JDate polled 900 of its members and asked for their opinions on various holiday related issues. When asked about the whole War on Christmas thing, 83% believe the White House was correct to acknowledge a diversity of religions by sending “Holiday” cards. Of course, JDate might indeed be in on the Liberal Plot against Christmas, you know how those Jews are … In terms of actual Holiday celebrations, 65% of JDate members said Chrismukkah is a bad idea (duh?). However, while 71% celebrate only Hanukkah, 21% of JDate members celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.

Wow. If this is a representative sampling of the Jewish community, rather than a mere reflection of the opinions of horndogs searching online for Jewish booty, I may be completely out of the loop! I mean 1 in 5 JDaters will be quaffing Egg Nog with their Latkes? And my math is not so good but unless I am mistaken, this survey shows that 8% of JDaters will be either celebrating neither holidays or celebrating Christmas exclusively. Again, wow. I almost feel I should be more open minded towards my fellow Hellenists Jews and maybe add some Mistletoe graphics to our posts. Oy to the world indeed.

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Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


  • most of the jews that i know who celebrate christmukkah do it because of intermarriage. for example, my mom’s mom is jewish, but her husband and my dad’s entire side of the family are christian. to make matters worse, my mom converted to christianity. so that leaves me as the lone jew in the family; i have to celebrate christmas a little so that they will celebrate hannukah with me. i have two jewish friends in the same situation. you might say “celebrate hannukah on your own and don’t participate in their christmas celebration”, but it is easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit, and who wants to spoil the fun for the rest of the family?

  • I too am a redheaded Jewish girl in the same situation… my mom is Jewish, my dad is not. Of my mom’s 3 siblings only one married someone Jewish, so we still have to go see both sides of the family on Christmas. And while my mother has not converted to Christianity, as an elementary school teacher she is all about the christmas sweaters and santa earrings, “because the kids like it.” It drives me nuts! For about 10 years now I’ve been telling my mother I don’t want to celebrate Christmas at all and she gives me the speech about how it will hurt my father and his side of the family’s feelings and that I need to just cooperate for their sake.

    So I’m cooperating again this year, primarily because the holidays both fall on the weekend and it’s easier for me to travel to see my family then it is to take off work and go during the week, but I’m definitely feeling over the whole Chrismukkah thing and think for me it will soon be a thing of the past.

  • I’m also interfaith and that’s why I celebrate Christmas and Chanukah. I identify primarily as Jewish and work for a Jewish organization, but why should I close off from part of my heritage and background, particularly when many in my family are celebrating Christmas? But, if I were not part of an interfaith family, I’m not sure how into Christmas I’d be. I’d give my Christian friends presents for Christmas because that’s what they celebrate, and they’d give me Chanukah presents because that’s what I celebrate. But would I celebrate Christmas? Doubtful.

  • But how did they classify “Celebrating Christmas”? Does one have to merely drink mulled wine/eggnog, attend Midnight Mass or attend a faux-Christmas party? If so, we’ve got several thousand Israelis to despair about too… but I wouldn’t worry. We have more Chagim with better food and we get the tinsel at Succot.

  • I vehemently hate christmas. My mom a North Jersey Jew, my dad a South Jersey Baptist. However, by the time they moved to WV and had me, they had some quite casual ideas about religion (i.e.: the complete lack thereof). As a kid, I suppose I didn’t mind xmas all that much because I didn’t understand or care about anything but the perceived benefits (gifts, family time, etc).

    As I got into my teens I started resenting xmas for it’s overt religiosity and commercialism. I can’t and won’t celebrate CHRISTmas. Since then I have repeatedly threatened to quit showing up at all, but I always get the guilt-trip and such. Now my shiksa fiance and her family expect me to celebrate xmas with them too. So I buy everyone gifts and I get depressed starting after thanksgiving. I hate hate hate hate this cursed season. I am giving my mother a gelt bag for Channukah this year, which coincides with the 25th of December (huzzah!). I am also encouraging my fiance to perform the Nerot Chanukah this year.

    “It’s hard to be a jew… a lonely jew… on christmas.”


  • I am not a redheaded girl, but I aim to be someday. I wonder if the 71 percent who celebrate “only Hanukkah,” do so by virtue of their attending a Hanukkah party, and whether or not they count the “Matzah Balls” as celebrations of Hanukkah.

  • o mi goodness is this crazy jews are pieces of crap they can leave the country if they dont want to hear merry christmas. losers i hate jews and you probably do too.

  • so Chris Jones, are you here only to flame us with your anti-semitic crap, or do you actually have an argument to state? Sounds like you just wanted to spew. Perhaps your version of Amerikkka should be Christians only? Sounds like a familiar tone…

    Too bad for you, the constitution seems to state otherwise:
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

  • I think it also has to do with where you are raised. My mother is also interfaith and yet, they had never celebrated Christmas at home. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that she was raised in Israel, so she never felt like an outsider.

    Now, as for Jews who are not part of an interfaith family and do celebrate Christmas… That is just pathetic.

  • Just want to say that I think it’s insane to celebrate both holidays, especially celebrating some chrismukkah hybrid… PICK ONE and stick with it. Creating some hokey amalgamation of holidays doesn’t do justice to either faith.

  • I plan on celebrating hannukah alone once i move out of the house, but i find that it really isn’t worth it to put myself at odds with my entire family just so that i can do justice to the holiday… luckily holy days like passover and rosh hoshanah don’t coincide with christian holidays.

  • I am 100% jewish from a traditional semi orthodox background. I did not grow up doing X-mas but now I celebrate a secular,seasonal x-mas holiday with a tree, gift giving, turkey and all the trimmings. I put up lights and decorate. Why?
    Because I don’t want my kids to feel left out. We also do Hanoukkah, but there is no way it can compete with X-mas and it should not. Actually, I resent the chrismatization of a minor Jewish holiday like Hanoukkah.
    I don’t live a Jewish life at all and I am not part of any organized jewry. The only Jewish people I know are virtual people, such as Jewlicious bloggers. And by the way, I hate X-mas because of all the hoopla & madness. I do not believe in the Christ part of Christmas but I do think it is part of the mainstream culture and it is harmless to celebrate it. It is the season. It is what the majority of people do. It is only one more hectic meal with the family. Who cares? I still know who I am, and so do my kids. Actually when I was not marking the season, I used to look on with envy at the celebrations around me that I was not part of. Now, X-mas has lost its power to sting me, and I am slowly scaling back as the kids are older. The point I am making is the following: the majority culture celebrates Christmas. You can join in if you want to and you don’t need to get all worked up if you want out. It is easier to go along that resist something as massive as X-mas. Most christians I know are just going with the flow and are not thinking about the religious dimension. They are thinking about drinking and partying, not Christ the saviour.

  • Oh my god! Editor, please delete the extra posts.
    I pressed on “submit” too many times! Sorry!

  • RJG wrote: “luckily holy days like passover and rosh hoshanah don’t coincide with christian holidays.”

    Ummm… Easter? Good Friday? Palm Sunday? And there’s some other ones sprinkled in there around Pesakh to mark J-Funk’s Yarzheit.

  • R.,

    I see your point of Christmas being a commercial holiday that’s so fully ingrained in American culture it’s futile to resist and go it alone. But,

    1) Try showing the value of Hannukah, which is our own holiday, that this year even falls on the same night. It’s not so different than an American holiday: food, family, presents.

    2) I’m comparing X-mas to thanksgiving. Both are American holidays, ingrained in American culture, and a majority of jews partake in Turkey Day festivities. But X-mas has a religious undertone: whether you like it or not, you’re celebrating in the birth of Christ. Now you might not think that that’s a bad thing, but that’s opening up a different conversation.

    On to my Hanukah party…

  • Oh please R., that reasoning is just plain silly. I think the identity issues you are creating for your children far outweigh any material benefits of christmas (what a pretty, pretty tree…). But it’s ok because you don’t believe in the christ part of christams…Jeez, stupid me, I guess I hadn’t realized that you could take the christ out of a holiday that exists to celebate christ’s birth! Yeah I’m totally sure your children will one day thank you for stressing the superficial elements of both religions…You know, teaching them to “go with the flow”…

  • i’m with Tiff. plus, your contention that Hanuka can’t compete with Christmas is absurd. If you require a dead tree (it’s a repulsive tradition, and those who buy a fresh tree every year make me want to cry) and tons of presents to celebrate family, your heart must not be in the right place. I don’t remember the last time I got a hanuka present (I don’t know if it’s an Israeli thing, or just in my family, but we don’t do presents) and I think Hanuka is not only fun, it’s joyful. I have yet to encounter a latke to match my mother’s, and the songs are the best part anyway. Jewish holidays are beautiful. Come on, pesach, shavuot, purim, sukkot, rosh hashana (obviously i’m not listing in any particular order) – they’re unbeatable. I have never felt left out during the holiday season.

  • Ofri,

    In my family, the children get some money (like 100 shekels, nothing too big). I think it’s an Israeli thing.

    Anyways, Hanuka is my favorite holiday. Purim is cool too.

  • I am so sick of these posts ranting against children of interfaith marriages.

