a home with the Unitarians or other Christian groups, you would still be welcome here at the Half-Jewish Network. But you’d want to check out the Unitarians or other groups carefully before making a switch — visit their websites and churches — study their literature — before making such a big decision.

    I myself have an Episcopalian father and a Jewish mother and was raised Episcopalian. I lived as a Jew as an adult for many years, but I have recently returned to the Episcopal church.

    Like you, I was very tired of listening to the “who is a Jew?” stuff. I know matrilineal and patrilineal half-Jewish people who have left Judaism over that issue. It is one valid reason to leave Judaism.

    It was one factor in my decision to leave Judaism and return to the Episcopal church of my childhood. But — it wasn’t the only factor. I would not have left Judaism solely over the “who is a Jew” issue — there were a number of other aspects of Judaism that I had grown to disagree with..

    A number of positive theological and personal factors drew me back to the Episcopalians. I realized that I was theologically and culturally better suited to Christianity.

    And I checked out the Episcopalians very carefully before making the decision to return to Christianity — visited Episcopalian websites, had discussions with members of my Christian family, reviewed the New Testament, etc.

    I also made the decision to continue advocating for half-Jewish people within the Jewish community, because the rejection of us by some segments of Judaism and parts of Israeli society are very damaging to all of us, no matter what faith or secular belief system we ultimately adopt.

    But these are just my opinions, others may differ.

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis

  85. Dear Nancy:

    Replying to your posting: “It is so nice to hear about people with similar stories. My grandmother and mother were most likely jewish, they lived in Lodz, Poland during the war. The catholic church took them in and hid them. Unfortunately, no one will confirm this, I have no documentation. My grandfather died alone in Lodz, while my mother grandmother and aunt escaped to Germany. I am trying to put pieces together but so much has been destroyed.
    I was raised without religion but find myself asking many questions now.”

    Robin replies: Glad our website is helpful to you! Your story is not unusual as you can see from some of the posts on this message board. You are not alone!

    Your grandmother and mother were lucky to survive. Had they been put in the Lodz Jewish ghetto, they might well have died. I am glad that the Catholic church hid them. I am sorry that your grandfather died alone.

    If you have not consulted them already, the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC might be able to help you trace your family’s history. Yad Vashem in Israel also has resources.

    You might also consider enlisting the help of a local Catholic church in terms of finding out which church in Poland might have made the decision to help your mother and grandmother. It was an act of kindness and people are usually willing to research something that will make their church look good.

    Also, you may wish to consider DNA testing. Sometimes DNA testing will show if you have Jewish ancestry. Some online DNA databases will keep your DNA if you request this and match it against their current and new members, assisting you in finding living relatives.

    Regarding being raised without religion — if you are currently having questions, you might consider consulting a rabbi or a priest. Most spiritual groups are happy to answer questions. If you don’t want to meet with someone in person yet, you are welcome to consult them through online websites.

    Keep us posted on your search, if you wish!

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis

  86. Dear Allie and Robin H.:

    Please keep in mind that my opinions are — well — just my opinions. Robin H. is a valued group member and she and I have argued in a friendly way about these issues for years!

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis

  87. rhelburn

    Robin,

    Thank-you for your replies…and..…what a shock to find that you have left Judaism and joined (or re-joined) the Christian faith (Episcopal ). I guess you have been doing some soul searching and may have been struggling all along. What happened to the rabbi training program that you were involved in (if I may ask)?

    I do want to say that I don’t understand your comment implying that I would conceal from other Jews the identity of my Christian mother. I would never do that. I simply have never been in a situation (synagogue or other) where anyone asked about my family in that context. I don’t attend round table discussions, and the ‘strangers’ I was referring to (in my post to Allie) who have asked if I was Jewish are people on the street or in the subway handing out leaflets. They want a yes or no answer (I know that from experience…lol..). If I can only say yes or no to someone I’ll never see again and who doesn’t care about me…then I guess it is my call… I think neither would be a lie…. given that situation… I don’t want anyone to think I am Christian. The few Jewish friends that I have (outside my family) all know of my half Jewish status and that the half I choose is Judaism.

    I apologize for my comment on the Christian Episcopal church (…I can see now how it struck a chord..), Frankly, I don’t know much about their policies. To be honest I really never had much of a relationship with that church or Christianity. My parents are secular. My older brother and I were not raised religiously but were ‘sent’ to Sunday school (at a neighboring Episcopal church) because it was the socio-cultural thing to do. My experiences w/ the Christian faith (growing up) were mostly inconsequential or awful. Thus, coming to my Jewish side (however late in life) was a bit of a relief. But it DOES take time and I believe strongly in going slow and making friends in the ‘community’ and I don’t feel I need to conceal anything to do that….more later..

    Robin H.

    PS. Hey Pj, it can be hard to think of the right response in a moment like that. I think one way to disarm such people would be to throw the ball back in their court by saying something like.. ‘what do you want me to do??.. i.e. since I do exist..’.It at least forces them to think.

  88. Dear Robin H: Please pardon the delay in replying to your email. I am dealing with a huge project unconnected with my volunteer work, so I am behind on replying to messages.

    I appreciated your reply to my postings. We are just coming from somewhat different backgrounds and perspectives. No need at all to apologize for your comments on the Episcopalians — you experienced them differently than I did.

    Explaining why I have returned to the Episcopal Church would take such a long post, I fear it would be taking up way too much of the message board’s time and space. Remember — there are no short stories in Judaism!

    You have my personal email address and are welcome to ask me privately about it.

    Very cordially,
    Robin M.

  89. rhelburn

    I understand. actually, after I posted I realized that this information (i.e. going back to the Episcopal church) was already given under “Leaders”. I recognize that these things are personal and need not be spilled for all to read. Thanks again.. robin h.

  90. Dear Robin H.: We have known each other quite a while. If you’d like the information privately, I’d be happy to share it with you.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  91. Steve Katz

    My father is a Jew who married a non-Jew. When I was growing up my “ethnic status” was very confusing to me. Back in the 50s and 60s religious and racial intolerance were rather prevalent among the white, christian people I had to coexist with. On the other hand being that Jewishness in a mixed marriage is determined matrilinealy I was never considered Jewish by the Jews I grew up with. As the years have gone by I find that I have put that all aside and just enjoy being me. If you don’t like me because of my Jewish surname or shun me from your social circle because I wasn’t raised by a Jewish mother makes no difference to me now. But I appreciate both of my heritages very much.

  92. Dear Steve: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! It is good that you ae just enjoying your two heritages and not letting the bigots on either side get in your path. I’ll send you a private email with more information about the Half-Jewish Network.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  93. Steve Katz

    Thank you for your support Robin. All of my life I have been in certain social situations on both sides of the fence which have made me rather self-conscious of my ethnicity. Now, as I become a wise and mature adult I am beginning to realize that half jews really have an advantage over pure breds on both sides. In most cases we have been able to be a part of both cultures intimately as blood family. We have been influenced over the years by relatives from both sides (in my case the sides were extremely opposite. I could sense tension between the in-laws on almost every occassional family get together). My mother might as well have a married a black man in 1950 in her father’s eyes. But even with the negatives it has given me a strong sense of humanity that I think many people do not possess.

  94. Steve Katz

    By the way. There is a very interesting story behind how I became.( a half-jew). I will type it sometime if anyone is interested. It reads like a forbidden romance novel.

  95. Dear Steve and Will:

    Steve: I understand about your interfaith parent’s courtship in the 1950′s being like a “forbidden romance novel.” My parent’s courtship had some of those elements.

    Will: Glad to hear from you again! Glad you found us supportive years ago! Welcome back!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  96. Steve Katz

    Dear Will:
    I totally know where you are coming from and how you feel. Though society has quickly evolved multi-racially and half jewish is hardly an issue anymore I think that why you and I still feel conscious of it is because it had been ingrained in us at an early age through the societal standards of the era. It would be a lie if I told you that it doesn’t cross my mind. It is who and what I am. I have to be conscious of that everyday. Nice to find someone else who echos my feelings and thoughts about being a mix. Just get beyond it and concern yourself with surviving in a crumbling economy which is much tougher than being half jewish. Good Luck my friend.- Steve

  97. Steve Katz

    To All…
    The Big Question! “Why do we feel like this?”.
    —half- baked

  98. Steve Katz

    We should be whole.

  99. Dear Steve: I think half-Jewish is not a big issue with mainstream society any more — not among Christians I have dealt with — but it is still a big issue within the Jewish community, ironically.

    The wholeness question is something each of us wrestles with him or herself, I think. No “one size fits all” solution.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  100. Steve Katz

    Dear Robin: What I am trying to say is that through progressive intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews 20 to 30 years from now the half Jews will become a majoriy over the pure Jews. Maybe it is time for us to lay down the groundwork and establish an identity all our own. That is what I meant about wholeness. Haven’t other cultures succeeded at this over the milleniums? This board is a useful vehicle to relate to each other as we would in our own community of half Jews.
    To begin a new identity I think we need a new label instead of half Jewish. But it must epitomize us as a particular group of people. I hope all of you members post some insightful ideas on this topic. I think it is a very important option we should consider. This will make us special. Please think about it. Thanks, Steve

  101. Dear Steve: Like you I think half-Jewish people may become the majority of Jews in America — I estimate by the year 2040. I believe that they will identify as Jews, just as half-Jewish people absorbed into American Christianity identify as Christians.

    However — the idea of an identity all our own — may not be doable. Some group members identify as “real Jews” or “real Christians” and do not view themselves as having a “Christian” or “Other Culture” half.

    Others view themselves as “both,” “Jewish with a Christian half,” “Christian with a Jewish half,” “nothing,” or members of other cultures or faiths entirely. A common term that all of us can agree on is very unlikely. Even the use of the term “half-Jewish” is strongly disputed by some children of intermarriage.

    Now there appears to be a “metis” culture in Canada of people descended from Native American/White marriages and relationships and they have land of their own and legal recognition.

    The only reason the metis of Canada achieved legal recognition, in my opinion, was because they were part of a history that included indigenous people with land and traditional customs. Half-Jewish people have no land. We live everywhere. And we come from many different cultures.

    Half-Jewish people are a huge spectrum of backgrounds, faiths, no-faiths, social classes, etc. We have some things in common — a Jewish parent or grandparent or great-grandparent — difficulties within the Jewish and other faith-based communities — struggles with our dual and triple heritages — problems within our interfaith and interracial families — that have brought us to this message board — but that is not enough for us to become a culture of own own in my opinion.

    I correspond with half-Jewish people in Europe — they have their own half-Jewish organization because there are factors in their lives — such as the shadow of the Holocaust — more anti-Semitism in their countries than in America — that American half-Jewish people simply don’t experience. They felt an American organization couldn’t meet their needs.

    Despite shared European Jewish and white Christian ancestry that I shared with them — and my intensive scholarly study of European Jewish and Christian history — there were cultural and societal differences between us that I couldn’t bridge. We’re allies, but they would likely reject the idea that half-Jewish people form one culture.

    If you visit American websites for biracial and multiracial people, you will see the same difficulties. You might visit Swirl:

    http://www.swirlinc.org/

    Cordially,
    Robin

  102. Steve Katz

    Dear Robin,
    I am not trying to be a rabble rouser. I am just expressing the thoughts and attitudes that I have developed over the years regarding my ethnicity. I have come to the conclusion of wholeness and establishing a commom identity . No matter where you live in the world or what the area’s social history has laid upon you there must be a worldwide common bond between us.
    Robin, if you would prefer I left this board please let me know.
    Sincerely, Steve

  103. Steve Katz

    One last thing Robin… The only idea that splits the phrase JudeoChristianity is…………….The Messiah! Steve

  104. Dear Steve: You may have misread me. I’m just pointing out what I see from researching half-Jewish people, not asking you to leave the board.

    I hope someday to have a Half-Jewish Network national gathering in the U.S. where many of us could meet each other. I think we all have some things in common, but not enough to form a culture of of own. But this is just my opinion.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  105. Steve Katz

    Dear Robin,
    I’m sorry I came off too strong but I have strong feelings about being half jewish which I have pretty much pent up until I discovered this board. Too much too soon I guess. I’ll calm down. I promise.
    I would like to see a national gathering materialize. If you need any help on that let me know. I have connections for holding a gathering. Your friend Steve

  106. Dear Steve: Believe me, I understand. Many of us have few people to talk to about our feelings on being half-Jewish and almost no one to test our theories and ideas on until we find a half-Jewish group like this one.

    I appreciate your offer of help for a national gathering. Perhaps within the next decade it will be possible. If you are subscribed to our email newsletter, you would hear about any initial planning stages or calls for ideas, and I would welcome your help at that time.

    Ideally, it would be done in coalition with other half-Jewish groups that exist. But it is several years down the road.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  107. Steve Katz

    Robin we could turn this gathering into a vaca for our bretheren. Site it in the Carribean.. Depending on the local concentration of members going maybe charter a plane to make it affordable. If we work on this I think 2 or 3 years. A pleasant site would be conducive to heartfelt conversation between us. Also would you please subscribe me to your e-mail newsletter. Thank you.
    Steve

  108. Dear Steve:

    You can subscribe to our free monthly email newsletter by going to the upper right and corner of this web page, where it says, “Email subscription” and click on the “Sign me up!” link.

    You will then be asked to input your email address, and then to reply to an email sent to you that will ask you to confirm that you want to subscribe.

    Then you are a subscriber. I can’t personally subscribe you, because WordPress software requires that individuals do it. This is to prevent spamming.

    Regarding a conference, I would like to see at least 500 people subscribed to our email newsletter — maybe 1,000 — before we undertake that project. Right now we have 94 subscribers, who have signed up since we activated this new website last July.

    (There were more on our old website, but we had to give that website up because it was technologically way behind the times. So we are rebuilding our subscribers.)

    Since internet subscriptions generally increase in rate — they tend to jump once a critical point is reached — I am assuming that we will have enough subscribers for a conference within five years.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  109. Pam Howard

    can anyone please tell me if there are any records kept when you convert to judaism. my grandmother converted in the early 1900′s and we are trying to find a copy of the certificate but don’t know where to start. thanks pam.

  110. Dear Pam: I’m assuming your inquiry is about a grandmother who converted to Judaism? So this advice is given from that perspective. If your grandmother converted to Christianity or another faith, please let me know, and additional advice can be given.

    You may wish to contact the synagogue where she converted — they may still have records. If her rabbi left his papers to a library or college research center or a Jewish archive, you might find her conversion listed among his other activities in those papers. He might have left a diary of his daily activities as a rabbi.

    You can also go to the cemetery where she was buried, if you know it, and take a photo of her tombstone, which should have some Hebrew on it or other indications that she converted to Judaism. If she was buried in a Jewish cemetery, she would like have had to convert first in that era.

    If you have inherited any family Bibles, it might be mentioned in the family records section. Also look for references to her conversion in family diaries and letters. Review any surviving photo albums for pictures of her in Jewish contexts.

    If she had a conversion certificate of some type, it might be stored with other family papers. Have your relatives search all collections of family papers.

    If all else fails, write down every family member’s recollections on this subject in a computer file or on a piece of paper, and see if the assembled recollections contain any clues to more information.

    You can also contact any major Jewish organizations that she might have joined and ask if she is listed in their records as a donor or member.

    Best of luck on your search!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  111. Pam Howard

    Dear Robin, Thank you so much for your reply, unfortunately we don’t know which synagogue my grandmother attended. We do know where she is buried, hopefully we might find some information on the tombstone, we really need to know if the conversion took place before my mother was born. Thank you again. Pam

  112. Dear Pam: Glad to be of use! Once you have the tombstone information that may lead you to additional information. Good luck on your search!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  113. Lu

    Hi Robin,
    which half-Jewish organizations in Europe did you refer to?
    There seems to be a lot more going on in the US. Also with regard to liberal synagogues that accept patrilineal descent.
    Unfortunately, we don’t even have anything like Humanistic Judaism. I’m secular and I’d really like to meet other people and to learn more about Judaism. But here, most organizations are religious (and they don’t regard me as Jewish).

  114. Dear Lu:

    The half-Jewish organization in Europe is Doppel Halb (Double Half): They are in Germany and have a website in German and English.

    http://www.doppelhalb.de/english.html

    They are having a conference soon. If you attend it, you could meet other patrilineal Jews.

    If you would like to contact Humanistic Jews in Europe, you may wish to contact their US umbrella organization:

    http://www.shj.org/CongList.htm

    The US Humanistic Jews used to have some European havurahs (study, socializing, prayer/meditation) groups. Those groups may be independent of them now, and their former US headquarters could put you in touch with them.

    If you would like to become a contact person for the Humanistic Jews in Europe, I’m sure their American branch would be delighted to hear from you.

    We are aware that many European Jewish groups don’t regard patrilineals as Jewish or having any claim to Jewish identity. We have written letters to the editor to British newspapers and magazines when the issue comes up, protesting negative comments by Jewish groups.

    We also spend a lot of time leaving protests in Israeli Jewish newspapers against comments that speak negatively of half-Jewish people.

    In other European countries we face a language barrier, but if you see an article and would like us to protest it, please send it to me.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  115. Lu

    Dear Robin,
    thank you for your reply and especially for the link to the website of the Society for Humanistic Judaism.
    I’ve heard about the conference and will try to attend – this will be
    very interesting and a good chance to get to know some people.
    Thank you for your work and this website!!

  116. Dear Lu: I am very pleased that you found the Society for Humanistic Judaism and the conference information helpful!

    Your kinds words about my work and this website are much appreciated!

    Very cordially,
    Robin

  117. Dear Robin:
    I don’t have too much time to keep up with your message board, but I read above that you mentioned that we “European Half-Jews” felt a need to have our own organization because we thought that the Half-Jewish network as a network with a different background in terms of culture and religion couldn’t meet our needs. Of course that is true in a way; but at least as important for our forming a network of our own was that this way we can form local alliances, bring people in touch with each other and actually meet many of the people that we converse with online.
    If the US weren’t so far away and flights so expensive, I would love to join your national meeting when it comes along!
    With the best regards across the big water,
    Sarah

  118. Dear Sarah:

    Good hearing from you again!

    My comments above were part of a discussion with a new group member who was interested in the idea of forming a separate culture for half-Jewish people.

    I was explaining to him that my experiences with various half-Jewish people suggest that we could not form “one culture” as we have many differences among ourselves as well as similarities.

    If we have a big meeting in the United States at some point, we would be very pleased to have you visit and do a presentation on European half-Jewish people.

    Or perhaps we could arrange for you to be present through e-conference software. Something for me to think about.

    Warmly,
    Robin

  119. Patricia the Half-Jewess Who Seeks Half-Jewish/Half-White Men Aged 36

    Well I hope the moderators don’t feel they have to answer my questions…. unless they really want to obviously. Agh! Moderators! Away! Just kidding.
    My name pretty much says it all. But anyone may feel free to comment on my questions, to wisely inform my odyssey.
    ===Since I’m half-white, half-Jewish, will I find the most chemistry with the same in a man?
    ===Is chemistry overrated?
    So if you think there’d be chemistry (if it matters) =======or===== (big “or”) you love giving advice, here’s your chance!

  120. Dear Patricia: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    A number of half-Jewish people have asked for advice about finding other half-Jewish people to date and form relationships with. Sometimes it does make a relationship or marriage a bit easier, as both parties feel more understood.

    I will send you a private email that contains additional information not currently displayed on this website.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  121. Patricia the Half-Jewess Who Seeks Half-Jewish/Half-White Men Aged 36

    Dear Robin,

    Thank you! It’s great to be here. I was excited as it was to find out about other half-Jews. And now I know there are others who were thinking the same thing I was, fighting the odds, and seeking each other in cyber-space.
    So I guess your answer about chemistry may be “a little yes, and a little no.” That’s still good; and all information is good information.
    I’ll read the email later (thanks!), as like most people in these times I’m blitzed. I hope I don’t sound too self-important or overly-enthusiastic

    All the Very Best,

    Patricia (or “Tricia” if you tire of saying “Pa”:)

  122. Michael Kates

    Hello, If anyone is interested in going to Israel in the winter you can contact me at mmaster88@hotmail.com. It is a free trip for Jews 18-26 and regisrtation is this week!

  123. Ryan

    Dear Patricia, I half to inform you that most Jewish people are considered of the white race unless Ethiopian or of a different race i.e. Asian. Most Jews are of the Semitic group of the white race along with Arabs rather than Aryan like most Europeans. Most Jewish people (full blooded) have at least 30% Aryan blood in them as well because they have migrated into Europe years ago.

  124. Steve Katz

    Dear Sarah: You seem to echo some of my underlying sentiments regarding “half-jewishness”. I think a international conference would be a very constructive beginning in underdstanding who we are, ethnically speaking. Which to me is a can of worms…But! I believe we all share a common bloodline bond that we can all identify with back to Abraham. We won’t physically notice it in some cases but we will understand it in a abstract notion of each other.
    I hope we can put this together in the next few years. I don’t know how many more I will have left.LOL.
    Kind regards,
    Steve

  125. rhelburn

    Hi Steve,

    I think you should organize and promote this event, and because it will be international, I suggest we have it somewhere in Israel. What do you say?

    Robin H.

  126. Hi Steve & Robin,

    a conference in Israel sounds great :-)
    However, we are preparing a conference in Zurich, Switzerland, on November 1 – 3, 2012.
    The program is at http://www.hybridejuedischeidentitaeten.org/tagung/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/FLYER_Conference_HybridJewishIdentities_1-3Nov2012.pdf
    And the guests will be from different European countries, but international nonetheless.
    I don’t really expect any of the Americans to make it there, but just to let you know that things are happening “over here” …

    Cheers
    Sarah

  127. Dear Sarah, Steve and Robin H.:

    Sarah — thanks for posting more about the Zurich conference! As you see, I kept my promise to promote it!

    Steve — as soon as the number of people signed up for this website’s email newsletter reaches 500, we will start a discussion about a U.S. conference for half-Jewish people. Our current signups are 115, so we have a little way to go, but we are gradually adding people.

    If you know of anyone who has not yet signed up for our email newsletter, please send them our website address and encourage them to sign up.

    Robin H. — I would enjoy a half-Jewish conference in the U.S. and hope to see more of them in my lifetime. We will organize one if I see 500 signups for our free email newsletter. I’m prepared to wait patiently.

    But I don’t think the Half-Jewish Network could sponsor a conference in Israel, for the following reasons:

    (1) Israel trips are not within the economic reach of many of our members;

    (2) Israel has a ton of laws and policies that discriminate against us — not exactly a welcoming environment;

    (3) an Israel-based half-Jewish conference would inevitably be targeted for Israeli media ultra-Orthodox protests that there is no such thing as “half-Jewish” and that, in their eyes, many of us aren’t Jews at all and have no claim to connections with Judaism– it would get nasty;

    (4) such a conference would be put under tremendous pressure by the Israeli government — if they noticed it at all — to support Israel’s current policies of all types — we’d be asked to support aliyah, the IDF, war with Iran, etc.; and

    (5) would the Israeli media want to hear our views about the poor treatment of the half-Jewish people among the Russian, Arab and Ethiopian Israeli citizens? I find that my comments to articles on these topics in the Israeli media aren’t always posted in their “talkbacks” sections.

    I could go on — there is lots more — but you get the picture. If the Half-Jewish Network sponsors a conference, I would like it to be held in the United States, and be a happy and peaceful experience for everyone who attends.

    Anyone who is curious about how Israel views us should have a look at our “Israel” page on this website at:

    http://half-jewish.net/israel/

    I keep the page updated on a regular basis.

    There is also the Half-Jewish Network Blog/Email Newsletter where I monitor Israeli views on us in virtually every issue:

    http://half-jewish.net/hjn-blog/

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  128. Steve Katz

    Robin M., You are right about the controversy it may cause in Israel. I suggest we hold it in the heart of Ashkenaziland, which is where most of us on this board partially originated from. Although… I have heard that the white sandy beaches and pristine waters of Tel Aviv are phenomenal… Steve

  129. Steve Katz

    Robin H., I will might be able to lead and oversee the development and execution of such a conference if I can count on support from our members. I can’t do it alone. I am asking now for people that are interested to send requests on where they think we should hold the conference. This will get the ball rolling!

    Ciao,
    Steve

  130. Steve Katz

    Israel is a nation not a religion and not our origin in most cases. I feel that most of us halvees partially originate from central Europe. I know I do.

  131. Steve Katz

    They embrace a religion. Unlike the United States there is no separation between church and state. They lean on a thin democracy aimed at appeasing the United States.

