halfjew
Did you know there’s a website out there just for half-Jews? Not wanting to be too pushy, it only even takes up half my computer screen!

They propose Governor’s Island, just off Manhattan to become the national homeland of half-Jews. In theory, this as well as everything else on the site could be terribly funny, but sadly, it seems they don’t have much to say, or bite their tongue too often. That must be the other half.

About the author

Laya Millman

229 Comments

  • I think my rabbi once said something like, “There’s no such thing as a half-Jew. Judaism is like binary. You’re either a 1 or a 0. You’re either a Jew or you’re not.”

  • Michael’s made a good point,

    but,

    wow, proud to be half-Jewish. Is Mobius going to make a t-shirt?

  • I think that people who call themselves “half-Jewish” are looking to get all of the credit and none of the blame:

    “Gee, those Jews sure are smart and successful.”
    “Well, you know, I’m actually half-Jewish.”

    “Gee, those Jews are a bunch of stingy greedy assholes.”
    “Well, you know, I’m only half-Jewish.”

  • Agreed. No such thing as a half-jew. If you’re a hanyou you may feel confused and want to join some help group, but that’s it. You either are or arent. And if you are a jew, even if just one of your parents is, you know it, it’s quite hard not to notice.

  • Once again,
    Grace is on the mark.

    But seriously,
    maybe with the whole religion thing being passe, and the new ‘limelight’ American Jewry is enjoying with the kabbalah-esther-britney thing, we can talk ‘secularly’ about the Jewish g-dless ethnicity.

    The same way we can have ‘my italian wedding’, people that are ‘half-greek’, and the hebrew hammer too, then it’s totally okay to be ‘half-jewish’, right?

  • Consider this,

    perhaps a lot of half-jews say they are because they want to feel connected to the history of one of their parents. I don’t believe there is any harm in that. Being Jewish generally seems to be a dual connection between genetic roots as well as cultural, religious beliefs. If a jewish person converts to another religion…are they still Jewish? Some people might say yes they are Jewish because their family is Jewish-thus expressing a genetic means of being Jewish, despite having changed their religious beliefs. Also the opposite could happen, where a person is not from a Jewish family or parent but has adopted the Faith for whatever reason.

    If someone says they are half Jewish I believe it stems from a true desire to feel connected to what they should have every right to feel connected to.

  • When I say i am half Jewish and people ask which half? I say the best half….
    I learned that from another half-Jew whose mother (Jew!) taught him that answer.

  • You know what I’ve always wondered? What percentage of Jews are atheists, by how large a margin this percentage would beat that of the population at-large (by quite a bit I would think,) and how many of them still regard themselves as Jewish. I have friends who will give me good-natured grief over this at their Passover seder: “you’ve got some nerve putting on that yarmulkeh, buddy…” “Oh yeah, well pass the Manischewitz, hymie, and you, me, and the mohel can discuss it at length…”

    So NOW I’m wondering what percentage of half-Jews are atheists, and if it’s even a higher percentage (it probably is,) and how many of THEM regard themselves as Jewish. As it stands however, my casual research into this question is stymied as I remain a sample set of one.

  • my father is jewish. i identify with my jewish heritage, even though i am not jewish according to halacha, sans conversion of course. so what??? what right do you people have to laugh at someone who is the product of a mixed marriage and expresses a desire to connect with the religion of one of his/her parents? based on the halachic definition, “cathy christianson” with blond hair and blue eyes from a jewish mother is consideered to be a jew, while “ruth rubenstein” from a jewish father is not. it’s an outdated, non-biblical law. it’s stupid. and it excludes millions of “halfies” whose jewish identity has been dissipated by assimilation and intermarriage. shame on you for criticizing people who have as much a right to claim a jewish identity as you do. shame on you for mocking something you will never understand.

  • I’m half-Jewish. I’m not religiously Jewish, and my cultural heritiage of Judaism only ever seems obvious when I contrast it with my Christian friends. They consider me Jewish, if they consider it. I definately look jewish, and often am stymied as to how to respond when people in my all-white, nearly-all blonde community ask my ethnicity, so I usually say Jewish, as an explanation. I am proud of my heritage, but do I particulary intergrate it into my life? No. Religiously, I’m a Christian, but between my name and my looks I will always be a Jew like my dad. It’s a weird thing, because it is not how I see myself, yet it is something I have to proclaim often, since feigning ignorance seems anti-semitic and like a betrayal of my loved ones. It’s not a binary thing, though. Most of you would not consider me to be Jewish. The Gentile world does. That leaves me where? At least half-jewish is a category.

  • I’m sorry amber, but I reread the very short post and don’t understand what you took offense to, although I am open to hearing it.

    Otherwise, I think your anger might be a little displaced.

  • Half of my family is Jewish, half is not. Throughout my 53 years I have connected mostly with the half that is not because most of the other half was eliminated in the last century. I used to be cautioned by Jewish friends that I should pay my Jewish heritage more attention as I would certainly have been “Jewish” enough for the Nazis. Thanks for listening.

  • Ben: We don’t allow Nazis to determine for us who is and isn’t a Jew. But thanks for sharing your experience with us. I’m sorry for your losses.

  • because, laya, my comment was not in response to your original post. i am disturbed by the way several people on this board reacted to the “half-jewish” concept, in general. to claim that people with fathers who are jewish “want all of the credit and none of the blame,” and that there is no such thing as a half-jew, is shortsighted and insensitive to say the least. i, like cleo, have prominently jewish physical features…AND i live a jewish life…yet according to the jewish community at large, i am as much a goy as the WASP next door. Michael, CMH, and Esther, in particular: being the product of an intermarriage is not easy…you should thank HaShem that it is not your problem.

  • So what, Amber? I have jewish features as well, however I am not jewish, not yet. I dont care what anyone says, according to halakha, your jewish if your mother is jewish or you convert, thats it. Your either jewish or not. And dont even both with the “well being jewish is a race.” No its not. There are white jews and black jews and asian jews all over the world. If you want to be considered jewish you need to convert, its that simple. And for you it shouldnt be too hard. And not, saying this is not incensitive, its just the way it is.

  • wow, henry. you have a very strong opinion for someone who, according to your own definition, is not jewish. why, then, do you visit this site? if you are currently converting, good for you. you’ve made your choice, i’ve made mine. and i still consider myself to be a jew. no one is going to take that away from me. i guess i just find it amazing that a man can worship trees and shun all jewish culture, but if he’s got a jewish mom, he’s jewish. a gentile can, after investing a year or less in study with a conservative or orthodox rabbi, become fully jewish, and be welcomed with open arms into the community. but someone like me is an outsider. where is the logic in that?

  • Doesn’t everyone know that by Jewish tradition and law anyone with a Jewish mother is considered a total Jew? I’m not half-Jewish, my mother’s a Jew! Maybe the ones with shiksa mothers can live elsewhere. THEY’RE the ones that never learned to speak up!
    Alternatively you follow the Hebrew faith. But for non-observant Jews like me? We’re a culture and just as Jew as all of you.

  • Juls- no one here said anything about children of jewish mothers being half-jewish or not jewish. i don’t understand your complaint. and excuse me, but many of us with “shiksa mothers” actually DO speak up. the problem is that people who, by accident of birth, happen to be halachally jewish, refuse to listen or to hear. that is the material point. you also said that those of us from jewish dads should “live elsewhere.” where might that be? honestly, your comment confuses me.

  • Juls- no one here said anything about children of jewish mothers being half-jewish or not jewish. i don’t understand your complaint. and excuse me, but many of us with “shiksa mothers” actually DO speak up. the problem is that people who, by accident of birth, happen to be halachally jewish, refuse to listen or to hear. that is the material point. you also said that those of us from jewish dads should “live elsewhere.”

  • Since conversion is available and possible, why not just do it?

    It is NOT meaningless. It’s no more meaningless than getting married for real, instead of almost.

    The classes would probably be really interesting, too. The more Orthodox the better. You get full-strength. High fiber.

    You can always lighten up later, but at least you will KNOW the Ortho story. You will know more than many others.

    Now, won’t that be fun?

    Anybody who thinks inter-marriage is no big deal should listen to the pain of these people, who have to live with its consequences.

    The more the merrier, I say. Welcome to the tribe. Just do it right.

    Hard? Expensive? Shul dues? Difficult books to read? Say “Oy Gevalt” a few times, and bend your back to it. We call it “Putting on the Yoke of Heaven” and yokes are not feather boas.

    Shabbat Shalom, to each and every bro and sis, no matter how they got that way.

  • you might be interested to know, if you do not already, that chief rabbi shlomo amar is currently lobbying to revoke the “right of return” from converts to judaism. this, of course, includes the children of jewish fathers who submit to halacha. what good is converting when rabbinical authorities are heading in this direction? i might as well continue to practice judaism, without my hard-won piece of paper to render me legitimate, in vain.

  • Amber, even though I am not Karaite, you might want to seriously consider Karaite Judaism. Although they don’t accept the Oral Law as divine, they believe in Torah Mi’Sinai, and they are well to the right- much more observant than most Conservative Jews.
    I think you should continue to practice Judaism, even without a piece of paper. I consider you to be a Jewess, as I am sure most Jews would.
    Sadly, the Chief Rabbinate and others in the Orthodox establishment are considering conversion as some sort of political power game. I think we should all ignore them until they behave more reasonably, which will happen in time. It will happen sooner, if we all ignore them, and stop depending on them to “be kosher for us”.

  • Dear Friends: I was rather disturbed by the hostile comments to the half-Jewish adult children of intermarriage commenting on this thread. It is not “kosher” to patronize or condescend to children of intermarriage who want to live as Jews.

    Also, many of the born Jews posting seemed to have a lot of misinformation on adult children of intermarriage. Anyone who would like better information on adult children of intermarriage is welcome to visit my website for them at the Half-Jewish Network — not the same as the organization you are discussing, but a different one, at:

    http://www.half-jewish.net

    Sincerely,
    Robin Margolis

  • Dear Friends: I was very disturbed to see some of the hostile comments directed by born Jews to the adult children of intermarriage who posted on this thread.

    It isn’t “kosher” to patronize and condescend to people who are trying to live as Jews.

    Many of the born Jewish posters seemed to have a lot misinformation about adult children of intermarriage.

    I suggest that they and any interested children of intermarriage are welcome to visit my website for half-Jewish folks at:

    http://www.half-jewish.net

    Note: the Half-Jewish Network is a different organization from the one that you are currently discussing.

    Sincerely,
    Robin Margolis

  • Um, this a response to ck who says that “we don’t allow nazis tell us who’s Jewish.” In fact, previous generations did just this. And not just in the 1930s and 1940s and not just in Europe. Anti-semites in any era everywhere have defined Jewishness for their own purposes with catastrophic results for the “real” Jewish people, as well as for the “mischlings” that you so comfortably reject. Your rejection would mean nothing if there weren’t real implications for those who are left out of their own socieites in North Africa or Russia or elsewhere because of their mixed heritage and rejected by the Jewish state for not being as “pure” as you.

  • ben: Oh good grief. Of course there are real implications for people who choose to attach themselves to Jews. You used the vile term “mischligs” – but I never would, that’s terrible! The notion of purity is also an offensive one – Judaism is not a race wherein membership is determined by any physical feature. If your Mother is Jewish, you’re a Jew. If you convert, you’re a Jew.

    Now, if you are not technically a Jew, but are married to one or your Father was one, and you’d like to explore, celebrate, live etc. your Jewish heritage, I have no problem being as inclusive and as encouraging as possible. Interaction between, for the sake of simplicity, “half-Jews” and the greater Jewish community, ought to be cordial, warm, welcoming, based on mutual respect and strongly encouraged.

    But remember the proviso – mutual respect. As a Jews, we ought to exhibit great sensitivity and openness to “half Jews” and “half Jews” ought to be understanding of the religious limitations of this interaction.

    Now is that so wrong?

  • Dear ck:

    I would suggest that you study some half-Jewish websites and learn more about us.

    You stated in an earlier posting that “we don’t allow the Nazis to determine for us who is a Jew.”

    Actually the Israeli Law of Return, which allows both the descendants of Jewish fathers and the descendants of Jewish mothers to make aliyah, was created in explict response to the Nazi Nuremberg racial identity laws.

    Second, when you talk about “mutual respect” between the Jews and half-Jewish people, and state that “half-Jews ought to be understanding of the religious limitations of this interaction” — that shows that you still don’t understand us.

    Why would we respect “religious limitations” that result in social and religious discrimination against us in the U.S. Jewish community and legal and social second-class status in Israeli Jewish society?

    For more information about the extremely negative personal impact on us of what you refer to as “religious limitations,” you may wish to visit the Half-Jewish Network website at:

    http://www.half-jewish.net

    and start by visiting our “Message Board” link, and see our experiences through our eyes.

    Sincerely,
    Robin Margolis

  • Dearest Robin,
    You stated:

    Actually the Israeli Law of Return, which allows both the descendants of Jewish fathers and the descendants of Jewish mothers to make aliyah, was created in explict response to the Nazi Nuremberg racial identity laws.

    Israeli Law is not Halachah. It determines who is a Jew in a civil context and does not always correspond to Religious law. Once again I wish to state emphatically, that Nazis do not determine Halachah.

    Robin also asked: Why would we respect “religious limitations” that result in social and religious discrimination against us in the U.S. Jewish community and legal and social second-class status in Israeli Jewish society?

    Look, I am trying really hard to present a position that is as accommodating as possible. There are, simply stated, very real religious restrictions with people who aren’t technically Jewish. This exists in nearly every society. A Catholic priest will not marry me to another Catholic. I am not allowed to attend the Haj with my my Muslim wife unless I convert to Islam first. I cannot pitch for the Yankees without first being a member of the team, NASA will not fly me to the moon just because I really want them to.

    That being said, I do not advocate ostracism. Quite the contrary, I advocate sensitivity, kindness and inclusion whenever and wherever possible. I don’t doubt that many of my co religionists, both religious and secular, have exhibited great insensitivity to “half Jews” and, that is simply neither right nor the Jewish way.

    But please, offer the same , sensitivity and understanding that you demand of others!

  • I moved to Israel 2 months ago. Im working with the Spokesman division of the IDF in order to generate some positive media coming out of this country. I am putting myself, financially, emotionally and physically on the line in order to help this place., because I am passionate about the safety and well being of the Jewish people, and believe this country, and our people need all the help we can get. My dad is Jewish, my mom is not. I do Chanukah and Christmas. Im sick of all this elitist shit about people telling ME who I am. There is a real history on my dad’s side of the family that is my history as well. They left East Europe to avoid being killed, my grandpa changed his last name to something less Jewish so he could get work. To some extent being Jewish is a race. In that sense, I am a half-Jew. In a religious sense, I might not be as observant as some you guys, but I still feel that Hashems got my back. Call me what u want, but when I call myself Half-Jewish, u cant that that away from me, because that’s what I am.

    I also have a lot of pride in my mom’s Irish heritage.

  • My mother comes from Bohemian Jews who escaped the germans and fled to America. They were Jewish ethnically and of the Lutheran faith. Let that bake your noodle. Spoke Yiddish, made some mean Latkes, watched their money lol, and had Jewish names all over.