    You think you’re so fucking cute crossing out Hellenist and putting Jew. You make me sick.

  • Gary, I hear ya. On the positive side, at least you don’t have to suffer the pain of Conservative converts who are entirely rejected as Jews.

  • I don’t get the “mukkah” thing of “christmukkah”… Isn’t Channukah the celebration of breaking out with the predominant culture that was destroying the Jewish people and its identity?

  • Christmas day is my favorite day to sleep late, then go to the movies and out for chinese food with my parents, siblings and our friends of the family. What a nice Jewish American tradition!

    I couldn’t even celebrate Christmas if I tried; my day is already booked.

  • wow i didn’t know there was so much pent up rage in the interfaith children population. must be tough.

  • This year is my first December as a jew (add to the mix that I converted as a single woman, so I don’t have the benefit of Jewish in-laws.) What am I doing? Taking my menorah to my sister’s house, where I will light it after Christmas dinner. My friends have all been very ginger with gift giving and well-wishing this year. Not wanting to offend me or hurt me, it has been very sweet and considerate.

    I feel great not to be super involved in the Christmas hoopla. While I was “secular christian” before I converted (a title I had to find to describe my pre-jewish life, but I wouldn’t even stress the Christian. But secular in America, means Christian and I recognize that.) we obviously did christmas–dinner, gifts, the tree. I’ve never, as an adult–jewish or not, had a tree or done much christmas in my home. It never felt right.

    However–a dinner with my family? I’m not going to pass it up. I bought presents for them and don’t know/care if they bought presents for me.

    It has been harder than I expected, but for different reasons. Christmas carols, for one. The first snowfall I started singing Christmas carols and then I thought, “Wait, those aren’t yours anymore.”

    But when I converted, I didn’t give up my past, I just changed my future. My kids won’t have Chrismukkah. They will have Hanukah, but they will respect their grandparent’s holiday. Will it be hard? Yes, but that was part of converting.

    I’m rambling, so I’ll be done.

  • I don’t see any bashing of those with interfaith families, especially people born into mixed cultures. I don’t see any comments belittling or denigrating their emotional ties to their gentile relatives, or dismissing the difficulty of their situation.

    I DO see criticism of parents and other autonomous adults who treat either tradition – or both! – superficially, attempting to strip out their deeper meanings so as to satisfy external social norms.

    And I generally agree with that criticism. My guess (based on statistics and experience) is that R. (post 12) Stacy’s mom (post 2) and many other American Jews who feel the need to “make up” for Hanukkah are disconnected from the rest of the Jewish calendar, and their impulse to view Judaism as a “handicap” runs deeper and wider than just the “December dilemma”.

    I’m also amazed that jude (post 5) doesn’t make any connection between his loneliness and his choice to continue the pattern of intermarriage…

  • middle, we are here and it’s clear you are pushing an agenda that isn’t actually true. We both know that conservative converts are accepted by the majority of Jewry. The same majority believes that anti-semitism is a bigger threat than intermarriage, but what can you do.

    Nonetheless, you continue to try to make traditional “orthodox” Judaism look so cold hearted because of its perceived exclusivity while ignoring the pain of the reform convert, or the Jew of patrilineal descent who are equally rejected by Conservative Judaism as the Orthodox.

    What of them? If we are going to play the painful rejected Jew card, let’s at least be honest and admit that it happens across the board in different places, rather than demonize one group because of its standards.

  • Gary H – When have I ever bashed the children? How hard it must be to assert your Jewish identity when everyone around you is Christian? I feel for Redheaded Jewish Girl, Stacy and everyone else faced with this dilema. More than that, I can’t tell you what I would do in a similar situation.

    But the Hellenist designation, crossed out or otherwise, is spot on nonetheless. Do you even know the story of Hanukkah? How much easier would it have been for the Jews to simply adopt the prevailing way of doing things instead of rebelling against the most powerful empire in the world. That’s why, from an enlightened perspective, celebrating both holidays is just so stupid! But again, many people do so for personal reasons and I am not one to judge. I still stand by the notion that Christmas is not good for the Jews. I understand people getting sucked in by the marketing driven consumer frenzy, the fake sparkle, the sappy artificial sentiment, but what? You want me to shut up about the bullshit surrounding the holiday? Especially with respect to Jews celebrating it? I think not. There is nothing Jewlicious about Christmas.

  • PP,
    We have more Chagim, but let’s be honest, our food is not better. The diversity of dishes outside of Kosher Ashkenazi and Sephardi cusines is very tempting. Call me a Hellenist, but I hope to schnor an invitation to my Italian childhood friend’s house xmas eve, where the Feast of 7 Fishes is the stuff traif dreams are made of.
    Thing is, if she hangs onto her grudge that I killed her G-d and I hang onto my grudge that she tortured & killed my people we won’t be able to enjoy the canolis. Yummy!

  • Gary H- I certainly wasn’t ranting against the children of interfaith marriages. Trying not to be redundant here but my problem is that I cannot see any value in celebrating both holidays. I mean, isn’t it possible to respect the traditions and values of a different religion without having to be an active participant? Leah seems to have this down…By buying gifts for her non-jewish family members but not expecting anything in return, Leah is being respectful of her past and to her jewish identity.

  • Esther, I guess I was wrong.

    Laya, I don’t have an agenda. But you’re right that the exclusivity of patrlineal descent is extremely unfortunate and wrong for these times.

  • Ben David, Tiff, Ofri, Encino:
    1. You have no idea who I am. So please hold off on the psychoanalysis. I am not American. I just happen to know a few languages.
    2. You are being judgemental and some non Jewish visitors to the blog may accuse you of behaving like supremacist Jews. Your identity is surely not tied to whether or not your are celebrating the season or Festivus (see Seinfeld)? Identity nowadays is fluid, believe it or not. Some of us have multiple identities and Jewishness is only one aspect of what makes us human beings.
    3. Because I am ancient compared to all of the “kids” who post here, I can preach a little and tell you that you just never know where life takes you. You may just end up doing things that you would have never considered when you were young.
    4. We (Jews) like to pay lip service to diversity and multiculturalism but we can’t take it when others would like to include us in one of the most important holidays of the Western world. In the schools here in Toronto, all the kids learn about Hanoukkah, Ramadan, Nowruz, Diwali, and X-mas also. How many kids in Jewish schools learn about Christmas, except as the beginning of our misfortunes?
    5.Guys, tear down those mental ghetto walls.
    6. You don’t have the power to bestow on others your Jewish seal of approval.

  • R., I don’t think the discussion is about whether it’s okay to go over to a non-Jew’s house to help them celebrate Christmas. I presume most of the posters and commenters here don’t have a problem with that, much as they wouldn’t have a problem inviting a non-Jew to their Passover seder.

    I think the question is whether celebrating Christmas equally as a parallel holiday – holy day – to Chanukah is a problem for Jewish continuity, not to mention practice.

  • This is one of the most depressing posts ever.

    Through intermarriage, we have people whose identities are so confused that one son of an intermarriage, who evidently vehemently hates christmas, has learned so much from his parents he’s perpetuating the mistake with his own intermarriage. And another post attempting to rationalize the participation of her wholly Jewish family in “the christmas spirit.” I’m not trying to criticize the children of intermarried couples, or even necessarily those couples- they are the results of unchecked assimilation, which leads to the other sad aspect of this post- supposedly proud Jews who celebrate christmas, in one way or the other. It is antithetical to everything about Judaism, from the religious aspects to the modernized naked consumerist greed of the whole season.

    R.- modern identity may be fluid, but being Jewish is, fundamentally, a pretty concrete thing. If you think that’s a negative, check the above posts regarding the children of intermarriage, and the issues they have to deal with this time of year. Is that fair? And choosing for it not to be a crisis by having it both ways is no choice at all- that is less a fluid identity than an abandoning of one’s self. As a fairly religious, culturally active Jew, it is a constant struggle between my desire for the perpetuation of my religion and my culture, and my liberal love of diversity and multiculturalism. But in the end, my Jewish identity wins out every time. Diversity is only a positive if it doesn’t lead to the extinction of the unique. And we see here very clearly the negative results of diversity.

  • My response to R:
    1. I assume this was not directed at me since I did not attempt to pin a nationality on you. Kudos for the languages btw.
    2. 95% of my friends (all 10 of ’em!) aren’t jewish and I do not feel that anything I have said is disrespectful to gentiles. I don’t expect them to light chanukah candles and they don’t expect me to decorate a christmas tree. My point (again…) is that christians and jews can respect each others traditions without adopting them! Please live your life as you see fit, but nothing you have said has convinced me that there is any value in celebrating both christian AND jewish holidays. I mean why be a holiday whore?
    3. I know what you’re saying…I’m only 25 and I often amaze myself by doing things I never thought I would. But I’m not sure if realxed resolve is a good enough excuse for our actions.
    4. I agree learning about other religions is a very good thing but since when does respecting diversity require CELEBRATING ANOTHER RELIGION’S HOLIDAYS?
    5. No mental ghetto here. I just don’t feel the need to CELEBRATE ANOTHER RELIGION’S HOLIDAYS. Same way that I don’t feel the need to sleep with my friend’s boyfriend. Sure he’s nice and hot but he isn’t mine!
    6. Again (and again…) I respect your right to live as you see fit but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. Can you understand that? I’m not trying to bestow (or not bestow) some kind of approval….