  132. Victoria

    Hi All,

    I came across this article today

    http://www.jpost.com/Features/FrontLines/Article.aspx?id=285743

    It is from an Israeli english language newspaper about the issues that half jewish people have in Isreal and some thoughts on these.

  133. Annette

    I have been away from here for a long time! I’d like to say to Ernest that I completely agree with you….people often misunderstand me when I say I am against mixed marriages (racial, religious, etc) when the couple plans to have children. I grew up as a Jew, and I am Halachically Jewish; however because half my family was strongly Italian Catholic, I STILL felt confused, and even now at 53, have moved over to the faith my mother once abandoned for Orthodox Judaism (Traditional Catholicism). I think people need to give serious consideration to what their marital choice may do to future children. The children might not be honest with you about their confusion, either; children fear hurting their parents feelings, I know I did and many other half-Jews I have known did and do.

    As for the Jewish community, half-Jews and Israel: even though I am Halachically Jewish, because my mother was a convert often received many questions in my life…I detested always having to give the name of the (Orthodox) rabbi who converted my mother, I am a very private person and resented the nosiness of many Jews, many of whom were not even frum (religious) themselves! Maybe its BECAUSE I’m a half-Jew, but the racial/biological roots of Judaism always irritated me and I’m glad to be free of it now. I was also irritated by the way the Jewish community would claim half-Jews when it was beneficial to their cause, but reject them otherwise (for example, they would claim people like Paul Newman and Michael Landon, the actors, even though their mothers were Gentile.)

  134. Dear Steve, Victoria and Annette:

    Steve — I am pleased that you are agreeable to having a U.S.-based half-Jewish conference in the future. I will continue to do what I can to help the idea by collecting new members for the Half-Jewish Network. I would still like to see our email newsletter have a 500+ subscriber number before scheduling a conference, to ensure that we have enough attendees. But your idea itself is a very good one, and I am pleased that we are thinking about this.

    Victoria: Thank you for the link to the article on Israel’s discriminatory marriage laws! It is important that we keep informed on such issues.

    Annette: You are correct that intermarriage is not always a bed of roses for children, and that as adults many of us are reluctant to share our feelings with our intermarried parents as to how that dynamic played out in our lives.

    I don’t disapprove of intermarriage in and of itself — love is love — but I have always counseled interfaith couples to plan ahead for potential problems that their children may face, and to encourage their children to share these problems with them, but they sometimes do not want to hear this advice. Often they want simple solutions, like: “raise your children as X and they’ll have no problems as adults.”

    They are frequently reluctant to hear that we are a complex mix of both heritages. One Jewish father denied to me that his children are half-Asian, even though their mother is Korean. He insisted that the children are “100 percent Jewish.” It is hard to get past such a wall of denial that some — not all — interfaith couples have.

    Like you I returned to Christianity several years ago — in my case to the Episcopal Church of my father’s side of the family. I share your exasperation with the Jewish community’s obsession with bloodlines — “Mi Yehudi?” (who is a Jew?) — and the fact that the Jewish community claims all kinds of rich and famous half-Jewish people, including ones who live as Christians or who are not halachically Jewish — but is much more ambivalent, rejecting or neglectful of those of us who are not celebrities.

    The Jewish Outreach Institute coined the term “celebrity exception” to describe how the Jewish community welcomes famous half-Jewish people while leaving barriers in place that hamper the rest of us from affiliating as Jews.

    My experience among the Episcopalians has been very different. They are only mildly interested in my parentage, and much more concerned about whether I am happy with their church. It has been a very healing experience so far.

    I continue my work on the Half-Jewish Network because we need to be able to connect with one another, no matter what our affiliations are. It is helpful for all of us to connect and share experiences.

    I also continue my work because the Jewish community’s current ambivalent treatment of us damages not only those of us who are Jewish-identified, but also those of us who have chosen other faith-based cultures and secular lifestyles.

    As long as this group exists, there is a voice for changing the treatment of half-Jewish people within the Jewish community. In the end, if we can get even a few Jewish institutions to change their treatment of us, that will help Judaism to survive and assist many other half-Jewish people we may never meet.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  135. Annette

    I agree, Robin, and I know FULLY what you mean about “a healing experience”; for me, that is what my adoption of Traditional Roman Catholicism has proven to be. I feel at home because its what half my family is/was, and in it I find fond memories of my grandmother and other family members, in addition to a faith I can adhere to when times are tough.

  136. Dear Annette:

    Our experiences are very parallel — my Anglo-Catholic Episcopal church is probably very close to your Traditional Roman Catholic church in its outlook and practices.

    Like you, it has renewed my bond with my Christian “half,” and deepened my connection with both living and dead relatives on that side of the family. I have found the faith very supportive in dark times, and my fellow parishioners are amazingly nice. I feel very blessed to have found a nice church so quickly — it was literally the first one that I visited.

    I will be reciting Kaddish for my Jewish mother and some other Jewish relatives this week. It feels a little odd, since I have returned to Christianity, but the parallel Christian prayers for the dead are not appropriate, because they invoke Christ. So my Jewish “half” hasn’t let go of me.(internet grin)

    Cordially,
    Robin

  137. Annette,

    Of all the people who come on to this site (especially the previous HJN site), it seems that those who were raised Jewish and where one parent (usually the mother) has converted, have the hardest time, i.e. feel the hardest sting when they encounter orthodox Jews who question their identity. You aren’t the only one Annette. Even though your mother is technically ‘Jewish’ and she shouldn’t have to always present herself as a ‘convert’, I think it is the responsibility of the parents to let the child know of his/her full ethnic & biological heritage and prepare him/her for the controversy that lies ahead.

    I believe If one is strong in one’s faith and sense of identity you don’t care what others think. I’m patrilineal and believe I have ‘survived’ in this respect because my expectations have always been low and I have never expected anything from anyone. So If I manage to make friends in the Jewish community, I am thrilled and what little I have is good enough for me.

    Just the other day when I was at my club sport, I was chatting w/ a high school girl who had previously presented herself as Jewish. Someone asked about her ethnic background and she said she was Italian. I asked her if there were Italian Jews. She said it it was her father that was Jewish and her mother who was Italian (Catholic I believe). I didn’t probe. She certainly looks Jewish (has kinky hair like me…. ha ha…). It appears she knows her heritage and is comfortable in her ‘skin’ and with a Jewish identity.

    Annette, I imagine that every ‘Jew’ probably has some mixed marriage somewhwere in their recent or distant ancestry (whether they know it or not) and this has been a healthy thing for the Jewish people (biologically speaking).

    Robin H.

    PS. today is my birthday, also the birthday of Neils Bohr, a half Jew (through his mother) and a famous physicist / chemist who pioneered our knowledge of atomic structure and early ideas on quantized energy levels of electrons (in atoms). I am so thrilled (i’m a chemist, physical / analytical emphasis)…i feel some karma… sometimes it just doesn’t take much to make me happy…

  138. Dear Robin H.:
    Happy (belated) birthday!
    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  139. Dear Robin H.:
    P.S. It is nice that as a scientist you share your birthday with a famous half-Jewish scientist — a nice synchronicity!

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  140. E Binis Unum

    Hey all,
    I’m a half-Jewish, half-Gentile 20 y/o guy from the Northeast US and I gotta say that this site… Has been very useful, helpful really, in helping me figure out my identity. I honestly don’t feel comfortable identifying either as just ‘Jewish’ or ‘Anglo-Irish’, and so I’ve settled on just saying ‘American’ and then when pressed, ‘Half-Jewish’.

    My mom converted back in the day to Judaism before I was even born, then she met my father -a Kohen- and pretended to have been born Jewish. So now he’s a defrocked Kohen, I’m halakhically Jewish, and she still denies to the core of her bones that she was born a Gentile. As you might imagine, my father’s parents somewhat doubted her, a blond-haired steel-eyed southern girl, when she told them she was Jewish and of Jewish blood.

    What can I say? Sometimes life is strange like that.

    Anyhoo it’s good to be able to get in touch w/ others who’re of mixed ancestry like me, and the idea of a national conference seems exciting! Us half-Jews *might* soon outnumber the full-Jews in this country, at least for a few decades until Orthodox birthrates change the demographic landscape again. So why not take advantage of this brief “moment of glory” to at least organize, and see if a national “Half-Jewish” culture emerges from there or not.

    The American Half-Jews ;)
    Stranger tribes have come about before I’m sure…

  141. Dear E Binis Unum:

    Delighted that you have found the information on this website helpful in your spiritual and ethnic identity quest!

    I am sending you privately a PDF with more information about the group that is not on our website.

    Your background — in which there were parental identity secrets — is shared by some of us. My Jewish Orthodox mother converted secretly to the Epsicopal faith, and I did not find out that she was Jewish until after her death, when I was a young woman.

    So you are not alone in dealing with the impact of family secrets.

    Hopefully, some day we will have or co-sponsor a Half-Jewish conference and then all of us can share insights in person.

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis

  142. Michael Reynolds

    RECORDS? I am trying to locate a branch of my family descended from a mixed marriage. What records did Germany keep of mixed couples during the period 1933-45 & how can they be accessed?

  143. Dear Michael:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    Regarding records kept by Germany of intermarried couples during the Holocaust — suggest you start by contacting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum here:

    http://www.ushmm.org/

    If they cannot help you, please come back to this message board, and we will try to think of other ways that you can find the information.

    Please understand that intermarriages became illegal in Nazi Germany during the mid-1930s, so there might be no record of your relatives’ intermarriage. Interfaith couples were not allowed to legally marry after a certain point in time. Couples intermarrying after that point in time were considered criminals and could be prosecuted.

    Couples wishing to intermarry had to leave the country to do so, and were best advised not to return.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  144. Robin. would it be possible for me to trace the DNA that I have from my father even though I do not have his Y chromosome? Some jewish geneology websites suggest having the Y DNA of a sibling tested and then you assume you have the same. But I would like to check the X chromosome that my father gave me because his mother is from a family of Levys. Can the lab tell the difference between the X I got from my Dad vs. the X from my mother? I’m not much of a geneticist so I’m not sure if I even know what I am talking about. Robin H..

  145. Dear Robin H.: This is Robin M. Happy Hanukkah!

    I am not sure about what geneticists have learned about the X chromosomes inherited from Jewish fathers by half-Jewish daughters, but I believe that a lab could tell the difference between that X chromosome and the X chromosome you inherited from your mother very quickly.

    That might offer you some information about the Jewish side of your family.

    Here is an essay that might be useful to you:

    http://dna-explained.com/2012/09/

    Please keep us posted on what you find out!

    Very cordially,
    Robin M.

  146. Thanks Robin, I’ve concluded that maybe the most accurate and useful way to do it would be to have my father’s mt-DNA (mitochondrial) analyzed since that would be an intact version of the chromosomal x-DNA that he gave me… am I right?. That way the lab wouldn’t have to try to tell the difference between my two x’s. And then I may as well have his y-DNA analyzed while they’re at it. It would be the same as my brother’s y-DNA wouldn’t it?

    It is not like I’m going to rush out and do this immediately. I just want to have a plan Of course I’d have to ask my father if he would let me have a sample.

    I think the most interesting thing I’ve learned is that a woman is most closely related (genetically) to her paternal grandmother and her brother to the paternal grandfathe. So from a Jewish lineage standpoint my brother (from same mother… I have others) and I are different. …….i’m like Bessie Levy and he’s more like Leonard Helburn….Robin H.

    PS.. I’m guessing this is the first year in many years in which you will be truly celebrating Christmas. Do you have a plan? Merry Christmas in advance!

  147. Dear Robin H: Please pardon my delay in replying! I got behind on my email over the holidays.

    I am guessing that your best bet would be to consult a medical genetics counselor. Sarah Lawrence has a master’s degree training program for them, and they could advise you about one close to you geographically. Such a person would have the latest information on mitochondrial DNA.

    Thank you for your kind wishes about my Christmas celebrations! I hope that you had a great Hanukkah!

    Very cordially,
    Robin Margolis

  148. jay

    I see a lot of references to children.of intermarriage, but something you might consider is you now have readers with intermarried grandparents! both sets of my grandparents intermarried.

  149. Dear Jay: Sorry for the delay in replying — the Half-Jewish Network has always looked after the grandchildren of intermarriage, so please don’t worry that we have forgotten you.

    If you see our title: “Welcoming Children & Grandchildren of Intermarriage” at the top of this webpage, you’ll see that we have always paid attention to this topic.

    Plus, this website contains dozens of links on many of its pages to stories about grandchildren of intermarriage. Welcome aboard!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  150. Dear luckyfatima:

    Thank you for bringing the article to our attention about a half-Jewish IDF officer who can’t marry her fully Jewish fiance in Israel because her father was Jewish, but her mother was not:

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4338514,00.html

    I appreciate you bringing this story to our attention. Stories like this are one reason why the Half-Jewish Network no longer supports aliyah (immigration to Israel) for half-Jewish people:

    http://half-jewish.net/israel/

    Cordially,
    Robin

  151. Steve Katz

    Why would anyone want to emigrate to Israel now anyway unless they have militaristic intentions? Israel is under the gun by all sides now. It must be true that Israel still remains a theo-democratic society stringently ruled by the doctrines of the fanatical orthodoxy unwilling to bend to new societal mores. Tsk. Tsk.

  152. Michael Reynolds

    Why would you think your politics have a place here?

  153. Dear Michael Reynolds:

    You may wish to read the two posts preceding Steve Katz’s comment. The posts are referring to this English translation of an Israeli newspaper article attacking a half-Jewish IDF officer who is protesting the fact that she is not allowed to marry a fellow IDF officer who has two Jewish parents:

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4338514,00.html

    Israeli governmental discrimination against half-Jewish people — such as that documented in this article — instituted by Israeli Jewish politicians and rabbis — has forced the Half-Jewish Network to formally oppose half-Jewish people making aliyah (immigration) to Israel:

    http://half-jewish.net/israel/

    Steve Katz’s description of Israel as “theodemocratic” is actually, unfortunately, correct.

    In fact, if you look at the “talkbacks” section at the bottom of the article — comments by Israelis and overseas Jews about this discrimination — and you see my comment (Talkback No. 168) — where I protest the cruel “talkbacks” made about the young half-Jewish woman featured in the article — you will see that my protest is treated very contemptuously by some Israelis.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  154. Michael Reynolds

    I did read the article and obviously I concur: Israel should allow civil marriage. Some day they will. It was the ‘militaristic’ part of the post that irked me. It sounded (and sounds) like a prolonged sneer….

  155. Dear Michael Reynolds:

    There is sometimes an unconscious double standard in discussing Israel and half-Jewish people, whereby half-Jewish people are required to be very polite in our references to Israel at all times, even when we are discussing Israel’s poor treatment of half-Jewish people — while Israelis get to say anything nasty that they want about half-Jewish people, as you can see from the Israeli news article.

    There’s also an unwritten rule that half-Jewish people are not supposed to mention our disapproval of any Israeli policies of any type, or we are supposed to express it in a very polite way.

    But Steve Katz is bluntly — and truthfully — discussing something that is well-known — that aliyah is often motivated by “militaristic intentions.” The Israeli state has long recognized that many people who make aliyah do so because they want to join the IDF.

    Consequently, the Israeli government does everything in its power to encourage young people who make aliyah and young people visiting Israel for prolonged stays to join the IDF. The Israelis make no secret of this. It is discussed frequently in their newspapers as a one way to coax people to make aliyah, using their overly-romantic views of IDF service.

    Here’s one of those programs designed to encourage young people from overseas to join the IDF:

    http://www.mahal-idf-volunteers.org/

    Now I must create a separate post to explain why civil marriage laws are not likely to pass in Israel, and why they will not solve the many problems that half-Jewish people have in the Israeli state.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  156. Dear Michael Reynolds:

    First, it is not likely that Israel will ever allow full civil marriage. Their current population statistics indicate that the Orthodox will become one-third to one-half of all Jewish voters in Israel between 2040 and 2050. Even if a large-scale civil marriage law does pass the Knesset in the near future, this emerging large Orthodox voter bloc would likely some day repeal it.

    Second, Israel currently has a restricted civil marriage option — only for half-Jewish people with Jewish fathers — patrilineal Jews — which allows patrilineal Jews to legally marry only each other in Israel. They can’t legally marry anyone else.

    Since many patrilineal half-Jewish people want to marry people with two Jewish parents or people with a Jewish mother and a Christian father, this option isn’t very useful. (And it has an uncomfortable resemblance to aspects of the Nazi Nuremberg Laws and policies regulating who half-Jewish people could marry during the Holocaust.)

    Third, allowing civil marriage will not end the discrimination against half-Jewish people in Israel, even if such a law did pass.

    Half-Jewish people are still excluded from burial in Israeli Jewish cemeteries. Because the Jewish cemeteries are under Orthodox control, we are buried “outside the wall” — as in, just outside the cemetery walls — the traditional place for people who are considered of uncertain Jewish status, i.e., not “Jewish enough.”

    We are also discriminated against by the Israeli state in many other laws and social policies beyond marriage and burial. Just one example — I repeatedly see cases where non-Jewish women marry Israeli Jews, have a child, and if the Israeli spouse dies, the immigration ministry tries to find some problem with the widow’s immigration paperwork so as to deport the mother and her half-Jewish child back to her original country.

    Finally, about your concern that Steve Katz appears to be “sneering” at Israel — if you read the over 100 “talkbacks” — mostly from Israelis — beneath the article about the half-Jewish IDF woman officer — you’ll see that at least 50 percent of the “talkbacks” speak of the half-Jewish woman written about in the article in a very sneering manner:

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4338514,00.html

    While I personally try to be polite, I fear that some Israelis might respect and listen to Steve Katz’s approach more than mine. Some segments of Israeli Jewish society regard polite people as weaklings whose needs can be safely ignored.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  157. Duality

    Dear Michael and Steve:
    Israel recently had elections and center/left/Arab parties won about half the Knesset seats, for the first time in years. Some of those parties have begun talking about arranging easier “conversions” for patrilineal half-Jewish people in Israel, so they will be accepted as Jews.

    http://www.jpost.com/Features/FrontLines/Article.aspx?id=300888

    But what about Israeli half-Jewish people who identify as secular Jews and don’t want Orthodox conversions, even ones that are arranged in teams with Reform or Conservative rabbis? What about Israeli half-Jewish people who identify as Christians or Muslims?

    And what kind of democracy requires people who have intermarried parents to undergo a religious conversion in order to have full civil rights?

    I am skeptical that the new gains in center/left/Arab Knesset seats will accomplish much in the long run — Israel’s demographics are shifting to the Orthodox. Unless the secular Israelis are prepared to start having 6 to 8 children per family, I see no way that will change.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  158. Michael Reynolds

    “And what kind of democracy requires people who have intermarried parents to undergo a religious conversion in order to have full civil rights?”

    Full civil rights: You mean like the right to vote or hold public office, or the right to ride public transport or eat in a restaurant? Oops, no, wait–they already have those. I guess all you mean is marriage–which doesn’t require conversion; it requires a weekend’s plane ride to Nicosia. In fact, someday when the Secular Democratic state of Palestine is created next door, it’ll just require a shuttle bus to Ramallah.

    And, no, I’m not a fan of the increasing demographic of the ultra-Orthodox.
    It’s something Israel’s founders never really contemplated. But maybe not all the descendants of the haredim will stay that way. History is full of surprises.

  159. Maddie J

    Michael, those covered under the Law of Return who don’t have a proven Jewish mother are also not eligible for low-interest federal housing loans and can’t be buried in Jewish cemeteries.

  160. Dear Michael:

    No truly democratic country requires people to convert to any religion in order to have the same rights as their fellow citizens. If the United States denied full civil rights to anyone who had ‘only’ a Christian father, for example, compelling children of Christian fathers and Jewish mothers to fly to Ottawa, Canada to legally marry — there would be nationwide riots.

    And your idea that Israel will be rescued because thousands of Haredim will defect from ultra-Orthodoxy — not likely. Here’s the one of the latest demographic reports from Israel’s government:

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/study-almost-half-of-israel-s-schoolchildren-will-be-ultra-orthodox-or-arab-by-2017-1.461020

    “According to the forecast, state secular [Jewish] pupils will still constitute the largest group, with 41 percent of the system in 2017. But by then Arab pupils will comprise 26 percent of the system, ultra-Orthodox pupils, 18 percent, and state [national Orthodox] religious pupils, 14 percent.”

    In other words, by the year 2017, Orthodox students will constitute 32 percent of all Israeli school children, a portion that has risen steadily for years. Since the Orthodox have far more children than the Jewish seculars, and usually educate their children away from secular Jews, the likelihood of some massive shift in Haredi and national religious outlook is very slim.

    Finally, are you the child, grandchild or great-grandchild of an intermarriage? You contacted this message board seeking information about a branch of your family in which a German Jewish relative had intermarried with a German Christian relative shortly before the Nazi era. We are happy to give information, but you need to remember that only children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of intermarriage are allowed to post on this message board. That rule is posted above the messages on this web page under “Message Board Guidelines.”

    Sincerely,
    Robin

  161. Steve Katz

    Robin, You are right! Israeli policy toward intermarriage reeks of the Nazi pogroms of the late 1930s designed to ensure the purity of the “master race”. Yes Robin I am blunt, but I am an American before I am a Jew and I will speak my mind in public without regret or fear of retaliation.

    Assuredly,
    Steve Katz

  162. Dear Steve Katz:

    It is hard for us to say these things about Israel. And I know Michael Reynolds must have had his feelings hurt by our comments. It distresses me. But if people like you and I keep silent about these things, then they will never change.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  163. Steve Katz

    Dear Robin,
    Don’t beat up on me on that last post. Israeli purity doctrines have been compared to Hitler’s many times before. And they know it!

  164. Steve Katz

    Israeli policy interferes with a innate, universal and God given human attribute. Love. We don’t seek out our life long partner based on their ethnic or religious ancestry. We meet someone and if it clicks it clicks and no country on the earth should halt men and women from doing God’s work ………Pro-Creating

  165. Dear Steve: I’m not beating up on you for your last post. I believe you and I are in substantial agreement on these issues. I’m just expressing regret that our comments likely hurt Michael’s feelings. But there may be no tactful way to say certain things that have to be said about Israel’s policies towards interfaith families.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  166. Steve Katz

    Dear Robin and All
    Not to get off the subject but… While thinking about the impending international convention and absorbing these posts I did come up with a concept for the convention… Jewish Spectrum… Partial Jews with many different shades…

    Steve

  167. Steve Katz

    Robin, Michael probably isn’t even eligible to be on this board so don’t beat yourself up because he is hurt. He doesn’t understand our position. Keep going like your going Honey. You’re doin’ great!
    Steve

  168. Hi all,
    I like the term “Jewish Spectrum”. I even have an idea for a logo based on the ‘electromagnetic spectrum. I’ve been thing (however) that iof such event came and went and nothing changed as a result (i.e. acceptance of us as part of the Jewish landscape) then it would be a shame.
    robin h.

  169. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    I am so glad there is a Half-Jewish network. I am a quarter Jew. I was in my teens by the time I learned I had a Jewish grandmother. My parents were atheists and their one concession to organized religion was to join a Unitarian Fellowship. I don’t remember my Grandma ever talking about her background until I asked her some questions when I was in my twenties, and I think most of the information I have was gleaned from conversations with my father. Grandma came from Lithuania at age 16 with her 13 year old brother. Her parents and siblings never made it, to the best of our knowledge. She married a non-Jewish man from Serbia.

    Most of my adult life, I didn’t see myself as religious though I sometimes called myself spiritual. I married a man who was brought up as a Quaker. Things have worked out well – we recently celebrated 30 years of marriage. When my daughter was about eight, she and I went to a Judaica store and bought a menorah and candles. At the time, it seemed an important symbol of Judaism. I didn’t know any of the blessings but had some idea of how the candles are lit. I think for most of my adult life I’ve thought of myself as “kind of Jewish” culturally and only very recently have I begun to feel connected to Judaism as a religion. When my daughter was in college she began to ask me more about our Jewish background – she never got to meet her Grandma. After college she lived at home for a year and she began to attend services at several local synagogues, some Reform and some Conservative. I began to go with her occasionally. The first Saturday morning service really bewildered me – the Hebrew had translation and transliteration on the same page, but I didn’t know any of the tunes. I also didn’t realize that the service consists mostly of prayer. Remember, my atheist parents didn’t explain much about religion to me. My daughter, one eighth Jewish, feels some connection to her Jewish heritage. I wish I had been able to help her more along the way.