    Krulik – Roth –

    A lot of Kruliks died in Auschwitz… a lot… made me tear up when I first saw it. Only about 1300 people in America with that last name.

    I am proud of my ethnicity and my heritage. I am a Christian but ethnically I am part Jewish and it’s “legit” because it is on my mother’s side lol.

    If you want an interesting study on being Jewish ethnically and/or in religious practice study the history of Bohemia now called Czechoslovakia ( Czech Republic ) )

  • Bake my noodle? Do you think this is remarkable or something? I mean what is Jewish etnicity anyway? Do you know how many Jewish people there are out there who never spoke Yiddish or made latkes – not them and not any of their ancestors… I won’t bother commenting on your “watching their money” aside. So if your Mom was Jewish then the Jewish religion considers you a Jew as conversions out of the faith are not recognized – but as a practicing Lutheran who doesn’t believe in the Jewish religion, why matrilineal descent should matter to you is beyond me. We consider you a full Jew. You are free to consider yourself whatever you like. 🙂

  • CK,
    You are speaking for yourself, not “we”. as you can see there are many Jews born of jewish mothers who don’t agree with you. I am born of a non-jewish mother and jewish father, and raised in both faiths. I have a strong connection to both sides of my ancestry, and I consider myself a true “half-jew”. Can that not be an indentity in itself? Whether you agree with me is irrelevant. Furthermore, you might want to check into your own background some – there are many jews who have done this only to find out that if they go back, they will find a female ancestor who was a non-jew, making them a non-jew. Are you so sure you are actually jewish by your own definition?

  • JK,
    Well I’m not exactly speaking for myself. I’m simply stating the traditional Jewish position. I’m really happy that you have maintained some connection to your Judaism and of course the designation “half-jew” exists in a broader context! It’s your identity and nothing I say can and ought to change that. But you know as well as I do that in traditional Judaism, there exists no such designation – for religious purposes one either is, or isn’t a Jew. Those are just the rules as they exist and we can discuss their provenance and their validity but we can’t debate the fact that that’s what they are. Other denominations may see things differently but I wasn’t purporting to speak on their behalf. And of course there is a theoretical possibility that in my own background I would find a female ancestor that wasn’t Jewish – I seriously doubt it though as all my people on both sides of my family were very religious. We’re from Morocco and we were very very poor to boot – not much intermarriage going on there I assure you – but yeah, theoretically it’s possible but completely unheard of. Now, suppose I do discover that my great, great grandmother on m Mother’s side wasn’t Jewish? Then I wouldn’t consider myself Jewish for religious purposes until I went to a Rabbi and converted in order to remedy the situation. I wouldn’t allow myself to be counted for a minyan, I wouldn’t allow myself to be called to the Torah etc. I hope that clarifies things.

  • I think what the poster who mentioned what the Nazi definition of Jew is, here is an example:

    Ben Stiller and Adrian Brody:

    To haters: Jewish
    To Religious Jews (non-reform) – Not Jewish
    To everyone else: Jewish (“did you see the noses on those guys, they have Jew names, and they’re talented!”)

    Religious Jews may be selective about who is and who isn’t, but the Nazis weren’t – they murdered half-Jews with the same enthusiasm as full-Jews.

  • I agree with the Reform idea that children whose father is Jewish should be considered Jews because Halacha was only introduced because back then you couldn’t be sure who the father was. Now with paternity tests, the idea is outdated. However I guess it does serve the second idea of ensuring Jewish men seek out a Jewish woman (either born or by choice), to reduce intermarriage.

  • Dear Michelle and Allan:

    Thank you for your interest in adult children of intermarriage.

    It is a common myth that the matrilineal rule ensures that Jewish men don’t intermarry.

    Actually, historically, Jewish men have been more likely to intermarry than Jewish women. The matrilineal rule has been a spectacular failure in that respect.

    Intermarriage rates for Jewish men and women in the U.S. are very high, and about equal now.

    Not only has the matrilneal rule been an enormous failure in preventing intermarriage, but many Jews are not aware that the matrilineal rule has also led to a number of “chillul Hashem” (desecration of G-d’s name) situations.

    For example, in some instances, Jewish single men are covertly encouraged to have affairs with non-Jewish women to “sow their wild oats” and then abandon the resulting families for a marriage to a “real” Jewish woman.

    It’s not a Jewish value to abandon dependent children irregardless of who their mother is.

    And the impact of the matrilneal descent rule on thousands of patrilineal adult children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of intermarriage in Israel is immensely harmful to Judaism.

    They experience enormous amounts of social and legal discrimination against them, even when they identify as Jews, pay taxes, serve in the IDF, etc.

    It cannot be a Jewish value to humiliate partly-Jewish people about their parentage and deliberately obstruct their conversions, as frequently occurs in Israel.

    For more information about the negative impact of the matrilineal descent rule on Judaism, you might be interested in visiting Emunah Avot, a newly-founded organization for patrilineal adult children of intermarriage and their Jewish fathers, at:

    http://www.emunahavot.net

    Their website and contact information are still under construction, but anyone wishing to contact them can reach me at:

    http://www.half-jewish.net

    and I will gladly put you in touch with the founder of Emunah Avot.

    Again, thanks for your interest. I appreciate the chance to comment on the misconceptions about the matrilineal descent rule.

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  • Dear Robin, thanks for your comment, I’m actually really surprised that more Jewish men intermarry than do Jewish women, so thanks for that information. I’m skeptical however about the Jewish men who are actively encouraged to sow wild oats before settling down with a halakhically Jewish woman, I’ve just not heard of this before. In my case, the matrilineal descent rule has changed my views about my identity a great deal – we’ve recently discovered that my great-great-grandma on my mother’s side was Jewish, so that means I’m suddenly a Jew (according to Halakha). This old law means I can call myself a Jew, but if I had a great grandfather who was Jewish, then I wouldn’t be a Jew, so I find it very illogical.

  • Just to be more succint, I find it crazy that my mother’s great grandmother being Jewish means I’m considered more of a Jew than someone whose father is Jewish?!

  • Dear Michelle:

    I totally agree. It is crazy.

    And it gets “better.”

    The Association for the Protection of Mixed Families (in Israel) is, as we speak, trying to get legislation passed to protect several thousand adult patrilineal great-grandchildren of intermarriage in Isreal —

    They have one Jewish male great-grandparent — but they have grown up in Israel, many identify as Jews, serve in IDF, pay taxes, etc. — but they are not even entitled to Israeli citizenship.

    Whereas if their one Jewish great-grandparent was female — and was their mother’s mother’s mother — they’d be considered Jewish and have Israeli citizenship.

    I am hoping that many of my fellow Jews will respond to the massive craziness and injustice these situations embody.

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  • It cannot be a Jewish value to humiliate partly-Jewish people about their parentage and deliberately obstruct their conversions, as frequently occurs in Israel.

    This is emotional drivvle.

    Who said anyone should be humiliated? And if your definition of humiliation is stating a fact and pointing out the incovenient, then we have different defintions of humiliation.

    Lots of these conversions deserve to be denied. They are not “obstructed” any more than claiming it is an “obstruction” for a kosher restaurant not allowed to serve pork.

    There is no such thing as a half-Jew. There are definite Jews, definite gentiles and Jews whose status is in doubt. People of gentile matrilineal descent are gentiles, plain and simple.

    If you don’t like it, point your blaming finger at the Jewish father who violated his obligations as a member of the Jewish people. Count the rest of us out.

  • “Whereas if their one Jewish great-grandparent was female — and was their mother’s mother’s mother — they’d be considered Jewish and have Israeli citizenship.”

    That would just mean that there Mother was Jewish. And their Mother’s Mother as well as their Mother’s Mother’s Mother.

    Look I don’t begrudge Jews with Jewish Fathers and non-Jewish Mothers to call themselves whatever they like and live however they like. i recognize the fact that by virtue of this self-identification we share a certain commonality and I will always be as warm and friendly and as accepting… as possible.

    But to call the values Traditional Jews cherish “crazy” as Robin Margolis did, well… that’s not very tolerant now is it.

    People are free to worship at Reform or Reconstructionist temples, and that’s fine, but why is it so important for you to get acceptance from people whose values you deem to be “crazy?” Whose values you don’t accept and outright reject? Acceptance of patrilineal descent is just not going to happen in the Orthodox world any time soon. To whatever extent it might happen it will not be aided by calling people crazy.

    That being said, there’s no reason to humiliate anyone, there’s no reason to be as kind and as hospitable as possible.

  • I think Robin’s so incensed that he used the word ‘crazy’; well I did initially in my post. Perhaps ‘illogical’ is a better word. The craziness relates to this: if you took a straw poll of random people who knew nothing about Judaism and asked, is it fair that your identity is determined solely by your mother and not by your father, I think everyone will say that it’s unfair.

    [quote]but why is it so important for you to get acceptance from people whose values you deem to be “crazy?”[/quote]

    I don’t think he’s looking for ‘acceptance’, but a change in the law. Because then the matrilineal ‘value’ becomes irrelevant.

  • shy guy–

    your moniker seems a bit inaccurate.
    you are definitely NOT shy.

    just a little food for thought:

    1) it would be interesting to see (if the matrilineal-patrilineal law were reversed) just how accepting and tolerant you would be of the “inconvenient fact”. perhaps you might be more prone to expressing such so-called “emotional drivvle [sic: DRIVEL]” yourself.

    2) i’m fairly confident that everyone on this board is aware of the definition of “humiliation.” if you don’t agree that rejection, exclusion, and ostracization are synonymous with this term, then it’s possible your sensitivity chip is missing.

    3) i doubt that many children of intermarriage (myself included) feel the need to “point their blaming fingers” at their fathers. if they had not married our gentile mothers, we would not be here.

    and you are right, michelle. the law DOES need to change. but until we are rid of the mindset that acceptance of patrilineally jewish children will undermine the sanctity of law, or – even worse – threaten the very existence of the jewish people, we are not going to get anywhere. let’s start with a fight against ignorance.

  • hmmm…apparently my last comment (not yet viewable” is “awaiting moderation.” i don’t think i said anything terribly controversial. a tad biting, perhaps, but not controversial. has anyone else had this happen? strange….

  • People’s mothers do TOO have a different, and more intimate, impact on them, than their fathers do. It’s not symetrical.

    People with Jewish last names and faces, but no Jewish moms, are totally welcome – please convert asap and have some latkes. You can teach us all. You will know more than many of us, and you will have been in a mikvah, which many of us are too scared to dip our frightened little toes into.

    Men go to mikvah, too. It’s not about female cooties at all. Just ask Rabbi Yo.

    • this is not true. I grew up in a house hold where my mother’s side of the family lived very far away and my dad’s side all lived within a day’s trip or the same city. me and my mother almost never spoke of religion but i celebrated jewish holidays and have studied some theology. why do you assume that MY mother impacted me more than MY father

  • in response to jewish mother’s latest comment:

    what you said about the impact of mothers on their children is certainly true. but aren’t there plenty of halachically jewish mothers out there who neglect their jewish roots, and pass that same negligence and apathy on to their children? i have one jewish friend whose mother (jewish) is far more likely to perform new age rituals and tarot card readings with her daughter than to attend synagogue or do havdalah on saturday night. in this sense, your argument -that a mother’s greater impact on her children partially justifies the tradition of matrilineal descent – doesn’t really hold water.

    you say, “just convert and you will be accepted!” sure, sounds easy enough: just dip in the mikvah and you’re one of us, part of the club, no big deal…but for me, it’s the principle of the thing. i do not believe that i should have to, in essence, “prove” my jewishness or level of committment to Judaism to others, when the children of jewish moms do not have this same obligation. i appreciate your openness, and i’m sure that you mean no harm, but telling the patrilineal children on this site to (and you make an obvious “us vs. you” distinction) “convert asap and have some latkes” feels a little like friendly condescension.

  • There are three types of imperatives in the Jewish religion. The first is the kind that makes immediate sense, for example, injunctions against murder or theft. The second may not make immediate sense but further reflection and/or experience renders it quite sensible – what comes to mind are the rules related to Sabbath observance. The third makes no sense at all and no reason is proferred for its observance. For instance, why not eat pork and shellfish?

    “i have one jewish friend whose mother (jewish) is far more likely to eat ham and lobster with her daughter than to patronize kosher restaurants or eat kosher food on any given night.” This friend and her Mother are very healthy indeed and their continued consumption of treiff does not seem to have affected them at all.

    For those Traditional Jews who view Judaism as a religion and who practice it traditionally, it doesn’t matter that matrilineal descent is not an absolute guarantee against loss of identity etc. Religion does not have to be logical nor does it always have to make sense. Judaism is a faith, and we have faith in Torah and in our learned elders who have successfully kept us alive and thriving through thick and thin. I’m not advocating the elimination of evolution. Judaism was never a static religion. But as it stands now, like it or not, certain segments of the Jewish population accept the requirement of matrilineal descent and that’s not going to change because some people think its foolish.

  • According to Halacha law you’re a Jew if your mother’s a Jew, end of story. I’m sorry if you don’t like it but that’s the way it is. I’m tired of some half-Jews trying to change Judaism.
    If you don’t like it then join a Reform synagogue where the standards for anything authentically Jewish are very low. Just don’t make the rest of us try to change for you.
    Robin Margolis has some nerve calling Jewish values “crazy.” This is especially infuriating since Robin was raised as a Christian. She don’t know anything about Judaism and only wants to cause trouble.
    In the future if Robin and her ilk had their way Judaism will no longer exist as we know it. The Christmas and Easter holidays would be part of the new Judaism since most half-Jews celebrate them.
    That’s scary!

  • Dear Friends:

    I will offer some corrections of a few misconceptions on this thread:

    1. I am not male — full name, “Robin Elizabeth Margolis” — maybe next gilgul (reincarnation in Kabbalah) 🙂

    2. I am not patrilineal — I had an Orthodox Jewish mother and an Episcopalian father — so I am matrilineal.

    I was raised in my father’s faith, as an Episcopalian, and as an adult, I opted to live as a Jew.

    3. I was greatly amused by one poster’s assumption that because I was raised as a Christian, and switched over to Judaism as an adult, I must therefore know little about Judaism.

    It is an interesting myth, that only people with two Jewish parents, raised as Jews from birth, have any real Jewish knowledge. But it is a myth.

    As the co-leader of a havurah for years, and a Kabbalah teacher for over a decade, I have done a lot of outreach to both Jews with two Jewish parents and adult descendants of intermarriage.

    It is has been my privilege and honor to teach a lot of Judaism — festivals, prayers, basic Hebrew, Kabbalah, etc. — to very wonderful, warm people that the Jewish establishment has totally failed to connect with, even when they sat in its shuls and community centers.

    For more information on efforts to improve Jewish outreach, please visit:

    http://www.joi.org

    http://www.interfaithfamily.com

    4. There seems to be an assumption by some posters that matrilineals and patrilineals are somehow different, because some of us have Jewish mothers, and some have Jewish fathers.

    In reality, when I have attended gatherings of adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage, we found that there were no real differences between patrilineals and matrilineals — we all share the same experience of having one Jewish parent and one non-Jewish parent. No one walking into the room could tell who had a Jewish father or a Jewish mother, unless people volunteered the information.