    Jeez, you’ve taken all this way too personally…

  • You’re right middle! that solves the intermarriage problem right there! In fact, if you ask prophet ck, even patrilineal descent is exclusive! who says you have to descend from anybody? break down the walls, we can all be Jewish if we just believe and sprinkle our heads with fairy dust. 5,000 years of tradition be damned! Now excuse me, I need to go pick up my chrismukkah treenora….

  • R., how many kids in Catholic school learn about Hannukah?

    PS., sometimes I like these walls.

    As for these Jewish seals of approval, ck never sent me the stamps.

  • Laya, why is descent from a woman considered valid while descent from a man invalid? We know the child is a genetic mix of the two individuals. These days we are not seeing pogroms that might cause rape which would lead to questioning the paternity of the child. So explain to me why matrilineal descent should be the only valid form of parental conveyance of one’s Jewishness? Also, why are Cohanim passed along by the father?

  • Whatever, R. It’s clear from your original post that you yourself feel like you’re doing something you shouldn’t, since you makes excuses for yourself such as you hate Christmas and are scaling back as your kids get older. All I have to say is that identity is most definitely not fluid, and I don’t buy your “i’m old and wise and been around the block a few times” routine. Older people are just older, not wiser. Unlike you, I don’t claim to know who I am completely. I’m only 20. But at least I know who I’m not. And I have been included in Christmas celebrations (and, incidentally, Eid al Fitr with Israeli Arabs – Ramadan is not exactly a celebration, oh worldly one) many times over. That’s completely different from celebrating the holiday like it’s yours.

  • Oh goodness middle, didn’t we just go over this is the franch canadians are jewlicious post? On December 4 to be exact. Maybe all the holiday spirit is affecting your memory.

    I will reprint it here for your convienince:

    Middle: your tribal affiliation is something slightly different, as to matrilineal decent

    From Judaism 101

    In Deuteronomy 7:1-5, in expressing the prohibition against intermarriage, G-d says “he [ie, the non-Jewish male spouse] will cause your child to turn away from Me and they will worship the gods of others.” No such concern is expressed about the child of a non-Jewish female spouse. From this, we infer that the child of a non-Jewish male spouse is Jewish (and can therefore be turned away from Judaism), but the child of a non-Jewish female spouse is not Jewish (and therefore turning away is not an issue).

    Leviticus 24:10 speaks of the son of an Israelite woman and an Egyptian man as being “among the community of Israel” (ie, a Jew).

    On the other hand, in Ezra 10:2-3, the Jews returning to Israel vowed to put aside their non-Jewish wives and the children born to those wives. They could not have put aside those children if those children were Jews.

    It’s not about genetics and it’s not about pogroms. This is the way it is.

    The reform movements decision to accept patrilinial descent in 1983 probably did more to undermine the unity of the Jewish people than anything else we’ve seen. Even amongst reform rabbis the decision was controversial. In Canada reform rabbis reject patrilineal decent almost unanimously. The way the reform movement has implemented the decision has been inconsistent throughout the movement, iesome accept it with no conditions, some only with Jewish education and public commitment on the part of the child. It’s really not so simple or easy. You can live, believe, celebrate, accept and marry etc anyway you want,of course, but don’t be upset when those who define their jewishness and mission in the world by Torah continue to hold by descent as outlined therein.

  • Laya, I don’t have Judaism 101 open in front of me. Would you be kind enough to tell me how Priest (cohen) and Levite status are transmitted in the Torah. Does this have any bearing on your argument?

  • Laya, you mention:

    Leviticus 24:10 speaks of the son of an Israelite woman and an Egyptian man as being “among the community of Israel” (ie, a Jew).

    that shows that it is sufficient to be a jew that your moma is a jew, but it doesn’t show that it is necessary.

    The inference in deuteronomy, at least as you’ve written it up, is a massive stretch.

    Similarly with the bit in Ezra: what shows that they can’t turn their backs on Jewish kids? Especially ones who were raised with different faith and likely would have no interest in ‘returning’?

    Eh, on second though, don’t bother. This seems guaranteed to go nowhere. Slowly.

  • Muffti, it’s actually much worse than that. Again, without actually going to the text, I can think of a bunch of people – Moses among them – who married non-Israelite women and the issue seemed moot.

    That’s not to say that matrilineal descent isn’t a tradition going back 2000 years, it’s just that it happens to be one that makes little sense in our day and does cut out many children of Jewish men and non-Jewish women who would wish to be considered Jewish.

  • taltman: “J-Funk’s Yarzheit.” Thank you for the laugh. That is almost as good as the Yushkie/Grinch/Santa “Colorforms” fun linked here in an earlier post. THANK YOU!

  • muffti – that was all quoted from judaism 101, not from my head. But we agree it will just go nowhere.

    Middle – truth be told, a lot of things don’t make sense in our day. When kashrut laws were instituted we had no refrigeration, and we know now that badly kept pork can often lead to illness. When Shabbat was instituted, we had recently been slaves with NO day of rest. Now the western world grants us sunday anyway, so it doesn’t make much sense to arbitrarily hold on to saturday when it’s a better day for shopping. Circumcision we can now recognize as a barbaric phallic ritual and since we have showers now, there’s no need for Mikveh.

    So we can strip away things that do not make sense to us, but at what point does our practice or lack thereof simply cease to be Judaism?

    But the fact remains that a child of a jewish father CAN be considered Jewish by most reform shuls (exept in canada) if they choose to go make public, appropriate and timely commitments to being Jewish, ie Jewish education and a bar mitzvah. I assume to don’t want to do away with those minimum requirements. They are Jewish enough to go on birthright israel, and the majority of jewish america wouldn’t question them if they identify jewishly. So it seems to me that these many “cut out” “half jewish” kids aren’t really so cut out by most of Jewry at all.

    And please, for the last time, tribal affiliation goes through trough the father, identity through the mother. You only get bestowed a tribal affiliation by virtue of first being a part of the people. We seriously just went over this in the other post. Reference it or ask a rabbi or scholar (neither of which is the laya you see before you) if your question is sincere.

  • So then a person can be a non-Jewish cohen?

    Hmmmm, there was that restaurant I stopped at once in Kansas or another similar state. It was called Cohen’s and I told my wife we should stop in and dine. When we opened the menu and saw the pulled pork dish, we realized that Cohen must have had a Jewish dad and a non-Jewish mom.

    Sadly, we also can’t claim Paul Newman as our own. Isn’t it worth overturning some traditions so that we can call Paul Newman Jewish?

  • no dear middle. if you are not part of a people to begin with, you cannot be part of a subset. I explained that above. It should be simple.

    The owner of that restaurant could be the jewiest jew ever born, having pork on the menu indicates nothing other than their non kashrut observance.

    Having the last name doens’t necessitate having the rights and responsibilities. If a cohen marries a divorced woman or convert, for instance, his children may have the name cohen, but they wont be giving the blessing at shul. Thems the rules of the game.

    But you can call Newman anything you want, just as you can not address anything you don’t care to.

    Shabbat Shalom.

  • Laya, you’re obviously intelligent but totally misinformed. I would suggest some learning ob basic concepts of Judaism. Shabbos, mila, and kashrus have nothing to do with the practical in its purpose. The said part about all of us, is that we have become uninformed media zombies.

  • Laya, you’re obviously intelligent but totally misinformed. I would suggest some learning ob basic concepts of Judaism. Shabbos, mila, and kashrus have nothing to do with the practical in purpose. The said part about all of us, is that we have become uninformed media zombies. Has anyone heard http://www.aish.com?

  • Laya,

    On the one hand you say “The reform movement’s decision to accept patrilinial descent in 1983 probably did more to undermine the unity of the Jewish people than anything else we’ve seen.”

    Then later you say “But the fact remains that a child of a jewish father CAN be considered Jewish by most reform shuls (exept in canada) if they choose to go make public, appropriate and timely commitments to being Jewish, ie Jewish education and a bar mitzvah.”

    So which is it? Or are you saying it’s unfortunate that they’re considered Jewish in the eyes of Reform Judaism? It’s very confusing. Also, you seem to be a literal interpreter of Torah law, but I doubt you’re so fastidious in all its applications. Or do you favor capital punishment for adulterers?

    In any event, when people ask me why so few Jews want to be involved in the Jewish community, I’ll just send them the link to this post and say “see Laya’s comments. That pretty much sums it up.”

  • M- the whole point of my post was that some things in Judaism just don’t seem “practical”, as per themiddle’s argument. Try rereading the whole comment again.

    EV- The supposed fastiduousness of my practice has no bearing on my argument – in any case, your assumption seems a tad presumptuous. Having drinks with the muffti does not mean you know the laya. Ad Hominem much?

    I think that much of the “who is a Jew” argument was in fact caused by the reform movement’s relatively recent (1983) decision to conditionally accept patrilineal descent. In any case, my point was that regardless of what any one of us feels about the acceptability of patrilineal descent, it remains the reality that the reform movement and many other Jews do accept children of Jewish fathers, like Paul Newman, to be full Jews. So the whole poor excluded child of a Jewish father thing doesn’t really hold seeing as how they are accepted by a major movement and have lots of opportunities for Jewish involvement.