    After my daughter left for graduate studies I pretty much stopped going to services. Then, last Spring, my father died. His health had been in decline for a while, yet it was still a surprise. I’m so glad I got to see him a month earlier. So as I dealt with my grief I began to want to know more about how Judaism had helped shape his life, and what my grandmother’s experience as a Jew in Poland might have been like before she left at age 16. I started going to services specifically so I could say the Mourner’s Kaddish. Over the past 8 or 9 months I have been going to services almost every week, including Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur, and I am amazed how much I enjoy prayer. Perhaps because it is a liberal, egalitarian congregation I feel particularly welcomed and I have begun to know the Rabbi and the members. So that’s my not-so-brief introduction. I have an appointment to meet with the Rabbi and am not really sure what to expect.

    Lisa

  170. Dear Steve, Robin H. and Lisa:

    Steve: Thanks for your kind words of support. Much appreciated!

    Robin H.: Sorry for delay in moderating your comment — been busy at home, so got behind on my volunteer emails — have approved it!

    Lisa: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! You and your daughter have had a long journey. Many of us of have had similar long spiritual and ethnic journeys. I hope that your meeting with your rabbi goes well — keep us posted! I will send you a private email with more information.

    Very cordially,
    Robin M.

  171. Dear Steve and Robin H.:

    I think the idea of a conference for half-Jewish people called “Jewish Spectrum” is very interesting. I will hang onto it and I hope you will too.

    I am waiting for the signup for our email newsletter to reach 500 — currently at 150 — before I send out surveys and get into conference planning — but welcome any ideas people have in advance. Our email list has been growing much faster recently.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  172. Cindy

    I am glad I found this site to reconnect to the Half Jewish network. I belonged to the old forum but didn’t post for years and sort of “lost touch.” I am a patrilineal halfsie married to a matrilineal half Jewish man. He grew up identifying as a Jew; I, a non-Jew. We both came from rather secular homes, although we are both Episcopalians now. We have two kids who are half-Jewish – 25% from each of us.

    Recently, I had my autosomal DNA tested because I am heavily into genealogy as a hobby, and of course tested as 48% European Jewish – no surprise there. But, it got me to thinking…do you think there might be some changes in the way we are viewed in light of the fact that those of us with Jewish fathers can now “prove” we are indeed of Jewish ancestry? Because one is considered Jewish if they have a Jewish mom (like my husband, who was never religious nor even believed in G-d growing up), I am inclined to think there is a bit of a “racial” aspect to being considered a Jew. Just curious what will happen in light of all the DNA testing going on now.

    Cindy

  173. Steve Katz

    Robin H.
    You read my mind! My education in physics I am sure contributed to the concept. I think a logo depicting a color spectrum co-mingled with subjects would be wonderful. Any artists out there with some feedback?

  174. Steve Katz

    Dear Robin H.
    I think that if we are a big enough voice to be heard then it will be a move in the right direction toward acceptance. The powers that be in Israel understand that might makes right and they will perk their ears toward us.
    This convention is much more than a “convention”. It could be a step toward change. Something to think about……. Steve

  175. Dear Cindy: Welcome back! I remember your posts on the old Half-Jewish Network website. I myself have left Judaism and returned to the Episcopalian faith of my childhood.

    Regarding whether DNA testing proving people are Jewish makes Jewish groups friendlier to half-Jewish people — not sure. One person wrote me that his DNA test showing partially-Jewish descent did not get him a better welcome — the only Jewish group that he found friendly were Jewish belonging to the Humanistic Judaism movement. Other Jews did not see the DNA testing as requiring them to be more friendly to him.

    My personal perception — but I could be wrong — is that Jewish groups do seem pleased when people in places like Latin America have DNA tests showing remote Jewish ancestry, suggesting they are descended from Jews expelled from Spain in the Middle Ages.

    There’s usually a flurry of articles in Jewish publications about such groups and sometimes — not always — they are sent positive assistance from mainstream Jewish groups.

    There seems to be excitement when the DNA testing tracks groups who can be used to discover aspects of Jewish history. When it turns up individual half-Jewish people — not so much excitement, unless the person is a celebrity or has some unusual Holocaust parentage story.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  176. Alexandra Boyd

    You should start a facebook group !! I have been waiting for ages to find one!

  177. Dear Robin H., Steve and Alexandra:

    I am keeping all suggestions made for a future Half-Jewish Network conference in a special file in my email, so we will have them ready when the group gets 500 people on its email newsletter list, and we can then start conference planning.

    It would be nice if the conference changed a few minds among Jewish communal groups. I would like that very much, though I am not holding my breath for that outcome. When the time comes, I will make sure that the Jewish communal world knows that it is being held. I will also advertise it within the Christian communal world and among other faith-based and secular cultures to the best of my ability.

    But I will view the conference as a whopping success if it focuses entirely on half-Jewish peoples’ issues and needs, gets an attendance of at least 100 people, lasts at least 2 days, gets a few favorable news articles, grows the Half-Jewish Network’s membership — and — most important — 90 percent of all half-Jewish people who attend feel heard, respectfully treated, affirmed, and bonded with each other, no matter what their affiliations, ethnicities or belief systems. That is a “good enough” outcome.

    Joke: And there can be no early morning or breakfast panels or workshops! I’ve sat on too many of them.

    Obviously we may think of more goals and needs for the conference, but I am hoping we can plan for a modest first conference.

    Alexandra — thank you for the Facebook sugggestion. I had been thinking we might want to have a Facebook page eventually, certainly at the time we decided to start conference planning. I had not set one up at the present time because I coordinate this group as a volunteer activity, and maintaining this website plus a Facebook page would be a lot of work. We could not go to a Facebook-only web presence because many people are not on Facebook.

    When the time for a conference comes, I’d be interested in setting up a Facebook page for the group. If it got “friended” a lot, then I would be willing to keep it. I have added your suggested to the conference file I am maintaining.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  178. Cindy

    Thank you for the welcome back! My husband and two adult kids would love to attend a conference. I’m on Facebook, and I would join a group there, too.

  179. Steve Katz

    Very good point on the “racial aspect” Cindy. It has always been a question among halvees I am sure. It certainly has crossed my mind a lot. Is being a Jew racial, religious or nationalistic? Or all three?

  180. Dear Cindy and Steve:

    Cindy: Glad to welcome you back and that you’d be interested in attending a conference! Will keep in mind that you also support eventual creation of a Facebook page for the group.

    Steve: In my experience — hopefully Cindy and others will chime in with theirs — some Jews think of Judaism as ethnic, others focus more on religion and others more on Israeli nationalism (some Israeli sabras — native-born Israelis — no longer think of themselves as “Jews” — call themselves “Israeli” only).

    Cordially,
    Robin

  181. Steve Katz

    Hi all… My thinking cap is on again in regard to the upcoming convention. As a basic format I feel that the program should be devoted to each and every member that attends. By that I mean, each and every member shall by their own choice speak about their individual experience of being mixed. Other formal presentations may be able to build upon this but for the first time I feel we should concern ourselves with ourselves.

  182. Dear Steve:

    I agree with your suggestion and will save it in my “Conference” file.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  183. Steve Katz

    Robin and All,
    We all must have various reasons for attending this conference and that is the focal point. I feel that if everyone there speaks about their heartfelt feelings of being a Halvee new conversation and ideas may be exchanged. Political and societal issues I am sure will be hot topics but also how we personally feel surely will be discussed. I hope you catch my drift.
    Steve

  184. Dear Steve Katz:

    I agree completely and hope that we can arrange for as many people as wish to share their feelings on a wide range of half-Jewish topics to be able to do so.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  185. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Thank you, Robin, for your welcoming words. It does seem that there are a lot of us – Half-Jewish, one quarter Jewish and so forth and also a growing number of people who are discovering Jewish roots through family stories, genetic research and other ways. I like the ideas that Steve and others have for a conference. I am sure we have many stories to tell and hear.

    I met with the Rabbi and had a very interesting, thought-provoking conversation. For such a high-energy guy, he was very calm and kind. After telling him the long version of my story, he asked me some questions and also made a few comments that questioned my assumptions about my Jewish grandmother. Toward the end of the conversation, he asked me if I wanted to affiliate. By the way he said it, I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant – join the synagogue? He said, “become Jewish”. The word “affiliate” surprised me, and I liked it a whole lot better than “convert” – as I was not raised in a religion, I have nothing to convert from. Anyhow, it’s not a decision to rush. The Rabbi indicated that I would know when and if I am ready.

  186. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    A few months ago I complained to my daughter about some of the challenges of becoming Jewish. Someone had read me the riot act for bringing my Starbucks coffee to a lunch at the JCC. Is keeping kosher the deal-breaker? Are there a lot of other mizvot I should consider? Judaism, even the more liberal denominations, seems to be moving toward more strictly following kashrut. My daughter, being the practical sort, suggested I become a secular Jew. So I did a bit of research. Robin, I think you had mentioned Humanistic Judaism and that they seem open to us half Jews. I found their newsletter online that mentioned last year’s conference on Half Jews. I would have loved being a humanist Jew in my solidly agnostic days and would have been able to more easily participate in Jewish traditions such as Passover. This is an option that may appeal to some members of the Half Jewish Network.

  187. Dear Lisa Jacobsdaughter:

    I am glad that you had a positive encounter with your rabbi — keep us posted!

    I have frequently recommended Humanistic Judaism to half-Jewish people who are atheist or agnostic and want to live as Jews — it does definitely work for them.

    Regarding your inquiry on the “challenges of becoming Jewish” — the boundaries and requirements vary from one Jewish group to the next — much depends on which group you decided to join. Some groups are fussy about keeping kosher — others are not. This is true for other Jewish issues as well.

    There is a tendency within some Jewish communities to lecture newcomers in a manner that is critical rather than welcoming. Until the last 30 years, Judaism has been mostly a culture closed to outsiders, unlike Christianity, where there is a centuries old mandate to convert them. This means that many Jewish people and institutions don’t know how to ‘do’ welcoming. Traditionally, people were brought up “Jewish-with-two-Jewish-parents,” and, if ignorant of Jewish folkways, they were chastised.

    The Jewish community is trying to create programs that teach Jewish institutions how to ‘welcome’ newcomers. Sounds like your rabbi and hopefully his congregation have gotten the ‘welcoming’ message, but your local JCC has not.

    Just like Christianity and other faith-based cultures, Judaism has its own unique “feel” and communal norms. You must find Jewish groups that you feel comfortable with or reconsider whether you wish to live as a Jew.

    Best of luck on your quest!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  188. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Several of the members are aware of my situation and are very supportive. The rabbi mentioned a large percentage of interfaith couples and non-Jews in the congregation, and also a large number of Jews who came in, wanting to be involved, and feeling guilty that they knew so little about their own religion! Many of the people in my Judaism 101 class were Jews and many were not (we were not required to say) and all seemed hungry for more knowledge so any synagogue or JCC that doesn’t recognize this reality is losing potential members and supporters, and also perpetuates the stereotype of Jews isolating themselves from the rest of the world.
    Thank you, Robin, for creating the Half-Jewish Network, and to everyone who has shared a bit of her or his story. We’re not alone.
    Lisa

  189. Dear Lisa:

    Thank you for your kind words about the Half-Jewish Network and my work with it!

    I am very pleased that your rabbi and congregation are supportive of you and that some of them have experiences with interfaith families, conversion and similar topics — that helps!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  190. Steve Katz

    Hi Robin and All,
    It has been rather quiet on this board lately. Thought I might stir up some conversation.
    I never mentioned that other than being half jewish I am also a professional Chef. Today I catered a Bat Mitzvah for a wealthy doctor. I did the menu with some suggestions from the client and adhered to minimal kosher laws such as meat with dairy. He dropped 11 grand on the food alone. He asked me if I was was Jewish today today because of my surmname. I told him my mother wasn’t and you know what he did? Patted me on the shoulder and smirkingly said “The food was great anyway”. He wouldn’t have said that if I was all Goy or all Jewish. That really capped off my day!

  191. Dear Steve:
    I think born Jews often don’t know what to say to us when they learn that we are half-Jewish. There are no programs that teach them welcoming behavior towards us, so they struggle to come up with appropriate responses and sometimes blunder. I am glad that you got a high fee and that he attempted to be warm.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  192. Steve Katz

    Yeah… It was a nice payday! I rarely have to explain my ancestry to a direct question so I didn’t know what to expect from him. Him and his wife were nice people to work with. Steve

  193. Steve Katz

    Oh, I almost forgot! Happy St Paddy’s Day to all of you Irish-Jews in HJN land

  194. Hi Steve,
    So did you, later on, wish you had responded differently? We’ve all had similar experiences and I (based on my own) have strategies so that I don’t feel ‘on the spot’. Everyone has their own way, but I like to take the question literally, meaning that if they are asking me if I am Jewish, I answer about ME not my mother or father (recognizing of course that there is a correlation). But my answer can vary depending on who is doing the asking. I don’t mean to say that it would be ‘yes’ to one person and ‘no’ to another. It will always be some version of ‘yes’ but different levels of information.

    A few years back after I had returned to NYC, I was sitting on a crowded subway. It was near to Passover and a man (Jewish obviously) was passing out leaflets and little boxes of candles, prefacing that by asking selected persons if they were Jewish. So he asked me. I hemmed and hawed about my father yes, mother no…. blah… blah…blah etc. Eventually he grew tired of me and stepped on to his next prospect. I really wanted the candles and wanted to read the little card he was handing out, So I re-approached and was able to get.

    Lesson learned (for me at least). Some people , strangers on the street, just want a yes or no answer. They don’t want detail. They are looking for “their own” according to their definition (which they do not specify…. Ha Ha .. I am a literalist). To them I now just say yes.. because I want whatever it is they are handing out… to see what is is going on in the New York Jewish community, which I feel ‘sort-of’ a part of. So there!!

    But my Jewish friends know all about my family and they accept me. Anyone who knows me will not get the short answer. The short answer only goes to someone *I assume” I will never see again and who doesn’t care about me.

    Your case seems kind of in between because you are working for this guy and you want his business in the future. I migtht have said (in your place… if I had my brains about me), in a friendly manner something like “hopefully I’m jewish enough to cook for you”. He doesn’t need to know about your family. But if he were to probe more fully, then you could elaborate a bit, starting with “I am part Jewish”..

    These are just my thoughts; someone else might think differently.

    robin h.

  195. Dear Steve and Robin H.:

    Steve: Glad it turned out positive!

    Robin H.: You’re right, it is complex!

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  196. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, Robin and all. Steve, I am glad your cooking job went so well, and it seems you did a bit of low-key educating so that some day Half-Jewish or part Jewish will be an accepted and understood definition. And Robin H., I know what you mean, I have different answers in different settings while at the same time I don’t wish to contradict myself. It would be great to reach a point where I don’t end up feeling defensive or like I’ve given TMI. Some of my long-time friends, Jews and non-Jews, know a bit of my story and accept it because they accept me. With other, newer friends it depends – as I am involved in synagogue life I want to be honest with people I’m likely to see frequently, and most assume I’m Jewish because I’m there so often, yet it’s still an uncomfortable topic for me, and I am afraid of someone feeling like I misled them. Just yesterday I had to turn down the offer to do an aliyah (blessing during Torah reading) because it is not done by non-Jews. It would be great to reach a point where I don’t end up feeling defensive or like I’ve given TMI. Actually, the only negative reactions I’ve had (surprisingly and happily rare) have been in other mostly-Jewish but non-religious settings. The other day I had a great reaction from a new friend – she seemed interested in my background of one Jewish grandparent, and supportive of my situation as I explore Judaism, and she mentioned that she is Jewish, and her husband is not. I asked, “so both your parents are Jewish, and all of your grandparents?” A bit hard to explain why we both ended up laughing.
    I hope that with our great numbers, and our diversity of experience, we will become visible, to Jews and to each other.
    Lisa

  197. Dear Lisa: I have noticed that some non-religious Jews are uncomfortable with half-Jewish people — sometimes their only connection to Judaism is having two Jewish parents — so they sometimes assert this in ways that are not welcoming to us.

    All of us must negotiate how much information we will give and gradually determine our behavior in each Jewish and other faith-based cultural settings we regularly visit. It is a kind of trial-and-error process.

    Lisa, our great numbers are not evident to the Jewish community. Many half-Jewish people who are “raised Jewish” are socialized to keep quiet about their parentage and talk about being “real Jews.” I’ve defended some of them when they’ve been attacked as “not Jewish” by other Jews on the internet, and they do not acknowledge my emails or thank me. Some of them have been brought up to despise people who call themselves “half-Jewish,” so receiving help from me is — to them — a sign of how weak their position is, not a reassurance that other half-Jewish people support them.

    Many of us who were not “raised Jewish” but raised in other faiths are shunted into synagogue conversion programs and taught to call ourselves “converts,” which is not always the same as “half-Jewish.”

    Other half-Jewish people, after repeatedly going through “should I tell them” encounters in Jewish settings, stop talking about it. This includes a fair number of half-Jewish rabbis, who are “in the closet” about being half-Jewish, and so are no use to us.

    Also, keep in mind, Jews are not happy to hear to about our great numbers. Their communal goal for many centuries was a community of Jews married to each other. They regard our existence in large numbers as a sign of massive communal failure on the intermarriage issue, rather than as the existence of a large group of people who need to be outreached.

    I suspect these constraints keep the number of half-Jewish people who openly identify themselves within the Jewish community artificially reduced.

    What does this mean for us? It means that those of us who identify as Jews can search for and find individual welcoming synagogues and organizations, but we should not expect a major communal shift in attitudes towards us — that would result in outreach for us — for another 30 years at least.

    I believe that there will be a massive shift when the Orthodox Jews become the majority of Jewish young people — already starting to happen — and the liberal denominations — Reform, Conservative, etc. — decide that to survive they must actively recruit half-Jewish young people and possibly some older ones as well.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  198. Dear Lisa:

    As someone who has returned to Christianity (my dad’s Episcopalian faith), I usually offer information about my parentage when I explain that I have returned to Christianity after decades “away” in another faith (Judaism), to explain my ignorance of certain past events within the Episcopalian denomination’s recent history or why I know a great deal about Israel and the Palestinians and certain Jewish aspects of the New Testament — etc.

    I’ve been treated in a very kind and cordial manner. Episcopalians are mostly curious and respectful. I haven’t encountered any anti-Semitism, even though there was some lingering anti-Semitism among some Episcopalians many decades ago shortly after WWII.

    It is a very strange experience to be routinely welcomed again in Episcopalian settings, after decades of entering Jewish bricks-and-mortar and online settings and never knowing what the reaction to my presence would be.

    Even when I did conceal being half-Jewish in Jewish settings or simply not mention it within Jewish settings, my ‘otherness’ seemed always to be noticed immediately — as in the “funny, you don’t look Jewish” attitude — and often caused a lack of acceptance for me. This occurred even in the few Jewish venues that admired or tolerated my work for half-Jewish people.

    But each one of us must develop a niche by trial-and-error experimentation, searching out the places where we feel welcomed and at home. It will be different for each person.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  199. Cindy

    In my genealogical search for my ancestors, having had my DNA tested, I match many Jewish people. Or, people who THINK they are fully Jewish. One thing I’ve noticed – no one is 100% Jewish. I see 86%, or 92%, or 78%, etc. So many, many people who think they are “real Jews” are still only part Jewish – the result of some intermarriage back there. I found that quite interesting.

  200. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi! Lots to think about with Robin’s responses and Cindy’s comment. Robin, I’m going to give myself a bit more time before I respond to your thought-provoking comments – and I appreciate the thoughtfulness of what you are saying. Cindy, was the % you were told in the ballpark of what you thought it would be? I don’t care about the actual %, because it’s really none of my business, but I am wondering about your reaction to it. My sense is that many Jews have some ethnic & religious background that is not Jewish – it may be recent, or many generations back. There were certainly converts early in Jewish history according to the Bible though some may not want to think about it. I’ve also been hearing about “converso” Jews (and Muslims), usually forcibly converted to Catholicism many generations back, who often have retained some Jewish customs such as lighting Shabbat candles. Their descendants would likely have Jewish DNA if tested. A friend recently went on a study tour of New Mexico and learned a lot about this, and talked to some of these people. I wonder if my % would by higher or lower than my guess of 25%? I would think Jews and non-Jews and those of us along the spectrum (as Steve called it) who are interested in genealogical research would want the truth.
    Lisa

  201. It’s true. Every one of us including claimed born jews has some intermarriage somewhere in their recent or distant past. And we can be thankful for that or we’d all be genetically deformed. It’s a healthy thing. Given what Robin has said about orthodox jews becoming the majority, I would think that in an age of DNA analysis and all of this being brought to light, it could cause the orthodox and ultra orthodox to cling more tightly in their groups, marrying only within and having lots of babies (while reading talmud and torah 24/7). But this is not healthy, and while their population may grow it won’t be an economically viable one, and so there is an entree for the rest of us to have intellectual, creative and economic clout.

  202. Cindy

    Lisa, yes my DNA % on the Jewish side is just under 50% – definitely what I expected. Autosomal DNA tests recent ancestry, up to 4th to 6th cousins. After that, it gets too unstable. So, the matches I have are my cousins going back only 4 or 5 generations – fairly recent. My point was actually in response to those being told they aren’t “real Jews” because of being “mixed.” It is ironic that those who say that are “mixed” themselves. I wonder what their response would be knowing that? (Rhetorical question)

  203. Steve Katz

    Dear All,
    As a child I remember how I wanted so much to go to hebrew school with my friends. I used to hear about their little escapades there and wanted to be a part of it. my mother looked into it but it was not doable according to her. I was never told why. On the other side of the coin as I got older I spent more time at my maternal grandparents farm in Indiana and was taken to Methodist church with them on Sundays much to my parents chagrin. I began to really understand it and back home was baptized and confirmed in a Congregationalist church community. I do have to say that the Christian community opened up

  204. Steve Katz

    The Christian brethren have reservations about us, the Jewish community won’t accept us… Are we in limbo or do we get together and communicate mano a mano at a national/international conference. We may be able to enlighten all of us…
    Thoughtfully, Steve Katz

  205. Steve Katz

    Maybe we can explore an attitude embracing our life values with a different look at Judaism that relates to us.

  206. Steve Katz

    Duality,
    I would deem this conference a success if all who attend leave feeling different from when they arrived (Good or bad). If they feel the same in and out then the conference is a failure. They should be taking something away from this meeting!

  207. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Robin , I am sorry that you had so many negative reactions from so many Jews when you were exploring and active in Jewish life. At the same time, I am happy for you that you have found a home in the Episcopalian faith. I’m not sure how much geography affects our experiences – where I live, the San Francisco bay area, is diverse in about every way you can imagine. There is, I think, more tolerance for people who do not fit in neat little boxes. To some extent people get along.
    You talk about us being largely invisible – statistics would have us believe that before the 1970’s intermarriage was rare, and a survey from over 10 years ago places it at almost 50%! When I was in college I met many more part-Jewish people than I do today and that was in the ‘70‘s. I am sure if my grandmother had stayed in Lithuania – and survived – she would have married a Jew. As you likely know the pogroms made that impossible. Without a cohesive family in the U.S. I imagine it wasn’t too hard for her to marry a non-Jew, there were no parents to disown her. I am grateful that I am here and somehow think being half-Jewish gives me a richness of experience and acceptance of diversity I might otherwise lack.
    I am exploring becoming Jewish in conversation with my Rabbi. It strikes me a bit like the process of becoming a citizen of a country. Lots to learn, history and customs and language. He’s upfront that some people will never accept me as a Jew, including the Orthodox who control so many aspects of life in Israel. It seems to me one thing that Half-Jews can do from within the Jewish community is hold the door open for others. No promises but perhaps mine may be the first congregation to openly advocate for the welcoming of Half-Jewish adults as it already does for interfaith families.

  208. Cindy

    Lisa, I live in the Bay Area too – the north bay. We should meet sometime. Have you been to the JCC in SF? My husband & I used to go Israeli folkdancing there some years ago.

  209. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Cindy, I’d like that. Any other SF or bay area folks here? Let’s have a meet-up! I live on the peninsula so a bit south. Have not been to SF JCC yet, though many years ago I was a regular at Israeli folk dancing in Pasadena (So Cal). Maybe we can exchange contact info. through Robin?