    5. Protesting against the discrimination and humiliation of adult children of intermarriage within Jewish communities is not radical or innovative — we are calling for Judaism to live up to its traditional values, starting with chesed (kindness).

    It is not a Jewish value to harm people because of their parentage — to publicly snub them, humiliate them, deny them conversions, and (in Israel) deprive them of basic civil rights.

    5. There is enormous social and legal discrimination in Israel against the patrilineal children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of intermarriage — and it is always justified by appeals to the matrilineal rule.

    Anyone doubting that patrilineal adult descendants of intermarriage are frequently deliberately prevented from obtaining Orthodox conversions in Israel, and are also subjected to other ugly social and legal penalties — always justified by the words “they don’t have a Jewish mother or maternal grandmother, so they’re not Jews”
    — is welcome to visit the website of the Association for the Protection of Mixed Families (in Israel) at:

    http://www.mixedfamilies.rustreet.com/english/staff.php

    which spells out their plight in great detail.

    Matrilineal children in Israel, despite being considered “real” Jews, experience a certain amount of social hostility and contempt directed against their parentage. It is definitely a disadvantage in Israeli society.

    Much of the discrimination against us in Israel then poisons our relationships with Jews in the Diaspora — I have seen the “Israel does it” justification used to harm adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage in Diaspora communities.

    Very simply, it is not a Jewish value to attack people for having a non-Jewish father or a non-Jewish mother or exclude them from the Jewish community or relegate them to second-class citizen status in Judaism.

    I hope that Jews reading this thread will take action in their own communities when they see or hear of discrimination against adult descendants of intermarriage. That would be a positive mitzvah, for which they will be rewarded in olam haba.

    The great Orthodox sage, the Chofetz Chayim, pointed out that “it is a positive commandment to bear affection for everyone in Jewry as for oneself.” (The Concise Book of Mitzvoth, p. 77).

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis
    Half-Jewish Network
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  • A vague post, Robin. No one’s subscribes here to attacking or intentionally humiliating anyone.

    The difference between what makes one have a Jewish neshama verses a non-Jewish one has been on the books since Moshe Rabbeinu’s time.

    As for your delving into Kabalah, surely you’ll be more than happy and honest enough to post here verbatim quotes straight from the Zohar on the subject of Jewish versus non-Jewish neshamot and the Zohar’s teachings on a Jewish neshama where the father is not Jewish.

    We’ll wait………..

  • Zionist said–

    “In the future if Robin and her ilk had their way Judaism will no longer exist as we know it. The Christmas and Easter holidays would be part of the new Judaism since most half-Jews celebrate them.”

    I really don’t think that having a non-jewish, Christian mother carries any more weight than having a non-Jewish, Christian father in a person’s decision to observe Christmas or Easter. Your fear seems to come more from a lack of information and understanding of your patrilineal brethren than anything else. And for the record, there are a great number of “half-Jews” that are quite knowledgeable about Judaism –in both the religious, and academic sense. I am a “half-jew” (I use this term because we have no acknowledged label or name with which to address our Jewish identity as of yet) and a Judaic Studies major at a very good University. I also practice Judaism (Conservative) in my own home.

    Bottom line: Don’t post unless you have the facts straight. Assumptions will usually get you in trouble…and make you look ignorant.

  • Robin , you consider yourself a: “… Renewal Jew with a “culturally Christian half” (strong emotional ties to her Christian family and their rich Scots-English-Dutch Protestant heritage).” Those are your own words on your own website.

    You yourself are living proof that matrilinear is the truth. You are a matrilineal. You can’t let go of being a Jew, because you are one, though you are firmly rooted in a Christian life.

    A patrilinear wants to please her father, and doesn’t have the tools to do that with. What is she supposed to do? Thanks, Dad.

    A matrilinear has to be who she is, a Jew. A person like her is called by rabbis “a Jew, but a spiritual orphan”. Thanks, Mom. She doesn’t want to abandon her Dad…
    What is she supposed to do?

    I wish everybody well but the facts are the facts, and Judaism and Christianity are both worthy but not at all the same, and no, they aren’t going to meld together just because some people have celebrated both kinds of holidays and ceremonies.

    I have no great ideas and I am sorry for people’s pain.

    Let’s not pretend it can all be made ok if we just try hard enough, and let’s not do this to any more people.

    Conversion is available. Re-tooling a five thousand year old teaching is not.

    Everybody … has had to deal with messes their parents have left behind. It is the way of the world.

    • No One Wants Them To Meld Together. many of us just want to be considered jews. no strings attached

  • Dear Shy Guy:

    My post was vague? How much more specific could I be?

    Well, let me spell it out — the adult descendants of intermarriage are treated very poorly by the Jewish community worldwide — we are routinely humiliated, snubbed, excluded, denied pastoral services, and in Israel we are denied basic civil rights because of our parentage.

    This behavior is usually “justified” by claims that it is compliance with the matrilineal rule — except matrilneals like myself are also often treated very badly.

    What I am asking the people who read this thread is: as responsible Jews, what are we going to do to stop this behavior in our communities in the Diaspora and Israel, since the behavior is a flagrant chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name) and a violation of Jewish communal values of chesed (kindness) and peace and not shaming other people in public?

    This behavior is always justified by claiming that the halachic standard of “who is a Jew” permits this atrocious conduct.

    This pattern of behavior towards descendants of intermarriage needs to stop.

    Now I wouldn’t cite Moshe Rabbeinu as a support for matrilineal descent. He was intermarried to a non-Jewish woman, and
    G-d apparently had to threaten his life to make him circumcise his sons (Exodus 4:24-25).

    In addition, Moshe Rabbeinu permitted the judicial murder of a half-Jewish person with a Jewish mother and an Egyptian father on the grounds that “you shall have one standard for stranger and citizen alike,”(Leviticus 24:10-23), treating the half-Jewish matrilineal person as a “stranger” and his Jewish accuser with two Jewish parents as a “citizen.”

    This is not very good support for the matrilineal rule.

    The actual origin of the matrilineal rule began in the Talmudic era. For more information about the historical development of various rules on Jewish identity throughout Jewish history, see a detailed historical essay I wrote on “Who Is A Jew?” at:

    http://www.half-jewish.net/whoisajew.html

    Regarding comments in the Kabbalah about Jewish and non-Jewish souls, the Chabad Tanya, a wonderful mystical treatise, states that Jews have superior souls, and the souls of non-Jews come from the dark shells of evil.

    The mass of works that compose the Kabbalah reflect the pre-modern eras in which they were written.

    Now if you believe in every word of every Kabbalistic treatise — many of them written centuries apart and from wildly conflicting viewpoints — that is another thread, probably on fundamentalism and mysticism.

    Getting back to our subject, it’s not moral to treat adult descendants of intermarriage the way we are treated in the Diaspora and Israel. It violates fundamental Jewish values, and weakens our communities.

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis
    Half-Jewish Network
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  • Dear Shy Guy:

    One more thing — thank you for your comment about the Zohar! I had missed that section on non-Jewish neshamot — so much Kabbalah, so little time 🙂

    I appreciate it, and will make a note of it for my research.

    Anyone who finds items like that, please let me know, as I am accumulating research on the subject. Jewish literature is vast — I am very well-read, but the sea of the Torah is immense —

    Cordially,
    Robin

  • Dear Jewish Mom:

    I appreciate you saying that I’m living proof of matrilineal descent because I’m attached to my mother’s Judaism — I know you’re trying to be welcoming —

    but my three brothers followed my dad, and identify as firmly committed Protestant Christians. One of them considers himself “partly Jewish” and has a strong affection for Israel, but he is a very active Christian — an Air ForceChristian chaplain.

    My family is living proof that the matrilineal descent rule doesn’t work.

    On the other hand, I have met many patrilineal Jews who are strongly committed Jews.

    Now I’m not sure where you get the idea that I plan to weld Judaism and Christianity together — I have no such desire or mighty powers 🙂

    It’s difficult enough for me living as a Jew.

    One thing I would very much appreciate — where did you get “a Jew, but a spiritual orphan” quote from? If you don’t mind posting a source, I would be very appreciative, and could add it to my research.

    I would be greatly in your debt if you have the source for that quote handy.

    Regarding “conversion is always available” — sadly, no, it is not a silver bullet solution for adult children of intermarriage.

    I spend a lot of time trying to assist patrilineals whose conversions are disputed. Some of them have been through — get this — two or three conversion ceremonies, in an effort to get a halachically valid conversion, and even then it is disputed by some rabbi somewhere.

    For example, Israeli Orthodox are now beginning to refuse to acknowledge conversions by other Israeli Orthodox. Now, if they can’t agree on “who is a Jew?,” we are at a dead end.

    So conversion is not the solution for many of us.

    You seem to feel that our intermarried parents are the cause of all of our problems.

    Candidly, while it is not easy growing up in an interfaith home, and our intermarried parents don’t always handle our issues as well as one might like and do leave us sometimes with heavy issues to resolve —

    many of our identity problems as adults are exacerbated by our fellow Jews, and their ambivalent treatment of us.

    Christians are going through a philo-Semitic phase, so being partly-Jewish in most Christian settings nowadays is a bonus. Anti-Semitism occurs towards us, but more sporadically than 50 years ago.

    This thread, for example, would never last this long on a Christian message board.

    Within three posts about “who is a Christian?” — whether it was a liberal or a fundamentalist message board — shocked Christians would be writing in to rebuke their cohorts for failing to welcome the children of intermarriage, reminding other posters that Jesus was a Jew, threatening to report the entire thread to a moderator as anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi, warning other Christians not to fall back into the anti-Semitic attitudes prevalent before World War II, etc.

    Christians would totally have a fit with a thread like this.

    Such a thread would last for three posts on a Christian listserve, before some hearty, earnest posters would warmly invite all of the half-Jewish people who posted to their churches and offer to refer them to ministers with outreach to Jews.

    Jewish Mother — my personal goal, is that within the next 20 years — discussion of half-Jewish people on Jewish message boards will be about three or four posts long, and focus on how can people like myself be warmly welcomed into the community, and how Jewish communities that refuse to welcome us can be outreached to do better.

    That would be an enormous blessing.

    Cordially,
    Robin
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  • jewish mother:

    i don’t know why you think that matrilineal law is a 5000 year old teaching. it is actually a little less than 2000 years old. perhaps you are implying that it is biblical? in reality, the rabbinic community has yet to identify any explicit endorsement of matrilineal descent in the Torah, and in fact, there is evidence of a patrilineal biblical standard as well. this is obviously a matter of interpretation, with more than one possible answer.

    additionally, if you look closely at the time period during which matrilineal law was formally introduced (immediately following the destruction of the second temple) it appears that many of the reasons for matrilineal law may have been much more practical than religious/spiritual; for instance, by making jewishness a trait passed through the mother, the rabbis were better able to protect jewish women who were being raped (or forced into marriage) by the non-jews of occupying nations. of course, there are other possible answers, but you get the idea.

  • Nope, Amber. The definition of a Jew as one born of a Jewish mother is a Halachah Le’Moshe Mi’Sinai. That puts it at around 3500 years old.

    It is an issue that was never argued over for a moment throughtout the Talmud, through the Rishonim and the Acharonim – never.

    Of course, if you want to play Reform Judaism, you can do what you want and make up all the rationalizations in the world to accomodate your opinion.

    Which is exactly what you did.

  • Robin, the Jews are an ethnicity and not just a thought-sharing group. Your parents, by their action in marrying, effectively declared that to be not so. It is still so, however.

    It is not just a philosophy.

    Christianity is. Judaism is not.

    Judaism has NEVER represented itself as welcoming and inclusive, so why does it have to be? Because that is nice? Jews are the nicest of all: the seven Noahide laws, in their teaching, make everybody holy, Jew or not. Christianity says the opposite; if you are not Christian, your are not holy. WE are the liberals, not them.

    But they are ok and I do not quarrel with them in any way. They should just do their thing, and let us do ours. They can’t understand us, and that is ok with us, but it is annoying for them.

    You are trying to be rationalist, but life isn’t always completely susceptible to logic.

    Your outreachings are going to show people the painful consequences of intermarriage, so keep it up. Your efforts will prevent future inter-marriages.

    I am SO SORRY you have difficulties, but as you say, there is no silver bullet, really.

    Talk is not going to make this go away.

    I wish you strong faith, as G-d is one, even though mankind is various, and I salute you for taking the hard path, not the easy one, which your brothers took.

    The Jews have a right to their feelings. Your parents did what they wanted to. You are going to have to work with what you have, and be patient. That’s not great news, but it is all I can think of.

    Now, about the birthrate…. that is my schtick. So, are you seeing anybody?

  • Shy Guy-

    You obviously did not read my post very carefully…and yet you seem quite confident in your ability to deconstruct my argument. Matrilineal law IS NOT biblical. The Mishnah was not formally transcribed until circa 200 C.E. I am also well aware of what the Talmud says regarding this issue, as well as its basis for commentary…(Deut. 7:3-4): “Thy daughter thou shalt not give to his son, nor shalt thou take his daughter to thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods.” What I said was that there is no EXPLICIT statement anywhere in the TORAH itself that endorses Matrilineal and REJECTS patrilineal descent. Most Rabbis – and no, not only reform – will acknowledge this. I never said that there was a Rabbinic debate over the issue…re-read my post. If you don’t believe that interpretation is involved in Halachah, and if you truly believe that you, yourself have abstained from “making up all the rationalizations in the world to accomodate your opinion,” then you are fooling yourself. I respect that you uphold Halachah via the Mishnah as authoritative (you are Orthodox?), but sometimes – even in Judaism – a little flexibility is not such a terrible thing. You can’t ignore the realities (i.e. increased intermarriage rates, etc.) of Modernity.

  • Amber, two thousand years is plenty old enough.

    The matrilinear thing IS a liberal flexibility already; the passage you quote forbids EVEN THAT.

    Robin’s family illustrates the truth that yes, the children often do go to another religion. Look at her brothers.

    Robin has no issue with the literal stuff. She knows she is Halachically a Jew; it is the social realities that are hard, non-acceptance, awkward acceptance, tinged acceptance. And legal difficulties in Israel. As if everybody lived in Israel. Or had to live in Israel.

    Well, this isn’t Christianity. Not every Jewish family is going to have an easy time having Christian in-laws, uncles, aunts and cousins. None of whom, no matter how nice, think the same way we do. Some Jewish families may not mind. It’s a big world.