    Not meaning to be redundant, but just so I am not misunderood – I may not agree with the Reform movement’s acceptance of patrilineal descent and the spotty way in which it is implemented, but it exists and is available to all those who wish to make use of it.

    EV wrote: In any event, when people ask me why so few Jews want to be involved in the Jewish community, I’ll just send them the link to this post and say “see Laya’s comments. That pretty much sums it up.”

    Good call. Let’s forget about abysmal Jewish education, over emphasis on the holocaust, lack of meaning,lack of brotherly love, lack of imagination, lack of inspiration in the way Judaism manifests itself to most Jews. Forget all that. Actually, it’s all the fault of those who are in any way critical of patrilineal descent as demonstrated by my post.

    Perhaps when people ask me about lack of Jewish involvement, I will point to how quickly some Jews are ready to make wrong assumptions and attack other Jews via the safe and easy distance of the Internet. Maybe it’s the sinat chinam after all.

  • Isn’t the problem here that we are just equivocating on the term ‘Jew’? You guys keep asking ‘who is a jew’ presupposing that there is only one answer but what might be coming out of all this is that ‘jew’ is simply ambiguous, albeit in a ‘core’/’extended core’ kind of way.

    The debate reminds me a lot of how a friend of the Muffti and CK, call him D, used to yell at Muffti saying that heavy metal wasn’t music. Muffti would ask why adn D would give some charateristics apparently essential to music that heavy metal didn’t have. Muffti would ask D why those were essential and he’d give some list of reasons that were totally arbitrary and picked just to exclude early metallica.

    Anyhow, eventually Muffti realized that the only response to this ridiculous attack was to say ‘fine, you’re right, its not ‘music’ as you’ve defined it. Why should Muffti care how you define things? Now fuck off and let me listen in peace’.

    We’re obviously just pretending that there is a single religion here when in fact it strikes Muffti that that is at best a myth. You have at least two groups with divergent principles, basic beliefs and even definitions of what is required to be a jew. Other than stemming from a common root, what is the unifying feature of the religions?

    So why not admit facts, call it two different religions unified under some common purposes (Israel, Anti-anti-semitism, etc.) and then we can get on with business?

  • Laya,

    I wasn’t talking about “the supposed fastidiousness of [your] practice.” I was talking about your apparently selective interpretation of Torah law in the way it should be applied. I don’t know what you practice. How could I? I don’t know you. But in these comments, you’ve quoted Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Ezra to explain your definition of who is a Jew and who should not be included in the Tribe. That seems rather selective, since nobody today uses the Tanach alone to explain Jewish thought. If we did, we’d be stoning adulterers.

    As for ad hominem attacks and pretending to know you, I don’t think I did either. And really, I don’t think your name came up when I had drinks with The Muff. I based my comments on the content and tone of your comments. Yes, everybody adopts a different personna on the Internet, and so it’s quite likely that the “Laya” posting here is not the “real” Laya. The “Laya” posting here ruffled my feathers. So I think the “sinnat chinam” accusation is a bit of a stretch. It wasn’t hatred, and it wasn’t baseless. It was based on your comments. Using the Tanach to define Who is a Jew seems to me to be selective, especially in light of your other comment, “So we can strip away things that do not make sense to us, but at what point does our practice or lack thereof simply cease to be Judaism?” One could use that same sentence as a defense for some abominable practices outlined in the Torah. Anyway, Shavua tov.

  • EV – You may have noticed that the biblical references in my comment are quote directly from another source which I linked to. It was being used against the middles assertion that the practice of matrilineal descent has no real basis outside a tradition which developed because of rapes and progroms.

    RE: stoning adulterers no, that’s where the evolution of oral law and interpretation come in (not to mention dinah malchuta dina). The oral tradition provided a system that softened the blow of some laws greatly (ie capital punishment) and reinforced more obscure things (ie matrilineal descent). For better or worse, oral law defines Judaism more that biblical law. Try not to assume my entire belief system from that sentence by the way.

    I am in fact not using tanach alone to support matrilineal decent, nor is it my crazy fringe personal view of who should be counted as a Jew. It’s something that our people have been defining ourselves by since antiquity and is supported by rabbinic text after text and millenia of tradition. If you choose not to hold by that, beseder, your choice fully. I’m happy that children of a Jewish father who want to be involved jewishly have plenty of opportunity to do so, but then as muffti points out, it is more like two different religious with some common ground.

    I’m not implying I came up in your conversation with muffti, however, you come on to this site and insult me greatly as our first interaction. That just strikes me as uncool, inconsiderate, and yeah, a little hateful. You can’t tell someone they are the greatest threat to jewish involvement and then claim it’s not hateful cause hey, they ruffled your feathers.

    Sorry my comments or beliefs or whatever rubbed you the wrong way. But seeing as how I have not personally attacked anyone in what I’ve said, I’d appreciate it if you did the same. I prefer not to play that way. Shavua Tov to you too.

  • Laya,

    For the sake of the Baby Jesus, can’t we just get along? Again, I don’t think I personally attacked you, but I apologize if I hurt you. I would still contend that calling the acceptance of patrilineal Jews the greatest thing to destroy the unity of the Jewish people is a rather, um, disturbing thing to say, and I think it warranted a response — not an attack, but a response. And I really believe this is what is keeping people away from involvement — the unrelenting focus over whom to include and whom to exclude.

    Regardless of how one feels about how the community should deal with intermarriage, the fact is that the rhetoric of exclusion puts off many Jews — and not just intermarried Jews. I know it’s been said that “we” shouldn’t be concerned with upsetting the feelings of the intermarried, that sensitivity-training and hand-holding shouldn’t be the priority. But the fact is, nearly fifty percent of American Jewish households have non-Jewish members. The comments about the Reform dividing the Jewish people are off-putting not only to the intermarried themselves, and not only to their children, but to their “100 percent Jewish” friends, family members and acquaintances. I am basing this on my own experience with friends, many of whom are only patrinlineally Jewish or, even if they’re matrilineally Jewish, still feel closed-out of the community because of rhetoric that often takes a seemingly racial turn (regardless of whether it’s buttressed by passages from the Torah). It’s that kind of view I’m going to respond to when I see it voiced (and unfortunately, it’s voiced rather frequently).

  • Laya wrote: The reform movements decision to accept patrilinial descent in 1983 probably did more to undermine the unity of the Jewish people than anything else we’ve seen.

    Laya, I mostly agree with what you’re saying, and I am an ardent Zionist. With that said, I am curious to hear your views on the disparity caused by Israel’s Law of Return in identifying eligible olim (I believe you are eligible if you had one Jewish grandparent), and the halakhic definition used by the religious establishment in Israel, which controls all Jewish ritual observance (weddings, funerals, etc.). Though I disagree with the Reform Movement’s 1983 decision, they weren’t the first to create this divergence in Jewish identity/acceptance. I would imagine that this issue in Israel has you equally irked as the Reform Movement’s decision?

    Chag sameakh everyone!!!

  • Laya, I agree with what you’re saying about matrilineal descent, and I’m baffled by the vehemence of your critics. But hasn’t the decision of the Orthodox to refuse to accept non-Orthodox converts as Jews hurt Jewish unity on the who-is-a-Jew question just as much, if not more, than Reform’s acceptance of patrilineal descent? Of course they have their reasons, and I wouldn’t blame them, at least when it comes to the Reform movement, which doesn’t consider Halakhah binding. But we shouldn’t pretend that Reform are the only ones (or even the main ones) undermining Jewish unity.

    Let’s say Reform’s acceptance of patrilineal descent never happened. Then you’d have had lots of little kids being converted to Reform Judaism, none of which would be accepted as Jews by the Orthodox. But Conservative Judaism would accept at least some of these conversions. Only in that sense would the Reform-patrilineality-thing-never-having-happened increase Jewish unity on the who-is-a-Jew question.

  • EV and PSL, turn off your computers and go to your parties, or you’re going to be late for congregating with the real-life Jews. I’m setting the example…y’all can fight later. Silent night? Not for the Jews….

  • Actually, I think the Reform Movement has not been aggressive enough in promoting patrilineal descent to the other movements, because I feel that theirs is the more morally correct interpretation. Matrilineal descent is, in this day and age, a totally arbetrary construct that many scholars argue rose to prominance due to the inability to know for sure who the father is, in uncertain times for the Jewish people (read: rape) after the fall of the Second Temple. As with everything, the Rabbis then went back and interpreted specific quotes from the text to back up their new rules, but meanwhile, Judaism was obviously patrilinial in Biblical times (even though, again, the Rabbis would go back and claim that Ruth, Zipporah, and all the other ladies OF COURSE had official, Orthodox conversions with a beit din and mikvah, etc).

