October 2015 Half-Jewish Network Blog Post

Dear Friends:

I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard directly from me, except for my postings on the Message Board.

I’ve also been much slower in responding to individual inquiries than in the past.

I’ve been reluctant to mention this, but I had some emergency abdominal surgery last year, and while I was recovering from that, I fell and broke one of my legs rather badly early this year, requiring more surgery. Needless to say, all of my volunteer activities had to be postponed.

At the present time, I appear to be slowly recovering from both medical conditions, but I’d appreciate your prayers for a complete recovery. If you are an atheist or agnostic, I’ll settle for some good thoughts directed towards my healing. Everyone else, please put in some prayer!

I also ask your patience with some delays in responding to your inquiries.

Half-Jewish Network Growth

I’m pleased to see that the Half-Jewish Network website now has 279 subscribers to its blog.You have joined us from countries all over the world.

As soon as we reach 500 subscribers, I hope to talk with you about having our first conference. I am waiting patiently for the day that I see “500 members” on our website counter.

I am also waiting for the website counter to register “500 members,” so I can continue working on the half-Jewish book I have had in progress. I want to survey all of you, and be able to back up what I say in the book with substantial feedback from you. Too many ‘studies’ of half-Jewish people involve no more than 17 to 30 people, which is not reliable statistically.

No Help From Jewish Community In Sight

I had hoped that the American Jewish community would finally initiate some formal outreach for adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage, so we wouldn’t have to do everything ourselves, but a recent statement by some powerful Jewish policymakers, “Strategic Directions for Jewish Life: A Call to Action,” gives the impression that prejudices against intermarriage are still so strong among major Jewish leaders that we will not see any real initiatives towards adult descendants of intermarriage for another decade at least:

http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/strategic-directions-for-jewish-life-a-call-to-action/comment-page-1/#comment-185916

The tone of the statement suggests that “inmarriage” (marriages between two born Jews) is still the primary value of some segments of the Jewish leadership, and their only real suggestion for interfaith families is that more Jewish conversion institutions should be set up to coerce the non-Jewish parent in an intermarriage into converting to Judaism.

One private email exchange I had with one of the signers of the statement suggested to me that at least some of the signers did not have time to carefully read the statement before they were pressured into signing it.

The statement calls for born Jewish children to be sent in greater numbers to “day schools, supplementary schools, overnight Jewish camps, Israel trips and youth groups” — apparently so they will meet other born Jews and stop intermarrying.

I wish to stress that large numbers of American Jewish leaders were not informed of the statement and were not asked to sign it. A number of them posted comments on the website where the statement is posted, vehemently objecting to it.

The only American Jewish communal outreach effort towards half-Jewish people that I have heard about in the last year involved an organization trying to send 20something half-Jewish people on study rips to Israel, with the apparent goal of making them feel like dual citizens of America and Israel.

I was asked to promote the project among the Half-Jewish Network members. I wrote the project leader that before I did so, I’d need to ask him what he was going to tell his study participants about Israel’s discrimination against interfaith couples and adult children of intermarriage.  I noted that his study participants, spending intensive time in Israel, would surely learn about Israel’s poor treatment of interfaith families.

I stressed that his organization’s views did not have to agree with those of the Half-Jewish Network. I just needed to know what explanation his study participants would receive before I posted a link to his group on our website. I never heard from him again, so I am guessing his organization will not tell half-Jewish study participants the truth.

Even more disconcerting, I checked into the backgrounds of the project leader and his staff, and it looked to me like many of them were half-Jewish themselves — which is appropriate for an organization seeking to work with half-Jewish people — but this fact was not mentioned anywhere on their website in any of their detailed bios. How can ‘closeted’ (concealed) half-Jewish people — I can think of no other word to describe this behavior — possibly do a good job on outreaching other half-Jewish people?

Interesting Half-Jewish Books

Some half-Jewish books I’d like to recommend to you — I’ve read them and found them compelling:

Rev. Heidi B. Neumark has written a fascinating memoir of family secrets “Hidden Inheritance.” Rev. Neumark, a Lutheran pastor in New York City, had always assumed that both of her parents were of German Lutheran descent. She was astonished to discover, as an adult, that her father had been a German Jewish refugee who escaped Germany just before the Holocaust.