  • Indeed, the Torah reports likely cases of intermarriage among the ‘higher ranking’ folks; we have little to none information at hand regarding the practices of the common people, but we may assume that intermarriage took place among common people as well if it’s reported of outstanding figures (and not condemned in their cases at that). I know a few Chasidishe rabbis that agree on that; furthermore, the more educated among them are aware of the Pentateuch’s editorial history and that if not for the genizot, we’d have no evidence for the authenticity of biblical scriptures prior to the time the Torah was standardized / canonized in early medieval Europe. Those genizot, however, only contained ‘fragments’ as in either only literally fragments of parchments or single books. But there is a thing that Catholicism and Judaism have in common, which is the mandatoriness of teachings and traditions alongside the biblical scriptures (in contrast to Protestantism, which only abides by the scriptures, which my “sola scriptura” comment above referred to), yet there’s a hierarchy with the scriptures being on top rank of the degree of mandatoriness. So, if a tradition or a teaching clashes with the Biblical scriptures, it theoretically instantly becomes void. In practice, people may or may not have had a stronger affinity to the traditions than to the scriptures, which eventually turned into commonly accepted practice (in Christianity, you’ve got the celebrations of Christmas, for instance, that were condemned by the early official church). There were educated rabbis, but in many smaller congregations, the eldest of the village served as rabbi – and his life experience and wit (or whatnot for that matter) became part of his congregants’ religious experience. Also, the only reliable birth and death records in medieval Europe were kept by the Church; if an Ashkenazi person claims their family tree is free of any intermarriage, it historically is rather a gross assumption and probably in many cases “wishful thinking”. Since marriages were only pemitted among first-borns in in many parts of medieval Europe (to avoid excessive population growth), any child born to a not officially wed couple was usually registered as a child to some legally wed sibling (that’s why the Church early on banned marriages between adopted siblings as the likeliness was high they were first- or second-degree relatives). There may or may not have been Jewish documents that minutely traced lineage; those documents may have got lost during progroms, but the status quo is that we do lack substantial evidence to claim “genealogical purity”. We cannot outrule the notion that men as well as women hooked up with people from other faiths and children resulted out of such relationships or casual encounters. We cannot outrule the idea that Jewish women got pregnant through rape. It may or may not have taken place. There’s no call to encourage intermarriage (at least if you don’t believe in the necessity of large gene pools) or to forego religious identity, but please stop digging the trenches deeper than they already are, because that, IMHO, simply is childish behaviour.

  • Jewish Mother —

    Just to clarify: 2000 years old means that the law is not of biblical origin…not that is not, as you said, “plenty old enough.”

    Does the passage (Deut. 7:3-4) say anything about the children of those unions? No, it does not. THAT is what I mean about there being no explicit, specific endorsement. Matrilineal law affects the identity of the PRODUCT(S) of intermarriage – the offspring; it has no effect whatsoever on the intermarrying couple.

    And yes, you are right…the passage does forbid both forms of intermarriage – unions of Jewish sons to Gentile daughters as well as Jewish daughters to Gentile sons. So how is this proper justification for Matrilineal law, even if we ignore the fact that it fails to address the status of the children?

    I have read elsewhere that the Rabbis interpret “your son” to be the Israelite’s “grandson;” he, the child of intermarriage, turned away from G-d. In other words, the son of a Gentile woman and a Jewish man is not Jewish. But isn’t this a fairly loose, possibly convenient interpretation? I do not claim to be a biblical scholar (though I have done my research), but there is something about the Talmudic stance on this passage that just doesn’t make sense to me.

  • In is my opinion, just to offer my personal opinion, the matrilinear rule eflects reality. I am not being scholarly, Talmudic, or philosophical. I can offer nothing scientific to base this on, nothing. I am not talking scientifically right now. And, I am late-life Orthodox, so my opinion is not based on childhood indoctrination.

    It is simply my experience, and impression, that the people I have met conform, in their personal qualities, to this rule, and to all the other rules about valid conversions.

    This is utterly subjective.

    For instance. I am acquainted with two adorable children with dark coloring whose father is Jewish and whose mother is of dark-eyed American stock, a charming Christian lady. The children have Biblical first names, and a Jewish last name.

    They are sweet kids but there is a difference, another mentality and quality. They are no more Jews than the man in the moon.

    If that is moon-beams, well, it’s the way it looks and feels to me.

    Mom rules!

    I have no great answers.

    If a Jewish guy objects to his Christian wife baptising their children, he is out of line. She should definitely baptise them.

    • but what if those children don’t believe in christianity. why should children who might believe religiously in judaism be baptized?

      “This is utterly subjective.”
      one of the only things in your paragraph that is applicable to the larger argument.

  • It’s just real, that’s all. It just is.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that Robin cannot be pleased no matter who does what because the problem is inside not outside. I hope I am wrong and I hope she walks the talk and has lots of wonderful Torah- observant children. Show us!

    No, I didn’t get my complexion in the Middle East. I picked it up somewhere in Europe, I forget when.

  • amber Says:
    November 21st, 2007 at 12:32 pm
    What I said was that there is no EXPLICIT statement anywhere in the TORAH
    Which is totally irrelevant since we are talking about Torah She’ba’ahl peh – The Oral Torah.

    We have to chose between your revisionist newfangled wishful thinking made-up-as-it goes beliefs versus Moshe, the Prophets, the Judges, the Elders, The Anshei Knesset Hagedolah, the Tana’im, the Amoraim, the Geonim, the Rishon and the Acharonim.

    Guess who instills more confidence in me for their accurate transmission of G-d’s Torah and Judaism’s esssentials?

  • Hitler and his ss said jews ,were vermin kill them like , rats ,well i am half jewish perhaps they would onlyhave choped my rat tail of gods sake get a life

  • Shy Guy–

    It is Thanskgiving, and I would like to lay this issue to rest…for now. Let’s agree to disagree. Clearly, you have no interest in taking anything that I have said or suggested into consideration. That’s fine. There is no need to get hostile. I don’t need your labels or condescension, and I refuse to let you marginalize me or my beliefs. Happy Thanksgiving.

    P.S. (and F.Y.I. ) Ani mevinah ivrit. You don’t need to translate.

  • JewishMother, referring to patrilineal descent children: “They are sweet kids but there is a difference, another mentality and quality. They are no more Jews than the man in the moon. ”

    I know of a Jewish family with a son and a daughter. The daughter married a non-Jewish man and had three children. The son married a woman who had a Jewish father but non-Jewish mother and had three children. Both families raised their children Jewish, the son more so than the daughter.

    Are you seriously suggesting that if you met these six fine young grandchildren, you’d be able to “sense” the three that came from a halachically Jewish mother and the three that didn’t?

    Even though the three that didn’t (the son’s children) actually have MORE Jewish blood in them, as three of their four grandparents were halachically Jewish, compared to their cousins (the daughter’s children), in which only two of their four grandparents are halachically Jewish?

    It makes no sense.
    And btw, JewishMother, have you ever considered starting your own blog? I’d totally read it and I’m sure I’m not alone.

  • In reply to stephanie I am half jewish on my fathers side i have traced my fathers line back to to 16 58 , pure jewish all the way ,also my jewish bubba the same I am more jewish than some of them so called frummers

  • I too am patrilineal and my father always told me I was really Jewish. According to some of you, he was wrong. I find the quote about pleasing a Jewish father interesting.

    The truth is that many, many Jews both men and women are marrying out in record numbers (at least in the states) The Jewish pupulation has been surpassed by Mormons. No strike against Mormons but it does concern me that with the decline in population, Jew will become less influential within a few generations.

    Does anyone know why men marry out? My dad always said he didn’t like Jewish women. I never took it too seriously until I became older. My feminsit values are greatly offended at his statement.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I think one thing we all have in common is concern about the decline in population. Patrilineals want to help and matrilineals fear us and see us as the enemy.

    It will be interesting to see what happens in the years to come.

  • Dear Justin:

    This is Robin Margolis from the Half-Jewish Network.

    Regarding why Jewish men marry out — recent surveys show that Jewish women are now starting to marry out in equal numbers.

    While in the past some people intermarried to get out of Judiasm or out of Christianity, the recent surveys and interviews with interfaith couples show that the majority simply met and fell in love. For most of them, there was no premeditation, self-hating or prejudice against dating members of their own groups.

    Now, some Jews, male and female, are like your Dad — they do tell family members and interviewers that they don’t like dating other Jews. What your Dad’s reasons are for feeling this way, I don’t know — you might want to ask him. Some people just have unfortunate experiences with members of their own ethnic and religious groups, which can cause them to look “outside” for mates.

    Other Jewish members of interfaith couples tried to find Jews to date — in many cases they spent many years and a lot of money on this quest — but they did not find a compatible Jewish mate. Rather than give up their dreams of marriage and/or children, they intermarried.

    I have interviewed Jewish women who told me that rather than wait until their biological clock ran down before they met a Jewish Mr. Right, and be deprived of having children, they chose to marry a non-Jewish man and have children with him.

    One example of the difficulties facing Jewish singles today are the problems faced by Orthodox Jewish singles. They are having a very difficult time finding compatible mates — there are a huge number of Orthodox Jewish singles websites discussing this problem. Just put in “Orthodox Jewish singles” into a search engine, and you will see many websites on the subject.

    Non-Orthodox Jews face similar difficulties and frequently have less tightly-knit Jewish communities with fewer dating referrals.

    Now with regard to your concern that “matrilineals fear us and see us as the enemy” — just a quick terminology update —

    “patrilineals” are the children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers —

    “matrilineals” are people with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers — I can assure you, as a matrilneal and the leader of a large organization for adult children of intermarriage that matrilineals like myself do not fear people like you or see you as the enemy. We see people like you as our brothers and sisters.

    Many of us matrilineals, despite having a Jewish mother, are treated as second-class Jews by many Jewish organizations.

    I think you meant “born Jews” — people with two Jewish parents — when you said “matrilineals” — and sadly, some born Jews with two Jewish parents do fear us and see us as the enemy.

    People with two Jewish parents are never called “matrilineals.”

    Regarding some born Jews not accepting us, that is sad, but our numbers are growing. We are 48% of all Jewish-identified college students. That percentage will rise in the near future.

    I believe most Jewish communities will gradually become more welcoming to us and less afraid of us as our numbers grow.

    But if you visit the Half-Jewish Network at:

    http://www.half-jewish.net

    you will be cordially welcomed by the adult children of Jewish fathers and the adult children of Jewish mothers.

    We see you as a Jew and share family backgrounds similar to yours. You would be very welcome.

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis

  • Hello, i was reading the post from Amber from Nov 21, which said:

    >>
    I have read elsewhere that the Rabbis interpret “your son” to be the Israelite’s “grandson;” he, the child of intermarriage, turned away from G-d. In other words, the son of a Gentile woman and a Jewish man is not Jewish. But isn’t this a fairly loose, possibly convenient interpretation? I do not claim to be a biblical scholar (though I have done my research), but there is something about the Talmudic stance on this passage that just doesn’t make sense to me.
    <<

    I am aware of two quotes in the Pentateuch that make statements (implicit or explicit) about children of intermarriage. The first is the well known Deuteronomy 7:3-4. The second is Leviticus 24:10-16. What is also interesting is that, unlike Rabbinical Jews, the Karaite Jews (not the descendants of the Turkic Kazhars, but Jews that accept only the written Torah) reach a different interpretation from these two passages, namely that the Jewish line flows thru the father. There is a somewhat detailed analysis on this which i found on half-jewish.org/who_is_born_a_jew.html . The Karaites’ web site is also useful (http://www.karaite-korner.org) on the patrilineal point of view.

    I don’t know about the other posters here, but when I read these two passages the only thing that’s clear is that it is NOT clear that there is any indication in the Pentateuch on the status of children of intermarriage.

    My Jewish ancestry is from two of my grandparents: mother’s father, and my father’s mother; which means i don’t fit either the Orthodox Rabbinical or the Karaite interpretation of being a born Jew.

    However, I AM A JEW.

    Some will say “According to whom??” and “Sorry, but you’re not”. Well, according to Rabbinical / Talmudic Halaka, I’m certainly not, so I’ll be the first to agree that I am not a Rabbinical Jew. Neither can I be a Karaite Jew (as I’m not patrilineal). However, given what I read in the Torah, I certainly don’t see with any clarity that Judaism flows exclusively thru the mother or thru the father. Then again, Rabbanites call Karaite patrilineals non-Jews, and Karaites call Rabbanite matrilineals non-Jews, and Rabbinical Orthodox call Rabbinical Reform patrilineals non-Jews, and Rabbinical Reform call non-Jewish raised matrilineals non-Jews. Samaritan Jews (who have a different Torah and who are a mixture of mostly Babylonian and little Israelite ancestry) are also not acknowledged as Jews by Rabbanites or Karaites. So, I know I’m in very good company.

    This reminds me of the 1970’s evacuation and aliyah of Ethiopian Jewry (operation “Magic Carpet”). This group, who has been Jewish for 3000 years (tradition has it that Ethiopian Jews come from Solomon and Sheba) found a strange thing happening to them when they arrived to Israel: Rabbis would come to them and literally ask for them to be officially converted (I guess because they are all ‘patrilineal’). The males were asked to expose their privates so a drop of blood could be drawn. First came the Ashkenazi rabbis, then the Sephardic. These were surely all well intentioned rabbis, but i can’t help to think what these Ethopian people must have thought: “what do you mean you want to circumcise me?! If I’m not a Jew, then why am I here?” Heck, if one follows Karaite interpretation, it’s the Ethiopian Jews who should have asked the rabbi if he wouldn’t mind getting poked in return too. Just be sure, you know.

    At the end of the day, with my Torah, my faith in God, and my Jewish ancestry, that’s all I need to claim my stake in Jacob’s house. (And, no offers for recircumcision, thankyou very much.)

    Cheers,
    akaGershom

  • Robin’s comment that the child of a jewish mother and a non-jewish father is a ‘matrilineal’ is preposterous – that child is a jew, 100%. It does not matter who the father is, as long as the mother is jewish. And such children are not ‘second class’ Jews either!

  • Um, Michelle, Robin was just defining the terminology she’s using and is speaking about prejudicial experiences she claims occur with Jewish children whose fathers aren’t Jewish. All very reasonable.

    Other than that, Robin would like to pretend that children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers are Jewish.

  • So did the Nazis and many an immigrant basing their Jewishness on their last name, obtained from the paternal line. 😉

  • Do you adopt Nazi definitions, guidelines and methodologies as your rules? No? Neither does the Torah Judaism. What an amazing revelation!

  • I didn’t say I did, but people often are perceived as Jewish based on their last names, which, due to Central European laws till after WW2, were passed on from the father’s side. In addition, many Roma also adopted family names when European Jews were forced to as well that likened that Jews chose. Also, many immigrants to the US fleeing the Nazis usually had to leave most possessions including documents behind. If you really wanted to be strict about the application of halacha, I suppose you’d have to demand pro-forma conversions just to be on the safe side. Not that I would.

  • If you really wanted to be strict about the application of halacha, I suppose you’d have to demand pro-forma conversions just to be on the safe side.

    Proforma conversions no, but the idea of reviving Sifrei Yuchsin has come up more than once over the last few decades and not just from the I-Am-More-Machmir-Than-You side of the mechitzah.

  • This problem is real and it has a real solution, although a demanding one. What is so terrible about undergoing orthodox conversion and settling the hash of this question forever? Orthodox conversion is accepted everywhere. I know, Israel has stopped accepting, but still. It certainly flies in the US. In fact, once you have passed the test in the US, it should not be hard to re-pass in Israel, like getting a medical or driver’s license in another country. You have the skill. You just have to satisfy their examiners, because it’s their country.

    People labor mightily to become lawyers, dental hygienists, social workers and so forth, so why not invest some time and brains in this? Yes, orthodox conversion requires study, bother, time, and money. So? You learn amazingly interesting material, deep stuff. It’s life enriching. Ah, but it doesn’t lead to a salary, like being a dentist. It does lead to a good family life, or anyway it can help with that.