    It’s not that Reform discards halacha, but understands it to be a continually evolving interpretation. Even for the Orthodox, understanding of halacha can change, right? Someone correct me if I’m wrong—and I KNOW you will!—but did I hear that a rabbinic ruling allowed the Orthodox to completely flip on the issue of organ donation during the 20th Century? I’d love to know of other recent examples of Orthodox understanding of halacha evolving, because I think it’s time that some bold visionary within the Orthodox movement say, “Okay, we have DNA testing today, we KNOW who the father is. Time to reinterpret.”

    Didn’t I hear somewhere that the reason the Talmud records all the losing arguments is that one day circumstances may change and they’ll become the winning argument? Halacha can change. Just because we’ve been doing it for “5,000 years” (i.e., since creation, right Laya? ;), that doesn’t make it right anymore.

    Okay…fire away!

    ps- as for me personally, if someone tells me they’re a Jew, I believe them. I think Ben Gurion said “Anyone who’s crazy enough to say they’re Jewish is Jewish.” I don’t need a rabbi—from ANY denomination—to give their stamp of approval for me to accept someone as Jewish. (NOTE: this does not include messianic Jews, who I think we should sue for defamation, but that’s already expressed on another post.) But hey, that’s just me personally.

  • EV- I am merry as Christmas to stop this mishegas and get along with you.

    But let me be clear, in case I hadn’t been before. Re. my statement about that decision undermining the unity of the Jewish people. You are fully entitled to believe that it was a good decision to accept patrilineal descent, however, before that decision occurred, the who is a jew thing was much much less of an issue because every major movement before 1983 defined a jew as one born to a Jewish mother. Marriages could occur, Minyans could be made, and few questions ever needed to be asked.

    I don’t know what you mean about a “racial turn” as gender has nothing to do with race.

    I don’t believe I am promoting a “rhetoric of exclusion”, as I have stated time and time again in this discussion that much of the reform movement and many jews besides fully accept a “half jewish” person to be jewish and I am happy that the people who fall into that camp have plenty of places to be fully accepted, should they wish to be. In the unlikely case that the child of a jewish father is really yearning to be accepted by an orthodox community than you can address that specific issue when it arises. But we know that only a small minority of children of intermarriages are being raised Jewish at all, and very very few SO Jewish that they would want to take on an orthodox lifestyle. So I don’t know how often that would be an issue.

    I run birthright israel groups. a decent sized minority of the kids I lead around the country have only a jewish father. I don’t keep a mental record of who comes from who. They all identify enough with the jewish people to come to israel and i encourage them all to find what’s meaningful to them in Judaism and make it part of their lives.

    Another thought to throw into the mix is that by taking away matrilineal descent, you take away the one and only place where jewish women are absolutely necessary to the jewish people. Yep, don’t mind us, we have some cooking to do.


    taltman – RE: law of return. I think the jewish grandparent thing was instituted to give refuge to anyone who might fall under the nazi’s definition of Jew, However, we don’t allow Nazi’s to make theological decisions for us.

    For what it’s worth When I made Aliyah I had to prove my parents, and specifically my mothers Jewishness.

    ano – re: orthodox and conversions. Yes and no. On the one hand we could accept everyone on the basis of desire alone but if being a member of this people requires no daily effort or commitment, then of what value is the membership?

    If you eat pork, celebrate christmas and go shopping on saturday, then of what value is being Jewish to you? The bagles maybe? The warm fuzzy feeling?

    Traditional judaism defines itself by precepts that the reform movement did away with completely, essentially creating another religion entirely, as Muffti pointed out.

    In your hypothetical scenario very few of those little kids would go through any conversion as very few children of intermarriage are raised or identify
    jewishly, even with the reform acceptance of them as Jews.

    Proud Self Loather – you may want to first tell the reform movement to promote better within its own movement, as there is no consistency in the way its implemented – Canadian reform rabbis don’t accept patrilineal descent at all. You may also want to double check your historical narrative. Halacha can change of course, but it’s not to be thrown out like last week’s lunch. And uh, no, I do not believe the world is 5,000 years old. Perhaps you should not project a whole set of beliefs based on one argument.

    You also mention you don’t think jewish inclusion should be extended to messianic Jews. Does that include Jews who celebrate Christmas?

    So merry Christmukkah to all and to all a good night. I don’t want to spend all of hanukah in this, So i’ll just agree with muffti and say we’re at least two differnt religions, so you may conduct yourselves as you see fit.

  • PSL wrote: “this does not include messianic Jews”

    That is SO not inclusive! Why shouldn’t we accept them as Jews too? I mean they have issues with Torah Meh Sinai, Rabbinic Judaism etc. Heck, they go to shul more often than most mainstream Jews. And you know what else? They’re all for patrilineal descent and will accept anyone as a Jew for Jesus who wants to be included! Ah, that warms the cockles of my Liberal ubber-PC heart.

    …and to all a Meerry X-Mas!

  • Laya, it’s different in Israel. They need bodies, plain and simple. So everyone knows that most of the Russians are not Halachik Jews. OK Maybe not most but many thousands, and the Africans and others who work there, the likelihood is their children will want to stay in Israel as this is where they grew up and have friends.

    So I support Patrilinial descent, for Israel. So therefore, I can’t be hypocritical and say in Israel, yes, but not in CHul. I can’t have it both ways like that.

    Israel’s survival is more important than all the shuls and JCC’s in the diaspora.

    U have goyim begging to move there, you have to take them. They work hard, they move ahead in life, they are happy there for the most part.

    If you don’t like that fact, as a Jew, then move there.

  • Laya, you know Muffti loves you (sorry again about the 4 a.m. call) but this complaint is a bit strange;

    the who is a jew thing was much much less of an issue because every major movement before 1983 defined a jew as one born to a Jewish mother. Marriages could occur, Minyans could be made, and few questions ever needed to be asked

    From the reform point of view, marriages can still occur, minyans can still be made and few questiouns ever need to be asked. You are basically complaining that what the reform movment did is a hassle for you because you don’t accept their ruling. That’s fine and all; but Muffti doesn’t really see why the reform movement should take that as any kind of criticism. They have no problem telling who is a jew, at least by their standards.

  • muff, unfortunately, a lot of the reform movements changes undermined jewish unity in what you correctly noted was essentially creating a new religion with different rules for membership, different rules and customs etc. Unfortunately what the traditional side did to react to these changes is hardly any better, but that’s another discussion. I’m off for latkes, and no worries, call anytime 😉

  • By the way, can we get one thing straight? NO ONE thinks the world is only 5000 years old. The world is clearly 5776 years old, stupid dummy heads. Can no one count right these days?

  • Laya, I am horrified to learn that you run birthright Israel trips and I truly hope you keep your misinformed opinions about intermarriage away from the kids. This whole string should be very informative to the organizers of birthright at how poorly they train their trip leaders on this issue, which is something that—believe me—has been pointed out to them in the past. On the one hand, you keep saying that “only a small minority of children of intermarriages are being raised Jewish at all” and at the same time you say “a decent sized minority of the kids I lead around [Israel] have only a jewish father.” So which is it?! Are those decent sized minority of kids coming from just a small minority of Jewish households???

    Please get your facts right. According to the (albeit widely panned) National Jewish Population Study, about 35% of intermarried households are raising their children Jewish. That is not a “small minority” by my standards. (That’s about the same percentage that the government takes out of your paycheck—A small minority of your earnings? I think not.)

    Let’s just step back and marvel at the 1/3 of intermarried households that have pushed through all the negativity in the Jewish community (that pushes out plenty of in-married and single Jews as well), to find the few pockets of welcoming. I agree with Laya that the Reform movement is inconsistent, not on the issue of patrilineal descent (after all, who really cares about Canada, right MUFFTI! DOH! Just kidding) but on how they actually welcome and treat intermarried households from one congregation to the next. People who don’t know simply assume that all Reform synagogues are welcoming. It’s quite possible that the Chabbad rabbi in your town does a MUCH better job welcoming intermarried families than the Reform rabbi.

    Moving past that 35%, the NJPS public report conveniently leaves out what the other 65% are doing. We are waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for Professor Bruce Phillips to produce his specific report on intermarriage based on the NJPS numbers. One thing we DO know about those intermarried families who are not among the 35% “raising Jewish children” is that there is NOT a corresponding percentage “raising Christian children.” Logic would suggest it would be an even split 1/3 Jewish, 1/3 Christian, and 1/3 “both or nothing” (or, with this country’s 80% majority, even more raising Christian kids). The fact that Judaism is so pervasive among intermarried households is testament to the Jewish soul that still resides in those intermarried households. In fact, based on past studies, the majority of those remaining 65% say they are raising their kids as “both” or “nothing,” which to me sounds like the Jewish community can reach them if only we did a better job (a) treating them with dignity and (b) providing programs of actual meaning (something we barely do for our “own” people).

    Birthright is a start. Perhaps some of the folks on your birthright trips come from the “other 65%” of intermarried households, and that’s great, but those kids will still hear—probably at some point during that trip (hopefully not from you)—that they’re not “really” Jewish if their mother isn’t Jewish. (When you overhear that, do you dispell it?) In my personal opinion, the reason they always hear that is less about Orthodox and Reform and more about the kids from the Conservative movement, who basically don’t know squat (and I can say that because I’m a graduate) but what they DO know is this one particular bit of halacha and they feel free to share it with every patrilineal Jew they meet, because it makes THEM feel more knowledgeable.

