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