Apparently her father never told her American German Lutheran mother that he was Jewish. This discovery led Rev. Neumark on a complex journey of discovery, including connecting with living relatives she had never known, and making some startling discoveries about her Jewish grandfather’s death during the Holocaust and the complicity of the Nazi-era German Lutheran Church in some aspects of the Holocaust.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1630881244?keywords=Heidi%20Neumark&qid=1445424757&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

Another book I’d like to recommend is “Invisible City,” a novel by Julia Dahl. The heroine is a journalist who was raised by her Christian father and stepmother after her Hasidic Jewish mother abandoned her and returned to her Orthodox Jewish community. The 20-something heroine is sent by her newspaper to investigate a crime in the Hasidic community, where her search for a murderer leads to a number of other secrets and raises questions about her own identity.

http://www.amazon.com/Invisible-City-Rebekah-Roberts-Novels/dp/1250043417/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1445419022&sr=1-1&keywords=invisible+city+julia+dahl

A third book I thought you might like, “The Unbelonger: The Autobiography of a Half-Jewish Girl in Hitler’s Berlin” by Ellen Ubelaker, describes her childhood experiences during the Holocaust, and her eventual (much happier) adult life in another country. It has an immediacy — “you are there” — in its recounting of her experiences.

Ms. Ubelaker was assisted by Brian Wynn, a professional writer. Here is a quote from the book that he sent me:

“Ellen now felt she did not belong in the Christian community. The German Jews were in no position to help, either. In any case, they had made it clear that there was no such thing as a “half-Jew”. If your mother was not Jewish, you could not be a Jew. Once again, Ellen just did not belong.”

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KANXJW8

I wish all of you a good autumn, and Americans a Happy Halloween on October 31st.

Cordially,

Robin Margolis

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16 Comments

Filed under Half-Jewish in Holocaust, Intermarriage, Israel and Half-Jewish People

16 responses to “October 2015 Half-Jewish Network Blog Post

  1. Yes, if you are half-Jewish, even from the maternal side, if you have not been brought up in a Jewish community they are sceptical and frankly hostile. I live in England and in South Africa it was even worse. On the other hand, even if you don’t look Jewish. people who are not – often ‘pick-up’ a connection… It’s touch. Do you have a group in the UK?
    Katherine Rawlings

  2. Typo —- ‘It’s touch’ should read ‘It’s tough’…

  3. Dear Katherine:
    We don’t have a group in the UK at the present time. If you would like to start one, let me know.

    You may wish to post on our “Message Board” asking other people in the UK to respond to you. We have active UK participants on the Message Board who would likely respond to your posting.

    http://half-jewish.net/message-board/.

    Also, you may wish to get in touch with these folks:
    http://www.doppelhalb.de/english.html

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  4. Ava Fink

    Dear Robin, Thankyou for the email…….We just found out in 2014 that my Mom’s mother- hid her Jewish ancestry-all the secrets came out when my Son Jeremiah Had his DNA tested with Family tree DNA..Our MTDNA Maternal matched the founding mother of the Azerbaijan Jewish community….My aunt shared the middle eastern genetics, and found out that my Grandmother had told her oldest daughter , but she had told her best friend and that friend was still alive, and told my Aunt Alberta that she was told to keep it secret…We also had an autosomal DNA done with DNA consultants this year, both my husband and I had Jewish markers, and He Matched the Majorcan and Hungarian Jewish communities……So we have been on quite a journey, I also had Cherokee admixture tooo…So we have been learning about our Hebraic Roots….Both my Husband and I are Believers in Yeshua…..and feel so blessed to have found out about our Jewish Heritage……………We will pray for your full recovery….The Fink’s , address 310 east Hwy 20 , Harrison Ne. 69346 Date: Wed, 21 Oct 2015 10:29:19 +0000 To: avafink@hotmail.com

  5. Charles P. Cohen

    There’s always something fresh to pray for — and I will.

    Yes, the US Jewish community hasn’t moved past “We must stop the rising tide of intermarriage!” to:

    . . . “How can we live under water?”

    It should — no number of “trips to Israel” will be enough. And as you point out, the situation of half-Jews in Israel is really bad.

    Get better, eh?

  6. Dear Charles:
    Thank you very much for your offer to pray for my faster recovery from my health problems.. It is much appreciated!

    Your view of the US Jewish community’s current stance on intermarriage is both accurate and amusing. Thanks for the laugh, as I needed one.

    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  7. Dear Ava Fink:
    Thank you for sharing your story! You may also want to share it on the “Message Board.” That is quite a “DNA Jew” account!

    Thank you so much for offering to pray for my faster recovery from my health problems. I am grateful for every prayer.

    I will send you by private email additional information about the Half-Jewish Network.
    Cordially,
    Robin M.

  8. Charles Cohen

    Robin —

    I’ve just read the document quickly, and I see only _one_ line that might refer to real outreach (beyond “convert to Judaism because you have a Jewish spouse”):

    . . .”More outreach-oriented and pluralist rabbis, both on and off campus”

    I wonder — what is a “pluralist rabbi” ?

    [Maybe it means a rabbi who is interested in “Jewish values and ethics” ? —
    http://thejewishpluralist.net/
    ]
    This is a truly disappointing plan for how to grow Judaism. I’m sure the signatories meant well, but they have blinders on. It’s certainly not putting out a welcome mat for non-Jewish spouses!

    It’s past time for bed . . .

  9. Charles Cohen

    You’ve kept me up too late . . .