    But there is another problem:

    Of course, then you have to live orthodox. Yes, that makes you weird to your family and friends. You will have a spouse, table, children, identity, sense of purpose, but you will be weird to your family and friends, which hurts.

    So, what kind of Jewish do people want to be?

    The big thing is they want to know who they are.

    They are not finding it in non-orthodox Judaism, or this thread would not exist, the unhappiness would not exist, and Robin’s organization would not exist. Orthodoxy is not magic, people are still people, and have defects, within it. But it addresses this squarely, and clearly, and offers definitive answers. After that, your character is what it is, and the innermost issues about that are clothed in mists.

    If you want nails, you go to the hardware store, not the butcher shop. If you want a steak, you go to the butcher shop, not the hardware store. Orthodoxy is the Clear Identity Rules Store. If you want clear identity rules, why not go where they have that? That is easier than forging your own nails or slaughtering your own steer. It has already been done for you.

    Come on in. The water’s fine.

    • why don’t you convert? all we’re asking is to be recognized as no different than the rest of our family. just saying convert helps no one.
      let me tell you about 2 people. Finn (irish last name) and Daniel (jewish last name). these are real people. finn’s only jews grandparent was his mother’s mother. his dad s catholic. Finn goes to midnight mass and celebrates easter with his family, most of whom are catholic. his mother was raised in a secular environment.
      Daniel’s grandparents are all jewish except for his maternal grandmother. he has never been to a church and is raised jewish. he and his family consider him jewish. he believes in G-d. Finn is an agnostic.

  • froylein Says:
    January 8th, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Would it really change anything though?

    It certainly did way back when Ezra Hanavi implemented Sifrei Yuchsin upon the return to Israel from the Babylonian exile.

  • The situation here is similar to Israel with a large percentage of allegedly Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, a large part of which (estimates say two-thirds) are neither halachically Jewish nor “Jewish” in the sense of they’ve been practising the faith. To a Jewish community of 16,000 prior to the immigration wave, an addition of 60,000 people has posed quite a few problems. My students from the former Soviet Union told me that all it takes to bribe some authority over there to issue a passport that claims you’re of “Jewish” nationality is a large piece of ham, two bottles of vodka, or a nice bouquet of flowers.

  • Dear Justin, aka Gershom and other posters:

    Justin, I am pleased that you have enjoyed my most recent posting.

    akaGershom, the Half-Jewish Network definitely accepts you as a Jew. I estimate that about one-third of our membership are adult grandchildren of intermarriage. Many are practicing Jews.

    Michelle, regarding your question as to the discrimination against matrilineal Jews, such as myself.

    I’m not relying on just my own experience. I have interviewed literally dozens of adult children of intermarriage with Jewish mother and non-Jewish fathers.

    Most recently, I heard from a young man with a Jewish mother and a Christian father, who opted as an adult to join Orthodox Judaism, and is now a fully-observant Orthodox Jew.

    He loves Orthodoxy and is now seeking a single Orthodox Jewish woman to marry.

    He reports that he was advised by various authorities in the shidduch (matchmaking) scene to use his mother’s Jewish maiden name on dates, rather than his Christian father’s surname, as apparently having a Christian father will damage his chances to find an Orthodox Jewish wife.

    In other words, he is damaged goods within the Orthodox world because of his parentage.

    Despite much lip service to the idea that matrilineal Jews are “real” Jews, in actual practice we are often treated by Jewish communities in a discriminatory manner.

    An Israeli newspaper recently published a column by an Orthodox rabbi urging a young Israeli Jewish woman not to marry a Catholic man with whom she is in love, even though she plans to raise the children as Jews.

    The rabbi told her that her children would be halachically Jewish, but that Israeli society is extremely discriminatory against people with non-Jewish fathers, even if they are raised as Jews, and why would she want her future children to be second-class citizens?

    Now if matrilineal Jews were “real” Jews I shouldn’t be seeing or hearing such things.

    Even worse, matrilineal Jews are often encouraged to minimize or deny their poor treatment within the Jewish community and look down on patrilineal Jews.

    The Half-Jewish Network encourages matrilineal Jews and patrilneal Jews to recognize that they are, symbolically, sisters and brothers, with the profound commonality of sharing one Jewish parent and one parent of another faith, and that we have much to share with each other.

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  • Dear Robin, thank you for your enlightening post. I suppose within Orthodoxy, it does matter that you don’t have a Jewish father and ideally Jewish surname. I’m just going from my own acceptance into an Orthodox community in Britain (not sure I’m going to stay with it though, Reform sits better with me) with a non-Jewish father. There was totally no deal about the father, no questions asked. This is why I think many jewish girls don’t care if they marry out. But I wasn’t aware of the situation in Israel. But then isn’t Israel totally secular anyway?!

  • Dear Michelle:

    I am delighted to hear that you found 100% acceptance from your Orthodox community in Britain.

    It warms my heart and gives me hope.

    I trust that you will find the same acceptance with a Reform community.

    Regarding Israel — Israel is no longer totally secular. They have a growing Orthodox minority, both religious-national and ultra-Orthodox (haredim).

    There is an elaborate web of legal and social discrimination against adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage in Israel — unfortunately, mostly sponsored by the Israeli Orthodox.

    Even more unfortunate, Israeli seculars are influenced by these discriminatory attitudes.

    Recently, Orthodox members of the Olmert government tried to get adult patrilineal grandchildren removed from the Law of Return.

    The Olmert government has also been trying to deport the non-Jewish spouses of Israeli Jewish citizens if the Israeli Jewish citizen dies before the non-Jewish spouse has gotten their Israeli citizenship papers completely approved.

    Deporting elderly widows and widowers, who are long-term residents of Israel, is pretty despicable.

    Also, if you have a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father in Israel, and your non-Jewish dad’s immigration status is questionable, the Israeli government will try to deport your dad, even if he legally married to your mom, you’re being raised as a Jew, etc.

    This is something that would affect matrilineal Jews, but not people with two Jewish parents.

    For more information, you may wish to visit my website at:

    http://www.half-jewish.net

    and click on the link “who is a Jew?” and also the “Israel” link for the latest updates.

    Also, if you contact me, I will be happy to put you on the email newsletter list of the Half-Jewish Network.

    To verify what I have said, you may wish to visit the English language online versions of the Israeli newspapers — for balance, look at Haaretz (leftist), Jerusalem Post (rightist), and Yedidot Aharont (sometimes left, sometimes right).

    All three papers have even worse stories about Israeli treatment of interfaith families.

    There is an organization in Israel, the Association for the Protection of Mixed Families, whose job is to fight discrimination against interfaith families.

    If you go to the Half-Jewish Network website, and click on the link “AMF of Israel,” you will see a description of AMF’s work.

    It saddens me to see Israel behave like this, but I am hopeful that the future is on the side of decency.

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  • I think it is really strange to have other people try to tell you who you are. My mother was an athiest but her parents were jews. She married a fellow athiest of Eastern Orthodox decent. Does that make me a jew? I am an agnostic, I find the concept of humansn knowing what god is or isn’t is fairly conceited. I also do not support Israel in anyway and feel that its’ creation was a major mistake. However I would be a Jew yet practising patrilineal Jews who follow Jewish law would not. Very closed minded and another reminder to me that religion and not integrating into larger societies are the wrong paths.

  • Dear Marv:

    On the question of whether you are a Jew, you may wish to visit “who is a Jew?” at:

    http://www.half-jewish.net/whoisajew.html

    which is an essay I wrote on how different Jewish groups would look at your half- Jewish identity.

    It is somewhat more complicated than just having a Jewish mother or a Jewish father.

    You would be very welcome in the Half-Jewish Network no matter how you chose to identify.

    Our website is:

    http://www.half-jewish.net

    Please contact me there, and I will be happy to talk with you.

    If you are interested in Jewish agnostic/atheist groups that will accept you as a Jewish or partially Jewish person, you may wish to contact the Society for Jewish Humanism at:

    http://www.shj.org/

    They treat adult children of intermarriage very courteously and would be happy to welcome you as a member.

    Now with regard to “religion and not integrating into larger societies are the wrong paths” — I would gently suggest that blaming all bad things on “religion” disregards the large number of very progressive spiritual Jews, ranging from the Jewish Humanists to some of the Orthodox, many of whom are opposed to current Orthodox and Israeli policies on “who is a Jew.”

    For example, those policies are being fought by the Association for the Protection of Mixed Families in Israel. You may find their website of interest:

    http://www.mixedfamilies.rustreet.com/english/staff.php

    Describing all religion as a “wrong path” is a somewhat sweeping generalization — I know that this thread must be totally exasperating for you, especially the postings invoking G-d as the backer for discrimination based on parentage —

    but you would be equally upset if someone described all Jewish or partly-Jewish agnostics and atheists as being on a “wrong path.”

    You may wish to consider spiritual Jews on a case-by-case basis as individuals, just as you yourself would wish to be considered as a good person and an agnostic on an individual basis.

    While some of the born Jews on this thread have made very insensitive remarks, they do not represent all of Judaism or all of Orthodoxy.

    And some of the comments posted by born Jews on this thread have been supportive of people like you and me — those posts are just less visible when one is very angry 🙂

    Now with regard to the state of Israel — it is very easy for adult children of intermarriage to walk away from Israel. The Israelis do treat interfaith families very badly.

    But many Israelis object to these policies against us, and if we abandon Israel, we abandon the thousands of adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage living there, an estimated 300,000 people like you and me.

    And they need our help.

    Israel will not become a more democratic or pluralistic society unless people like you and me help Israelis who are fighting to make Israel a better place.

    You may want to visit the AMF of Israel’s website and perhaps offer to help them a little.

    They are our sisters and brothers, and we need to help them fight Israeli discrimination against them. Anything we can do to help them also helps make Israel more democratic and pluralistic towards other minorities in Israel.

    Now with regard to “integrating into larger societies” — I am not sure what you mean by “integrating into larger societies” is good for the Jews.

    If you mean the way we live in America — as a distinct group, but in (relative) harmony and peace with other groups — that has been a positive path here.

    But in other countries, Jews “integrating” into their societies has resulted in the peaceful disappearance of entire Jewish communties and the Jewish culture, with everyone converting to other faith-based cultures, or, as in Germany, a violent and brutal backlash, culminating in the Holocaust.

    So integration is not always a desirable path for Jews, if they have to give up their spiritual and secular cultures. Every minority culture is precious and valuable.

    But this is just my reasoning, and you are fully entitled to disagree with me.

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  • Robin,

    Thank you for the informative and accepting post. The world needs more people like you. I read your link and the part on Islamic Jews really summed the whole thing up for me. How Muslims connsider the child a muslim and the Jews consider him or her a jew really epitomizes how I feel on the subject. I find it offensive for others to tell someone what religion they are. When I tell people that I have jewish heritage and they tell me I am a Jew becuase of matrilineal decent I get VERY offended. To say that i am a Jew based on religious laws that I do not believe in really makes no sense to me. If people who are halfies want to associate themselves with one of their religions that is fine by me. however I choose not to. I am neither Christian or Jew, I simply am. While that is esoteric and vague it sums up what I believe.

    As to integrating into other societies, I would prefer that. I do not live for my ancestors, I live for myself and my family. \ From a historical standpoint most of the problems that have been had by the Jewish population have been due to the fact that Jews keep to themselves and try to keep themselves seperate from the larger society as a whole. This “elitism” in a sense leads to people on the outside having negative feelings towards that group. I see no great loss in the dissolution of Jewish culture. Things change, they evolve.

    I wish you good luck and can appreciate your fervour for helping others out. Anyone that wishes to explore their heritage and spiritual identity should be able to do so as they choose without oppression from others. Those like myself who don’t believe in spirituality should be able to do so too.

  • I wanted to comment on Jewish Mother’s post of Jan 8th.

    >> … What is so terrible about undergoing orthodox conversion and settling the hash of this question forever? …
    …Orthodoxy is the Clear Identity Rules Store. If you want clear identity rules, why not go where they have that? That is easier than forging your own nails or slaughtering your own steer. It has already been done for you.
    Come on in. The water’s fine.
    <<

    Jewish Mother, your invitation to convert is heart-felt and sincere, and God bless you. However keep in mind that those of us non-matrilineal descendants of intermarried Jews who identify as Jews believe that we are already in the water with you (i.e. part of Israel). Furthermore, undergoing Orthodox conversion would be to betray our belief that matrilineality does not exclusively determine Jewishness.

    By the same token I do not expect that Orthodox or Conservative should change the Talmud either. The exclusivity of matrilineality is your belief (thru interpretation of Written Torah or thru Oral Torah) and you are entitled to it of course.

    Like Reform and Reconstructionist, those of us non-matrilineals who self identify as Jews have a broader definition of who can be a Jew according to God’s Teaching. It is a different understanding than Rabbinical Orthodoxy or Conservative.

    The issue however, and perhaps a good part of the reason for this thread (and thousands of others like this) is that unless all of those who self identify as partakers of Jacob’s inheritance can come to the table and acknowledge each other’s claims, we will split Jacob’s house, just like we did 3000 years ago years ago and 2000 years ago too.

    For me, you are a Jew. I don’t share some of your Rabbinical Orthodox beliefs, but I give you every bit of legitimacy here on earth. If one of us has wrongly interpreted the Written Torah, then God will pronounce on that. In the meantime, allowing each other to self-identify as “Jew” will only facilitate Tikun Olam and being a light to the nations. Do you think so ?

    akaGershom

  • I see your point – that this is a clash between two streams of Judaism, and you are on one side, and can’t depart from its views without being a traitor. And, you don’t want disagree with the first judge of “who is a Jew” in your life – your respected father.

    Is it so fine with the patrilinears’ Moms to have their children abandon Christianity? As a Mom myself, I am on their side. Mom rules. Does that make me a feminist? Gloria Steinem, where are you? Help me out here.

    I wish everybody luck, and just think we should think twice before doing this to people, no matter who looks good in the moonlight.

    There many pathways to holiness!! But the Torah / Talmud / Chazal say what they say.

    Are we talking about “being” a Jew, or living as one on a daily basis? Is it “be” or “do”? Is this philosophy class, or living life? Poof, you’re a Jew. Now what?

  • I like Jewish Mother’s better-safe-than-sorry approach. Isn’t there some peace of mind in knowing that we’ll all get a Mormon baptism?

  • Jewish Mother, thanks for understanding where I (and many like me) are coming from.

    In terms of “Is it so fine with the patrilinear’s Mom’s to have their children abandon Christianity?”, I’d say the following: who understands the Torah will gently explain the specific things where Christianity is anathema to Torah. Things like:
    a) People not having to follow the Law (Sinai Law for Jews, Noachide Laws for Gentiles) because asking for Grace has now replaced one’s need to follow the Law.
    b) Describing God in terms of a trinity or a human representation (which goes against the Shema and many injunctions e.g. “because you saw no form at Horeb….” against describing God as anything other than “Echad”).
    c) Replacing salvation from Abba with salvation from someone else.

    Most Christian Moms who have married a Jew will probably know that the 3 Christian things above are contradictory to Torah (especially since Christians include the Written Torah in their own scripture !!). It is our duty to educate Christians to abandon such beliefs that contradict the Torah.

