Third Half-Jewish Network Blog/Email Newsletter

December 14, 2011

Dear Friends:

Greeting to everyone who celebrates Ashura (December 5), Hanukkhah (first day begins at sunset on December 20), Christmas (December 25) and Kwanzaa (December 26), and wishing you a wonderful holiday(s).

We are trying an experiment in this newsletter — the links to other articles are embedded as underlined text. Let us know if you have any problem reaching other articles by clicking on the underlined text in the stories below.

News Summary

1. Israeli Government Urges Israeli Jews Not to Marry American Jews

The Israeli government recently released a series of ads in America directed towards Israeli Jews living in the United States, urging Israeli Jews not to marry American Jews and live in America.

I know that many of us who are half-Jewish are used to seeing media notices urging Jews not to marry Christians, Muslims and other non-Jews, but I never thought I’d see an ad urging Israeli Jews not to marry American Jews. New low!  Here is the link to Israeli videos opposing marriage to American Jews.

Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the ads withdrawn after protests against them poured in from the Jewish world,  and the ad campaign was said to have been conducted without his knowledge.

But the question remains:  why would these ads have been created in the first place?  Is Israeli Jews marrying American Jews the new ‘intermarriage’?

2.  Israeli Half-Jewish Woman In Court to Get Permission to Marry

The Israel Reform (Judaism) Action Center (IRAC) has an account of its current court battle — Israeli continues to deny the children of Jewish fathers and Christian, Muslim and other non-Jewish mothers the right to marry other Jews in Israel. 

What You Can Do About This:  Sign up for IRAC’s free email newsletter.  You can also send them a donation. If you do either or both of these things, please mention that the Half-Jewish Network referred you to them. I promised them years ago that we’d be their friends.

3.  The “Celebrity Exception”

I have long been troubled by the glaring contrast between how the  Jewish community worldwide, including the American Jewish community, treats wealthy and/or famous half-Jewish people – even ones who identify as Christian or members of other cultures – differently from those of us who are not wealthy or famous.  The Jewish Outreach Institute coined the term “celebrity exception” to describe this problem.

“Celebrity exception” half-Jewish people are treated as Jews even when they identify as devout Catholics and have, perhaps, one Jewish grandparent.

“Celebrity exception” half-Jewish people are invited to Jewish functions, spoken of as current or potential Jews, offered easy conversions to Judaism, brought into Judaism with no conversions at all even after years of practicing other faiths, and warmly welcomed by Israel and Diaspora (outside of Israel) Jewish communities in ways that the rest of us  are not.

However, there is a downside to being a “celebrity exception” half-Jewish person.  If such a celebrity gets into trouble, some segments of the Jewish community then vent their disappointment with them. Here is a link to a recent story about baseball player Ryan Joseph Braun, nicknamed “The Hebrew Hammer.”

Braun has a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. Many members of his father’s family were killed in the Holocaust. Braun was apparently raised secular – no bar mitzvah and no celebration of the Jewish holidays. Braun apparently identifies as a Jew and received a lot of favorable publicity from the Jewish community.

But now Braun may be in trouble — he’s been accused of using steroids – and if this Tablet article is any indicator, he won’t get much sympathy or support from the Jewish community. The message in a Tablet article seems to be that the Jewish community will only support half-Jewish people who are always successful and don’t make any blunders or get accused of any crimes — to be fair to the article’s author, he questions these assumptions and thinks that they should be reexamined.

Sage Rosenfels – a Jewish football player with a Jewish father and (apparently) a Christian mother – is described on some websites as a Jewish athlete. But he has incurred the disfavor of one Jewish fan because he is apparently  letting his Christian wife raise their children as Christians.

I also spotted an article about Marcel Proust, an early 20th century half-Jewish writer, on a Jewish website which described him as a Jewish writer.

I wrote in the comment section – and wrote the author of the article privately —  that I was grateful to see Proust’s Jewish ‘half’  acknowledged, but the author of the article needed to understand that Proust – who had a Catholic father and a Jewish mother – was raised as a Catholic and always identified as a Catholic.

Proust never hid being half-Jewish and spoke of it as a part of his life. One of his novels, “Swann’s Way” chronicles the romantic misadventures of a wealthy Frenchman who is one-quarter Jewish and has inherited the surname “Swann” from a Jewish grandfather who married a Protestant woman.

The author ignored my comment and spoke about Proust as a Jew in another article. I see this behavior towards half-Jewish people in many Jewish media and books.