    One final statistic you should be armed with before you lead your next birthright trip. Hillel found in a recent study of college campuses that among student on campus age 18-27 who identify themselves as Jews, 47% came from intermarried households and only 45% came from in-married households (and remarkably, 8% said neither of their parents are Jewish). You now have more college kids from intermarried households than from in-married households, even though intermarried households are still the minority (barely, at 47% of all married Jewish households). So if only the “small minority” of those minority 47% intermarried households are raising Jewish kids, how did they become the MAJORITY of JEWISHLY IDENTIFYING kids on campus?!

    Now go study.

    As to the 5,000 year thing, if you couldn’t tell I was joking…I was joking.

    As to your speedy brush off of my suggestion that the Orthodox reconsider the halacha of matrilineal descent, I’m not suggesting it “be thrown out like last week’s lunch.” But if you’re saying “Halacha can change” then I’m saying, hey Orthodox folks, let’s get the conversation started! The fact that you were so quick to brush it off suggests that you are not even going to consider it. And why not?

    You wrote: “you don’t think jewish inclusion should be extended to messianic Jews. Does that include Jews who celebrate Christmas?”

    Well if that were the case, then I’d have to take myself out of the running because I once celebrated Christmas at a neighbor’s house. C’mon, is this a serious question? If someone worships Christ during their celebration of Christmas, then I would not consider them Jewish; if someone puts the pagan symbol of a tree in their home, it doesn’t tell me squat about their religious beliefs, and in fact, a substantial percentage of the first generations of Jews that came to America in the 20th century set up trees in their homes during the holidays, because it was the “American” thing to do. Nobody ever seems to talk about that anymore. It never put their Judaism in jepordy, yet when interfaith families do it, it is seen as the mark of the beast.

    Esther, that party sucked, you make the right decision.

  • Holy crap PSL. Laya gets better reviews from her mostly secular/reformed/progeny of intermarriage birthright kids than I do. Laya doesn’t sugarcoat the issue though. Patrilineal descent is not accepted amongst Orthodox and Conservative and many Reform Jews. The argument against that is usually something like “Hey! Get your head outta your ass! With modern technology and DNA testing, we can determine who the father is, so why stick with this stupid matrilineal stuff?”

    Uh… because sometimes we don’t know who the father is? Maybe the father doesn’t want to submit to DNA testing?

    But forget that. Judaism is a way of life. Even Liberal Reform Rabbis recognize this by requiring some kind of public affirmation (ie bar/bat mitzvah) as well as a course of study before one’s patrilineal descent entitles one to membership. The NJPS population survey you cited is meaningless unless one can define what it means to raise your kids Jewish in a mixed household. Also, what percentage of intermarried households have parents who are converts? I dunno. In my sad experience however, intermarriage in general (but not always) leads eventually to loss of significant Jewish identity. If Jewish continuity is important to you, you don’t intermarry. If it isn’t then do what you like … and it’s every Jew’s right to make that decision. Laya is a great birthright madricha because she gives folks a glimpse of how cool a strong Jewish identity can be and she does so in a non-judgemental but honest way. In that respect PSL, you’re way out of line. Laya represents a standard that all birthright israel madrichim should aspire to – ask anyone who has been on a trip with her.

  • Correction: I shouldn’t have said “horrified” in the above comment. I meant “concerned.” I’m sure that overall you do a wonderful job leading the trip; on this one particular issue, however, I’m concerned.

  • PSL – a free overseas trip is enough to bring out the jew in everyone, whether they identify as jewish or not.

    Yes, certain halachas need to evolve and this may eventually be one of them. But like I said before, you might first want to work on getting the reform movement to learn how to employ the practice somewhat more consistently.

    I have stated a fact ie, “half jewish” kids are not accepted as jewish by orthodox, conservative and some parts of the reform movement. That’s just a fact. I have also stated that I am happy that children of jewish fathers have a place (reform communities that do accept them) within the jewish world to express and explore judaism should they wish to.

    I have also stated that on my bri trips I encourage ANY participant who shows an interest to find the parts of judaism that are meaningful to them and incorporate them into their lives.

    And yet you take umbrage. Ok, whatever dude.

    Perhaps you think I am an unfit madricha because i have a deep and abiding respect fot traditional judaism. Perhaps you only approve of madrichim whose views and beliefs are strikingly similar to your own. I can’t do anything about that. But I remain confident in the jewish positive and judgement free way I’ve tried to lead my trips.

  • you said “Most people simply don’t use religion as the top consideration when seeking a mate.” That is unless it is a lifestyle.

    Being Jewish affects so much of my day, what I eat, where I choose to live, my community, my value system, where I will send my kids to school, where I blog, where I will give charity to, the things I get passionate about, my sexual ethics, the news I tune into, the books I read, my daily, weekly and yearly rhythm, and my world view that I know no one but another involved and committed Jew would be able to deal with it, share in it and live it with me.

    If judaism is important to you, that may or may not dictate who you marry. If judaism is a vital and daily part of your life, it probably will.

  • I dunno PSL. “Because God said so” is generally good enough for me and most people who identify with Orthodox Judaism. I know. How quaint. But allow me to attempt to take God completely out of the equation and speak in rational terms that you might understand.

    First, please understand that I am not talking out of my ass. I know a rich variety of individuals who belong to intermarried families. This includes families where the father is not Jewish, or where the mother is not Jewish, or where one parent converted or even where both parents aren’t Jewish. Working with birthright has also allowed me to interact with vast cross sections of North American Jews. All these individuals have differing relationships to their Judaism and that’s fine. For me Jewish continuity is a numbers game. My jewish identity is a valuable part of who I am. I am a proud Jew and am thankful for the Jewish values and culture that was passed on to me. Consequently, I’d like to pass that on as successfully as possible to my chldren and grandchildren. Statistically, the best way to do that is with a Jewish mate within the confines of a vibrant jewish community. If I choose not to marry someone Jewish, or if I choose to live in uh… say, Arkansas, I am in effect deciding that Jewish continuity is not that important to me.

    As for my birthright kids, I don’t look into their lineage. There’s actually very little difference between secular kds with two Jewish parents and secular kids with only one Jewish parent. I simply ask them if they are proud of their jewish identity and if so why. I ask what it is that they do that distinguishes them as Jews on a daily basis. If the answer is “nothing” then that usually gets them thinking and at that point I am available for questions but I have done my job. I think that’s pretty chill. Nobody feels excluded or unwanted on my trips.

    As for successsful jewish intermarriages, well… hate to tell ya, absent a conversion those are really rare. Just sayin …

  • As I wrote, I’m concerned about the handling of this one issue, and I think more education about intermarriage would benefit both of you. Otherwise you’re just perpetuating generalities about intermarriage that are not completely accurate and are certainly not helpful if we want to share what we love about being Jewish rather than continue to push people away.

    Intermarriage, in and of itself, is just one of many indicators of Jewish identity, and I don’t believe it’s helpful or accurate to make it the ONLY criterion. And intermarriage is not the end of Jewish continuity; not raising Jewish children is the end of Jewish continuity.

    Would you rather see two Jews who have absolutely nothing to do with their Judaism marry and give their kids no Jewish education, or a strongly-identified Jew marry a non-believing non-Jew who together actively raise their children as Jews? Which is better for “continuity”?

    “If Jewish continuity is important to you, you don’t intermarry.” That’s an antiquated slogan that will find relevancy among a minority of American Jews (though a higher percentage among this blog’s readership, I’m sure). Most people simply don’t use religion as the top consideration when seeking a mate. And your attitude is terribly off-putting: “if it isn’t, do what you like…and it’s every Jew’s right to make that decision.” In other words, you’re either with us or against us, right?

    So can we then assume that when you see kids of intermarriage on your birthright trip, you immediately apply your views to their parents and think, Jewish continuity was not important to them? How does that carry over to your treatment of their children? Why are their kids even on your trip, if Jewish continuity wasn’t important to them?

    How about this slogan of yours…do you tell your birthright bus “If Jewish continuity is important to you, you don’t intermarry”? How does that make the kids from intermarriage on the bus feel? Why can’t you modify it to a positive message: If Jewish continuity is important to you, you’ll live a Jewish life and raise strongly-identified Jewish children. Period. That’s a message that works, because it’s inclusive to all Jewish households.

    The primary issue affecting intermarriage is demographics, not identity. Densely Jewish neighborhoods like the Upper West Side of Manhattan have lower intermarriage rates, even among secular Jews, simply because young Jews can’t help but trip over each other. Take almost any of those same Jews and move them to Boulder, where the Jewish density is much more sparse, and odds greatly increase that they’ll intermarry. (Do you want to modify your slogan to “If Jewish continuity is important to you, you’ll move to the Upper West Side”? How about “…you’ll move to Monsey”? 😉

    The more important question is, what do they do with their kids? If the community keeps telling them that they’re incapable of raising strongly-identified Jews, then why would they even bother?

    Instead, we should start thinking in terms of positive intermarried role models or “successful Jewish intermarriages.” To continue the rhetoric that “all intermarriage is bad” makes us not only look shallow and intolerant as a community, it’s simply wrong. It’s much more nuanced than that, and our rhetoric needs to match.