  210. Cindy

    My husband and I, while in college, used to go to UCLA Hillel on Wed nights in the late ’70s/early ’80s. They had folkdancing there too. I think I may have gone to Pasadena once or twice. Or, maybe it was Cal Tech. I also went to Cafe Danza somewhere in West L.A. (I can’t remember) and Cafe Shalom for Israeli folkdancing. My friends and I went three times a week! I wish I could find a place close to me now. I am in the north bay – Sonoma County. Maybe we could meet in S.F.!

  211. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    When I was in college in the ’70′s I went to international folk dancing – it was a big venue in Pasadena, don’t remember the name. Israeli folk dancing was at Cal Tech. After moving to Santa Cruz and graduating, my first date with my husband was at Ashkenaz in Berkeley for folk-dancing. Also Stanford. I’d go now if I could find a convenient place. Maybe we could continue this conversation via email so the HJN can get back to its regularly scheduled programming. ;) Thanks for your indulgence, HJN followers. Cindy, you can reach me via email, making the appropriate changes : L alexander 733 at g mail dot com
    Lisa

  212. Cindy

    I sent you an email, Lisa.
    I just bought a book called The Half-Jewish Book by Daniel Klein & Freke Vuijst. I found it quite by accident surfing the Web. It seems interesting so far; I had never heard of the book.

  213. Shayna Rose Lax

    I can’t believe this actually exists. I’m feeling very alone on this Passover eve, as my late father was Jewish, and I’ve lost touch with my roots. Just finding this site has made me feel 100% better about who I am and where my history is.

  214. Cindy

    Does anyone here know about Karaite Judiaism? I have a question about them. Thanks.

  215. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    I don’t know much more than you could find on the internet. There is a Karaite synagogue in Daly City (not far from San Francisco) and the Rabbis from other local synagogues seem to know a bit about them.

  216. Cindy

    I am hoping someone here might be a Karaite or more knowledgeable than what I can find online. I am not sure if they take the Tanakh literally, word for word, or if there is some interpretation. Why do they reject the oral law, does that mean they do not interpret, etc etc?

    Did you ever get my email, Lisa?

    Happy Passover to all.

    Cindy

  217. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, Cindy, I did – and am guessing you didn’t get my response… wonder if it got lost or ended up in spam… I will send you an email now. About Karaite Judaism, I have heard that they consider oral law less important than the Torah but don’t altogether reject it. If you’re feeling brave you could talk to them and report back to us! I may ask around. As part of my decision to become Jewish I have been asked to visit several neighboring shuls in order to experience the differences in denominations, so I may ask my Rabbi about them and how they might be toward visitors.
    I figured out something that may be obvious to most everyone else and I’m not sure why I didn’t really “get it” until now – becoming Jewish is a lot like becoming a citizen of a country: study the customs and laws, agree to some shared views or beliefs, learn a bit of the language, and take a test. It’s a rough analogy, to be sure, and along the wayI am going to be working one-on-one with the Rabbi, which is also how he works with young people preparing for their b’nai mitzvot.

  218. Dear Lisa Jacobsdaughter and Friends:

    I have read with interest the continuing conversations. In response to a question by Lisa Jacobsdaughter about whether my negative experiences in Jewish life were due to geography — her thought was that I might have had a better experience in San Francisco, which has a reputation for greater tolerance.

    Actually, no.

    I consulted a highly-connected and influential Jewish outreach worker in San Francisco two years ago. She has always been friendly and supportive to adult children of intermarriage. I asked her if she could start suggesting to synagogues that they post welcoming statements on their webpages for half-Jewish people, along the lines of “we welcome adult children of intermarriage” and add those statements to any current language on their websites about welcoming interfaith couples. It would cost them virtually no money or time and would be a nice gesture.

    Here is her reply — I’m quoting from memory — “Are you kidding, Robin? I can’t even persuade most of the synagogues in this city [San Francisco] to post welcoming language on their websites for interfaith couples, never mind children of intermarriage.” She went on to say that she would be happy to meet with any adult children of intermarriage in San Francisco that I wished to send her, but I should expect no outreach from the San Francisco Jewish community towards them.

    For more information on why this occurs, you may wish to read an essay I wrote on why Jewish outreach workers usually ignore half-Jewish people:

    http://www.jewcy.com/religion-and-beliefs/why_many_jewish_outreach_workers_ignore_halfjewish_people

    Lisa, there’s a phenomenon I think of among people entering Judaism that I call the “conversion romance.” In the past, we were rejected at every level of the Jewish community — few of us ever entered it. Now, the ‘lower’ levels of some institutions — individual synagogues and rabbis of some denominations — have some partial and inadequate training in “welcoming” — they often agree to see and supervise half-Jewish peoples’ entry into Judaism. That’s an advance from from the 1980s when they often either refused to meet with us or met with us and were very chilly.

    Many half-Jewish people then enter a sort of emotional ‘romance’ with Judaism once they have found a rabbi and a shul. That is a natural and positive part of joining any faith-based culture. It is a sort of honeymoon.

    But the upper levels of outreach — congregations posting a few welcoming sentences on their websites, for starters — are still locked against us. Many newly-arrived half-Jewish people don’t see this because they are being exposed to the newly-welcoming lower levels. They think the welcome that they may be getting from an individual rabbi and shul is reflected further up.

    You can test this idea at any time, by asking your rabbi to install welcoming language for half-Jewish people on your shul’s website. Then ask other shuls in your area. Let us know what responses you get. If you get even one positive response, I would be very anxious to hear about it. That would mean that change was finally occurring on this issue. If even one shul would do this, we might be able to persuade others to do it.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  219. Dear Lisa:

    One other thought for you — about the idea you mention that “becoming Jewish is a lot like becoming a citizen of a country” — it may be that your rabbi is using this language to you in the hope of conveying the complexity of Jewish identity to you.

    However, this language is often used in a much darker context — half-Jewish people are often told that they must think of themselves as “immigrants” in Judaism — this language is used as a justification for all the hoops we are required to jump through to join Judaism.

    Be aware that the “citizen” language is often used to justify all kinds of discriminatory barriers and language against us in U.S. Jewish and other Diaspora settings, as in “why do you expect to be treated in a polite manner or accepted as a Jew when you have a Jewish father, or X or Y other concern — Judaism is like a country and you must comply with our immigration regulations.”

    This language is also often used to justify Israel’s appalling treatment of us where we are declared “Jewish” or “not Jewish” by an immigration bureaucracy staffed largely by people who think we should not be considered Jews.

    In fact the “citizen” language forms a deadly, self-reinforcing loop in which American and other Diaspora Jews have justified poor treatment of half-Jewish people because “Israel has citizenship requirements, so it is not just joining a religion” and Israel justifies unpleasant behavior towards us by referring to Diaspora (outside of Israel) religious laws and policies as justifying discriminatory conversion and citizenship policies towards us.

    The “citizen” language also has another subtext — it is often used in contexts that frequently suggest that once a half-Jewish person opts to live as a Jew, they are somehow — even if they are not — an overseas ‘citizen’ of Israel — and must always support Israel’s interests before the interests of the countries where they are actually legal citizens, on pain of not being considered a “real [citizen] Jew.”

    Cordially,
    Robin

  220. Dear Shayna Rose Lax:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! I am pleased that you have found our website comforting and affirming.

    I have sent you by private email a welcoming letter and a PDF report with more information about the Half-Jewish Network that is not on our website.

    If you have additional questions, feel free to let us know.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  221. Cindy

    Hi Robin,
    Just curious, is it easier to convert to Judiasim (i.e. more welcoming, being considered fully Jewish, etc) for someone who is 100% Gentile than it is for half-Jews? Is there some kind of disgust maybe that Judaism feels about us that isn’t felt about non-Jews wanting to convert? It is one reason why I was asking about Karaites and whether they might be more welcoming since they don’t adhere to the oral law.

    Lisa, I didn’t receive your email. :-(

  222. robin h.

    Robin, I was going to ask the same question as Cindy.i.e. are you saying that it is MORE difficult for a half -jewish person to go through a regular conversion process that for a total gentile? I’m always confused by these experiences that you discuss because I can’t quite figure out if you were asking shuls and outreach workers to accept us a jews or asking them to actively invite us to convert…..robin h.

  223. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, Robin and all, it seems there is welcoming language on some websites but not others. I will send you a private email with links. In fact, that was a major element in my early research into are synagogues. It needed to be interfaith-friendly; even if I become Jewish my husband may never feel so inclined. It also needs to be gay- and lesbian-friendly so my extended family could feel welcome at events they might attend. The two I’ve been most active in have been consistently welcoming. It is possible that my experience is unusual even for the bay area and as my experience is very limited compared to yours and I may have generalized something that is not true overall.
    As you said, I am in sort of a honeymoon phase with my love of Judaism – we’ll see what happens. Either things continue to progress, or not. I don’t want to suggest that my path is “the one” for any of your readers, our spiritual journeys may take us to different places, and some are not really looking into a religious community and may be more interested in ethnic and cultural aspects of Jewish life
    Also, my Rabbi didn’t make the citizen analogy – I did, and I haven’t really mentioned this to anyone in the community yet. The handout did however mentioned the issue of whether a conversion would be recognized in Israel, and some Jews would be jerks (his words, not mine) saying a convert is not being a “real” Jew.
    Best regards,
    Lisa

  224. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    @Cindy – sorry my emails are not getting through – I just sent you one more, your first one got through to the email addy I posted so you could try again. Kinda don’t want to post my phone # publicly – will call you if you email your #. Does this make sense?
    Lisa

  225. Dear Cindy:

    In my experience — from what people who underwent conversion who had no Jewish parents told me — and people who were half-Jewish — it is easier in some ways in some Jewish settings for people who are not half-Jewish to convert. But bear in mind it is difficult to generalize — Jewish settings are not all identical and monolithic!

    In some Jewish settings, rabbis and other synagogue and outreach folks appear more comfortable with potential converts who are not Jewish — people who have no Jewish background at all are familiar to them — they have set procedures for their conversions — people with no Jewish parentage usually express a lot of gratitude to the Jewish community for accepting them, etc. They are “gerim” — converts, and fit into a category that the Jewish community understands. It can be very a very “feel good” experience for the Jews involved in overseeing the conversion.

    When half-Jewish people arrive for conversion or integration, it can be very smooth in an accepting shul. But in some instances, half-Jewish people have reported to me that they were told, “well, your Jewish father doesn’t count” and similar types of remarks — who they are has triggered some insecurities or other problems in the Jewish people doing the outreach to them. Half-Jewish people are sometimes encouraged to think of themselves exclusively as “converts” and to minimize their parentage.

    Our life stories represent to some Jews things they don’t want to think about, like intermarriage and blurred boundaries with the non-Jewish world and the possible disappearance of Judaism, and violations of religious laws.

    If you are thinking of conversion, the best thing to do is look at liberal synagogues’ websites online — Reform, Renewal, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Humanistic — and then check out a few of them in person.

    When you find some that you feel comfortable visiting regularly in person — it is kind of like dating — then its time to make an appointment with its rabbi. There are some synagogues that are very accepting, others not so much. Judaism is in an era of change, and the best way to proceed is simply to check out various institutions.

    The difference between Christianity and Judaism in looking for a house of worship and other institutions is that Christians have a centuries-old mandate to convert everyone who crosses their threshold. Now there are cliquey Christian congregations that ignore newcomers, others that overwhelm them, etc. — but they all know, in theory, at least, that they are supposed to be reaching out — it’s their job. Getting a conversion is not usually a problem with Christians — they have other problems.

    Whereas Jewish groups spent centuries shunning intermarried couples and pushing their offspring away, and over the last 30 years some Jewish institutions are now slowly changing course. Certainly there are DNA indicators that some Jewish communities had intermarried couples, but it was generally — as far as I can tell — hushed up — after all, Christians in some countries had passed laws making intermarriage illegal and Jews thought of it as sinful.

    Regarding the Karaites — I respect them, but I doubt that they would be easier on half-Jewish people. They are modern survival of an ancient Orthodox group that separated from Talmudic Judaism over various issues:

    http://www.karaite-korner.org/

    Cordially,
    Robin

  226. Dear Robin H.:

    Yes, it is sometimes — but not always — more difficult for a half-Jewish person to find a Jewish institution with friendly conversion program. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it does happen sometimes, for the reasons I explained to Cindy.

    I have talked with half-Jewish people who wanted to formally convert to Judaism and listened to their descriptions of their conversion programs. I have also read many articles that half-Jewish people have written about their attendance at conversion programs. Some found a lot of support and warmth from the Jews running the programs and their fellow non-Jewish-descent converts — others had more negative experiences. It depends on the individual institution, which is why people considering conversion should “shop around” until they find one they like.

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis

  227. Dear Lisa Jacobsdaughter:

    I’d be interested in seeing your email with links to welcoming language, when you have time, no rush. It sounds like you have been doing your research in searching for friendly rabbi and Jewish institutions, and it is paying off. Your rabbi sounds like he is an honest and caring person, and the handout is truthful, which is important.

    I am glad that your rabbi did not use the “citizen” language — it is often used in a kindly manner to make helpful and complex explanations about Jewish identity easier to understand, but it is also used in darker contexts. Much depends on the person’s intent who is using it.

    Your welcoming experience in your shul is likely not unusual for the Bay area at the “first level” — synagogue welcome. The Bay area hosts one of the most intermarried Jewish communities in the United States. My experience with the Jewish outreach worker involved “second level” — she had written an article on getting shuls to create more welcoming websites, and I wrote her suggesting that she could encourage Bay area shuls to put language on their websites specifically welcoming adult children of intermarriage, and you saw her reply to me above.

    So the ‘second level’ of welcome for us isn’t there yet. Over the next 30 years we may see that ‘second level’ finally appear — website language and programs and welcoming language specifically for half-Jewish people, such as currently exist for interfaith couples. I get exasperated because I have been asking for this ‘second level’ outreach for nearly 3 decades and am getting tired of waiting.

    I hope my remarks in responses to you are not coming across in ways that might seem negative or critical of your gradual entry into the Jewish community. I try to keep a balance between what I know of continuing opposition to outreach to half-Jewish people at the ‘second level’ and the slow changes that are occurring throughout Judaism that are opening up the ‘first level’ to half-Jewish people.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  228. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Robin, I have always felt that you have advocated for me and for all of us at the Half-Jewish Network, so keep telling it like it is. Whether we have good experiences or bad ones in the Jewish community this is the place to share. I do not feel you have been critical of my process but that you want me to be aware the issues so I’m not blindsided.
    Lisa

  229. Steve Katz

    Robin… You’ve put the first piece of the puzzle together with the statement “Judaism is like a country…”. Now, how does ethnicity fit in? The last piece.
    Steve

  230. Dear Lisa and Steve:

    Lisa: I am glad that my comments on your ideas are coming across as solicitous and based on advocacy for half-Jewish people. I sometimes worry that “full disclosure” of everything I know about the Jewish community will come across as criticism of peoples’ exploration of that culture, which is not my intent.

    Steve: the entire issue of ethnicity within the Jewish community is immensely complicated, with no consensus. They tend to regard someone with two Jewish parents as ethnically Jewish, no matter how that person affiliates, though if that person joins another faith, they may see them as “meshumad” or apostate.

    Half-Jewish people are a different story — the weight given to our DNA fraction of Jewish identity varies from one Jewish community to the next.

    The Jewish media in the Diaspora and Israel, after being hammered for calling half-Jewish people unattractive names, now refers to us (sometimes) as “non-halachic Jews,” “having Jewish roots,” “of Jewish descent,” etc. I personally find these terms annoying, as they blur the very real issues of having two ethnicities, but that’s my opinion.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  231. Cindy

    Robin, I think you are doing a wonderful thing in advocating for half-Jewish people. It is very brave of you in light of all the abuse we face. I also see & hear a lot of anger among Jewish people about our very existence in discussions pertaining to half-Jews.

  232. Steve Katz

    Cindy and Robin,
    I was thinking of mixed race (white -black) children suffering the same abuse as us from children of two black parents or two white parents. To comment on my own statement first, please forgive me, I would say no. My decision has been based on a very reliable source… myself. I am the father of a half black and half me child. At some times it is more frequent for my son than it has ever been for me. Plus he has his Jewish surname thrown into the mix. He always thought it odd that people thought his name strange for a person of his looks.
    He actually looks Puerto Rican. That must really confuse things.

  233. Dear Cindy and Steve:

    Cindy – thank you for your kind words about my work. It has been very difficult sometimes, due to the opposition we face among some Jews, which you also have experienced.

    In addition to sometimes receiving harsh feedback or very chilly silence from some — not all — born Jews, I have recently received three emails from Christian-identified children of intermarriage who think this group is not “tough enough” on the Jewish community. (?????) Two of the emails had profanity.

    I usually receive very polite emails from other half-Jewish people, so this was a new experience. I replied to them that I can’t really get any “tougher” on the Jewish community about half-Jewish issues than I already am.

    This website, for example, is, to my knowledge, the only half-Jewish website that consistently criticizes Israel’s poor treatment of us, and discourages half-Jewish people from making aliyah or serving in the IDF. We are the only half-Jewish website that consistently objects to discrimination against us by Diaspora Jewish communities. No other half-Jewish websites have touched these issues in any deep way.

    But I don’t see trashing the entire Jewish community — which is what they seemed to want — is fair — not all Jewish insitutions oppose our inclusion.

    Steve – on the front page of this website, under “Blogroll,” we maintain links to some multiracial groups — some specifically Jewish, others not, so they might have resources that would be useful to your son. We also have a “Multiracial/Biracial” page that I update from time to time.

    You are correct that biracial children and grandchildren of intermarriage, like your son, do get even more negative feedback than those of us who appear “white” The multracial Jewish groups under the “Blogroll” links do some work on this issue.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  234. Cindy

    Robin,

    I agree with you. Getting “tough” with the Jewish community will only result in their alienating themselves from us further. As a Christian-identified person myself, I am appalled that you were subject to profanity. That is a decidedly un-Christian thing to do!

    Cindy

  235. Dear Cindy:

    I am glad that you think getting “tougher” with the Jewish community would not be a productive strategy. I’m at a loss as to how we could be “tougher.” These half-Jewish people wanted me to actively oppose half-Jewish people joining the Jewish community. I don’t think that would be fair. As a group, we’ve always tried to be even-handed in our approach, helping people who approach us find the spiritual and ethnic path(s) best for them.

    The profanity in their emails was applied to the Jewish community, which had hurt their feelings very badly, but it was disturbing to read in the context of appeals to the Half-Jewish Network. Like you, I’m Christian-identified, but I try to be even-handed in the advice I give.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  236. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    I was wondering why it is important to us to acknowledge our Jewish ancestry as Half-Jews. Certainly we all have other ethnic and racial identities, and often other religious identities as well. When I connected the dots between my Jewish relatives and the pogroms and the Holocaust, I took it personally. When it concerns family, it is personal. There are so many relatives we all had who died before their time. That is true whether we had two Jewish parents or one Jewish great-grandparent. Certainly throughout history part of the definition of being Jewish has been from the surrounding non-Jewish population, as well as from Jewish religious tradition. Because of Jewish religious law, some of us are seen as Jews and some of us are not. I can see following the traditions within Judaism if one practices it as a religion, and the rules vary between the denominations so choose yours carefully (just kidding). Change has happened in my lifetime – those raised as Jews with a non-Jewish mother are accepted in some denominations. Outside of religious settings I’d like to see self-identification be accepted as I do, and “Half-Jewish” is the best label I’ve seen.
    Lisa

  237. Dear Lisa:

    If you check out our “Frequently Asked Questions” page, you’ll see Item “2. Why was the organization named “The Half-Jewish Network”?” which explains some of the reasoning behind why we chose “Half-Jewish” for the group’s name.

    http://half-jewish.net/frequently-asked-questions-faq/

    Cordially,
    Robin

  238. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Thanks, Robin, I understand. What I wanted to emphasize was our own self-identity. Now I am wondering if most Jews (and now I mean by religious definition) with only one Jewish parent think of themselves as “half” or do they think of themselves as Jewish and perhaps not even inclined to acknowledge the non-Jewish ancestry? I have met a rabbi who has a mother who converted to Judaism and he has mentioned interesting extended family get-togethers, but I’n not aware if that knowledge is widely known – I think he wouldn’t have mentioned it if it were any kind of secret. I don’t know him well enough to broach the “Half-Jewish” topic and to see how he feels about outreach to us, but am thinking I may do that soon – it could be an interesting conversation.
    Lisa

  239. Dear Lisa:

    Not sure what you mean by “most Jews (and now I mean by religious definition) with only one Jewish parent think of themselves as “half” or do they think of themselves as Jewish, etc.”

    There are multiple religious and ethnic definitions of “who is a Jew” which is laid out in more detail on this page:

    http://half-jewish.net/who-is-a-jew/

    If you are asking how do most half-Jewish people who have affiliated with the Jewish community think of themselves — that’s difficult to say. The Jewish community done very few studies of half-Jewish people. The few studies that exist are flawed by low numbers of participants (usually less than 100). That’s one reason I’m still working on my book, as I hope to assemble a much larger pool of study participants.

    The half-Jewish people I have encountered who identify as Jews have a wide range of identit(ies) ranging from “I’m a real Orthodox Jew because my mother was a Jew and my Christian/non-Jewish half — my dad — doesn’t count under Orthodox law, and I don’t consider children of Jewish fathers to be real Jews” to “I’m secular Jewish, but I am ethnically biracial and had an African-American mother.”

    If you feel like it, ask the half-Jewish rabbi that you have met if his shul or organization would be willing to: (1) put language specifically welcoming half-Jewish people on their shul website; (2) create a one page brochure welcoming us to their institution; and/or (3) set up a monthly discussion group for us. I would be interested to hear his replies.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  240. Hi… again. I think I am finally gonna ‘bite the bullet’ and start down the path of conversion. I am in the process of signing up for a class “Derekh Torah” at the Bronfman Center NYC (92nd St Y). The Rabbi there just returned my call. I’m to call tomorrow for a phone interview. They want to know a bit about me.. I’m sure. It’s a 30 wk in depth class, once a week for 7-8 months. I was suddenly motivated when I re-visited the website of this Reform synagogue that I haven’t been to in ages and there was a new pull down site under conversion, and the Rabbi there (whom I know) was saying that he had received numerous inquiries (none from me) and that he wanted people to first enroll in this class before inquiring.

    I had always thought that I could read and learn on my own. But now I realize the value of the class would be in meeting and talking with other like minded people and studying with as many Rabbis as possible (multiple perspectives). So Lisa I’d be interested in comparing notes with you in your quest. A couple weeks back I went to Shabbat at a neighboring Conservative synagogue (my diving coach’s shul) and actually liked the service better, no musical instrument accompanyment, all acappela chanting. I like both Rabbis. Now I am in a quandry. I like the service at the conservative synagogue but I am likely more “Reform” in my view of Judaism and Jewish life. I’ll have to sort this out eventually…. more later, robin h.

  241. Dear Robin H.:

    That’s great! Please keep us posted on how it goes for you.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  242. rhelburn

    OK.. I haven’t even started the class and already I have something to share.

    So I called the Rabbi (at the Bronfman Center) back today for the interview. One of the questions (there weren’t many) was something like.. ‘..was I in a relationship with any Jewish person?….’.. I said well… do mean am I dating anyone? ( of course I have relationships with the Jewish people in my family.. i.e. my father and youngest brother and sister (from my Dad’s 3rd marriage to a Jewish woman, so they are Jews).. So I finally had to say ‘well half my DNA is Jewish .. so I must have some relationships with Jews… I said something like that;.. note:I had told him last night on the phone that my reason for wanting to take the class was for eventual conversion). I then said during the interview that it was the wrong half…. So he said .. OHH..! so your father is Jewish. After a bit of hemming and hawing on my part. He then said something like: “..say no more!.. this is different. when you approach a Rabbi for conversion, you should tell him this because it changes / shortens the process… you are already half- way there…”

    I was happy with that response… Robin M. I didn’t know what to think when you said, a while back, that conversion for us half jews can sometimes be harder than for total non-jews.

    Anyway, this was the 1st Rabbi to whom I had confessed a desire to convert… the Rabbi in charge of Jewish education at the Bronfman Center at the 92nd St Y, NYC . I don’t know if all Rabbis would feel that way. That said, he does know the Rabbis at the synagogues in Brooklyn that I have been to.

    nuff said…. too long… sorry… just thought some people might like to know this.

    robin h.