The underlying assumption seems to be: only people with two Jewish parents have the right to determine how half-Jewish people identify — half-Jewish people themselves have no right to decide their own spiritual or ethnic identities.

What You Can Do About This:  If you hear anyone say that a half-Jewish athlete or celebrity is “Jewish,” ask them questions:

* does the half-Jewish celebrity actually identify as Jewish?

* is it respectful to decide that a half-Jewish person must be Jewish or “not Jewish” based on a Jewish fan’s need for more Jewish writers or athletes rather than on what the celebrity actually feels?

* if a half-Jewish celebrity identifies as “Jewish” and has been welcomed into the Jewish community, is the Jewish fan willing to help other half-Jewish people enter the Jewish community who may not be wealthy or famous?

* if a half-Jewish celebrity identifies as “Christian” or as a member of another non-Jewish culture,  could the Jewish fan consider regarding the celebrity as a member of the Jewish ‘family’ – a cousin – deserving of some support or fans even if the half-Jewish celebrity has joined his/her other ‘half’?

* wouldn’t respectful treatment be better for the celebrity’s relationship with Judaism than berating a half-Jewish celebrity for adopting his other parent’s Christian, Muslim or Buddhist faith?

* should a half-Jewish celebrity be abandoned when he/she gets into trouble simply because the half-Jewish celebrity has disappointed Jewish fans’ desire for a perfect Jewish writer or athlete?

At the Half-Jewish Network we try to treat each person with the labels and identification that they themselves have chosen. We’re not perfect and we’ve sometimes made mistakes in this area in the past, but it is an area where we try to be careful.

4. Announcement regarding Israeli Jewish and Arab music stars concert for peace

I have been asked by a past founder of the Half-Jewish Network to provide a Youtube link to a March 2012 concert featuring Achinoam Nini (Noa) and Mira Awad that will raise money for the Abraham Fund, an organization working for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians living in Israel, including advocating teaching Arabic to Israeli Jewish school children.

The Half-Jewish Network takes an interest in this work because there are more than 20,000 Jewish-Arab intermarried couples in Israel, and their children are affected by any improvements in relationships between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.

5. Churches for a Middle East Peace is offering spiritual resources — prayers and meditations — to be used in praying for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians during the current Christian Advent season.

6.  What you can do for the Half-Jewish Network during the holidays — do you have a family member, friend or colleague who might enjoy our newsletter?

Please email it to that person and encourage them to come to the Half-Jewish Network website and sign up for our free email newsletter! Thank you.

Wishing you an excellent holiday(s),

Cordially,

Robin Margolis, Coordinator

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3 Comments

Filed under Christian Half-Jewish People, Half-Jewish Celebrities, Half-Jewish Network, Intermarriage, Israel and Half-Jewish People, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Who Is A Jew

3 responses to “Third Half-Jewish Network Blog/Email Newsletter

  1. Liz

    Just wanted to let you know that I am so happy to be receiving your newsletter. I am the daughter of a Jewish father and Christian mother. My parents wanted to expose me to both sides of my heritage, but as my mom was non-practicing I was raised going to temple.
    I identifty as Jewish but my family was not strongly religious. We did celebrate Christmas with a “Hannukah Bush” but not as a religious holiday. I’m a member of a Conservative congregation now.
    As a child I was one of those kids who told people I was “nothing.”
    Re: your post above – Hot Topic! I’m esp. intriuged with the idea of the Israeli Jew/American Jew being the new “interfaith.” I’m going to research that and see where it’s coming from, but I believe it’s surely not a goverment mission.
    Thanks again for your work-
    Keep it up!

  2. howard uk

    interesting article , but only goes to prove what i said ,

  3. Duality

    Dear Liz: I am pleased that you like the work that I am doing here and enjoying the website. We are happy to welcome you to our group and email newsletter.

    If you discover anything about the new ‘taboo’ on Israeli Jewish/American Jewish ‘intermarriages,’ please post it here and let us know. I sincerely hope that the government of Israel is not promoting this.

    I was alarmed to read the comment section of an Israeli newspaper article on those videos. The article explained that American Jews were very upset by the videos and why they were upset by them.

    None of the Israeli commenters on the article — and there were dozens — had any problem with the videos. There was a lot of feedback along the lines of “yeah, those no-good Israelis living in the U.S. need to come home!” — absolutely no understanding of how American Jews would see the videos and how it would hurt their feelings.

    Cordially,
    Robin

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