    The conclusion of an essay critical of that “call to action”, by Aaron Dorfman, here:

    http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/strategic-directions-for-jewish-life-a-call-to-action-where-do-we-go-from-here/

    “If, instead, we shifted our focus toward creating a vibrant American Jewish community that was open to anyone who wanted to join and promoted membership in the Jewish people as an attractive and meaningful path for all Americans, we could achieve the same numerical results with a 1% success rate. In other words, what would it look like if we abandoned the Jewish community’s longstanding aversion to proselytization and instead put out the welcome mat and invited non-Jews to join us? Not only would our potential audience increase by a factor of 100, but we’d also have an amazing opportunity to articulate the value of a rich Jewish life in a way that might further inspire existing Jews whose attrition and assimilation we hope so much to forestall.”

    So there _are_ Jews who take “outreach” seriously.

  10. Dear Charles:
    I agree 100 percent with everything you have posted.

    I fear Jewish communal numbers will have to fall even further than they already have to convince people among the 75 signatories to the “Strategic Directions for Jewish Life” statement.

    Very cordially,
    Robin M.

  11. Margaret

    Dear Robin,
    Thankyou for all your hard work and I pray for your recovery soon. If there is a meeting for the Network – I would love to come – hopefully not too far from Australia! But I know you can’t please all and sundry!
    Best wishes
    Margaret

  12. Dear Margaret:
    Thank you for your kind words about my work — I greatly appreciate them. I also would greatly appreciate your prayers for my complete healing as my recovery is proceeding very slowly, and it needs to speed up.

    Regarding Half-Jewish Network conferences — perhaps there could gradually be conferences or bi-yearly gatherings in each country where we exist in significant numbers.

    That would save half-Jewish people in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Israel the expense of traveling to U.S.-based gatherings.

    Also, a U.S.-based first conference could film videos and post them online, so half-Jewish people living in other countries could watch them.

    I’ll add our discussion to the file I keep for suggestions for the first Half-Jewish conference and how it might be organized.

    Very cordially,
    Robin M.

  13. Margaret

    Dear Robin,
    Why don’t you try some alternative healings such as Acupuncture – which can also be very relaxing.? Or some of the more gentle Chiropractic.
    May I just say that if there are conferences in other parts of the world – maybe we could all be informed ?. I know that if I could afford it – I would be prepared to travel
    Best wishes
    Margaret

  14. Dear Margaret:
    When there are conferences on half-Jewish people anywhere, I will likely send out a post via our blog/newsletter to everyone who’s signed up for it:

    If you aren’t already signed up for it, its free:

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

    One problem I’ve had with the very few conferences that other organizations have put on that contained some seminars for half-Jewish people — maybe two or three in my entire lifetime — is that 99 percent of the speakers were born Jews married to born Jews.

    They were rabbis and communal workers who were not intermarried and were not themselves adult children of intermarriage.

    I couldn’t figure out what they could tell us. It seemed like they were more interested in talking to each other about ways to outreach us, than actually talking to us and learning what we think our needs are and asking us how to outreach us..

    Another problem is that the conferences focused mostly on interfaith couples, with just a few seminars for half-Jewish people. In my experience, that’s not good for half-Jewish people, because the interfaith couples take center stage and their needs take over the conference.

    The conference organizers meant well, and I appreciated their good will, but I’d like to see conferences for half-Jewish people run by half-Jewish people and with all the speakers being half-Jewish people.

    Then if Jewish outreach workers, rabbis and interfaith couples wanted to attend, fine, but the conference should be solely focused on our needs.

    Thanks for your medical suggestions, I appreciate your good thoughts! Unfortunately, my current medical conditions would be worsened by acupuncture and chiropractic. I’ve had some friends who’ve found acupuncture and chiropractic helpfull for other conditions.

    Very cordially,
    Robin

  15. Margaret

    Dear Robin,
    Your blog raises some very inciteful issues. ie How can Rabbis and other people in authoruty have ideas about the experiences of half-Jewish People – as they have never experienced what we have gone thru. ?
    An analogy could be the ‘Blue-Eyed’ experiments done in the USA years back.
    Why not start with the Half-Jews being central to the Workshops/meetings – sharing their experiences etc. and see where that flows to? This will be in essence – experimental to a degree. I believe that you absolutely have to have the Half-Jews at the core of the program – running it etc.
    If Rabbis or other Jewish leaders are invited to contribute – then these could be seen as secondary – rather than Primary contributors.
    This change in focus – as you have alluded to in a Para. above – is essential – in order to maximize the benefits for the attendees
    Best Wishes
    Margaret

  16. Dear Margaret:
    I agree 100 percent with your suggestions. I have placed them in a special file where I keep peoples’ ideas about what the first Half-Jewish Network conference should be like.

    Great minds think alike!

    Warmly,
    Robin M.

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