  243. Dear Robin H:

    Thank you for sharing this! It is very refreshing to hear this, as three patrilineal half-Jewish people I have advised over the last three years have quit trying to affiliate with Judaism — in Washington, DC, Florida and London, U.K., respectively — because they were repeatedly told that their Jewish fathers were not enough to claim Jewish identity and other rejecting remarks, etc.

    So it is good to hear of a Jewish institution where having a Jewish father is a plus.

    The Bronfman family of Jewish philanthropists has a heavily-intermarried member, Charles Bronfman — has adult children by several intermarriages — and he has spoken out publicly about the need to welcome non-Jewish spouses and their children.

    I’m hopeful that your welcome at the Bronfman Center stems partially from Charles Bronfman taking a stand on the issue.

    Please let us know — if you would like to — what your classes are like and any additional experiences you may wish to share.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  244. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, Robin, I think I will mention to the rabbi and the executive director my thoughts about inclusion of the adult children/grandchildren of interfaith families in their outreach. I am still figuring how to do this in an articulate way. I will report back to the group.
    Lisa

  245. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, Robin and all, I have been occupied with family matters the past several days. First, Robin H., congrats and may you have good experiences on your Jewish journey. I look forward to comparing notes! I am continuing to feel welcome among the Jews that I meet. Passover had a more personal meaning this year, and for the first time I went to two family seders along with my husband. It was also a very emotional time for me when I attended a service on the last day of passover that is also a yizkor (remembrance) service.
    Robin H., I take advantage of many of the classes and lectures that will add to my knowledge of Judaism. The Judaism 101 class I took sounds similar to the class you will take, but at 12 sessions seemed too short, really a survey class. Over the period of 30 weeks you will learn a lot and also get to know some of your classmates. At Torah study I sometimes feel like a first-year college student in the advanced graduate study seminar. However, it seems that every rabbi I hear is still learning and that helps me feel a bit better about being a beginner. So far I have gone to services of most of the liberal denominations (Conservative is considered to be liberal!) and my rabbi also wants me to experience orthodox services when I am ready. I think it is unusual to be a member of a congregation before converting, but at ours it is required. Mine is unaffiliated and is described as having elements of Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Judaism. So far, Reform services are my least favorite – I think my tastes are more traditional, but my theology (so far) is very liberal.
    Lisa

  246. Dear Lisa:

    Please let us know what the rabbi and executive director say when and if you decide to discuss inclusion of half-Jewish people with them. I would be very interested to hear what they have to say.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences in learning about Judaism with Robin H. and the rest of us. We look forward to hearing more.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  247. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, all, I had some more thoughts about inclusion of half-Jews. I just joined the Festivals Committee and learned a bit about efforts to include Israelis who live here in Synagogue life, and there may be some parallels with us. They are interested in a specific aspect of Jewish life – festivals! Many of them find American synagogues too religious, and their involvement in Jewish life in Israel was focused around the many festivals. Recently our shul has done a lot of outreach to the Israeli community. It’s hard to say how this started, although a new member, a young Israeli woman, dove right in and headed the organizing of the recent Tu B’Shevat (kind of a Jewish earth day) celebration, and the rabbi worked with her and others to put together a Tu B’Shevat Haggadah with Israeli songs, and there were a couple tables of mostly Israeli people. It was a very fun evening and had a huge amount of volunteer participation, especially food prep and cleanup.
    Now we half-Jews are not a cohesive group, yet I’d guess many of us are interested in Jewish culture – food, dance, art and of course festivals. My question for you, fellow half-Jews, would you come to festivals and other events at a synagogue? What would it take for you to feel welcome?
    Lisa

  248. Hi, everyone:
    I’m sort of Jewish and struggling–my mother converted before I was born in a Conservative congregation. I was raised Reform and Bar Mitzvahed. I always thought of myself as Jewish, but I was forced to attend a horrible, boring Reform Hebrew school and Wednesday services that did not leave me with warm feelings towards the place. My family moved while I was in high school and we found a small, eccentric Reconstructionist group (that no longer exists) of converts and other misfits. Most of the time only Dad went. I participated when out of college or law school, but had the habit of not saying the prayers or singing with the congregation, as that was the only way I could resist the forced services as a child. My Mom said she was sorry they forced young, crying Matt to attend, but the damage is done.

    I met my non-Jewish wife in college. It was the rabbi there who delivered a high holiday sermon that both of us were attending that made some mention of how Jews cannot discuss themselves the way the Christian community can discuss Jews or some other meaningless topic lost in the sands of time. My wife was upset, so I went to talk to him in his office. After finding out what a conservative jerk he was, I stopped any semblance of observance, except when at home and Dad’s feelings might be hurt. My sister just doesn’t do anything Jewish apart from working for a JCC totally incidentally.

    Independent research during college revealed the Halakhic identity problems. Since my sense of religious identity was as a liberal or secular Jew, it took a greater hit. Also, I majored in philosophy, and as Steve Martin has [more or less] said of the philosophy undergrad work, “You learn just enough philosophy in college to mess you up for the rest of your life.”

    I live in a pretty rural place. We’re at least 45 minutes from any Jewish group. It’s the time in my life when I need to consider children. My wife and I had agreed that bringing them up as liberal Jews would be acceptable, but when I think about how alienated I am as a result of my own religious upbringing, I’m sort of at a loss as to what I should do. I told my wife I would never expect her or any prospective children to do what I am not willing to do, and given that my mom seems to regret her conversion, I am not willing to push my wife in any way. Overall, I think I want to live an agnostic, non-religious life. Every time I think that, some part of me cringes and recoils and then I experience guilt and a sense of betrayal relating to my dad and my former sense of identity.

    I’ve given other Jewish denominations a try. I attended a Conservative-style Reconstructionist group, a different small Reconstructionist group a couple of times, an open non-denominational group, and a typical large Reform group, all in the DC area. I didn’t like them. They all felt “wrong.” I feel more religious in a bar than in a synagogue.

    I’ve looked into Buddhism and decided against it, and Christianity is simply not of the slightest interest to me. I am just about finished with Hicthens’ God is Not Great and I am pretty much in sympathy with his views. I think I have some cognitive dissonance between my rational beliefs, moving me towards secularism, and my emotions, desiring not to leave a hole where I used to believe my Judaism was, just in case I ever wanted to go back and be religious. Hitchens asks whether raising a child in a religion before the age of reason might be a form of child abuse. My own experience suggests that it might. Maybe it’s my nature as a half-Jewish person manifesting.

    Given that I am in a rural place, does anybody here have suggestions or ideas for ameliorating my identity confusion, or just encouraging words? It seems lonely to be in this position now. I’ve talked to my parents about the issue–my dad is unable or unwilling to address the issues and my mom says they’re proud my sister and I can decide what we want to believe. That’s nice, but it doesn’t provide me with direction.

    Thanks!

  249. Dear Lisa:

    Replying will take two posts. First post, what won’t work. Second post, what will work.

    In my experience, many half-Jewish people don’t know enough about Judaism to see festivals as a form of outreach. They may not know what a particular festival symbolizes or means. They may never have heard of the festival and be uncertain how to act during it.

    Understand that the half-Jewish people raised as Jews know about Jewish festivals, but they may already be embedded in the Jewish community.

    Your outreach population will be the much larger numbers of half-Jewish people raised outside of Judaism in other faiths or no faith, who likely will know little or nothing about Judaism’s festivals.

    Remember the Israeli Jewish population you are referring to are already accepted as Jews by the shuls and are seeking Jewish celebrations similar to those they have already experienced. They are not dealing with uncertainty about being Jewish and a possible history of rejections, nor are they dealing with little or no knowledge about Judaism.

    Also half-Jewish people showing up at a festival can’t be sure of a warm welcome. It only takes one born Jew saying, “You don’t look Jewish” or “But you are not a Jew according to halacha” to end the interaction.

    I once dealt with a group of outreach workers who wanted to hold an Israel Independence Day festival to outreach interfaith families. I said, “That’s not a good idea. Interfaith families are aware that Israel isn’t friendly to us and has laws and policies against us.” The outreach workers were angry with me, even though I was telling them the truth. In fact, they ignored my warning and held the festival anyway. I don’t know the outcome, but I am guessing the attendance was mostly born Jews.

    You see the gap between the established Jewish community’s understanding of us and our reality?

    Next post — what will work.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  250. Dear Lisa:

    Here is what will work. It’s already been tried successfully several times, but the Jewish community baulks at doing it again for reasons that will become clear.

    Half-jewish people interested in living as Jews have repeatedly expressed to me their desire to meet each other and talk about their concerns in a half-Jewish or “adult children of intermarriage” group sponsored by a Jewish institution.

    I have tried to persuade Jewish institutions to do this. 99 percent refused — excuses were “children of intermarriage don’t want to be treated differently” — how would born Jews know this when they seldom talk with us? — “it will upset the interfaith couples in our shul, they don’t want to hear that their kids will have problems when they grow up” — etc.

    However, I did manage to persuade one West Coast JCC to host a six week discussion group for half-Jewish people. I have also seen this tactic tried by other adult children of intermarriage activists. Here’s what happened.

    The JCC set a topic for discussion each week, explanations about Judaism, maybe one film. The JCC reported to me and a group of outreach officials in a phone conference after the six weeks was over.

    The JCC staffer reporting to us said the group was small — not surprisingly, since few adult half-Jewish people have ever been specifically invited into the Jewish community — but the group was extremely cohesive. Every one of the 8 people signed up for it showed up for each meeting for six weeks. All of the group participants seemed to like each other. They were were all ages and different economic groups. Everyone behaved in a respectful manner to each other.

    The JCC staff member then said they “might do it again sometime” — Jewish communal worker code for: “we aren’t satisfied with the outcome and won’t hold this function again.”

    I asked the JCC staffer why she wasn’t jubilant? I pointed out that it is a near-miracle that 8 people would faithfully show up at a Jewish institution for anything once a week for six weeks, and also get along well despite many age and cultural differences.

    The JCC staffer said that she was uncomfortable with the fact that the half-Jewish people came from all ages and backgrounds. It seriously bothered her.

    Then there was this unpleasant silence among the other Jewish outreach workers on the phone call. It was clear that they agreed with this JCC, but felt they could not tell me why. I eventually figured it out from conversations in other Jewish outreach contexts — the JCC had hoped for 10 to 15 half-Jewish people who would be 20somethings with high salaries and good jobs.

    The JCC was gravely displeased to have half-Jewish people of all ages and incomes and backgrounds in the group. They were unwilling to try to ‘grow’ the half-Jewish group to a larger size if it didn’t deliver the population group they sought.

    Here’s a second experience — a born Jewish Conservative rabbi created a monthly half-Jewish group on the East Coast — they would talk about half-Jewish issues and Judaism in general. The group rarely had more than 6 to 8 people in attendance, but it was very successful in terms of half-Jewish people ultimately affiliating as Jews. Near the end of the rabbi’s tenure, the group actually secured a tiny funding grant.

    When the rabbi retired, the successor rabbi abruptly canceled the group and reallocated its funding elsewhere. Evidently the group was not recruiting the type of Jews he deemed desirable.

    Lisa, this tactic will work if the sponsoring institution is: (1) willing to accept that the group may be small, but cohesive; (2) the group will produce new shul members if encouraged to join and treated in a kindly manner; and (3) it should be strictly for half-Jewish people — I saw one half-Jewish discussion group collapse when Jews recovering from mental illness were directed into a half-Jewish group on the grounds that they need socializing opportunities — not a good decision, because it completely disregarded the real needs of both populations.

    If you decide to start such a half-Jewish discussion group, contact me privately at my email address, and I can tell you in more detail what was done that made those groups successful.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  251. Dear Matthew: I have already sent you a long private email reply, so I will just add one suggestion. There is a Jewish atheist/agnostic group, Humanistic Judaism, which might meet your needs:

    http://www.shj.org/

    They are very friendly to interfaith families and held one of the first scholarship conferences on half-Jewish people.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  252. Dear Lisa: I just thought of another example of a half-Jewish discussion group where a Jewish institution sponsored it, the event was successful, it was held once more, and then the institution refused to hold another event like it.

    Several years ago — all of my examples occurred within the last 10 to 15 years — a Jewish interfaith family outreach group in an East Coast city held a one day workshop for half-Jewish people. I had nothing to do with it — another half-Jewish activist organized it, just as the born Jewish Conservative rabbi in my earlier reply to you organized her monthly half-Jewish group with no connection to the Half-Jewish Network.

    Anyway, the half-Jewish activist’s one day workshop for half-Jewish people was extremely successful. At least 16 half-Jewish people from varied backgrounds showed up. The photograph of their workshop showed them all smiling from ear to ear.

    That institution held a second event, somewhat similar, a year later. That also attracted half-Jewish people. That Jewish outreach institution has never held any further gatherings for half-Jewish people, despite diligently and regularly holding a variety of events for interfaith couples and Jewish couples whose children have intermarried — our Jewish grandparents, in other words.

    I decided to casually write this institution after a few years, mention that I saw records online of these two workshops, and suggest that while I had had no connection with the people who organized them — very nice people, I might add — it might be worthwhile for the outreach institution to consider having similar workshops at some point.

    I’ve written them four times — about once a year — for four years — suggesting that they consider this. Each time someone different is delegated to reply to me. Each time there is a different excuse for not doing this. They have never said to me that the workshops went badly or that the half-Jewish activist who organized them did anything wrong — those reasons I would have understood.

    Instead, I have received patently false reasons — no funding — how much funding does it take to sponsor a one-day discussion? — etc.

    The half-Jewish workshops clearly produced results that made them uneasy, and they won’t use this successful tactic again. I can tell from online records that the two workshops were successful and harmonious.

    So if you can get your shul to sponsor a monthly half-Jewish discussion group, and persuade them to be patient when 6- to 8 people with widely varying backgrounds show up — that would definitely work.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  253. Hi Lisa and Robin M.

    May I join this conversation about outreach? (far be it that I would know anything on the subject..). It seems to me that it would be important to see things from the perspective of the shul in question (not just our wants and needs). What does any shul or jJewish organization want?? (1) to make more Jews according to their definition (Reform, Reconstructionist… whatever), (2) increase Shul membership (according to their membership requirements) and (3) enhance the financial vitality of the institution. With those things in mind it easy to see why things like group diversity and cohesiveness are at best tangentially related, and why they favor interaction with interfaith couples (potential for raising children as Jews). From their perspective us half Jews need to be educated and to know what our options are, and if some event would promote that and lead to an increase in their number of congregants and conversion prospects then I think a liberal synagogue would open to that.

    So Lisa.. how about this? Instead of asking to be able to hold some event (which could make you uncomfortable or feel like like you are over-reaching), why not throw the ball in their court. Why not pose it as a question? and say something like “Would there be there something, some event that I could help with that might create more recruits such as myself? I am happy to help and could contribute ideas that might draw in more persons like myself…. ” This way you offer to be of service while protecting yourself and your desire to feel at home in this synagogue.

    Just my thoughts

    robin h.

  254. Dear Robin H.:

    I’d be interested in what reply Lisa would get when she asks her shul about their willingness to outreach adult half-Jewish people.

    If you scroll further back up on the message board, you’ll see our initial discussions where Lisa suggested that her shul would likely welcome half-Jewish people and be wiling to engage in low-key measures to reach them.

    I’m suggesting that she test that idea and see what happens.

    I think it is important to establish where a Jewish institution stands on half-Jewish people before any of us half-Jewish people as individuals invests substantial personal time and money as a volunteer or a paid worker for that institution.

    Robin H., I am weary of hearing about Jewish institutions’ priorities because I have to ask — why do they seldom include outreach to us?

    Shouldn’t half-Jewish people be treated as a valuable group to outreach, the same as other Jewish sub-populations?

    I have repeatedly dealt with half-Jewish people — myself included –who felt that they had to prove themselves to shuls and Jewish institutions by doing a lot of volunteer work or paid work for them before they could ask for any outreach to half-Jewish people.

    So they did a lot of work, often for years, and finally, after establishing that they cared about the institutions’ welfare and the institutions’ outreach to every other Jewish subgroup imaginable, they would realize that there wasn’t any outreach to half-Jewish people by their institution and — based on what they’d learned about their institution’s attitudes from years of laboring for them — likely never would be.

    These volunteers — myself included — had exhausted themselves and spent a great deal of their personal time and money on helping their Jewish institutions recruit every other imaginable Jewish sub-group — but never anyone like themselves.

    Before Lisa gives her shul a lot of time or money, I suggest that she check out whether they are willing to do anything for half-Jewish people. Are they willing to experiment with a small discussion group for half-Jewish people? Are they willing to add “we welcome adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage” to their existing language — if any — that specifically welcomes interfaith couples? These are very small, low-cost/no-cost ideas.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  255. Robin M.

    I hear ya and I don’t know the answer. All I do know (and I constantly have to remind myself) is that religion is not a rational construct, and religious institutions and groups exist because they feed a fundamental human need, and in doing so, their ‘modus operandi’ is not always reasonable, just or kind.

    I think persons of mixed heritage will always struggle until they find their niche (..fatalistically said… perhaps the one that is meant to be…).In my case, I don’t think any amount of signage on a synagogue would have affected me. I had to find myself at a place and time and in the company of certain people where I realized that my Jewish self was actually the side I was most aligned with, and that all the stereotypes I had built up in my mind growing up were unjustified.

    I believe becoming Jewish is a slow process; one of gradual learning and acclimation; one can’t go too fast or expect too much and there is no honeymoon (in my view). But everytime I put some effort in, I seem to get something in return. I guess I am selfish in that I can’t imagine getting involved in synagogue activities (recruiting etc) when I’m still just trying to get through the door (literally). This past week I went w/ colleague to attend a seminar entitle “Talmud for the Timid’ (I said to my colleague that I was timid so I guess I needed to go and he said he was too..believe it or not..and that he sometimes needed prodding to just get through the door). Well the seminar had been cancelled but instead there was one on Shavuot and its meaning and relation to Pesach. And it was great, There was some deep discussion and little tidbits relating to welcoming of outsiders and I felt that my comments caused a lot of that discussion. This was that Conservative synagogue I spoke of previously (that Ithink I’m liking better).

    Robin, I think this website and message board has been one of the most helpful in my journey… watching listening and learning from other peoples’ experiences. This IS where where us half Jews will learn and get tips. It is resources like this that help to smooth the way, even though we are all different.This is where the meaningful discussion (and yes debate!) can occur.

    later,
    robin h.

  256. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Thank you, Robin and Robin H. for all your thoughtful comments. I get the kind of feedback here I don’t get anywhere else. Robin H., I think you hit the nail on the head. I believe I had a spiritual need that came to the surface after my father’s death a year ago. Then I was blindsided by some health issues including a cancer diagnosis, followed several months later by good news that I am currently cancer-free. The prayers about the body and health took on a very personal meaning. Coming to services gives me something I don’t get from therapy or family (and I have a very supportive husband). I’ve only begun to feel strong physically and emotionally the past few months and I still feel very self-protective. I am also dealing with an aging mother and am fortunate that my brother has taken the primary role in helping her. So you can see I need to carefully choose my battles.There may be a time when I can initiate a larger effort such as starting a peer group for half-Jewish people.
    I prefer for the current time to take a low-key approach, sharing a bit of my story with individuals as well as the rabbi. I came in through my daughter’s interest, not through the website or even a friend. I am not suggesting my approach for anyone else unless they have a daughter like mine. Interesting – my rabbi has said when people call and want to meet him he always suggests they come to a service or two first to see if they like it here. Sure, the rabbi is important, but so is the rest of the community. It took me 3 years from my first visit so you could say I like it.
    Robin, in part because of your cautionary tales, I feel more confident and supported, and it’s OK for us to explore, question and even disagree.
    Best regards to all,
    Lisa

  257. Dear Robin H. and Lisa:

    Robin H. — very wise thoughts — I value your common sense and shrewd insights! You are correct that religion is not a “rational construct.”

    Lisa — definitely support picking your battles in situation that you describe! I am pleased that you find the message board useful and that the cautionary tales are not too “wet blanket” in their effect.

    Warmly,
    Robin M.

  258. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Thank you, Robin. I am continuing on the path to becoming Jewish and as I tell this to more people I’ve had several respond they thought I was already a Jew! I am also meeting more Jews by choice here – one converted a year before her daughter’s bat mitzvah, another was invited by the rabbi when there was a cancellation at the beit din and the miikvah (by this time he had been married to a Jew for 20 years and raised a daughter).
    Robin H., thanks for your feedback and support – yes, religion is not a rational construct and we humans are definitely complex beings!
    A bit off-topic, but very happy news – my daughter who lives in Montreal is coming to visit this June!
    Thanks to all of you for being here,
    Lisa

  259. Dear Lisa:

    Glad your daughter is coming to visit in June and keep us posted on how things go with your shul!

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  260. Maddie

    I still think it would be so great to have a convention for half-Jews. Perhaps near but not overlapping with Christmas would be a good time, as college students across the board are usually on break then and would be able to travel and attend. I also have much appreciated this board during my journey from patrilineal Reform Jew as a kid to an adult who is dating a more traditional Jew who will eventually want me to convert to conservative Judaism.

    Robin, we were in contact a while back. My name is Maddie. If you start planning a convention and need assistance with tasks, feel free to email me!

  261. Dear Maddie:

    Good hearing from you again! I will add your offer to help with a future convention to an e-file I keep of all suggestions and advice about a future conference.

    Once we have 500 sign-ups for our email newsletter, then I would be willing to start actual planning, as we would then have a large enough base to assure attendance at the conference. We have 163 subscribers, so we are slowly working our way towards the desired number.

    I will email you privately with updated information about the Half-Jewish Network.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  262. Cindy

    I recently visited the Karaite Jewish synagogue in Daly City as we happened to be in the area on a Saturday. It was amazing to me how warm and welcoming they were. They had just finished their worship and invited us to join them for snacks. To me, especially, it was different because they consider me a Jew and not my husband. So opposite of what usually happens when we visit JCC’s and shuls. They were quite interested in me and invited us back. So amazing for me! Anyway, if there are any patrilineals who wish to worship as Jews, find a Karaite shul. You would be welcomed. Just thought I’d pass that along…

  263. Maddie

    Cindy, that’s so nice! I think the only US Karaite synagogue is in California though, correct? I wonder if maybe there are some smaller groups of them in other parts of the country.

    I am transferring schools this year and my new one is a large U about 15% Jewish. If you would like me to try to get the word out about the Half-Jewish network and have any ideas of how I could do so, feel free to let me know!!

  264. Maddie

    Maybe a Facebook page for the Half-Jewish network would help? That way people could easily invite their half-Jewish friends.

  265. Dear Maddie:

    Please excuse the delay in replying to you!

    I will save your suggestion in my e-file on “Half-Jewish Network Convention Suggestions.” We had discussed setting up a Facebook page for the convention when we start planning in a few years, and I am hopeful that we will do so.

    At the present time, we don’t have a Facebook page for the group for several reasons:

    1. Facebook has serious privacy and ‘drama’ problems. I did not enjoy my previous personal Facebook account, to put it mildly.

    2. Some half-Jewish people are not (yet) Facebook users.

    3. I’d have to maintain the Facebook page at the same level of supervision that I give this page — monitoring comments to make sure that spam, hate postings, flame wars etc. are removed, updating information, making sure only half-Jewish people post on the site, etc.

    That’s extra work for myself as a volunteer.

    However, when our email newsletter sign-up reaches 500 people, and we then start planning a conference, I’d be willing to put up a test Facebook page for the conference, as the time, energy and annoyance factors might be outweighed by the additional publicity.

    Also, there might be a viable Facebook alternative in a few years that would be more careful and respectful of peoples’ privacy. Or Facebook might have changed some of its current ‘personal data mining’ policies that make using it uncomfortable sometimes.

    So I’m waiting until we settle down to serious conference planning in a few years to try Facebook for this group. But I will save your suggestion in the “Conference” e-file.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  266. Dear Maddie:

    You had mentioned: “I am transferring schools this year and my new one is a large U about 15% Jewish. If you would like me to try to get the word out about the Half-Jewish network and have any ideas of how I could do so, feel free to let me know!!”

    Robin replies: If you start mentioning the Half-Jewish Network to any other half-Jewish people you meet at your new school that would be much appreciated. Feel free to send them a link to this website. I can then send them our free email info packet and welcome them.

    Also, if you wished, you could start a half-Jewish discussion or dinner group at your school or even a one-time get-together of students who identify as half-Jewish. I could talk with you more about what that might be like if you are interested.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  267. Maddie

    Hi Robin,

    Thanks for your responses! I have noticed that when half-Jewish issues arise on online forums, it often leads to flame wars. I can see how a Facebook page could be very troublesome and maybe even counterproductive in that way!