    Okay, so the matrilineal thing is not about knowing who the father is, for you. Then what IS it about? Is it one of those things like eating shellfish that we simply don’t question “because God says so”? What is YOUR reason for being such a champion of matrilineal descent?

  • That’s wonderful…for you. The question is, in your role as an employee working in the broader Jewish community, how do you deal with the 85% of American Jewry who will never choose that particular lifestyle? I know that you are not writing them off, because otherwise you wouldn’t bother doing what you do. I also believe that you want to engage them, and obviously, you lead your life in a way that serves as a positive model. But the question about sensitivity remains. The way you live your life is a relevant and important pathway that some people may potentially follow, but how do you encourage other, equally valid pathways to a Jewish life and a strong Jewish identity? Some might say “my way or the highway.” I don’t think you’re among them, but the way you express your beliefs has potentially unintended negative consequences for those whose paths diverge from your ideal.

    I’d be curious to know if there was any discussion or training around the issues of intermarriage for birthright madrichot before or during the trip.


  • The above comment (#83) was for Laya, this is for ck:

    If you are going to hide behind statistics, then get the statistics correct. See my former post. There are literally hundreds of thousands of intermarried households raising Jewish children. There are only 2.9 million Jewish households TOTAL, including single Jews living alone. How can you say that hundreds of thousands out of that is “really rare”? In fact, it is getting more and more common.

    You write that you use inclusive engagement techniques, but if you continue to hold these personal views I find it very hard to believe that ten days on a bus with you won’t reveal how you truly feel about it.

  • PSL, I’ve never been on a birthright trip with CK and Laya, but knowing them as I do, I have no doubt that they treat all the birthrighters inclusively, and through their examples, promote a reconnection with Jewish life for all those who are seeking it. People who are just in it for a free trip will likely leave with the experience of a whirlwind Israel experience, and maybe some positive associations with Jewish life from the experience (and let’s be realistic, probably a hookup or two). But for those looking for something more, I have no doubt that the experience makes an unforgettable impression that will continue to reverberate in their lives as they become the young Jewish adults they’ve always been destined to be.

    I do understand where you’re coming from, PSL. But I really think — and again, this is all from my personal interactions with my fellow Jewlicious bloggers — that the way CK and Laya discuss this issue here is different from the way they approach it during the ten days of birthright. I’d be shocked if I learned that any of the birthrighters felt offended by the way that CK and Laya treated them on the trips.

    This is not to say that there haven’t been statements here on this post and in others that in some way marginalizes the Jewishness of children of intermarried parents (or the legitimacy of Conservative conversions, not that I’m starting that conversation over again). And not all of us agree on the way that these issues should be handled. But it’s impossible for me to believe that CK’s unflinching commitment to and Laya’s contagious passion for Jewish life and Israel will have anything other than a positive impact on the birthright participants.

  • PSL strikes me as a clodding troll. Takes one to know one, lol.

    Israel is in desperate need of people to move there, and also people to identify w/ the Jewish state, so that ultimately they or their children will move there.

    Israel is losing the demographic war pretty intensely, that in a few years, you will have an Arab majority in pre 1967 Israel. This is a sad fact but what Israel wants to do about it, is to bring non Arabs in there.

    If we the Diaspora Jews would all move there this would be a great help to the situation, but we don’t, so this is what they have to do, they can’t be halachikly fancy shmancy.

  • Laya wrote: Being Jewish affects so much of my day, what I eat, where I choose to live, my community, my value system, where I will send my kids to school, where I blog, where I will give charity to, the things I get passionate about, my sexual ethics, the news I tune into, the books I read, my daily, weekly and yearly rhythm, and my world view that I know no one but another involved and committed Jew would be able to deal with it, share in it and live it with me.

    Simply beautiful.

  • Wow, I’ve been away from Jewlicious for about 24 hours and I’ve certainly missed a lot. I’m not sure quite where to begin…

    First, an reminder of what I said a few days ago in comment number 2 in this post, my mother is Jewish, my father is not. Religiously I was raised Jewish, although not in an especially religious way. Culturally, I was raised to follow both Jewish and Christian customs. Truly a pretty secular, American upbringing, but I’ve always identified myself as being Jewish. In recent years, before my Birthright Israel experience, I’ve been much more interested in my Jewish heritage and in becoming a better Jew (although I can’t say I’m 100% sure what that means for me.) But, while the interest was there, the motivation for me came with the birthright trip. The trip that was led by Laya & CK.

    No, I don’t have another birthright experience to base this comment on, but I can tell you that Laya and CK were wonderful leaders for the trip. They were both very knowledgeable and willing to share there opinions, but most certainly didn’t force their viewpoints on us, or look down on us if we didn’t share their perspectives or have the ideal Jewish upbringing. Very few members of my birthright group would classify themselves as orthodox although many were religious jews. A handful, like myself, were not actively involved in the jewish community at the time of the trip, but had an interest in changing that, and others were pretty disconnected from their Jewish heritage.

    Laya patiently answered our questions, helping to educate us and make us more aware of Israel and Judaism. She shared her background, her motivations and her experiences. It was absolutely wonderful to spend 10 days with her, seeing Israel from her perspective and learning a lot. It was very clear that she loves the country, the people and her religion. I wish I was that connected and had the strong feelings that she does.

    And while he’s on the outskirts of this discussion and doesn’t seem to have the target on his back that Laya has, I’ll add that CK was great to have around as well. He was much more prone to humor, sarcasm and juvenille jokes, but also is very knowledgeable and passionate about judaism and Israel. CK was more likely to challenge our comments and make sure we were thinking about what being jewish meant to each of us as individuals. He said a few lines up – “I simply ask them if they are proud of their jewish identity and if so why. I ask what it is that they do that distinguishes them as Jews on a daily basis. If the answer is “nothing” then that usually gets them thinking and at that point I am available for questions but I have done my job. I think that’s pretty chill. Nobody feels excluded or unwanted on my trips.”

    In fact, the feeling was the complete opposite of excluded or unwanted. Everywhere we went we were so welcomed. CK & Laya went out of their way to arrange for families in the Old City to host us for Shabbat lunch. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have lunch with many of Laya’s good friends. They were all Orthodox Jews, and from the moment I got there to the moment I left – including when we all told a little bit about ourselves and I said I was the child of intermarriage – I have never felt more welcomed and wanted in a room full of strangers.

    Laya and CK introduced us to Judiasm as it is for them, but they most certainly didn’t expect us to adopt their views as our own. They wanted us to figure out what was right for us and what being Jewish means to each of us. They helped us become better educated and more aware and then left the ball in our court, and for that I am immensely grateful.

  • OK, so I wrote a really long comment about half an hour ago and it’s not here now. I wrote it, clicked “say it!” and saw it posted. So where did it go????

  • that totally wasn’t there a minute ago… really, it wasn’t!

    But, I’ll just accept the wonders of technology and be glad it’s there now.

  • Stacy, I’m so glad you commented. I was hoping you would. And since I check the moderated comments rather obsessively, I saw that your comment had been caught in the moderation loop, for whatever reason and approved it. So, technology mystery solved. But my comments get stuck there too…so it’s not you.

  • As I read all these comments, I am struck by a need to say how grateful I am to have been raised by two Jewish parents who made it easy for me to identify solely with Judaism and who taught me it’s cool to be Jewish. I am proud of being a Jewess in every way, every day of my life! I may not marry a Jewish man but I shall carry on all the traditions that I grew up with, from kashrut to tzedakah…

  • The goal here was not to create another series of attacks on Laya.

    My point was that it really makes little sense to prefer maternal over paternal lineage. I understand very well why it is so, but it still makes little sense.

    As far as I know, the Torah does not take a position with respect to this issue. In fact, if one looks closely, I would suspect that one would find a greater preponderance of biblical evidence that paternity is more important than maternity. If I look at the names on the numerous lists found in the Torah, paternity is almost always listed while maternity almost never. Jacob becomes Israel because of the promise made by God to Abraham, not because of Sarah. Moses marries a Midianite and nothing is said. We never learn who Aaron’s wife is, just that his sons are priests. And on and on and on.

    As I understand it, the custom of matrilineal descent being the determining factor in one’s Jewishness began around the time rabbinic Judaism took root. That was the time, of course, when many other customs took root and we’ve debated the issue of the meaning of torah she’be’al peh (oral torah) and its relevance to Orthodox Jews as equivalent to the Torah itself. In this case, it seems to me that it has taken precedence over the Torah. Sadly.

    As Self-Loather has pointed out, we push people away with this form of exclusivity. It hurts feelings and damages people and their lives. It makes them want to be as far away from Judaism as possible. There are many issues in Reform Judaism with which I disagree, but this one seems spot on. My genetic contribution to the makeup of a child is no less important than my wife’s. My contribution to the child’s upbringing and perspective on his beliefs and community are no less relevant than my wife’s. This is true of many families and households. So why make it seem as if only one parent influences the outcome?


    Okay. Well, tradition gives us the agunah as well and I think most of us will agree that there are few worse things about our faith than what happens to agunot.