    Regarding “are we talking about ‘being’ a Jew or living as one”… I’d say two things:
    a) Of course being a Jew means Doing the Law. What this discussion is about is “Do and Let Do” (for example Orthodox enabling and not hindering the ability of others who claim to be Jewish to follow the Law). In the old days Pharisees and Zaddukim and Essenes and even Samaritans co-existed (not so peacefully actually, but we know what happened when clashed: Israel as a whole got hurt). We should learn from that.
    b) But i’ll also say that this discussion has to be about just the ‘being’ part. Your acceptance of Karaites, Samaritans, Reform, Reconstructionist, and ‘half-Jews’ as, let’s say “Israelite partners” if you don’t want to use the term “Jew”, should not be predicated on how well we’re doing our mitzvot. There are plenty of Jews (according to the Orthodox definition) who live is disdain for the Law and I won’t question their Jewishness. At the end of the day we’re talking about accepting the ‘being’ part. Let God be the judge on the ‘doing’ part.

    So my question to you is: If I don’t do a Orthodox conversion, will you treat me like a Jew (even if you don’t call me a Jew, that’s fine, I understand the Talmud) and help me in doing my mitzvot?, or will you treat me like a Gentile and inhibit me from partaking in the benefits of Jacob. ??

    Cheers,
    akaGershom

  • aka Gershom, you nic says it all. You really seem to know your stuff as a Jew. You don’t sound particularly Reform. You are a strong candidate for asking, well, why NOT do an Orthodox conversion? You are used to being feisty. You are no stranger to being different. Sounds like you could handle the resulting flak better than the nice peaceable full-bloods, who in their complacency, have never had to worry about any of this.

    I hope we get you!

    Tom Morrissey, Mormonism is a separate religion. Reform Judaism is emphatic that it is not a separate religion.

    Everybody wants it easy……… we have been led to believe that the hard stuff is in the office, and religion should make us feel better, and if it growls and constrains it is a bad puppy. Well, sometimes that can be true. Not always. It is a judgment call. No, you can’t check your native decency or common sense at the door. (Don’t get me started on Purim problems.)

    It’s like, rather than sweat, bleed and writhe, why not just marry her already, and be done with it?

  • Dear Marv:

    I am glad that you enjoyed the Half-Jewish Network website, and thank you for your kind words about my work.

    If you have not already done so, please feel free to re-visit my website, and leave an email address, so I can send you our email newsletter.

    You definitely do not have to believe in G-d to join us 🙂

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  • Jewish Mother keeps talking about Orthodox conversion like it’s a cure-all for patrilinear Jews. It’s not. Many Jews have no interest in Orthodoxy, and besides, isn’t conversion somewhat invalid/pointless if 1) one does not intend to actually follow what one is converting to, and 2) one is ALREADY part of the group he/she is supposedly joining?

    If the Orthodox conversion is such a great learning experience, why not make all Jews do it? Because you and I know that while the Orthodox branch may be the most religious, its legitimacy is not exclusive.

    My dad is a secular Jew. He was the stay-at-home parent and shaped my beliefs and world-view far more than my Lutheran mother (who was almost never home) did. I connected with the ethnic/cultural identity and I felt like I was a Jew until people like you insisted that I wasn’t.

    And you know what? After spending over half my 17 years trying to fight the disapproval of every person with the luck of being born to a Jewish mother, I’ve given up. I’m sick of having to defend myself. I don’t feel like I’m Jew anymore. NOT because of anything in my identity, but because I can’t afford to keep identifying with people intent on excluding me. There you go. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. I am no longer deluded enough to believe I am one of my father’s people.

    I don’t believe in any higher power so it would be stupid to convert. Besides I don’t want to deal with the discrimination.

    Do not shove your branch of Judaism down my throat. Do not offer me any latkes.

  • Rachel, you could simply join the Reform branch of Judaism where you’ll be treated as Jewish in every way. They are not only a larger movement than the Orthodox movements in this country, but they are the fastest growing movement, in large part because of their openness to patrilinial descent, to inter-faith couples and to converts who don’t wish to practice as Orthodox Jews.

    Ignore the angry naysayers. It’s what’s in your heart that matters.

  • Dear Rachel:

    Several thoughts for you:

    1. If you consider yourself to be a cultural Jew, and do not believe in a higher power, you may wish to contact the Society for Humanistic Judaism at:

    http://www.shj.org

    They are a worldwide group of Jews who are committed to Jewish culture and history and consider themselves to be atheistic/agnostic. They recognize adult children of Jewish fathers and Christian mothers as Jews, if the adult children wish to identify as Jews.

    If you would like to talk with one of their rabbis (yes, there are atheist/agnostic rabbis), we have a contact in their movement who is friendly to adult children of intermarriage, and he would be happy to answer any questions that you may have about them.

    Please contact me privately at: binarystar@aol.com if you would like to be put directly in touch with this rabbi. Alternatively, you can visit the Jewish Humanistic website, and get a good idea of what they believe, and see if there is a Jewish Humanistic group near where you live. They have active youth groups which would be delighted to welcome you.

    2. Not every person “born of a Jewish mother” regards you as not Jewish.

    For example, there are many matrilineal adult childen of intermarriage, like myself, who mostly have Jewish mothers and Christian fathers, who regard you as a Jew, and as our (symbolic) sibling and friend.

    If you visit our Half-Jewish Network website and look at our message board, you will see that we have many patrilineal cultural Jews like yourself with feelings identical to yours. You would receive the same warm welcome from them that we have extended to many patrilineal Jews:

    http://www.half-jewish.net

    There is also a new organization for patrilineal Jews that is still in the planning stages, but would gladly welcome you, Emunah Avot.
    They can be reached at:

    http://www.emunahavot.com

    And there are many Jews with two Jewish parents in more liberal Jewish groups who would accept you as a Jew. Keep in mind that in America, the Orthodox are estimated to be only 10% of all American Jews.

    Even throwing in some Conservadox Jews — why let what is likely less than 20% of all American Jews push you out of Judaism?

    Also, remember that not all Orthodox and Conservative Jews toe the party line about patrilineal adult children of intermarriage — I have met some who are supportive of us; they just can’t make themselves heard yet within their denominations.

    So try to view each Orthodox person on a case-by-case basis; I have often found unexpected support pockets among them.

    Within the Conservative movement, surveys consistently show that the majority of their laity wants to recognize people like you as Jews — it is their rabbinate which is opposing this.

    If this follows the trend of other changes within the Conservative movement — typically their laity endorses a change, and their rabbinate adopts it later — it means that within 20-30 years, the Conservative movement will also recognize patrilineal Jews.

    3. Consider something else — you’re at an age where rejection is deeply wounding. It is an age where one profoundly yearns to belong and be welcome, as one gradually forges an adult life and identity.

    So it is no fun approaching members of one’s affinity group and being pushed away by some of them.

    But you may wish to consider that what you are going through with regard to some Jews rejecting you as a Jew is a sort of spiritual test — traditional Judaism calls it a “nisayon” — and I believe that this concept can be translated into an agnostic/atheist Jewish context —

    You’re being asked to develop spiritual or psychological “muscle” — to push back against the cruel rejections. To draw a line in the sand, and say: “This is my Judaism too. I’m not going anywhere.”

    I will share with you that I myself for years thought many times of just quitting Judaism. I have a Jewish Orthodox mother, and it has not gotten me much street cred — the Jews who want to reject adult children of intermarriage will always find additional reasons for rejecting us —

    I have been stigmatized for “not looking Jewish” (I look like my Christian dad), not being brought up Jewish (I was raised in my dad’s faith and switched over to Judaism as an adult), for having “wrong” views on Israel (I favor a peace treaty with the Palestinians), and even for doing outreach to other adult children of intermarriage (a “real” Jew would allegedly choose only people with two Jewish parents for friends. )

    After all, I thought, why not return to the Episcopalians of my childhood — that friendly, welcoming, liberal group, who would never refuse a person admission because one parent wasn’t Christian —

    but I always thought how disappointed my deceased Jewish grandmother and mother would be — and I am a believing Jew, so how could I go back to church? — and I also thought — why let the people sponsoring what one of my Jewish outreach colleagues calls “a leaner, meaner Judaism” win?

    So I have applied to a rabbinic program — I was notified that I was accepted earlier this week. I am doing this partly so I can be more effective in reaching out to many people like ourselves.

    So Rachel, you are guaranteed at least one rabbi who definitely accepts you as a Jew — just give me a few years to get ordained 🙂

    Take your nisayon, and use it to strengthen yourself. Just as people training for an athletic event — or prepping for a college exam — or preparing for some kind of martial arts program — or even many of our very stubborn Jewish ancestors, who firmly resisted being coerced into other faiths — all of those people take tests of their commitment and use the tests to strengthen themselves.

    And on a lighter note, please contact the Society for Humanistic Judaism — they have a lot of young people who are patrilineals like yourself — you deserve a Jewish environment where you are accepted completely as yourself and have some fun.

    Please also keep in mind also that we will be the majority of American Jews between the years 2030 and 2040 — it may seem far away, but it will happen within our lifetimes. We are already 45% of all Jewish-identified American college students.

    Once we become the majority, most of the flak against us will disappear. There is power in numbers.

    Many blessings on your journey,
    Robin Margolis
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  • Thanks a lot for your message. I’m going to look into Humanistic Judaism–my dad’s always called himself a secular/humanistic Jew, but I had no idea that that organization actually existed! Thanks again. And congratulations on your acceptance to the rabbinic program!

  • Congratulations Robin! You have been a wonderful advocate for patrilineals, and I’m sure you’ll make a wonderful Rabbi 🙂 Which sect of Judasim?

  • Dear Rachel and Amber:

    Rachel: I am very pleased to hear that you are going to look at the Humanistic Judaism website. Many secular/humanistic Jews are not aware that they have an organizational “home.”

    One of my board members for the Half-Jewish Network was very active in her Humanistic Jewish shul as a young person, and it is her childhood atheist/agnostic rabbi who has agreed to serve as a contact for the Half-Jewish Network.

    If you feel like it, please contact me at:

    binarystar@aol.com

    or visit: http://www.half-jewish.net

    and we can add you to the free, sporadic Half-Jewish Network email newsletter. We have a number of young patrilineals like yourself on our message board.

    Rachel and Amber: thank you for your kind congratulations on my admission to a rabbinic program. Amber, it is especially kind of you to say that I will be a wonderful rabbi — I will certainly try.

    Amber, since I have your email address, I will write you privately about the rabbinic program I am enrolling in. I opted to go to one of the independent rabbinical programs, instead of a denominational one, for reasons I will explain when I email you.

    Thank you to you both for the encouragement! Many blessings on your spiritual journeys!

    Cordially,
    Robin

  • it seems as though so many of you can not comprehend the idea of judaism as an ethnicity. Perhaps that is because you don’t have familial link to another ethnicity to relate it to. Most jewish families – religious or not – continue to celebrate the jewish holidays in one form or another and continue to cook jewish food and use yiddish words and terms and play jewish games and sing jewish songs, and then they pass these customs down from generation to generation. This is much like many other cultures. My jewish grandparents did these things with my brother and I, even though our mother is Mexican. They did not share with us Russian culture or Polish culture, even though that is where their parents hailed from. Their culture was judaism. Therefore, though we are not practicing jews, we consider ourselves jews because that is the rich tapestry from which we were raised, much in the same way that we consider ourselves Mexican.

    While so many of you refute our legitimacy to being jewish, it should be known that those of us “half-jews” still face full anti-semitism.

    One other thing – Perhaps if we hadn’t been treated as such outsiders by other jews at temple and other such gatherings, we may have been open to becoming religious jews as well. I suspect this is the reason for the high percentage of non-retention/conversion of half-jews into the jewish religion. This is something that would be in the greatest interest of the faith to be rectified – greater population, greater representation, greater collection of donations.

  • Jennifer, your email address tells me you’ve got a typically Irish last name; I take it it’s your spouse’s.

    While I agree with you on that the Jewish community as a whole should not be rejecting children born to interfaith couples, no matter what the lineage may be (I am one of the strongest advocates of full acceptance of the paternal line on this blog), the somewhat offensively presumptuous tone of your comment conveys that you apparently cannot get a few things yourself, namely that your concept of Judaism is strongly a cultural one as in the Slavic (light, going by your description) adaption of Judaism you’ve picked up from your grandparents, not an ethnic one, in case of which you’d have emphasized your genetic bond with MOTs. Reform Judaism acknowledges the paternal line, so for a start, you could have looked into that movement had your interest in Judaism been serious. More so, had your interest in Jewish Orthodoxy been serious, you’d have come to understand not only that but why more observant trends not only mandatorily base adherence to Judaism on matrilineal descendance but also discourage non-Jews (according to their rules) from conversion to Judaism in line with Jewish views on eschatology. Judaism is not a country club, yet it has got membership rules, and I can understand why Conservative and Orthodox Judaism expect way more from convertees than casual country club-style affiliation. I find your last line particularly irksome, your subjective concept of justice does not constitute as this old faith’s objective concept of law preserved through tradition and doctrine, so to claim things “would be in the greatest interest of the faith to be rectified” is as arrogant as it gets. Who are you to tell the majority of the world’s religious Jews what to believe in? Feel free to start your own Jewish movement; it’s possible if seriously desired, but don’t expect a Jew that tries to keep as many mitzvot as possible to consider you “right”. Apropos the donations, had Judaism only been about money, most European Jews would have voluntarily converted to keep their property back in the day.

  • “Soy puro mexicano,
    nacido en este suelo,
    en esta hermosa tierra
    que es mi linda nación.

    “Mi México querido.
    que linda es mi bandera,
    si alguno la mancilla
    le parto el corazón.

    “Viva México, viva América,
    oh suelo bendito de Dios;
    viva México,
    viva América,
    mi sangre por ti daré yo.”

  • Dear Jennifer, Froylein, and Tom:

    Jennifer, I hope you will visit the website of the Half-Jewish Network. We will gladly accept you as a Jew, and have many cultural and spiritual resources available.

    Please do not let the comments of some Jews persuade you to leave Judaism. There are many Jews and Jewish-identified adult children of intermarriage who would be happy to welcome you.

    I can be reached at:

    http://www.half-jewish.net

    Froylein, you complain about Jennifer’s tone — but is yours very warm?

    Many people with arriving with anger have been deeply hurt, many times. Isn’t it our duty as Jews to welcome them to our communities and show them positive ways of being Jewish?

    Here is some advice from the Jewish Outreach Institute for Jews on welcoming:

    “When I answer the phone for my orgnaization, I am an Ambassador for the Jewish Community. That’s why I will always keep these three points in mind: (1) this might be the first time the caller is contacting a Jewish institution in years, or ever, so my tone represents the entire community; (2) if I can’t help the caller myself, I’m going to find the person who can; and (3) this could be our one and only opportunity to connect this newcomer to the meanings and values of our Jewish community.”

    For more information about welcoming people to the Jewish community, JOI’s website is:

    http://www.joi.org

    Tom: my Spanish is very shaky, but I gather you have posted a poem about U.S. citizens who are also dual citizens of Mexico, and have two Mexican parents who have immigrated to the U.S.?

