Monthly Archives: December 2013

December 2013 Half-Jewish Network Blog/Newsletter

December 30, 2013

Dear Friends:

I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas and the Christian New Year are having a good holiday.  Greetings to all of you observing Mawlid al-Nabi (the birthdate of the Prophet Muhammad) on Jan. 13, 2014, and Tu B’Shevat (the Jewish New Year for Trees, also an Jewish environmental holiday) on January 16, 2014.

News Items of Interest

1. The Association for the Rights of Mixed Families (AMF)  (in Israel) has lost its funding and been disbanded.

Folks, this was hard for me to hear. The AMF of Israel was our closest organizational “buddy” in Israel.  Under the guidance of their admirable and committed leader, Dr. Ludmilla Oigenblick, the organization fought tenaciously for the rights of Israeli half-Jewish people for many years against laws and social policies that have made them second-class citizens.

AMF  had a special mission to the thousands of half-Jewish Russian adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage. They did research on them, provided counseling on how to navigate the obstructive Israeli bureaucracy and Orthodox rabbinate,  and advocated for them with Israeli government agencies.

Here’s an example of the valuable research AMF did on the problems of half-Jewish people living in Israel, a paper (translated into English), “Problems of Mixed Families in Israel”:

http://www.il.boell.org/downloads/Mixed_families_booklet.pdf

I frequently interacted with Professor Oigenblick and one of her assistants, Yona Triestman. They were always friendly and helpful. They posted information about the Half-Jewish Network on their website.

The organizations that had been funding the AMF were the Israeli Ministry of Absorption and the New Israel Fund. I do not know why they withdrew the financial support of the AMF. I also gather that the Reform movement in Israel and the United States refused to help the AMF.

I think these organizations made a serious mistake in defunding the AMF.

If you visit the Internet Archive Wayback Machine:

https://archive.org/web/

and then input:

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

and then click on “March 21, 2012” — it will be shown on a calendar — you can see the AMF website before it was taken down.

There are other organizations in Israel that sometimes work on half-Jewish Israelis’ issues, but these organizations also have other priorities, and Israeli half-Jewish people are only of many of their constituencies. They cannot really take over the AMF’s work.

The Half-Jewish Network will continue to monitor and advocate for the half-Jewish people of Israel, including the adult children of Jewish/Arab intermarriages, but we are not an Israel-based organization and will feel the loss of the AMF very much.

Thanks again to Dr. Oigenblick, Yona Triestman and their co-workers for all of their efforts for half-Jewish people in Israel!

2. “In Italy, a Traditional Jewish Lifestyle is Disappearing,” talks about how the traditionally Sephardic Italian Jewish community used to accept interfaith families and children of intermarriage very easily, but the arrival of a more stringent Ashkenazi Orthodoxy in recent years is causing these families to be pushed away:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/12/13/in-italy-a-traditional-jewish-lifestyle-is-disappearing.html

What is interesting about the article is the clear evidence that Orthodox communities have in the past absorbed interfaith families fairly easily, and could do so again if they wished.

3. “Religion and Hybridity: Can Someone Be Jewish and Christian?” — The “Zeek” article talks about the growing mixed religious identities of people within the U.S. Jewish community and outside of it. Some of the people mentioned in the article are half-Jewish people marrying other half-Jewish people:

http://zeek.forward.com/articles/117272/#idc-cover

4. “Ten Reasons Why Conversion to Judaism Has Failed” — the “Haaretz” article describes why the conversion process in Israel — which is supposed to make adult children of Jewish fathers and grandfathers into ‘real’ Jews — has become so cumbersome and user-unfriendly:

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/ten-reasons-conversion-to-judaism-has-failed.premium-1.524157

5. Actor Peter Segal discusses being half-Jewish and his newest movie:

http://blogs.forward.com/the-arty-semite/189867/how-to-get-de-niro-and-stallone-in-the-ring/

6. Master Chef Tony Pina of Majorca discusses being half-Jewish and a descendant of anusim (hidden Jews) of Spain:

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Majorcas-master-chef-returns-to-the-Jewish-people-332167

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and subscribe.

Cordially,

Robin Margolis

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