    I would definitely be interested in learning more about how I could go about starting a half-Jewish group or event at my new school. I have a couple half-Jewish acquaintances there but haven’t spoken to them for a few years and am not sure if they are interested in half-Jewish issues. I’m interested in any ideas you might have, and additionally any ideas of how to bring up this topic, either with my acquaintances or the Hillel. I read your article about how Jewish outreach workers relate to half-Jews and liked your phrasing about “embedding” oneself in the local Hillel. If you want to email me your ideas or post here, I would be very receptive.

    Thanks
    Maddie

  268. Dear Maddie:

    I will email you privately, and we can discuss various options for what you might want to do.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  269. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Happy 4th of July, to those celebrating! I have the opportunity to have free genetic testing through my synagogue. A company is providing this service to collect information and probably promote their service as well. I am not expecting any big surprises, yet I’ve always been curious about a rumor of a native American ancestor that I could never verify. We Americans often have very interesting backgrounds… I’ll let you know what I discover.
    Also, last month we had a lovely visit from our daughter and a family reunion of sorts for 4 days at the beach. It was also fun to go to Torah study and services together.
    Lisa

  270. jayyyblock

    I’m so confused on which Chicago congregations are open and accepting towards children of intermarriage who were raised without any religion. I am a third generation matrilinial Jew (ie a maternal Jewish grandmother), with a paternal Jewish grandfather as well. That is, both my parents are “halfies” as well. I can’t figure out if I’d have to convert if I joined a Reform temple, which is just one I’ve looked at. I would convert, but I don’t want to look stupid with all these questions most Jews who were raised that way would know as children. Even just looking at congregation’s websites is confounding to me. I know I should probably just talk to some rabbis, but…

  271. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, jayyyblock,
    I certainly don’t have the answers to all of your questions but I do have some thoughts. One thing I’ve discovered is that many Jews, along with many of us half-jews, were not raised religiously or in many cases did not engage in religious life after bar/bat mitzvah, so there are a lot of people who are now trying to learn about and become involved in Judaism. This was the case in my Judaism 101 class. So don’t let lack of Jewish knowledge dissuade you. I began by attending services and now that I’ve been regularly attending for almost a year, I feel like a full participant. I am in the process of conversion – since I am a patrilineal Jew with no religious upbringing I am not considered Jewish. The great thing about the conversion process is the educational aspect. This of course will be different in each synagogue. I have studied Jewish history, the Siddur, prayer, an intro. Hebrew class (basically to learn the alef-bet), and will be studying a section of the Talmud, and meeting with the Rabbi on a regular basis. I know it’s intimidating to be such a beginner as an adult, but you are not alone. I have talked to rabbis, and they have all been encouraging and helpful. So best wishes in your explorations!

  272. Mark T.

    Hi,
    I don’t know whether I fit in anywhere here – Viennese assimilationist Jewish grandparents; when my father was 7 his widowed mother had him and herself baptised (catholic). 1938 he fled as a refugee to England, I was born after the war, my mother English not Jewish, not religious. I wasn’t baptised but no Jewish cultural background at home either. Grew up in England, family friends tended to be people with a similar Jewish background. Now I live in Germany. Go figure…
    My main identification with the Jewish people concerns the historical experience of assimilation and betrayal. I also have great respect for the remorse felt by many Germans for what they did and their honesty in coming to terms with it.
    Now here’s my issue: My father (died 1982) had twenty-one cousins – never told me! Three died in the concentration camps, as I have since found out. But there is only a page of testimony at Yad Vashem for one of them. The other two (spinster aunts that stayed to look after their aged parents) are nameless. One had left Judaism and become non-religious, the other was baptised protestant.
    I am thinking of writing pages of testimony for them. My question: are most people (I mean especially, but not only, Jews) happy with Christian converts having pages of testimony at Yad Vashem, or is there a problem with that?
    Mark

  273. Andrew

    Hi, I’m the son of a non practicing Jewish father who was raised orthodox but rejected that life and married a Australian cristian woman , my mother. we were raised cristian but celebrated the major Jewish festivals with some of my father’s family that were in australia. I have always known of my Jewish roots but been told that I am not Jewish , technically at least. Yet I have owned a yumulkie (not sure of the spelling) my whole life and my families shabas candle sticks still sit on the cabinet in my loungeroom. I have always felt a sense of my jewishness sometimes stronger than at other times but always it remains, a part of me but unavaliable to me , frustrated by the internal contradiction I wondered if other people like me felt this way, I talked with my father about it and he was open with me but he has the experiance of a Jewish man not a half Jewish man and could not relate, that is how I found this website it is the next thing I have found in that search to relate to people like me

  274. Dear jayyyblock:

    Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism count half-Jewish people as Jews if they were raised as religious or secular Jews from birth and do not practice another faith. If a half-Jewish person was not raised as a secular or religious Jew, but was raised in another faith, then Reform and Reconstructionist congregations usually ask that person to convert to Judaism.

    See the “Who Is A Jew” page on this website, which contains information about what each group in Judaism thinks about partially-Jewish identity and parentage:

    http://half-jewish.net/who-is-a-jew/

    Your best best is to look at the Chicago Jewish congregation websites, and then go “shul shopping” — attend services or other functions at a few of the congregations.

    When you find one that you especially like, and wish to return to, then you may wish to make an appointment with that congregation’s rabbi.

    Don’t worry about appearing ignorant. Many Jews with two Jewish parents are raised nowadays with no religious or secular Jewish education of any kind.

    Best of luck and keep us posted on what happens!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  275. Dear Mark T.:

    If you have one Jewish parent and one Christian parent, you definitely belong here!

    Regarding your Jewish dad dying without telling you about his relatives — it is common for many Holocaust survivors to have lots of secrets from the families that they started after the Holocaust. Some families discover that a Holocaust survivor had a previous spouse and children who died and the survivor never told his/her post-Holocaust spouse and kids about his/her previous family.

    Regarding your inquiry about submitting information to Yad Vashem about your Jewish relatives who died in the Holocaust who were assimilated, and/or lived as Christians — I doubt Yad Vashem would mind that. They seem to be focused on getting information about people who died in the Holocaust.

    Here is a link to their information submission page:

    http://db.yadvashem.org/forms/pot/filling/out?language=en

    They also have a “Contact Us” link here, where you could contact them about your concern:

    http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/about/contacts/contacts.asp

    I would be very surprised if Yad Vashem took only information about Jews who weren’t assimilated or only practiced Judaism — that would leave out a large number of German and Austrian Jews who died in that era!

    If you have any difficulties with Yad Vashem, consider trying the U.S. Holocaust Museum and donating your information to them. Here is a link:

    http://www.ushmm.org/

    It is kind of you to take the time to memorialize your relatives. Let us know how it goes!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  276. Dear Andrew:

    You are not alone! Many of us have grown up with a Jewish “half” or a Christian or other cultural “half” that we could not really access due to family decisions about how to raise us as children or due to barriers within the Jewish community or other faith-based and secular cultures.

    Many of us are left with religious or secular objects or symbols from one or both parental cultures, but no clear sense of how they fit into our lives.

    I saw an message on another website from a Jewish-identified half-Jewish person, who was raised as a Jew, identifies as a Jew — but recently realized his family told him nothing about his mother’s Scottish Christian ancestry, and was searching for other half-Jewish people who had half-Scotch Christian ancestry.

    So this missing “half” phenomenon appears in many different ways.

    If you read many of the posts on this Message Board, you will see posts similar to yours.

    Regarding you feeling cut-off from your Jewish “half” — what you do about connecting with it depends on how you identify. If you want to live as a Jew, we could talk about what that would involve in Australia in terms of finding a synagogue, or secular Jewish groups, which groups would expect you to convert, and which ones would not, etc.

    If you do not want to live as a Jew, but want to integrate that part of yourself better, you could start by reading more about Judaism online — there are many informative websites on our “Jewish Resources” page:

    http://half-jewish.net/jewish-resources/

    If none of these resources meet your needs, we can recommend others.

    Many of us struggle to integrate parts of “other” ethnic and religious heritages that we were not given information about or ways to express them. There is no “one size fits all” solution — each one of us works out how we want to express the other “half.”

    If you need more information, please let us know.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  277. Andrew

    Hi robin
    Thanks for your response.
    It seems like such a complicated thing it is hard to know where to start with it all.one of the questions that I wonder about is why does the orthodox and conservative Jews have such resistance to the children of intermarriage, it seems important in trying to decide wether I would want to be a part of a institution that would seek to exclude me and also wether I could in good concience adopt that attitude in the future to exclude people just like me . Also I’m currious about the signifigance of the blood line running through the mother and not the father and has it always been like that throughout history

  278. Cindy

    Hi Andrew,

    I completely relate to your experience. Mine is very similar. Matrilineal descent was not always the case. It began around 200 CE. Before that time, you were Jewish if your father was Jewish, and some Jewish sects still practice that (e.g. Karaite Jews). If you read the “old” testament, you will see how all genealogy was recorded through the father’s line. Rabbinate Judaism is the most recent; they added the oral law to the Talmud. If you put the Mosaic law before the oral law, you are Jewish. If you put the oral law before the written law, you are not.

    It is frustrating and confusing. I feel for those patrilineals who want to be Jewish, and it makes me angry they are not accepted. I am comfortable being a Christian, so I don’t feel the need to be included, but I would still like to be an “Israelite” because genetically that is my heritage too.

    Cindy

  279. Dear Andrew:

    Glad that my reply was of use to you!

    Cindy’s answer is pretty comprehensive, but if you would like more information on why some Jews have such resistance to including some half-Jewish people within the Jewish community — the resistance is concentrated within the Orthodox and Conservative Jewish communities, and the state of Israel, but is not confined just to them — there are pockets of continuing resistance elsewhere in Judaism — you may wish to read our “Who Is A Jew” web page here:

    http://half-jewish.net/who-is-a-jew/

    This web page gives a complete history of the many different ways that Judaism has determined Jewish ancestry throughout history, and some idea of why resistance to inclusion of half-Jewish people continues among some Jews.

    Like Cindy, I currently live as a Christian, but I strenuously object to the continuing disparaging “not Jewish enough” comments about half-Jewish people within some groups in the Jewish diaspora (Jewish communities outside of Israel) and the discriminatory laws and social policies against us that exist in Israel as extremely damaging to half-Jewish people whether they identify as Jews or as members of other faith-based and secular communities.

    Most Christian-majority religious sects and secular democracies have given up the disparaging attacks and restrictive laws on intermarried couples and half-Jewish people that existed until the end of World War II — the Holocaust caused a major change in most Christian-majority democracies in terms of their ideas on this subject — and it is time that Judaism did the same.

    The only half-Jewish people who have reported to me large numbers of attacks on them outside of Judaism are usually living in Christian-majority Eastern European countries that have continuing anti-Semitism problems and were part of the former Soviet Union until 1989, such as Lithuania, or are living in very strict Islamic-majority countries, such as the Republic of the Sudan.

    I have never understood why the government of Israel and some segments of the Jewish community elsewhere would want to emulate behavior towards us that exists in some parts of Lithuania or the Republic of the Sudan.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  280. Dear Andrew:

    I should also mention, in the interests of fairness, that I sometimes — very rarely — hear from half-Jewish people who have met with poor receptions among Christian family, friends, co-workers, and churches while being treated warmly in Jewish settings.

    The complaints I’ve had about poor Christian treatment of us — at least in the U.S. — mostly have come from people who grew up in earlier eras when anti-Semitism was much stronger in the U.S. — but I did have a recent complaint from a much younger person, who felt that this website ignored that aspect of some of our lives, and who had experienced a strong welcome from his Jewish associates, while being treated poorly by Christian friends and family.

    Also, regarding Muslim majority countries — I don’t get complaints from half-Jewish people so much as a great fear of discovery — they want complete confidentiality in their emails — so I am guessing that in some very strict Islamic societies, they fear discovery, which suggests that they might not be treated very well if the people around them found out about their Jewish-Muslim ancestry.

    Just making these clarifications in the interest of fairness.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  281. MK

    Just wanted to say hello;
    I have been browsing through this website for a while and I just had to write something about myself.I am a daughter of a jewish father and a non-jewish mother. My identity has always been a complicated issue. From my childhood I was very drawn to judaism(it was actually only religion I knew, because my mom was not a member of any religious community). Conversion(orthodox) was my goal for a very long time and I nearly made it through, but under current circumstances it is most probably impossible. At the moment I am exploring my identity and trying to find some kind of balance.
    For a long time I have been alone with my feelings and my identity crisis. I have relatives and friends who have listened and supported me during these difficult times, but they can’t really understand my situation.
    I was so relieved to find others who have similar experiences.

    MK

  282. Dear MK:
    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    You are definitely not alone in your struggle with identity issues.

    I am sorry to hear that your Orthodox Judaism conversion has run into roadblocks. Is there any advice any of us can give you about making that easier? Alternatively, is there any advice that we can give you about conversion to Judaism in another denomination?

    I know these identity issues are especially painful during the High Holidays and Sukkot, which are currently going on.

    While I was not an Orthodox Jew during the time I spent in Judaism, I studied it extensively, including its prayer books, mystical Kabbalah texts, the laws (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch) and the Hasidic stories and theological treatises, so I can empathize with your desire to join it.

    I am happy to hear that you have relatives and friends who have listened to you and supported you as you struggled with this situation. We understand that since they are likely born Jews with two Jewish parents or born Christians with two Christian parents, they don’t totally “get” what you are dealing with.

    I have sent you privately an email info packet about the group and its work, containing information that is not on our website, including our history, goals, why the group was founded, and a little bit about my personal history.

    If there are any thoughts we can offer you, please let us know. I can also be reached privately, at the email address I used when I sent you the information packet.

    Many blessings,
    Robin

  283. Seren

    I have a Jewish father, a mother who converted to Reform Judaism, grew up in UK Reform Jewish community and was told to identify as Jewish. Israel was the golden country, aliyah the ideal aim. I absorbed these values without question and viewed Israel with love, allegiance, admiration and awe.

    Of course however throughout my childhood I was aware that there was a silent implicit necessity to diminish my mother’s identity- or risk outright rejection myself. I experienced one off events of callous rejection from the community I lived amongst from pre school age. The impact of these experiences was compounded by the fact that as a family we were both physically and culturally miles away from my mother’s original family and community: so the Jewish community was literally all I had ever known- and still substantial elements of it rejected me.

    This really came to the fore in my early twenties where I received the message loud and clear that I was deemed inherently spiritually and racially inferior because of my mother’s background. The damage this did to my self esteem was unforgiveable. And the only option available to somehow rebuild myself so I could be a functioning human being with a modicum of self respect, was to reject Judaism and the Jewish community in equal measure to its rejection of me.

    A few years on I married a lovely ‘gentile’ man, we have kids and we are a happy family. I cannot believe how incredibly lucky I am. My life is infinitely better now than I ever imagined it would be.

    And I wish with all my heart that that would be the end of it.

    But of course it can’t be- half my family, who I love, are Jewish. I find myself putting the Jewish perspective across in environments where noone else has any Jewish connection at all, yet are discussing issues regarding the Jewish community and Israel- unfortunately I’m often shocked at how ignorant and conspiracy theorist people can be. My own children have started coming home from school wanting to know what they are- ‘mummy are we Christian or Jewish?’- ‘ err I don’t know’- ‘ well do we celebrate Christmas or Canada?’- ‘ Do you mean Chanukkah?’ -’ That’s what I said mummy! Christmas or Canada??’- I’m actually quite up for celebrating Canada, just for a laugh.

    But seriously, as much as I do not want to even acknowledge it, as my current life is lovely, it IS still a problem. Just as much as the clear cut rejection from some other Jews does not bring resolution or clarity, the decision that I made myself to move away from my original ‘Jewish’ identity has not brought me resolution or clarity either- or peace of mind.

    All I want is to be accepted and wanted for whatever it is that I am, as part of a larger community somewhere. And I want my children to be accepted and wanted by a larger community somewhere as well. Surely that’s a reasonable request?

  284. Seren

    Really wonderful to read so many stories. Such varied experiences yet also many recurrent themes amongst them. Your site is filling a gap for a group of people who are so often ignored. It is an intelligent, sensitive and informative resource which I am really pleased to get to read.

  285. An interesting post concerning people who ‘half-Jewish’:

    http://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/2013/10/susan-katz-millers-being-both.html

    “I’ve just finished Susan Katz Miller’s Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family. This is a book which pushed some of my buttons, nudged against some of my boundaries, and left me with a lot to ponder. Miller writes:

    “[T]he majority of American children with Jewish heritage now have Christian heritage as well. In other words, children are now more likely to be born into interfaith families than into families with two Jewish parents. And Jewish institutions are just beginning to grapple with that fact. // Some Jewish leaders still call intermarriage the ‘silent Holocaust.’… [But] many now call for greater acceptance of Jewish intermarriage in the face of this demographic reality.”

    Given the flurry of communal response to the recent Pew study A Portrait of Jewish Americans (my response, in brief, is Opportunity Knocks in Pew Results; I also recommend Rabbi Art Green’s From Pew Will Come Forth Torah) this book could hardly be more timely…”

  286. Dear Seren:

    Please excuse the delay in replying to you — I’ve been dealing with some family illnesses, which have cut into my volunteer time and have put me behind on responses within this website.

    Your story is not unusual — you are not alone — I have heard a number of similar stories, especially from the UK. I live in the United States, but finally decided that the Episcopal Church of my childhood would be a better fit for me, after spending several decades in Judaism as an adult. Like you, I received one too many reminders that I wasn’t “Jewish enough,” which eventually led me to start questioning many aspects of Judaism, Israel, etc.

    While I am happy as an Episcopalian again, like you I still wrestle with my Jewish “half” — it’s not as simple as saying “good-bye” — no matter which choice any of us make — the other “half” is still there — children, relatives, childhood and adult memories, valued spiritual and secular teachings, friendships — like you, I continue to struggle with how to live with my Jewish half, while other half-Jewish people who identify as Jews struggle with a Christian or Islamic or (fill in the blank) half.

    If your “Christmas or Canada” children are seeking answers, you might want to consider checking out a Christian or (fill in the blank) faith-based or secular community with teachings that are age-appropriate for them. I have fond memories of my childhood Episcopalian Sunday school — juice, cookies and simplistic Bible study coloring books appear not to have harmed me. It would give them a foundation from which they might pester you and their father with additional questions later, and might provide you with a larger community that might offer you and your questions a welcoming environment.

    Glad you like the website and have found it helpful!

    Again, please forgive the delay in replying. Dealing with a lot of family stuff.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  287. Dear Lucky Fatima:

    Thank you for posting the Velveteen Rabbi’s review of Susan Katz Miller’s “Being Both” book! It is good to have it brought to our attention!

    With regard to the recent Pew Study, I don’t know if the Jewish communal organizations will pay any real attention to it. They were warned by a Jewish communal study in 1990 — two decades ago — that the intermarriage rate had risen to 52% — 52 percent of all Jews who married that year married people who were not Jewish. That should have sounded the alarm. After a flurry of articles and fussing –

    – some Jewish organizations did a few positive initiatives for interfaith couples — nothing for adult children of intermarriage — other Jewish organizations increased their opposition to intermarriage.

    I predict, based on past experience, that Jewish communal institutions will do a tiny bit more for interfaith couples — and continue to do nothing for half-Jewish adults. I could be wrong. We’ll see.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  288. Hi Robin and everybody,

    Finally I am reporting back on the Derekh Torah class I am taking at the 92nd St Y in NYC, taught by a very passionate Sephardic jew of UK orthodox extraction; he’s in a rabbinic study program at the relatively new “open orthodox” yeshiva in the Bronx, (Yeshivat Chovevei, a left leaning version of orthodox study that has not, to my knowledge, received acceptance by members of standard orthodox unions… they reach out to women and the non-orthodox). Anyway, I am loving this class; it has been very illuminating. The regulars have essentially boiled down to 7 of us, a gay couple (two guys), two straight couples both where the woman is converting and then me.

    I used to think I could learn judaism by reading and studying on my own but I now see how one could not grasp it from the standpoint of meaning and intensity (by just reading); the exclamation marks and punctuation just wouldn’t be there. It ends in January 2014. I have talked to a rabbi at a local conservative synagogue (liberal leaning congregation) in Cobble Hill Brooklyn (not the reform one I attended previously) about conversion and the rabbi has agreed to supervise me. I expect it to be a slow process.

    So in our last class we discussed intermarriage and the instructor opened the floor to our thoughts on the effect intermarriage would have on Judaism and the the jewish polulation at large. Having previously made my pitch for the children of intermarriage and the effects on them, I chose to read Seren’s piece (Oct 14 message); I was totally bothered, Seren. by the fact that your mother and family (both Jews, one converted) did everything ‘right’ (whatever that is) and still you felt rejection; Our instructor (also from UK) was emotionally affected by your story (he said that). To be honest, I think a lot of people in the community just aren’t aware of these occurances. I also said that I thought part of the reason the Jews have survived as long as they have is intermarriage (i.e. biological reasons…. just think of the movie ‘Deliverance’ based on the novel by James Dickey and you’ll know what I mean).

    Robin, I hope everything is OK with your family.

    robin h.

  289. Dear Robin H.:

    Robin M. here –

    Delighted to hear that you like your classes and that your conversion plans remain on track. Please continue to keep us posted!

    Thank you for sharing Seren’s experiences with your class! I think you are correct that many born Jews just don’t hear about what happens to some half-Jewish people who experience rejection even when their families do everything possible to satisfy the Jewish community’s requests. It’s important that they hear these stories.

    I share your belief that intermarriage has kept the load of negative genes within the Jewish gene pool from becoming too high, and wish more Jews realized that a totally “inmarried” (as opposed to “intermarried”) Jewish community would be a medical disaster.

    Thank you for your kind wishes about my family’s current difficulties.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  290. Seren

    Robin H, I echo Robin M’s sentiments.

    Thank you for writing about your experience with your instructor and class. I wrote my post to put my thoughts in written order- I am surprised to find how much it means to me to learn that my story was heard by somebody else. So I am really grateful you took the time to read it and to share it with others.

    The fact that it emotionally registered with the Orthodox listener you spoke with is also of particular note to me- as I think Robin M and Robin H, that you are both right, there is a remarkable lack of awareness.
    People are brought up not to acknowledge the experiences of children of intermarriage as meaningful. As a result they either do not contemplate the issue, or if they do find themselves confronting it they often do not imbue it with any significance.

    The effect of being on the receiving end of this attitude is to face not only negation of your cultural or religious identity but also negation of your individual worth: Your experience is unimportant. You are not worth engaging in discussion. You are not worth being understood. You are not worth being acknowledged as holding any intrinsic value.

    It’s a pretty effective tactic unfortunately. I for one certainly cannot withstand it. This personal weakness ironically comes from having so much respect and connection for the people I am descended from. If I did not have so much affection for the Jewish community then its disrespect of me would not have injured me so much.

    But I do. And it did. So while these realities exist my family will not identify itself as Jewish. I will of course very happily tell my children (when they’re old enough to understand such subtleties), that they have a partially Jewish ancestry, as that is fact and it would be ridiculous to live a lie.
    Though I cannot teach them to have a strong personal sense of identity and affiliation with a specific group of people, when significant numbers within that group would think it correct to callously reject them. I love my children, why would I encourage them to connect to people who will tell them that they are inadequate?

    Of course, I wish this was not the case. I would proudly own my Jewish identity if it were otherwise and would educate my children accordingly. But we have to live in the present. So I am reluctantly responding to the reality I am faced with.

    Robin M, once again thank you for running this excellent site. Robin H, I hope all goes well with your journey.

  291. Seren

    On a more general theme, it is galling to come across several voices from the community saying they are against intermarriage because a) children from intermarriage marry out themselves, and b) children from intermarriage abandon the faith when raising their own families. This is a very basic mistake of verbal reasoning: how can a child from intermarriage do anything other than marry out if they are not allowed to marry in? How can a child of intermarriage not abandon the faith when they are not allowed to participate in the faith?

    This flawed logic chronologically places the effect ( disengagement from the community) before the cause ( the rejection from significant strands of the community). When of course it is the other way around, the child is rejected first, they disengage in response.

    This attitude blames the rejected child for the actions of the rejecting community. And that does not strike me as characteristic of the Jewish mentality, which places a high value on logic, fairness and compassion.