    On behalf of the adult children of intermarriage, thank you very much for your support.

    But I should caution you — and you would have no way of knowing this — that most descendants of intermarried Jews don’t really identify as “dual citizens” for two reasons:

    1. we are tied to our intermarried parents or grandparents by our DNA — our duality is a part of our very biology — that is not quite the same as being a citizen of two countries with one biological ethnicity; and

    2. the only people who describe us as dual citizens within the Jewish community are usually Jews trying to force us to leave by claiming that Judaism has the right to exclude us because “countries can make dual nationals take one passport, and exclude people who they don’t want.”

    But we appreciate your support of us 🙂

    To learn more about the adult children of intermarried Jews, please visit:

    http://www.half-jewish.net

    If you are an adult descendant of intermarriage, please contact me at:

    binarystar@aol.com

    and I will send you information about the Half-Jewish Network.

    May we all be blessed with better understanding of each other’s pain.

    Cordially,
    Robin

  • Robin, if you follow this blog on a more regular basis, you certainly know I’m a decently mannered person that has more than once spoken in favour of intermarriage. But, and that is the catch, if somebody comments on here complaining she hasn’t been the princess of the ball, figuratively speaking, at that showing utter disrespect and a total lack of understanding for what the majority of observant Jews believes to be right, I cannot bring myself to believe that that person wanted to connect in any way. Everybody’s been hurt at some point, but that is not a carte blanche to start off being offensive. Also, like it or not, heated discussions have always been typical of discourse in Judaism to the extent that noisy groups of people have figurativly been likened to “Jewish shuls”. “Let’s hug and be brothers and sisters at any rate”, is a Christian ideal. I welcome strangers that ring at my door, not ones that try to kick it in because they believe they’ve got the right to do so.

  • Froylein,

    You’ve completely missed the point of my post. The point being that “half-jews” should not be told by orthodox jews, conservative jews, reformed jews or any other that they must deny their jewish heritage because they are not religious in faith. It’s the equivalent of saying “I am half-mexican, or italian, or irish or whatever and the other half NOTHING because some jews don’t accept me.” I will not refute my jewish upbringing because someone tells me I should.

    Furthermore, I find it interesting that many of you posting think that children from interfaith marriages should have decided on their own and taken it on their own merit to seek out jewish relgious instruction for conversion when most of their parents are not religious at all and don’t encourage their children to seek out faith and in some cases, in fact, discourage it. This brings me to the point I was trying to make as to why it would be beneficial that when these children, teenagers, young adults do attend jewish religious or cultural events that they be welcomed and conversed with. Perhaps even given some background to the customs being celebrated.

    I did have some contact with a reformed temple as a child and my family was still treated by some members as being strange and different. It was not a particularly welcome feeling. The problem is not just with the acceptance only of matrilineal jewish descendance but with children of interfaith couples in general.

    My comment on financial gains was not in the context of benefit for any single person but rather the raising of funds by a charitable organization to help people in need and fund community events that can benefit the community. Isn’t that what is done with donations? I’m sorry you took it that way.

    It’s easy to tell someone who they should be when you’ve never walked in their shoes, so to speak. (referring to the binary references made on this post) I don’t mean to be presumptious, Froylein, I am purely speaking to my experiences and others like me who I know to have had similar experiences. I truly do not mean to offend you or anyone else who may be reading these discussions. I simply hoped to add to the viewpoint of other “half-jews” so that we may be better understood.

  • The lyrics are from the song ‘Viva Mexico’, by Pedro Galindo. It’s an unofficial national anthem, often sung on Mexico’s Independence Day (September 16, not Cinqo De Maio as we gringoes often assume).

    Thought I’d make Jennifer feel better.

    (When Mexicans use the term ‘America’, they’re not necessarily referring to los Estados Unidos; in their usage, America means everyplace from Nome to Tierra del Fuego.)

  • Thanks Tom, it did make me feel a little better. 😉

    (Although I get plenty of slack from Mexicans about not being Mexican enough either) – but that’s a discussion for another board.

  • Dear Jennifer, Tom, and Froylein:

    Jennifer, please don’t forget to contact the Half-Jewish Network — we welcome both your Jewish and your Mexican “halves.”

    I am very sorry to hear that you get flack from the Mexicans for not being Mexican “enough,” in addition to getting flack from the Jews for not being Jewish “enough.”

    I can’t do anything about the Mexicans, but we at the Half-Jewish Network are working on doing something about Judaism, if you would like to contact us — that would be at least “half” of your problem out of the way 🙂

    Tom, thank you for explaining — I wasn’t quite sure what your poem was saying — my Spanish exists, but is sketchy 🙂

    Now, Froylein — I certainly do follow this interesting thread on a regular basis — how could I resist? 🙂

    Jennifer is not complaining because she hasn’t been “the princess of the ball” — far from it.

    She has been repeatedly treated very badly, as she shared in her post, and she additionally, if I read it correctly, felt that reading this entire thread made her feel worse, and she was reacting to that — and I’m sure she doesn’t feel “heard” now.

    And with regard to your comment that “heated discussions have always been typical of discourse in Judaism . . . “Let’s hug and be brothers and sisters at any rate”, is a Christian ideal.”

    That is a major historical myth widespread among many modern Jews. That is why the Jewish Outreach Institute has begun the welcoming campaign I cited above, to bring us back to our tradtional welcoming roots.

    Traditonal Judaism, far from sanctioning the kind of the hostility or neglect or rebuke or criticism shown to newcomers in many modern Jewish settings, both observant and liberal, vigorously opposes it.

    Hospitality and courtesy to other Jews is a cardinal virtue in the Talmud, Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) and mussar (self-improvement) texts.

    Jewish figures who reached out to other Jews and non-Jews, even ones they were at war with or in serious ideological disagreement with are generally praised in traditional Jewish literature.

    The Christians got their ideas of brotherly love and welcome from the rabbinic Jewish civilization out of which they grew.

    Or as Rabbi Hillel said, “What is hateful to yourself, do not to your fellow man.”

    You will recall that his colleague, R. Shammai, is repeatedly referred to in a negative manner for his harsh treatment of both Jews and non-Jews, and R. Hillel was praised for his patience and warmth, even with Jewish and non-Jewish questioners who appeared hostile or to be deliberately baiting him.

    Or, in the words of Pirke Avos, which the observant are studying at this time of year, “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow creatures, and drawing them near to Torah.”

    The question with Jennifer and people like her is: are our words drawing her nearer to Torah, or driving her further away?

    Now where did the idea that Jews are basically a “Fight Club” and that is a good thing originate?

    We have certainly always been a contentious people — but the true era of chillly treatment of newcomers — when we weren’t just ignoring them or criticizing them — is directly traceable to our emergence from ghettos and entry into modern society in America and Europe.

    For a lengthy analysis of what happened to the millions of Orthodox Jews arriving from Eastern Europe to America in the early 20th century, I recommend “World of Our Fathers” by Irving Howe, which analyzes, among many other topics, how our communal bonds were ripped apart.

    But harsh treatment of wounded souls is not Torah. And it is something that not just the Jewish Outreach Institute, or the Half-Jewish Network, but every Jewish person in this era must take to heart.

    The question for us this Shavuos is: will we share the Torah from Sinai as disciples of Aaron and Rabbi Hillel — or will we withhold it from people as did Rabbi Shammai?

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  • Dear Froylein: I’d been ducking out on Shavuos this year — got a huge workload — and now I’ve ended up giving a Shavuos sermonette — sorry for the length of the post! 🙂

    Thanks for the dialogue and helping me think through some very inchoate thoughts on outreach.

    Many blessings,
    Robin

  • Jennifer, Reform does not tell you who you are, which is one of the biggest gaps between Reform on one hand and Conservadox on the other hand. Whether you like it or not, Judaism does have rules it bases affiliation on, those rules are an integral part of traditional Jewish belieffs. Whether you adhere to those beliefs or whatnot is your decision, but don’t expect others to consider you Jewish based on disbelief. They may be old-fashioned to you, but from a religious point of view they are right as the pillars of Judaism are scriptures, tradition and teaching.

    Robin, your, Jennifer or my subjective feelings on the issue cannot and won’t replace religious doctrine observant Jews adhere to. And yes indeed, if somebody wants to be a member of a group and be considered such, I can expect that person to actively get involved in that group – just as democratic states expect their citizens to not only learn about the principles of democracy, but also to read the news daily, go to elections and ideally get into politics themselves.
    Robin, also, what you’d like to call a modern myth re: heated discussions in Jewish discourse, simply put: it’s not a myth. Why you declare this is beyond me other than to prove a uniformity that has never existed. If you look into post-Temple commentaries on the Torah as well as into gemarah, you’ll easily see how adamantly the rabbis of those ages defended their positions. Also, I’m European with a pretty good take on European Jewish history (as well as Christian theology thanks to my studies), and nowhere in my studies as well as in feedback on my teaching on Medieval Jewry have I ever encountered a position that claimed that heated discussions were not a part of Jewish discourse. They’re a fact. Also sorry to break this to you, but hospitality towards Jews is one thing, but hospitality towards someone religious Judaism does not consider a Jew is another thing. At that, while you yourself may feel different, religious Judaism would not consider you an authority on religion either just as little as they would consider a Reform rabbi an authority on religion. Religions aren’t about feel-good-at-all-times; ask any observant Catholic, and you’ll see what I mean.

  • It probably serves to prove froylein’s point, but Robin’s tone and approach resonates very strongly with this Christian. She blows our cover when she rightly points out how we got most (well, almost all) of our faith from Judaism.

    Rules may exist, but our relationships with God and our faith communities wax and wane– they unfold over time, at any rate. “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” How best to address this reality of being human? Whatever the rules, a welcoming, understanding approach makes a lot of sense. Maybe that’s off-base, but don’t blame me– blame that Jewish guy who lived about 2000 years ago.

  • I think everyone here is or should be concerned about the future of the Jewish people.

    According to simple to remember, http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/world-jewish-population.htm

    There are 13.3 million Jews and worldwide growth is close to 0%. Projections are in the next 2 generations US Jewish population will decline to 3.8m and the # in Israel will increase to 10M. By 2020 the world’s largest Jewish community will be in Israel and the Diaspora will continue to shrink.

    What does this mean for the future?

    Will the Jewish population become more Orthodox and produce a “leaner meaner” Judaism as some suggest? Or will the “half Jews” somehow in some way save the Diaspora Jews from shrinking?

    The statistics on simple to remember also state that a recent survey shows that a high number of Jews do not believe in G-d. What does that mean?

    It is interesting and scary to ponder.

  • Tom, moreover, decidedly (Protestant) Christian theology is sold off as Jewish theology. I’ve watched this thread for a while, and couldn’t help but wonder why people would return to an old post to say what’s been said numerous times before – other than to spew accusations at traditional Jews and traditional Judaism (traditional as in Conservative, Orthodox, MO, and Ultra-Orthodox and any nuance of observance in between), at that accusing them of keeping (!) their faith. You know I think that lineage is a critical issue as there have been no reliable birth and death records for the Western hemisphere (none for other parts of the world) prior to the Council of Trient plus a lot of people are determined Jewish in the USA going by their lastnames, which, as law had it till the 1970s here, was passed on from the father plus Roma and Sinti lastnames that as well may sound like “typically Jewish” lastnames plus the ban on marriage of non-first borns well into the 18th century CE, which left all other children be born out of wedlock plus the biblical instances of intermarriage etc. But I also have to accept that Judaism isn’t based on the Torah alone, but – just like Catholicism – is based on the scriptures, the tradition (“Oral Torah”, which somewhat manifested itself in the Talmud) and the teachings. Just because I eat Chinese food every now and then doesn’t make me a Taoist or Confucianist. Just because I occasionally wear large chandelier earrings doesn’t make me a Muslim Arab. Just as spinning the dreidel on Chanukka won’t turn a person into a Jew. Protestant pseudo-universalism is out of place here.

  • One respect in which Judaism resembles Protestantism is an absence of an ultimate authority whose writ runs across the entire spectrum of observance. So, debates over this and other issues between liberal diaspora Jews and more traditionally-minded ones can’t be resolved, can they– unless one side or the other disappears or quits the field altogether. To judge by this and other Jewlicious threads, it’ll be a cold day in Gahenna before that happens.

  • Sheol will do the trick, Tom. What clearly separates Judaism from Protestantism though, and brings it way closer to Catholicism, is the Protestant notion of sola scriptura, which does not take the oral tradition into account that inevitably came into existence between the lifetime of IHS and the writing of the gospels. There are many more differences between Judaism and Protestantism, but my pizza’s almost done, but in a nutshell: sooner will Rome reconcile with the Protestant denominations than traditional Judaism forego its beliefs for the sake of a cult-like, watered down unitarianism.

  • Froylein,

    Your reference to eating some chinese food or wearing some jewelry not making you a Taoist or a Muslim Arab as similar to me and people like me sharing traditions and recipes and such passed down to us from generation to generation of people in our families is a completely inaccurate comparison not to mention very insensitive. I’m not sure why people posting about their lifestyles with their faith and family histories makes you feel that you are being attacked and need to strike back.

    From reading some of your posts it seems that the disagreement is based on the terms of judaism being used by “half-jews”. I don’t think that anyone who is not a full practicing jew is trying to claim that they are. From what I gather from this discussion, you and others don’t believe that we should be able to call ourselves “half-jews” (I don’t personally like that term either) and saying that we are ethnic jews seems to be offensive as well, so what do you think would be a more agreeable term or politically correct classification? Jewish background?

  • Jennifer, since I consider patrilineal “ethnicity” just as valid as matrilineal one, call yourself a Jew based on that. Now, since Judaism is a faith rather than an ethnicity unless one wants to trace one’s lineage back to possibly common ancestors thousands of years ago, I’d rather people call themselves Jewish if they actively and deliberately lead a Jewish life. If they don’t, why bother labelling themselves? Apropos, many assumedly “Jewish” traditions observed in many overseas Jewish families often were not established in the families before arriving in the New World and often are copies or counter-reactions to a predominantly Christian environment. Chanukka, for instance, used to be no big deal in Europe and only became huge (and big business at that) in the US, its new interpretations (as in interpretation of practice) getting spread back in Europe thanks to American TV shows.
    I don’t feel attacked, just a tad annoyed by people that try to sell off Christian theology as novelty or re-discovered Judaism (this is not directed at you), and one should be wary of those people. I don’t mind Christians, and I’m not shy to admit that my background is mixed, but I dislike fanatics that use sneaky tactics to “save people’s souls” (again, this is not directed at you).

  • Speaking of “half-Jews”, my half-Japanese Jewpanese Orthodox rabbi son just got engaged to a nice girl with a Jewish mother and an Irish father who also has an aunt who is a nun. (This one’s for you, Tom.)

    My mother is Jewish and my father comes from a German Lutheran background. They both used to be Communists, and now they’re both Zen Buddhists. I was raised as secular as can be, but now I’m Orthodox. Nobody (in the Orthodox community, at any rate) questions the status of my children. If they did, there is no way my son could ever have become a rabbi. My entire family is living proof that anyone can become a Jew if they accept the rules of what it means to be a member of the Jewish community. That’s all it takes. Nobody complains that someone who wants to be a doctor has to go to medical school and pass all the tests. This is no different.