    Having said all of that, I want to thank Stacy for her input and say that I’m not surprised at all. Ck and Laya are voicing their beliefs here and are doing so openly. However, there is no question in my mind and I am confident that most people who have interacted with them or participated in projects where they are active will agree that they are open and welcoming to all. They are truly the models for the type of young Jewish leaders and educators who should be out there promoting Judaism and/or Israel. If there are people out there who want to see true progress in the education and bringing-back-to-the-fold of young Jews of any parentage, email ck and get him to lead your project. Do it now.

  • Stacy, thank you, I appreciate your testimonial and your story in general. I believe that the birthright experience as led by ck and laya was very moving. I wonder if it is now weird for you to see ck write that “As for successsful jewish intermarriages, well… hate to tell ya, absent a conversion those are really rare”? It seems to me that your parents must have done SOMETHING right to help you get to this point in your Jewish journey. Your story sounds like “success” to me! Of course, it’s possible that you’ve explored you Judaism despite your upbringing…

    Anyway, the point I’m trying to make on this too-long string is that you are not the “exception,” you are one among many many children of intermarriage who proudly identify as Jewish, and that we can do more as a community to welcome in even more families or individuals who might be tottering on the fence about joining us…if we can lose the negative rhetoric. If ck and laya lead great trips, if indeed “the way CK and Laya discuss this issue here is different from the way they approach it during the ten days of birthright” as Esther testifies (and I DO tend to believe everything Esther says), I guess that’s great, but it’s also kind of, well, weird. It’s a disconnect. You meet all these kids of intermarriage who are longing for a connection to their Jewish heritage, and then you help them actually get that connection, but then you come home and disparage the effort on your blog?!

    Stacy, I encourage you to continue to proudly speak up as a child of intermarriage who identifies strongly as a Jewish person. However, you are operating with (what I consider an arbitrary) advantage of the chance-of-fate that it’s your mother who’s Jewish and not your dad. It seems like your experience on birthright Israel would not have been any different if you were a patrilineal Jew — that’s not my implication in pointing it out — but you shouldn’t be surprised to be accepted as Jewish by Orthodox Judaism because even if you were raised Christian, you wouldn’t be required to convert to Judaism.

  • Oh Jesus. Stacy wrote:
    “the way CK and Laya discuss this issue here is different from the way they approach it during the ten days of birthright”

    Uh… speaking for myself, I have to disagree. If and when the issue comes up, I don’t sugar coat shit. I discuss exactly how the different denominations treat the who is a jew issue. I also do not hide the fact that I am firmly in the Orthodox camp. For the record, most of the kids who would not be considered Jewish by Orthodox or Conservative standards already know this prior to coming on birthright. It’s no revelation to anyone. But whether on a birthright trip or on the street, anyone who expresses an interest in Judaism or Israel will never be shunned by me. I guess the only ground rules are respect me and I will respect you. Please don’t get insulted when I respectfully refuse to eat your shrimp encrusted fish sticks. Please do not be offended when I state my beliefs.

    I mean seriously, this is silly. My birthright campers know I appreciate them all regardless of their Jewish provenance. So I support the Orthodox position. Big whoop. Deal with it and do so in an honest mannner. My attitude is that mixed marriages are a bad idea if Jewish continuity is what you’re interested in. Once that’s happenned though, we ought to try our best to include mixed families and their children in communal activities with the hope that they, how shall I put it, return to the derech. But will I marry someone I don’t consider Jewish? No. Will I include someone I don’t consider Jewish in my minyan? No. Will I approve of or participate in inclusive Chrismukkah celebrations? No. But again, short of asking me to violate the rules and values that I believe in and that have been passed down to me, I will do everything I can to be as inclusive, sensitive and loving as possible. Capish?

    For the record, birthright israel madrichim are not employees per se. We get paid around $200 for 10 brutal days and we get a free ticket to Israel.

  • I also want to thank Stacy and the others who have voiced support. As far as the statement about approaching it differently here or on the bus – I fall into the same camp as ck. I have enough respect for the participants to tell them honestly how I feel on any issue that comes up and what the complexities of the issue are. PSL is right that dichotomy would be weird. While my views are ever evolving, my face and name on the blog corresponds to my actual person and I stand by what I say.

    That having been said, even though I don’t pussyfoot around the issues, I remain inclusive and welcoming to all (thanks stacy for the back up).

    Perhaps, there is a way, PSL, to be honest with people and still be sensitive, even if my belief system is different than yours. Just a thought.

    PSL said You meet all these kids of intermarriage who are longing for a connection to their Jewish heritage, and then you help them actually get that connection, but then you come home and disparage the effort on your blog?!

    where have I disparaged their effort? Have I not said (many, many times) that I’m happy that children of jewish fathers have many places to explore their judaism should they wish to?

    Nowhere in this conversation have I made any value judgements about any ones person based on who their parents are. Nowhere have I tried to deny their right to explore Judaism as they see fit. Nowhere have I stated they are not a part of the jewish community.

    You asked me how do you deal with the 85% of American Jewry who will never choose [your] particular lifestyle? how I deal with it is I continue to live my life as honestly as I can, and I encourage others who express an interest to find the aspects of Judaism that are meaningful to them and incorporate them into their lives. But now, haven’t I said that 2 or 3 times?

    I feel like you are waiting for me say what you want to hear so that you can bestow upon me some kind of self loathing seal of approval. But now how is that being inclusive of me, my beliefs and my lifestyle choices? Or does sensitivity and inclusion only matter when it is being extended to those who are less religious than you? Do haredim, for instance, possess a lifestyle and belief set that are equally valid but different paths than yours?

    Do you consider approaches other than yours in dealing with Jewish community valid?

    Do you allow for a range of equally valid opinions and beliefs in your world view? Or will only ones like yours do?

    Is a person really open minded if they are only open minded to people who are open minded in the same way they are?

    These are all rhetorical of course.

    As I have also stated, patrilineal descent is something that may change in the future. I think finding a consistent working model within the reform movement would be a good place to start. But coming on to a blog and accusing someone of being a horrible madricha, exclusive and a jewish turn off, well, all I can think is that maybe it’s not me who needs the sensitivity training.

  • Stacy put it well, you leave this site for a day and look what happens! I also went on the Birthright Trip this past summer and your attack, or as you put it criticism, of Laya is completely unfounded. I find it interesting that you question her ability to be a good madricha based on her beliefs, which she has clearly defended with more than enough evidence. So here is the truth: Like Laya said previously, most of the other participants were from intermarriages. The level of observance between our participants spanned quite a range- from the Orthodox to the Reform to people who barely even identified as Jewish. But this made no difference in how Laya and Dave treated us. None at all. They never made any distinctions about who they thought were Jewish or not and they were as informative, helpful, and friendly to the Orthodox participants as they were to the “half-Jews”. Dave put it correctly when he stated that they didn’t sugar coat anything for us. Which they should not have done- we went on this trip to learn about Israel and Judaism, not to be fed watered down versions of it. We knew were they were coming from and it was extremely useful to learn the Orthodox views on subjects. They never shoved any particular belief or view down our throats, they just informed us about what they are. As leaders they would ask us how do we practice or honor our Judaism everyday. I remember Dave asked us, If a complete stranger were to observe you for a day, would he be able to tell that you are Jewish? That struck a cord with a lot of people and made them think. Because as great madrichim, that is what Dave and Laya did- they made us think.
    Self Loather, I don’t think that you can compare the amount of money the government takes for taxes and the amount of children that are being raised Jewish. Yes 35% is a large percent- for taxes. However, I cannot agree with you that this number is as large or as commendable as you claim. With that said, I hope you have a great Hanukkah.

  • Just to set the record straight….

    I didn’t say: “the way CK and Laya discuss this issue here is different from the way they approach it during the ten days of birthright” – it was Esther that suspected that to be the case.

    I know it’s not the case. I think you represent your thoughts and opinions here the same way you did on the trip and I never had a problem with it – here or there.

  • I’m both reading comments and watching my 1 year old nephew, so haven’t read them fully. (Bad Leah, bad, bad Leah. Don’t comment if you are just going to skim the comments.)

    That said…

    Yes, the Reform movement is not consistent–that is part of the beauty of the movement. Love it or hate it–the Reform movment (as I understand it) allows room for individualism.

    Those who keep kosher within the movement (and we have very observant jews within the movement) can not tell those who don’t keep kosher, they must. Those who do not, can not tell those who do that they must not.

    The other thing that people seem to miss about the Reform movement, is that you aren’t supposed to make decisions on observance out of ignorance or convenience. You have the responsibility to study the texts and the tradition before saying yeah or nay.

    So that the entire Reform/Progressive movement doesn’t agree on an issue like patrilineal descent? That’s part of it.

    Now my nephew is teetering on the edge between cute and having an accident–so I’ll stop typing.

  • you guys bitch a lot. you’re fortunate period to be with a great family who cares for you. commercialize sommercialize. even though we all know xmas is overated, enjoy the little things it might bring even though you don’t want to celebrate it. it gives you a chance to catch up with loved ones. sometimes there is more to a holiday than religion and politics. if you really open your eyes and discover the hidden world around you.