  292. Cindy

    Seren,

    You write so well! I completely agree with your point in your last post. I was rejected by the Jewish community and left out of activities in which my Jewish friends and family could participate.

    It was all or nothing, was my experience. You are either Jewish or you are not, they told me.

    I remember a Jewish lady who very condescendingly explained to me what a dreidel was – as if I didn’t already know! I was fuming but didn’t say anything. It was the rejecting, condescending attitudes which turned me away, but in retrospect, it was all for the best. Like Robin M, I am happily an Episcopalian.

    Cindy

  293. Hi again,

    Seren, I want you to know that when I read your piece to the class I stopped at the point where you stated that you decided to reject Judaism. I did not talk about your subsequent decisions, children or current personal life. Anyway, there were a few things (in that post) that confused me. In the USA Reform judaism accepts, as Jews, persons with a Jewish father (only) who are raised as Jews. It seems you exceeded those criteria so I didn’t understand why you weren’t ‘accepted. Is Reform Judaism defined differently in the UK ?

    I figured that since you were in a rural part of the UK where there may not have been many synagogues, the Reform one in your neighborhood may have have been the only one and that it attracted Jews in the area from a variety of denominations and views, and that would explain why some members seemd obsessed with your mother and her geneology. Here in the US the Union of Reform Judaism dictates criteria (mostly) and congregations can range in their diversity. Also, here in NYC there are many Jews and intermarried Jews and children of the intermarried and there’s likely a synagogue somehwere for just about anyone. I’m guessing your circumstances arose in part from the isolated rural area that you lived in

    I’m also wondering if people (in the community) actually made overt negative comments to you or if the rejection you felt was a general feeling of being ignored.

    I’m just trying to get a better feel for what happened to you. I totally get what you say in your recent post. For sure, we children of the intermarried have to be like salmon swimming upstream in order to become part of the Jewish community.

    robin H.

  294. Dear Robin H.:

    Seren will likely have clarifications for you, but I can address some of your questions. UK “Reform Judaism” is actually “Masorti” (U.S. Conservative Judaism in beliefs and practices, but got labeled “Reform” for historical reasons).

    UK “Liberal Judaism” denomination is actually “Reform” (U.S. Reform Judaism in beliefs and practices).

    These labeling differences cause a lot of confusion among Americans. When I first began hearing from half-Jewish people in the UK, I had to look into how their denominations evolved.

    Regarding Seren’s experiences — based on what I’ve heard from other UK half-Jewish people — and bear in mind, these are the UK folks who contacted this website — UK Judaism is much more under the domination of the Orthodox than American Judaism — for historical reasons, they have a “Chief Rabbi” who is always Orthodox.

    Their Jewish religious day schools — many of which are funded by the state! — are controlled by the Orthodox Jews — and their recent ex-Chief Rabbi, when he was in office, spent thousands of pounds (dollars) to fight a lawsuit to keep a patrilineal child out of one of those religious day schools and was highly indignant when the British government compelled him to admit the child. Bear in mind, the poor child was being raised Jewish, but I think his mother’s conversion to Judaism wasn’t Orthodox.

    Those same Orthodox Jewish state-funded day schools admit matrilineal children being raised as nothing or even Christian — if I understood my sources correctly — they are ‘real’ Jews — and also children with no Jewish ancestry at all — whose parents want good educations for them — because of British anti-racism laws and government rules about funding.

    The Liberal Jews — UK Reform equivalent — officially accept patrilineals — but when I spoke with a UK patrilineal who identified as a Jew and had spent years trying to find a shul before he and his half-Jewish wife gave up and went Christian — he told me that even the Liberal shul he visited was very lukewarm about him, due to his parentage. He was not made to feel welcome.

    I also heard about a group of half-Jewish people meeting a few times a year in a very liberal UK shul, whom I tried to contact. They were very secretive, and used no names in their internet postings. This group seems to have existed in the early 2000s. They seemed very afraid other UK Jews would find out who they were. It was like reading the postings of closeted gay people in the 1950s. Their group had disappeared by the time I contacted them.

    But just because the UK Jewish community is so unwelcoming doesn’t let the American Jewish community off the hook.

    Just reading recent comments in the Jewish media on the Pew report on Jewish American population statistics in 2012 has been a very bruising experience for me.

    http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-culture-survey/

    I predicted decades ago that the intermarriage figures and disaffiliation figures would continue to rise if the American Jewish community didn’t change its policies, so the report was no surprise to me. The report is very objective — it was prepared by an organization outside of the Jewish community at the request of a prominent Jewish journalist.

    But I continuously read articles and comments in our Jewish media about how bad intermarriage is and how all of the offspring will intermarry and leave Judaism, based on the Pew report.

    Yet the American Jewish community does almost no outreach to adult half-Jewish people.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  295. Dear Seren and Cindy:

    I agree with you that the unwelcoming attitudes usually precede the departure or failed attempts to join when half-Jewish people approach the Jewish community or try to confirm their place in it.

    I have repeatedly pointed this out online to other American Jews during discussions of the Pew Report, but at the moment they are not listening.

    When I point out that unwelcome precedes departure, I get replies that deny that segments of the Jewish community are unwelcoming (!!!) — statements that American Reform Judaism accepted patrilineals decades ago, so the problem was solved and it is half-Jewish peoples’ fault if they can’t find a shul — or suggestions that there is something about an intermarriage that just intrinsically assures that children raised as Jews will leave Judaism as adults, so the Jewish community should keep being negative to interfaith families.

    Other times I am told that the person replying to me has a wonderful shul that has always welcomed interfaith families, and that their shul always welcomes half-Jewish people. They don’t get: (a) just because their shul is welcoming doesn’t mean that others are; (b) their synagogue’s welcome may not be explicit on its website or literature; (c) there may be pockets of ‘unwelcoming’ within their shul hidden from them; and (d) what does it say that half-Jewish people have to search for welcoming spaces?

    I mentioned the “but my shul is welcoming, I don’t understand these terrible stories” approach to a Jewish-identified friend of mine living in an area with one (unfriendly) shul that she has to cope with. Its the only shul, so she has to attend it or not have a Jewish life. The shul doesn’t care about her being patrilineal — its Reform — but it has many other unwelcoming behaviors and policies.

    She replied, “Great! If I give up my job and move across country to this person’s welcoming shul, then I’ll have a welcoming synagogue. Please!”

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  296. Seren

    Hi Robin M, Cindy and Robin H,

    Robin M, thanks for elaborating with so much detail and clarity re the situation in the UK! It is very confusing. Also re your subsequent post it is infuriating that even in direct communication with other Jews the desire not to listen or take any real time over the issue is so strong.

    Cindy, good to hear I’m not alone in my experiences. That sounds so frustrating to be either flatly shut out or alternatively to be treated like an ignoramus. Really glad to hear you are happy now and made choices that worked out well for you.

    Robin H,
    I have a friend who had a British non- Jewish mum and an American Jewish dad- when she went to the States she would be informed she was a Jew by her family with a sense of duty and importance. She would return to Britain, (with the gifts of prayer books and a mezzuzah from her American family) to be told she was not a Jew.

    It is very different in Britain, I do not live in a rural area, the EXACT opposite. There are of course many Jews who are Reform or Masorti who have been kind and welcoming to me- I am still incredibly close to those people now as an adult- but as individuals not as part of the Jewish community. In those very same Reform and Masorti congregations there have been others who were not accepting or welcoming. That meant the experience of attending events even in the Reform community was a case of running the gauntlet, especially when I was a child and did not have perspective, (as children commonly do not).

    For example when I was attending Cheder at the Reform synagogue I was blessed in as a baby, I mentioned to another child that my mother was not Jewish. I meant in an ‘ethnic’ sense- we visited my mother’s extended family once a year for a week, so I was aware that there was a difference between her family and my father’s. But at the age of 6 I did not have that sort of vocabulary to explain myself. The other child told me I was not Jewish and should not be there. Then other children in the class got involved to the point where the teacher had to get involved. She did not tell the other children to stop. She left the classroom where I remained the focus point of clearly stated rejection by my classmates, while she went to find the rabbi to ask him herself what I was doing there.
    I remember the the hostile atmosphere while I waited for her to come back and wanting the ground to swallow me whole. With hindsight I assume the rabbi must have reassured her about my mother’s conversion, I don’t know I never saw him. She came back, gave no explanation and the class continued. Of course because of the lack of discussion my sense of humiliation and the rest of the class’s confusion about what I was doing there remained.
    I did not tell my parents why I did not like Cheder anymore, I felt too ashamed- as they obviously wanted me to be accepted, that’s why they were sending me there. I did not want to disappoint or upset them to the extent that I now felt disappointed and upset. Instead I protested going entirely without explanation. So they just thought I was lazy and difficult! Ha! ( I probably am a bit, in fairness to my parents!)

    In the UK there is a lot of fluidity between members of the ‘middle of the road’ Orthodox, the Reform and Masorti movements within the community, at secular schools and in local neighbourhoods. So even if you are part of a Reform shul you will not be able to ignore the rest of your local community. And I wouldn’t have wanted to, I was fascinated by all of it. The Jewish area I grew up in was great. It was safe, interesting people, lively debate around dinner tables at family and friends’ houses – as long as I didn’t directly admit or address the reality of my own identity and how it would affect other people’s reactions to me if I did break my silence on the matter.

    That’s quite a heavy burden of silence to expect people to carry without explanation throughout their childhoods and on into adult life. As the years continue, the delusions you would have to put yourself under in order not to address this very obvious problem, could lead to serious mental disturbance!

    In my late teens I met a guy I was interested in who was becoming more religious himself. I started learning more about Judaism myself as a result. So I started along the path of Orthodox conversion to try to resolve the identity issue because I was genuinely interested in adopting a ‘middle of the road’ Orthodox way of life long term- the actual philosophy and genuine nature of that element of the community attracted me in a way that felt true to me.

    The Orthodox conversion process however was so intensely controlled by the ultra Orthodox that although I came across many wonderful people, I also came across some very bigoted people. Too many for me I am afraid. I did not continue with the conversion because I could not let myself be judged by a mentality that too easily lent itself to the idea that I was innately less valuable because of who my mother was.

    Unless I converted however I would not be allowed to engage with the more ‘standard’ Orthodox community either.

    Because my personal life experience had shown me there was doubt regarding how secure my footing was within all aspects of the Jewish community- from the Reform of my childhood to the Orthodox and ultra Orthodox of my young adulthood- I reluctantly realised I could not establish my future with this community as a reliable central feature of my life.

    My Jewish background is obviously always going to be a ‘part’ of my life. It cannot be otherwise, after growing up in that environment for decades, and having some of my closest family and friends from this community. However circumstances being what they are, it is a background which I, my family and friends share- and yet I cannot call my own with confidence.

  297. Seren

    Cindy, sorry didn’t mean it is ‘good’ that you had similar experiences-obviously having those attitudes aimed at you is rubbish. I just meant it is really therapeutic to share and hear other people’s personal experiences where they’ve grown up in similar circumstances. I am starting to feel so much better and less affected by it all as a result :)

  298. Dear Seren:

    There’s a book you might be interested in about a woman, an American patrilineal who was raised Reform (UK Liberal) Jewish, started dating Orthodox Jewish men in college in NYC, tried to convert via Orthodoxy.

    Both of her Jewish boyfriends’ mothers broke up the romances — even her conversion to Orthodox Judaism was not enough for them. She said her Orthodox conversion ‘family’ — a family assigned to mentor her — was very kind to her, but she never recovered from two broken romances over her parentage issues.

    She finally visited the UK during a scholarship, converted to Christianity via Church of England, and is now an Episcopalian teaching at Duke University Divinity School. She still retains a very strong connection to her Jewish “half” — her dad, some of her studies, and books she’s written.

    The book is “Girl Meets God” by Lauren Winner. There is a link to it on our “Christian Resources” page.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  299. Dear Robin H., Seren and Cindy:

    In all fairness, there are welcoming spaces in American Judaism for half-Jewish people. I think Robin H. would want me to be fair about that!

    I know this, because both I and other people on the Half-Jewish Network Message Board have helped many half-Jewish people find conversions and welcoming institutions. I think many of them are very happy.

    So each person has to make a decision as to what’s best for them and what difficulties they can navigate. It’s a case-by-case thing.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  300. Seren

    Thanks Robin re the book recommendation. Will be interesting to look at her story.

  301. Dear Seren:

    I think you will find the book both interesting and supportive.

    Also, thanks for your kind words about this website. I am pleased you find it interesting! I owe a lot to the help of people like Cindy, Robin H. and others who collaborate in nurturing the message board.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  302. Cindy

    Dear Seren, no worries! I completely understood what you meant. I always find it ironic that, in biblical times, Judaism was passed through the father’s line, but when Rabbinical Judaism took over in the 3rd century C.E., it switched to the mother’s line.

    I believe the written Law warned against intermarriage, but nothing was said about the offspring of such a union. There are many examples of patrilineals in the scriptures whose “Jewish-ness” was never questioned.

    In the NT the disciple Timothy had to convert to Judaism because his father wasn’t Jewish, only his mother. So, that brings into question why Judaism is so obsessed with the maternal lineage today. The rabbis decided the Oral Law was more important than the written Law.

    Robin M, thank you! for your kind comments.

    Cindy

  303. Janette

    Thank you Robin, for presenting and breaking down this amazing material for us. I am not shocked and horrified anymore to hear of what goes on, but I am still saddened every time, that in this post-Holocaust age, there are still so many Jews who seek to drive away “the wrong kind of” Jews who are ready, willing, and able to participate in Jewish community.

    Being of the Renewal/Reconstructionist persuasion, I never ran into that issue personally until just recently when I moved to Vancouver, Canada. I was stunned to discover that the supposedly progressive Jewish Renewal synagogue here, Or Shalom, officially won’t count me as a real Jew because I am patrilineal. That’s right, folks, a Jewish Renewal synagogue!

    I wonder if this is how Lesbians felt in the early 70′s when N.O.W. said, “Oh, no, no, no, Lesbian rights are NOT part of women’s rights and we just cannot advocate for you.” Well, NOW saw the light before long, and I hope that at least the more progressive Jewish institutions will lead the way on this issue. In the meantime, I’m thinking of checking out the Sikhs (no, that was not a joke).

    Happy Chanukah to all who are observing.
    Janette

  304. Dear Janette:

    Welcome to the Message Board! Regarding the Jewish Renewal synagogue of Vancouver, Or Shalom –

    When I was a member of Jewish Renewal many years ago, I was shocked to discovery Or Shalom’s official policy that patrilineals were not considered Jewish by them.

    At the time, Or Shalom had had a congregational debate on the subject, and a transcript — or summary — my memory is sketchy — was posted on their website. I found it very painful to read. Basically, the congregants — presumably not all of them — were terrified of offending the rest of the Canadian Jewish community, which at the time was heavily Conservative and Orthodox Jewish — probably still is — and was — and probably still is — bitterly opposed to patrilineal descent.

    The majority of the congregants felt that Or Shalom was on thin ice as a Renewal community in Canada — they felt that the socially and politically “Conservadox” Canadian Jewish community regarded Renewal with great disapproval — and that accepting patrilineal descent would cause other Canadian shuls to reject them completely.

    I was astonished to see a Renewal synagogue openly confess to being afraid of other Jews. I did not really understand their position within an unfriendly Canadian Jewish community. On the other hand, most Renewal shuls are pretty feisty in certain ways and might not have accepted the surrounding community’s outlook on an issue. Later, the congregational debate transcript was removed from their website, so I can’t refer you to it at the present time.

    To my knowledge, they are the only Renewal synagogue with this official policy, and the only one I have ever received complaints about with regard to their treatment of half-Jewish people.

    When I was a member of Renewal, Renewal’s policy was that every rabbi decided “who was a Jew” for his/her shul. Since Renewal’s rabbis came from every denomination in Judaism, this led to policies on half-Jewish people varying from one shul to the next, though no one went as far as Or Shalom, and I received no complaints from half-Jewish people about any other Renewal shul or havurah.

    About 10 years ago, I tried to get Renewal to officially commit to outreaching half-Jewish people. I realized that I couldn’t get them to change their “every rabbi makes his/her own rule” on the subject. I just asked that Renewal would create an official written policy of welcoming half-Jewish people — they already had written policies welcoming interfaith couples.

    I could never get Renewal to add language welcoming us to their official written policies, even though I told them that it would increase Renewal’s membership.

    Instead, when I brought it up, their listserve had a debate for several days on whether I was really officially Jewish. (I have a Jewish mother who converted to Christianity and married my Christian father.) I was horrified that they were debating whether I was Jewish or not — since I was studying for entry to one of their rabbinic programs — that suddenly my legitimacy was questioned, instead of the discussion staying on whether to officially welcome half-Jewish people to Renewal.

    The listserve decided that I was really Jewish — after a debate that hurt my feelings pretty badly — though I did not say so — and then said that it was good that I was doing this outreach to half-Jewish people and that I should continue the outreach.

    But my request that they consider adding official written language to Renewal’s policies welcoming half-Jewish people was ignored.

    I felt very ambivalent afterwards. It was good to see that some Renewal rabbis and lay people had stood up for me, but also alarming to see my legitimacy as a Jew personally challenged by other Renewal rabbis and lay people when all I wanted to do was increase Renewal’s membership.

    I was especially alarmed when some Renewal listserve participants began suggesting that I undergo a formal conversion to Judaism. The final ruling by the listserve was that I was Jewish according to Orthodox law and shouldn’t be asked to convert.

    I could not figure out what was happening. Why were Renewal members, notorious for their freewheeling ways, invoking Orthodox halacha?

    In retrospect, I believe that one way some Jews deal with their discomfort with half-Jewish people is to shift a debate on acceptance of half-Jewish people by a shul or other Jewish group to a debate on whether the half-Jewish person requesting the change is “Jewish enough.” That derails the debate from a group-wide change to whether an individual half-Jewish person should change.

    I think that was the beginning of the end of my connection with Jewish Renewal, though I said nothing about it at the time. I had been a devoted member of Renewal for years and was very open about my background and work, but I was not challenged on my personal “who is a Jew” issues within Renewal until that debate.

    A lot of Renewal’s older rabbis grew up in Orthodox and Conservative homes, and I found that as they grew older, some of them tended to backtrack from more liberal opinions that they had adopted in their youth.

    So while Or Shalom is the only Renewal shul that I have ever had any complaints about regarding half-Jewish issues, I did find that Renewal as a whole was backtracking a bit on many issues where they had previously been more liberal.

    They originally — in the 1980s — had a very liberal policy statement for their group — emphasizing feminism, welcoming interfaith families, arguing for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians — but after I left, they issued a new policy statement which backed away from a lot of their original language on these issues, and also talked about how wonderful it was that Israel exists, and dropped all direct mention of the Palestinians, according to the best of my memory.

    So I would suggest that half-Jewish people evaluate each Jewish Renewal shul on its own policies and rabbi — most, I gather, are very welcoming to half-Jewish people, but there may be some exceptions.

    I learned a great deal from Renewal and have fond memories of my time with them, and would encourage other half-Jewish people who identify as Jews to consider joining them, but to choose your shul carefully.

    Regarding your comparison of this controversy to the argument over the presence of lesbians in N.O.W. in the early 1970s — I was a N.O.W. member at one time — several years after the controversy — and while the controversy was very painful — at least N.O.W. only took about a decade to get its act together on the subject.

    But within Judaism, I’ve been advocating for official outreach to half-Jewish people for several decades and still see almost no outreach for us, and many negative statements about interfaith families and half-Jewish people in the Jewish media. It is hard to imagine N.O.W. arguing against inclusion of any group for three decades.

    I believe it is Judaism’s “am echad” (one people concept) that is the problem. It means that individual Jews and smaller Jewish groups are afraid to alienate the Jewish communities that surround them and there is a lot of “group think.” There is a lot of pressure for everyone to remain in the same communities and not dissent on touchy issues.

    I think that will have to change if Judaism is to survive and thrive.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  305. betina

    Hello everyone and Happy holidays.
    I am new to this site so, I have been reading the posts on this page for the past couple of days trying to understand where things are really ‘going’. The more I read the more I got confused. But before I explain I wanted to introduce my self.

    My name is Betina
    and I am Married to a Christian African/American fine man. I was born and raised in Israel to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother. I was raised in a very Jewish religious environment in Israel (Chabad) for a while. We have lived a lie concealing the fact that my dad was a Muslim from the immediate environment and society in order to function . I have lived here in the U.S since 1997 (when I turned 27).

    Robin I loved analysis about Israel and the religious aspect of what’s
    going on there. You are a hundred percent right in your observation about the Jewish community and government in Israel which have a horrible attitude towards us. However, shamefully the Christian/ Palestinian community and the Muslim/Palestinian community in Israel also, are not very open to people like me and my siblings who still reside in Israel. And so, some people in Israel are rejected by many communities and have no sense of belonging at all on any level. I feel and share the same concerns you have about the half Jewish community in Israel.

    With that being said, I got confused about the goals, agendas, equality, sincerity, and the sincerity of the ‘equality’ we all share on this page.
    Let me explain where I am coming from:

    One of the ideas presented here by one of us was to hold the meeting in Israel which seemed to upset you Robin. I do understand the logic behind the why not! BUT wouldn’t you want to include the people that are suppressed the most and do not have civil rights in Israel in this discussion?
    Wasn’t it the main goal of this fight? Or is the main goal just to sneer Israel?
    You do understand that some of these people that your website is targeting with the most novel intentions may not be able to attend a conference in the U.S.A as they may not be able to obtain a visa to get here. I really believe that it is most important that they are heard!

    In addition one of us has posted the following post which really bothered me at my core and made me think that maybe after all we are not all perceived equal halves on this page and I quote:

    “Steve Katz
    September 22, 2012 at 1:24 am
    Robin M., You are right about the controversy it may cause in Israel. I suggest we hold it in the heart of Ashkenaziland, which is where most of us on this board partially originated from. Although… I have heard that the white sandy beaches and pristine waters of Tel Aviv are phenomenal… Steve”

    I am not sure if he was being sarcastic but it came across WRONG!!!! Let me just say that we are not all Ashkenazis here. This is not whites (Ashkenazis) vs. Blacks (Spharadics).
    Us ‘blacks’ thought we were equal on this site (at least)! I know we are not REALLY equal in Israel and that it is not the agenda of this site but maybe we should start here at ‘home’? If people are going to talk like that on this page you can count me out!

    Lastly, YES it will steer up controversy. So what? Are we trying to change the system or just gain publicity?

    No one said it was going to be easy. It is a process and we are here to support you. Together we have a stronger voice. Together we can be heard.

  306. Dear Betina:

    Thank you for your interesting post! You have asked several questions. I will try and answer them. Some of your questions are on complex topics that may not have easy answers, so I hope you will be patient with my answers.

    First, thank you for sharing your life story — we have been concerned about half-Jewish Israelis for a long time and are happy to hear from you. We greet your husband as well!

    It is interesting that your family was associated with Chabad — I myself studied Chabad online materials extensively for several years. I also studied with a Hasidic rabbi in S’fad — via the internet — he was not Chabad, but was very sweet and helpful the way some Chabad rabbis are.

    I am pleased that you found my analysis of the Israeli Jewish community’s and government’s attitudes towards Jewish/Muslim families to be accurate.

    I am truly sorry to hear that the Christian/Palestinian and Muslim/Palestinian communities are not supportive of you and your siblings. I understood from some research I did that many years ago, they were more supportive of Jewish-Muslim families than the Jewish Israeli communities, but that they had begun to turn away from them.

    I am sorry to hear that they truly have begun to turn away. I will make a note of that in the Half-Jewish Network’s “Israel” website essay.

    With regard to your inquiry about why I have not supported having our group meet in Israel — there are several reasons.

    1. While the Half-Jewish Network has members from all over the world, most of our members appear to be based in the United States. So our first conference will likely be here in the U.S., because many of us cannot financially afford a trip to Israel.

    A similar situation exists for European half-Jewish people, who we assisted in starting their own group, DoppelHalb, because they felt that they couldn’t afford travel to the U.S. and also needed a discussion group and future European meetings of their own.

    They are still welcomed as members of the Half-Jewish Network, and participate on our “Message Board” regularly.

    Many Israeli conferences and visits are subsidized by the Israeli government and U.S. Jewish organizations. It is unlikely that they would subsidize a conference of half-Jewish people in Israel. If they were willing to subsidize it, they would require guarantees that we not criticize Israel’s treatment of half-Jewish people.