    I do not deny that the Jewish community could probably be better at outreach to “half-Jews”. The thing is, many of these “half-Jews” are, like myself, just Jews. The ones with Jewish fathers aren’t Jews.

    It is true that such people of course share the culture and DNA of their Jewish parent, just as my children share the Japanese DNA of their mother. If they want to call themselves Jews, eat latkes with sausage and create a community of people of the same general background, no one is stopping them. They may be part Jewish in a genetic or cultural sense, and if that is what they are looking for, who am I to stop them? Zie gezunt, be happy. That’s what the Reform do, anyway. They don’t beg the Orthodox to accept them; they make up their own rules and create their own communities.

    But if they want to marry my children and be counted in a minyan, then they should not complain if people ask them to pay ther price of admission first.

  • Ephraim, first of all: mazel tov!

    Also, thanks for backing my point (as stated in comments #126 and #129).

    What I forgot to mention earlier, there’s no such thing as “Jewish food” apart from matzah as what people pereceive as “Jewish food” are kosher adaptions of the regional cuisine of wherever Jews settled. Also, I come from a family with three generations’ love for Italian pop music and Italian cuisine. My father studied in Italy, I was conceived in Italy, I learnt Italian at school. I talk with my hands a lot more than typical Germans do and there are a few Italians in the family tree eight generations back, but still, I’m not Italian. I can feel a certain affinity in a way for Italy, but if I want to be Italian, I’ll have to undergo the procedure of applying for citizenship there and follow suit with anything that ensues, e.g. moving there, working there, respecting their constitution, really mastering the language etc.

  • One more thing, I just thought of when reading your post, Froylein, about tracing one’s lineage. When I was pregnant with my daughter, the doctor’s found a cyst in her brain that could have been fatal or could also just go away before she was born. Because of this I had to have an amnio done and go through genetic counseling. During this genentic counseling which is really just a very detailed survey of questions about family history, it was explained to me that my daughter was at risk for certain defects that are inherent to ashkenazi jews, which my family is. Thankfully, my daughter turned out fine and it was just a scare.

    Recently my uncle was diagnosed with leukemia and after many failed chemo treatments, he was directed to look for donor matches for bone marrow. The doctors told him that the match would have to be an ashkenazi jew.

    My point is that there is some validity to the jewish ethnicity that I’ve been talking about. It’s in our blood. And I didn’t even need to trace my lineage back to know that one.

    Ephraim – I enjoyed reading your post and felt that you are displaying the type of compassion and understanding that I’d love to see more of in the community. I completely agree that had I or someone like me wanted to marry a religious jew, it would be completely understandable and expected that one would need to convert to Judaism completely.

  • Jennifer, good to read that your daughter’s fine. There are, no doubt, genetic ties among Ashkenazi families – those ties aren’t only limited to those though but also to the people of their former environments, with who they shared a great deal of cultural as well genetic information. There are parts in Europe that hardly ever had any sizable Jewish population at any given time besides the recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union. I know a few (Jewish mostly) doctors like to pride themselves in determining “Jewish” genes, at that just bringing up the same old racist bullocks that the Nazis promoted. As far as serious transgenics is concerned, a study recently published determined that all blue-eyed people (of which there are many among Ashkenazi Jews) stem from a common ancestor that lived around the Black Sea a few millennia ago, not being Jewish at that. Now, since blue eyes are a recessive part of genetic information, they can only be passed on if both parents possess “blue-eye code”. If it’s a heterozygous phenotype, a blue-eyed grandparent on each side will do even if both parents are brown-eyed; if it’s a homozygous one, both parents would have to be blue-eyed to pass on that genetic information. Bottom line is that dark features generally are genetically dominant, and a lot of the transgenics pseudo-science these days as well as over the past decades has been used to categorize racist stereotypes. As for bone marrow transplantations, I was told by a doctor a while back that any donor will do, a closer one just will increase the chances of success, but the search for donors mostly is about spreading awareness and raising funds. Even if you’ve got great insurance, not everything doctors do is in the patient’s best interest, e.g. terminally ill cancer patients have been found out to not only live longer but also feel way better if they don’t get told about their condition, but that’s a different story altogether. There’s no genetic code for culture, however. Culture is socially acquired through direct and indirect education. Unlike a few types of migratory birds, humans don’t pass on behavioural patterns and cultural structures in their genetic code, otherwise the documented cases of wolf-children would have told a story of divverent behavioral development and easy integration into a human environment.

  • Jennifer, I think you are the only person on this BB that has ever called me compassionate and understanding. I’m glad you took it that way.

    My point is pretty much the same as froylein’s though. According to Orthodox halacha (the only real kind of halacha there is) some members of the “Halbe Juden” “community” you have created/are attempting to create are actually Jews (those with Jewish mothers) while the rest are not. These are just facts. Orthodox outreach to such people would by necessity be limited to the actual Jews. Any other people who felt themselves to be Jewish and who wanted to actually be Jewish would have to convert, with all that entails.

    I know a woman who is half black and half Korean. She always wanted to be Jewish, and so she converted. It is because of her that her family is frum. Her religiosity convinced her then-secular Jewish boyfriend to become religious, since she would accept anything but a proper Jewish husband. If she can become a Jew, anyone can.

    Since I am a product of a mixed mariage myself, I can understand the existential pain of a “Half Jew” who is not actually Jewish as he or she struggles with his/her bifurcated identity. For me, it is the reverse: there are certain aspects of my father’s background to which I wish I could relate. But it’s not really possible.

    I went to Munich on a business trip once. Somehow it seemed familiar and kind of haimish. To be perfectly honest, there was a certain part of me that was shocked and disappointed that I did not feel more uncomfortable to be “in the Belly of the Beast” so to speak. But I just did not feel that way (part of that must also be due to the fact that the Jewish side of my family is German also). Finally, though, it was all just a bit surreal, especially the street sign on the Ringstrasse (a circular road that rings the old part of Munich) that said “Dachau, 10 kilometers”. I practially jumped out of my skin. To top it all off, I know from my father that he had a cousin his own age from a branch of the family that stayed in Germany who was killed on the Eastern Front fighting the Russians in WWII. He may have even been SS. I don’t know for sure. But it is bizarre to realize that I had a relative who would have put me in a concentration camp had I been around at the time. So, basically, I just don’t think about it.

    Anyway, all I am saying is that people from mixed backgrounds (or anyone from any background, for that matter) will self-identify in the way that suits them best. There is no way the organized Jewish community, of whatever persuasion, can do anything to prevent that. So you will do whatever it is you want and call yourselves whatever it is you want. But to the extent that you don’t want to take the plunge and actually be Jewish, seeking “acceptance” from the Jewish community is probably something that you will have to learn to live without.

  • Dear Ephraim:

    You seem to be speaking to other adult children of intermarriage from the standpoint that you are accepted within Orthodoxy as a matrilineal Jew, and if the rest of us would convert via Orthodox ritual, we too would be accepted.

    That used to be true to some extent, but it is not nowadays. I will explain.

    Nowadays, your family’s identity as “Orthodox Jews” will only be unquestioned as long as you live in an Orthodox Jewish community that accepts you.

    If you venture outside of it, into other Orthodox communities, and let your parentage be known, you will soon discover that your Orthodox Jewish identity is not “portable.”

    I routinely receive reports from other adult children of intermarriage, including people with Jewish mothers who live as Orthodox Jews, and patrilineals who had Orthodox conversions, that their Jewishness is still questioned.

    They have obeyed all the Orthodox rules, dotted all the “i”s and crossed all the “t’s” — but that does spare them discrmination in schiduchim, for example — they are regarded as less worthy of a Jewish spouse than people with two Jewish parents.

    One of them wrote me very bitterly recently, that I should speak up about the discrmination he experiences in Orthodoxy, and how he was promised that as a matrilineal, he would be treated the same as the other Orthodox — but he is not, despite his earnest commitment to halachic pratice.

    He told me that he feels that he was defrauded by the claim that as a matrilineal who wished to live as an Orthodox Jew, he would be welcomed by the Orthodox.

    He’s even been told not to use his Christian father’s last name during the shidduch process, only his Jewish mother’s surname. What kind of acceptance is that?

    I promised him that I would speak up for him, and I am doing so.

    And your suggestion that that adult children of intermarriage who are not considered Jewish should undergo Orthodox conversions — for the patrilineals and people with no Jewish parentage — those conversions are no longer guaranteed, once accomplished.

    An Israeli Orthodox rabbinic court, in a fit of pique, recently invalidated several thousand Orthodox conversions, merely to attack a rabbi from another faction whom they dislike.

    I have even read a call by one Orthodox rabbi that people who have a non-Jewish father should be barred from the yeshivas. I believe that his views will spread.

    And if you doubt me, start visiting Orthodox websites, and mention casually that your father wasn’t Jewish — and that you think Judaism should do more outreach to adult children of intermarriage — in a very polite manner — wait and see how you are greeted.

    I assure you that you will not be applauded, quite the opposite. And at least one person responding to you will say something about how you are not Jewish enough or really a Jew because your father wasn’t Jewish. Or how only someone with a non-Jewish father would suggest such a thing.

    You will be surprised when no one rebukes that person, or does so in a very half-hearted manner.

    I’m warning you now that eventually an Orthodox Jewish community — perhaps several — may question your Jewish identity or the Jewish identity of a member of your family.

    Orthodoxy is increasingly not honoring its own halachos on conversion, and its own matrilineal “who is a Jew?” rules.

    It’s not a question of us “taking the plunge.”

    When an adult child of intermarriage comes to me and says “I want to live as an Orthodox Jew,” I support them and we discuss the various angles, depending on whether they are patrilineal or matrilineal — but I warn them not to count on being Orthodox as a “gold standard” that will protect them from discrimination anymore.

    I warn them — there are piles of examples in the Jewish media — that their “Jewish” status can be yanked from them on a minute’s notice by an Orthodox rabbinic court.

    I suggest that they only become Orthodox if they are really committed to the path, because playing by the rules is no longer enough.

    There was recently a case in Israel where a young woman had a Jewish mother and a Christian father, and had been brought up in Israel as a Jew, and wanted to get married — and permission was denied by a rabbinic court until she could prove that her mother was Jewish.

    And that proof is not so easy to find — her own mother’s word wasn’t good enough — her mother is an obvious Jew, and made aliyah to Israel when her daughter was young — but that wasn’t enough for the rabbinic court — she finally — at great expense, had to locate a graveyard in the United States and synagogue records.

    How many people have that kind of money for such a search? what if the synagogue had been torn down? what if the graveyard no longer existed?

    What if that happened to you or a member of your family? I’m sure that you can put yourself in her place. You and I are both matrilineals.

    And in European Jewish communities, such demands for proof of Jewish parentage can verge on a shanda (disgrace) — many communities and their records and graveyards were destroyed in the Holocaust, so asking adult children of intermarriage for such proofs is often an attempt to exclude them from the Jewish community.

    And since the Israeli rabbinic recently forced the American Orthodox RCA (rabbinical association) to conform to their conversion hierarchy, we will soon start seeing this behavior in the U.S.

    Twenty years ago, when I first began advocating for adult chldren of intermarriage, most Orthodox Jewish communities treated matrilineal adult children of intermarriage, like yourself, as Jews. One’s word was generally sufficient, plus a verbal account of family history. Paper evidence was nice, or an object like a family menorah, but not essential.

    I didn’t care for their “Jewish mothers only” stance, but at least they honored it to some extent. I say to some extent, because even then there were segments of the Orthodox community who made it clear to me that they were not friendly to matrilineals.

    Within my own lifetime I have seen a change — a growing turning away from this acceptance of matrilineals among some Orthodox — disguised as demands for “more proof” that one’s mother is Jewish. It is used to discourage and, to my perception, exclude matrilineals from Jewish communities in Europe and Israel.

    When you refer to matrilineals like yourself as “Jews” and patrilineals as “not Jews” — another way of looking at us is that we are your peer group. We are your brothers and sisters, symbolically speaking.

    If you sat in a room full of us, you would see no visible ways of identifying matrilineals from patrilineals. But you would feel immediate commanalities with us, and a warm welcome, and you would find people who share your difficulty in relating to one parent’s heritage.

    Consider reaching out to us, and defending us. Please don’t call some of us, your brothers and sisters,”not Jewish.” That does not draw people into Judaism.

    If you doubt anything that I’ve said, feel free to visit the Half-Jewish Network website, and visit our special page to welcome Orthodox adult children of intermarriage:

    http://www.half-jewish.net/orthojewchildren.html

    And if you visit the Half-Jewish Network message board, you’ll see what it is like when we assemble and assist each other.

    And re-read this entire Jewilicious thread — and ask yourself — this thread has a lot of comments from Orthodox and Conservadox 20 30somethings about adult children of intermarriage — is this a friendly, respectful thread? Is this a thread that attempts to draw half-Jeiwsh people into Judaism? Is this a kindly thread?

    If you were the adult children of an intermarriage who wasn’t part of Judaism yet, and you stumbled on this thread — would it encourage you to live as an Orthodox Jew?

    Consider joining the rest of us, and helping us. At least pay a visit to our website at:

    http://www.half-jewish.net

    and see for yourself what we’ve learned.

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis

  • Dear Ephraim:

    I am sure my reply to your two postings must have seemed very long. It is just very difficult to explain briefly how the position of adult children of intermarriage within some segments of Orthodoxy has altered over the last 20 years, both in Israel and the Diaspora.

    If you want more information, you would be welcome to contact me at:

    binarystar@aol.com

    and I could explain at greater length.

    Cordially,
    Robin
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  • Robin:

    I don’t remember reading any posts from you. I was replying to Jennifer.

    Anyway, I’m Jewish, and Orthodox, and I have had no problems even though my father is a gentile. I can understand that adult children of intermarriage whose mothers are not Jewish might have some problems, but that’s because they’re not Jews. I don’t think Orthodox people should be mean to such people, and if such people come to the Orthodox community looking for answers, I hope that their situation is explained to them in a compassionate way. Other than that, unless such people want to convert properly, I’m not sure if the Orthodox community can do much for them. If they do want to convert, I hope that they are treated with the respect that they deserve.

  • Dear Ephraim:

    Please pardon my curiosity, but you must live in a very unusual Orthodox community to believe that children of intermarriage “might” have some problems in the Orthodox community. We definitely have massive problems.

    I was frankly puzzled by something else you said.

    Maybe you can explain something — if I understand you correctly, you said that your Orthodox rabbi’s half-Japanese son recently became engaged to a young woman who is half-Jewish and half-Irish, with a Jewish mother.

    I have never heard of an Orthodox community that would hire an intermarried rabbi.

    Nor would most Orthodox shuls be especially thrilled by a member of their rabbi’s family marrying someone else who was the child of an intermarriage with a nun for an aunt.

    I would be delighted to know of an Orthodox community like that exists.

    What synagogue is it?

    Cordially,
    Robin

  • You sem to have misunderstood me. My son is half-Japanese (his mother is a convert) and he recently received an Orthodox rabbinic ordination. He is engaged to be married to a young woman whose mother is Jewish and whose father is not.