    Obviously, we could not give such a promise.

    So it’s partly a question of money.

    2. I’m reluctant to have a Half-Jewish Network conference in Israel, because Israel is not a friendly environment for half-Jewish people at the present time.

    We’d like our first conferences to take place in a friendly environment — a place where our attendees could enjoy the conference in a peaceful manner, a hotel where the managers were pleased to see us, and media that might give us favorable press coverage.

    We are uncertain that we would get any of that in Israel. If we held a conference in Israel, the Israeli government might put a lot of pressure on us to say nice things about Israel, which we can’t because they don’t treat half-Jewish people well.

    We might possibly get Israeli media to interview some of our conference organizers and attendees — but what would our media coverage be like when they discovered that our conference would be very critical of Israel’s poor treatment of Israeli half-Jewish people?

    Some of the reporters might not be happy to hear that we object to how Diaspora Jewish communities sometimes ignore or rebuff us. Some reporters might write fair stories about us. Others might not.

    I fear it would be a very tense atmosphere for our conference attendees. We’d be asking non-Israeli half-Jewish people to travel a huge distance and spend lots of travel money to attend a very uncomfortable conference.

    3. If we had a Half-Jewish Network conference in Israel, I’m uncertain that Israeli half-Jewish people would attend at the present time.

    I share your concern about Israeli half-Jewish people. The Half-Jewish Network is the only American organization that has devoted substantial time and effort to studying them and exposing the unkind treatment they receive in Israeli society.

    (The Israeli government and several other organizations recently stopped all funding to the AMF of Israel, which worked in Israel with half-Jewish people and studied their needs, causing the AMF to collapse. So the Half-Jewish Network is pretty much the only group working heavily on this issue.)

    But we both understand that Israeli Jewish/Christian and Jewish/Muslim people are well-hidden within Israel. Those who are Jewish/Muslim Palestinian/Arab and Jewish/Christian Palestinian/Arab are especially well-hidden — the Russian Jewish/Christian Israelis are more visible, but even they tend to stay hidden.

    I understand why the Jewish/Arab adult children of intermarriage are especially well-hidden in Israel. But because they and other types of half-Jewish Israelis stay hidden, I am uncertain how many of them would attend a Half-Jewish Network conference in Israel.

    It would be very difficult to organize a conference, fly to Israel, and then discover that many Israeli half-Jewish people of all types were reluctant to attend it, because the conference would be public, and their identities might be revealed to Israeli society.

    It is my hope that Israeli half-Jewish people, over the next two decades, will start protesting more publicly about how poorly they are treated, and form online networks. Then we could contact their networks, and help them.

    I’d be willing to help them organize such networks and have written you privately about that.

    You also asked what the main goal of our organization is — it is to help half-Jewish people from all over the world network with each other and share experiences online. Our second goal is to fight injustices against us. Our third goal is to collect information and research about us and post it on the website.

    We discuss our goals on our home page here:

    http://half-jewish.net/

    Our resources are limited because we are a volunteer group, composed of middle class, working class and poor people. We do not receive any money from outside organizations. So we try to pick low-key, low-cost goals that we have a reasonable prospect of achieving.

    With regard to your concern about Steve Katz’s joke about “Ashkenaziland” — there was no racism intended. Steve was humorously referring to the fact that the American Jewish community is mostly Ashkenazi by ancestry.

    Everyone in this group is aware when they first visit this website — if they did not know before — that not all half-Jewish people are Ashkenazi by ancestry — some are Sephardic or Mizrahi — and that not all of us are white. As you have seen, our website has a number of pages addressing these issues, including our “Multiracial/Biracial” page.

    Betina, I hope my reply answers some of your questions. I share your impatience with the Israelis’ poor treatment of half-Jewish people. We are especially angered by the poor treatment of Israeli Jewish/Arab adult children of intermarriage.

    But as most of us in the Half-Jewish Network are not living in Israel, the best we can do is publicize their problems, write letters to Israeli institutions on their behalf, and encourage the Israeli half-Jewish people who do contact us to start networking and organizing, so we can help them more effectively.

    Finally, you said that after reading the “Message Board” messages, you were confused about the organization. We welcome half-Jewish people with a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs to post on our message board, so there is no particular theme — just a steady stream of inquiries, requests, shared stories, etc. from many different backgrounds.

    It is confusing to read messages from such a wide variety of people, but we are scattered all over the earth with many different backgrounds.

    I hope this post answers some of your questions, and feel free to post additional thoughts.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  307. betina

    Thank you Robin so much for your input. I am afraid you are right again never the less, I am very disappointed although I completely understand the valid points you have made.

    Thank you for your kind words and understanding. You are truly a leader!!!

    warm feelings and best wishes to you.

    Betina

  308. Dear Betina:

    Thank you for your patience with my long (and somewhat disappointing) reply.

    Your kind words about my leadership style are greatly appreciated!

    Please know that my offer to assist you and your family members in Israel with setting up an online network for Jewish/Muslim children of intermarriage is still good.

    If you want to discuss how that might be done, please email me privately. I think a public Jewish/Muslim adult children of intermarriage web page with a confidential private message board might work.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  309. Lisa

    Hi! My name is Lisa, and I never post here. Too be honest, I want to know the opinion of fellow (half)-Jews on an idea that I have for a tattoo. The reason that I ask here is because I am able to reach a variety of Jews with different views in one message. I could ask on an Orthodox Jewish website, but as you know, tattoos are forbidden in Judaism and I won’t get any opinions. By the way, I am half Jewish, so it should be okay for me to post here!

    My idea is to have ‘l’chaim’ tattood on my arm. I think it is nice. It is ironic, positive, and also a little light. I am doing this to cover up another tattoo that I have, with the initials of a friend who passed on. I no longer want to dwell in the past, but instead embrace life, and celebrate those who are and have been alive. What do you think of this idea? My Jewish father thinks that it’s awful, and suggests that I go for a simple ‘chai’ instead, which I might do, if many of you take his side.

    Sorry if I’m not allowed to ask personal questions, but I could really use opinions from different types of Jews, and not only religious Jews. Thank you!

    By the way, I’ve known about this website for years, and I really like the idea. The creators of this website are awesome half-Jews :).

  310. Noah

    Hi there. I am a man born to a Muslim arab father and a Ashkenazi Jewish mother. They are from Israel. I was born and raised in the United States. I was raised as a Muslim and I consider my religion to be Islam. Do I qualify as half-jewish according to this website? I am interested particularly in finding other people in a similiar situation (chlidren of an arab parent and jewish parent.) I feel torn about the Israel/palestine conflict as i have family on both sides and would like some support from people who are children of such intermarriages. It would also be nice to meet anyone in this group whether you are half arab or not Because I dont have many friends. Thank you.

  311. seren

    For this website I’m sure you fit the ‘half- Jewish’ definition. I know children of such marriages you describe, but they are too young to write on this message board i’m afraid. My father is jewish and my mother from a completely unrelated background re the middle east and yet I feel torn on Israel/ palestine. So I can’t imagine how conflicted you must feel with a family ancestry as directly relevant as yours.

    If it’s any help those of us who do not have arab/ muslim/ jewish parentage may still have some capacity to understand a little bit of what you are experiencing. It is obviously not to the same degree. Yet many half Jews of all backgrounds often grow up aware of the prejudices the different sides of their families hold against each other. Hearing negative, conflicting things from both sides whilst actually inescapably being the product of both sides oneself, is a confusing place in your head to inhabit. So many of us may have some awareness of some of the aspects of inner conflict you might be facing.

    I really hope you find support you are looking for and the people you want to talk your experiences through with. It is definitely a therapeutic thing to do.

  312. betina

    HI Noah My name is Betina and I too have a Muslim arab father and a Jewish mother. They are also from Israel. Would love to get in touch with you via e-mail. If you wish you can post your e-mail here and i will get in touch with you.

  313. betina

    Hi Lisa, I think you should do whatever makes you happy:)
    Chai and l’chaim are very similar words. One means ‘alive’ and the other means ‘to life’:)

    Betina

  314. betina

    Hi Robin,
    Wanted to share something with you.
    About two weeks ago I logged on IRAC website and read through it to get familiar with their goals and agendas as you talked about that organization and their noble causes. Their article on the Hebrew blog page addressed the issue of how women are treated during funerals of loved ones among other things. I posted as well, and in my post have said that I have attended funerals in Israel in the past but never felt or was told that I had to leave because I was a woman. I added my concerns and feelings about the burial and status of half Jewish/half Muslim people in Israel and their right to be buried in a cemetery. MY POST WAS REMOVED!!!!

    This is not new or surprising to me BUT disappointing that an organization that chooses to ‘fight for justice’ DOES NOT TRULY DO SO!

  315. Noah

    Hi Seren. Thank you for your response. Betina, you can email me at noahmitty@live.com Hope to hear from you soon.

  316. Noah

    Hi Betina. Im not sure if my lost post went through but I posted one of my email addresses. By the way, Noah is not my real name. My real name is Gabriel. I didnt feel comfortable at first putting my real name, but I think now its not such a big deal. You can email me at jibreelfromoc@hotmail.com . It’s the email I use most frequently.

  317. betina

    Thank you. I will be writing you soon.

  318. I have problems, in this era of “exploring your roots”, with people who demand “What are you?”
    If I say “American”, then they complain I am “rude” and “obnoxious”.
    If I say “Jewish”, then “the” Jews will tell me I am lying, because I made the wrong choices of mother and religion.
    If I say “German” because that is the second-largest fraction of my ancestry, that would be just silly.

    How do people handle this?

  319. Dear Lisa, Noah, Betina, and wlinden:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! I will try to send each of you a private email with a PDF information packet containing information about the group that is not on our website.

    Lisa: tattoos are a very personal choice. I know many older Jews frown on them for various reasons of religious law and custom — on the other hand, many younger Jews like them.

    So I would expect half-Jewish people to have a wide spectrum of opinions on the subject!

    I would just urge you to think carefully about whether you will be happy with your new tattoo in 10 years. When I was young(er), I kept thinking I wanted tattoos — my ideas on what I wanted changed every 10 years. I never got any, and in retrospect, it was a good thing, as my belief systems, friendships, etc. changed a lot over the years.

    You must do what will make you happy when you see your tattoo again in 10 years.

    Noah: You are definitely considered half-Jewish by the Half-Jewish Network and welcomed to this website! As you have probably seen from my responses to Betina earlier on the message board, our group has a strong interest in the welfare and happiness of half-Jewish descendants of Arab/Jewish intermarriages.

    Betina: I have written you privately about IRAC, but wanted to also respond to you publicly. I am very disappointed to hear that your post was removed. I hope it is not a sign that IRAC is backing away from half-Jewish issues. I have noticed that they have been paying less attention to those issues over the last few years.

    Organizations are like people, and sometimes change their beliefs and outlook over the years. I hope IRAC has not given up on half-Jewish peoples’ issues in Israel and Palestine.

    wlinden: You raise a question that many of us encounter. There is no one right answer. The question came up for me when I spent more time in Jewish settings. I don’t “look Jewish,” and people always noticed that I did not look Jewish. They would ask questions about where I came from, or made erroneous assumptions that I was a convert.

    I will offer you my answer, but I hope other people will chime in — I told people that I had a Jewish mother and an Episcopalian father. I was raised Episcopalian, and was now living as a Jew. I told them that I identified as a Jew spiritually, and as half-Jewish ethnically.

    Several years ago, I decided to return to the Episcopal church, and began spending a lot of time in Christian settings. I don’t get that question in those settings much, because I look like my Episcopalian father. Having been raised Episcopalian, I also know a lot of the unspoken “rules” and behaviors, so people don’t see me as “different.”

    I usually have to explain myself only when church groups notice that I know a lot about Judaism. They pay little attention to my Jewish last name (I took my mother’s last name years ago), because many Episcopal churches have Jewish members and interfaith families.

    I hope other people will offer you their thoughts on this matter!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  320. betina

    Hi everyone,

    I keep reading the comments about how society rejects us over and over again. I am also aware of how the Jewish religion sees and defines us. The thing that is mind boggling to me is that we are not defining our selves.
    We are letting other people do it for us. Some of us are having DNA tests while others are waiting for someone rabbi to approve their Judaism and yet others refer to the bible or the halacha to approve them. When I stop and think about all the posts here and the way I was previously thinking, as well, something had changed for me. I have realized that I do not need anyone to tell me how I feel inside. I do not need someone to ‘approve’ me and give me a stamp of approval. I am who I am cause that is what I choose and that is how I feel.
    To me as long as we explore and rationalize paternal/maternal and bloodline religion than we are agreeing with the way we are being treated and seen by Judaism. A religion (any religion) is a matter of faith and belief. You are what you feel inside.
    Certain things in life can not be rationalized. Things like feelings such as: love, hate, and faith. In other words, our religion is in our hearts. No one can tell us how we feel inside. We should be who want to be. We should stop giving all these people that kind of power over our lives, our hearts, our faiths, and our feelings. To sum this up, hope we all find happiness and a sense of inner peace within in.

  321. Dear Betina:

    You raise some interesting and valuable points. I agree that in the end, we must each decide who we are and refuse to let others define us.

    I think it’s not just Judaism that makes decisions about who is Jewish. If the internet and this website had existed before World War II, you might have seen postings from half-Jewish people in Germany, complaining about the Nazi system for determining whether they were “Aryans” or not.

    The first organization for half-Jewish people (as far as I know) was the Paulus Bund, a 1930s organization of Christian-identified half-Jewish people in Nazi Germany, who united to keep track of the endless Nazi regulations affecting them, and placed ads in a newsletter seeking jobs and dates from other Christian-identified half-Jewish people. The Nazi rules had deprived them of the right to mainstream jobs and dates with fully German Christians.

    Ironically, while the Jewish community worldwide was not welcoming to interfaith families prior to 1970, the German Jewish community between 1850 and 1939 was somewhat more relaxed about these issues. They had the highest documented rate of intermarriage for a Western country at that time (25 percent) and both their liberal and Orthodox wings were considerably friendlier to members of interfaith families than in other countries.

    Orthodox Italian Jews also were more relaxed about interfaith families and tended to welcome them until they recently began receiving Orthodox rabbis from Israel to lead their synagogues.

    Half-Jewish people in 17th century Spain with partial Muslim or Christian ancestry sometimes feared publicity about their family backgrounds might attract unfavorable attention from the Inquisition. St. Teresa of Avila doesn’t mention her paternal Jewish grandfather in her memoirs, even though people in her city knew about him.

    Biracial groups in the United States have literature very similar to this website — they share many issues with us, even where their parents are not a Jewish/non-Jewish intermarriage.

    So much depends on context. I am often asked why I persist in advocating for half-Jewish people and leading this group when I personally returned to the Episcopal Church several years ago. I always reply that the discrimination against us in Judaism is bad for all of us, no matter how we identify.

    No one should have to feel that some of their mother’s or their father’s people actively discriminate against them, especially when — as in Israel — this affects their civil rights as well as their emotional health. No one should feel that they must “play down” or “keep quiet” about partially-Jewish parentage in Jewish settings of this era.

    Judging from the emails I receive from people who are half-Jewish and half-Muslim living in some Islamic countries in this era — if they are living under a sharia (strict Islamic law) regime — they feel it is safe to contact me only once or twice. I have to answer all of their questions quickly, because they apparently feel unsafe conducting a long email exchange with me, for fear their governments will notice it.

    I am still learning about Islamic countries and don’t have enough historical information to make a definitive statement about half-Jewish people in those civilizations prior to the modern era.

    I have not publicized this issue, because I don’t yet have enough information about Islamic countries discriminating against half-Jewish people in the modern era to make definitive statements.

    I guess the consolation is that in other eras we would likely have been dealing with legal and social discrimination from some Christians, some Muslims and some Jews. Sadly, it is our fellow Jews who discriminate against us most visibly in this era, but at least we are not dealing with Spain’s 17th century “purity of the blood” and Nazi Germany’s “Aryan blood” rules anymore.

    Another consolation is that in this era, we can network with each other, make friends and learn information about overall trends among half-Jewish people. We can push back against discrimination. These were things that it was very difficult to do prior to the Internet.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  322. betina

    Hi Robin,

    I definitely agree with all the points you make here. History and our personal experiences speak loud.
    At the same time, I think we must remember that feelings such as love, religion, sadness, and happiness are subjective and that no one in the world has power on how we feel on the inside. With that being said, we MUST continue to educate and fight for the rights of those who are effected by it and change laws so people will have basic civil rights and freedom to feel and exercise their religion.

    Truly,
    Betina

  323. Dear Betina:

    I agree 300 percent that we must not let other people have power over how we feel inside about our complex identit(ies).

    But the reality may be more complicated.

    For example, I’m aware of a young half-Jewish guy who was raised as a Reform Jew. As an adult he became interested in his mother’s Scottish Protestant heritage and wanted to discuss this with other children of intermarriage, but apparently got little or no support within Judaism for his search for other children of intermarriage.

    He apparently didn’t want to leave Judaism, but he did want to learn more about his mom’s family and connect with other half-Jewish people from a similar background.

    Next, he became interested in Conservative Judaism, and began attending a Conservative synagogue near his home. He really liked them and their services, and wanted to join. The synagogue told him that he couldn’t have an aliyah to the Torah (meaning in this context, being called to the bimah (platform in synagogue where people read from the Torah scrolls during services.)

    The synagogue said that since he was a patrilineal Jew and raised Reform, and Reform doesn’t require patrilineals to formally convert, in the eyes of his Conservative synagogue, he wasn’t really a Jew.

    He felt badly when they told him that he couldn’t have aliyot (plural of aliyah) to the Torah because they thought he wasn’t really Jewish. That meant he wouldn’t really be a full member of the synagogue.

    He decided to convert to Judaism — even though he had been raised as a Reform Jew — so he went to the mikveh (ritual bath) in front of three rabbis, as the Conservative Judaism movement requires.

    Now you or I might have said to him: “Quit that synagogue! Return to a Reform synagogue, where you can be a full member and have aliyot to the Torah without a formal conversion. Don’t let these people make you feel bad or that you are not a Jew. Look at what’s in your heart. If you consider yourself to be a Jew in your heart, that’s all that counts.”

    But he would have thought we were being inconsiderate of his feelings. He couldn’t help letting his Conservative synagogue’s opinion of his Jewish status affect him emotionally.

    Another concern I keep in mind is that even if a miracle occurred — tomorrow morning Israel made a real peace with the Palestinians and then abolished all of its negative laws and social policies directed against Jewish/Arab intermarried couples and their adult children and grandchildren –

    You and I would still be dealing with widespread prejudices against half-Jewish people within both Israel and the overseas Jewish communities, and obstacles to them joining Jewish groups. Plus continuing problems for them in some anti-Semitic European countries and in some strict Sharia law Islamic countries.

    In addition, we would still be dealing with the complex feelings and identity searches of many half-Jewish people living in democracies, regardless of whether they join Judaism, Christianity, Islam or other faith-based or secular cultures. There would still be identity issues and a need for networking among ourselves that no amount of good feelings in our hearts about who we are as individuals could address.

    I guess what I’m saying is that having good feelings about ourselves and our identity choices in our hearts is extremely important, probably the most important first step, but it is only one piece of the puzzle.

    But this is just my opinion, others may differ.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  324. betina

    Dear Robin,

    When I disclosed to my friend that my dad was a Muslim she had the same reaction you described above. I too was told during the conversation that: “I could ALWAYS convert to Judaism. Up until that point, I too wanted to belong and be accepted. I too wanted to be ‘whole’ and not broken. I too wanted to be loved. It is human nature to want all those things. But that was all in the past. Little did she know that her comment changed everything for me. Something clicked for me and I thought to myself: “who in the world is she and what makes her think that she is more Jewish than I am”? She was raised as a secular Jew and I was Raised and studied in a Chabad school system. At that moment I found my self telling her that maybe I should and want to convert to Islam. That she and society can not tell people how and what to feel inside. I told her that society can make rules and laws but that my Judaism is not open to HER interpretation.
    All of the sudden I felt free and happy.
    I now realized that some people are ignorant. I realized that she was not a bad person and that people like her are the result of there environment. They act that way because they were ‘brain washed’ for hundreds of years.
    After this realization, she did not matter. People like her didn’t matter. People like her did not have power over me ANYMORE.
    I took that power away from them!
    I understood that the price we are asked to pay is a little too high (for me). I did not wish to pay it anymore.

    That does not mean that I do not understand how other people may still feel and that they may react differently to rejection. It use to bother me on the personal level in the past. And it still does when I see other people hurt.
    I have been there and I feel and understand the pain we are all going through. That is why I am SO grateful to this website. It has been an eye opener at times. I can honestly say to you Robin that you have put life in the right prospective for me. Now I am able to look at these experiences through different glasses as well. I can finally rationalize experiences when before things were only emotional for me.
    To sum this up, people still act the same way towards me but now I choose to react and feel differently. So things did not really change. I have.

    So once again, thank you for your support. So happy I ‘stumbled up’ on your website.

    Betina

  325. Dear Betina:

    I am very pleased to hear that you have achieved a personal viewpoint of this nature. I believe that you are correct — we must all get to a point where we personally decide who we are and stop letting other people have power over our identi(ties).

    Your kind words about the website are greatly appreciated, and I am pleased to hear that it has been useful to you!

    I share your interest in Chabad. When I lived as a Jew, I immersed myself in their website and their books. It is a deeply spiritual vision.

    No matter how you decide to identify — Jewish, Muslim or some combination — your decisions will always be respected by the Half-Jewish Network.

    Warmly,
    Robin

  326. betina

    Thank you!!!

  327. rhelburn

    Hi everyone,

    Chag Sameach!! whether it is Passover or Easter (or neither). Robin M. I wanted to catch you up on my progress. I finished the Derekh Torah Class in January. I enjoyed the routine of study and the people so much that when it ended there was this gaping hole. So I started going to weekly Beit Midrash at this conservative synagogue in Cobble Hill Brooklyn that I ‘associate’ with (now). Then the Beit Mdrash ended for the season (bummer) but now i’m working on a set of essays (answers to questions) to turn give to the rabbi there, which is the next step in my ‘conversion’ (I see it more as an affirmation) process. If all goes well probably I’ll finish (mikvah) in the summer. I’ve been so busy with classes and taking care of instruments in the lab here at the college (and w/ my mother and all her needs at home) I haven’t had a chance to get this done but I make notes here and there. My half jewishness and strong feelings about how it defines me will feature strongly (in the essays). My fiction love these days are the novels of Isaac Bashavis Singer.

    Betina if you are still there I agree with everything you say i.e. on how we feel inside should define us (not someone else). For me the decision to go through a conversion process is totally personal and no one has ever said it was necessary (only us patrilineals would bother anyway… you are Jewish so it is a non-issue for you). The group learning and study that I have had (as part of the process) has been so amazing. I could never learn and understand what I now know alone with books. Having a teacher and people to discuss (and even argue) with is the best part. Probably everything I studied you already know (since you grew up Jewish and are Jewish).

    That you are now straddling all three Abrahamic Faiths (via your Christian husband) is truly amazing. Have you read the book by Bruce Feilor ..’ Abraham, Journey to the heart of three faiths’? I enjoyed it.

    Lisa Alexander I hope you are well… looks like we have lost touch. Let us know where you are in your journey.

    Robin H,

  328. rhelburn

    Hi again Robin M.
    I was looking at your response to Betina (above) quote:

    “….I guess what I’m saying is that having good feelings about ourselves and our identity choices in our hearts is extremely important, probably the most important first step, but it is only one piece of the puzzle…”

    I agree with this (in context) i.e. the other piece of the puzzle being that the conservative synagogue (as opposed to reform) isn’t asking the person to convert out of prejudice; it’s simply an issue of policy, a conservative ‘gogue’ aligned with USCJ doesn’t make policy, it just tows the line until some higher person changes the policy. I too found that I preferred conservative over reform; I liked the rustic nature of their service and I have a friend there. I didn’t like the musical instruments (piano etc.) used in shabbat at the reform gogue; I fiound the people at Kane St (my new gogue) to be just as liberal. The rabbi there who is supervizing my conversion is very liberal. My desire to undergo this process is really more of practical thing than anything else. i’ll be the same half-jewish me (geneologically) afterwards. But from a spiritual standpoint I can’t do both and i’m not interested in going into some long song and dance about it if someone should ask and I don’t want to lie about it either. If the beit din doesn’t accept me… fine……. but I’ve sure learned a lot over the process and have only positive things to say in that regard.
    -Robin H.

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