Category Archives: Israel and Half-Jewish People

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

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

Share Our Newsletter

Do you have a relative, friend, co-worker or acquaintance who might find our free monthly email newsletter interesting?

Please forward it to them and suggest that they visit our website at:

http://www.half-jewish.net

and subscribe.

Cordially,

Robin Margolis

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Filed under Half-Jewish Celebrities, Half-Jewish Network, Interfaith Half-Jewish People, Intermarriage, Israel and Half-Jewish People, Russian Half-Jewish People, Who Is A Jew

Seventh Half-Jewish Network Blog/Email Newsletter

November 20, 2013

Dear Friends:

I wish all of you a “Happy Thanksgivukkah” — Thanksgiving and Hanukkah both fall on Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 28) of this year. Hanukkah starts on the previous evening (Wednesday, November 27).

I also wish everyone a Merry Christmas (Wednesday, December 25).

Belated greetings to all Shiite Muslims on the Day of ‘Ashura ( November 13 on this year’s Christian calendar), the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, and his followers at Karbala in Iraq in 680 A.D., the founding day of Shiite Islam.

Here are some news items that I hope will interest all of you:

Pew Report on American Jewish Population

1.  The respected, non-partisan Pew Research Center has done a study of the American Jewish population, and the results have been explosive.  Here is a link to the study and some of the responses:

http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-culture-survey/

You will be especially interested in their analysis of the adult children of intermarriage:

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/11/12/what-happens-when-jews-intermarry/

2. Among the findings which shocked the Jewish community:

a. The Conservative (Masorti in America) Judaism movement is declining very rapidly in numbers. Unless this trend is halted, it may cease to exist in any real way within two decades.

(Robin notes: I’ve repeatedly had half-Jewish people ask me to contact the Conservative Judaism movement over the last decade and offer to help them recruit half-Jewish people. I sympathize with this goal, as I admire many aspects of the Conservative movement’s achievements. I have tried to offer modest suggestions to the Conservative movement, but at the moment, they’re not really listening.)

b. Jewish-identified adult children of intermarriage are now half of all Millenial generation Jews. Most of them are not affiliated with the Jewish community, confining their involvement to identifying as Jewish and reading Jewish books and websites.

(Robin notes: Now this was no surprise to me, as I have been predicting for several decades that Jewish-identified half-Jewish people would be half of all U.S. Jewish young people by 2020.  I have also pointed out repeatedly that Jewish institutions were so unresponsive to them that their involvement was largely on the edges of the Jewish community.)

c. Approximately 25 percent of all interfaith parents raising young children with some Jewish identity today report that they are raising them as “both.”

3. The mainstream Jewish community has tried to “spin” these and other findings in the Pew report in several ways, mostly contradicting each other.

Commentary on the Pew Report in the Jewish media has stated:

a. Some Jewish communal leaders have said: These statistics on Millenial Jewish-identified half-Jewish people prove that Judaism must be getting better at retaining adult half-Jewish people! Even if they don’t join Jewish institutions and confine their involvement to Jewish websites and books!

(Robin notes: I know many of you will laugh heartily, given that they do little or no outreach to us, and sometimes actively rebuff us. The welcoming synagogues and Jewish institutions don’t make up for the blank indifference — when it is no worse — of many of the other Jewish institutions.)

b.  Some Jewish communal leaders have said: The reluctance of half-Jewish people to become involved with Jewish institutions is proof that intermarriage is “bad for the Jews,” and the Jewish community should stop investing efforts in outreach to interfaith couples.  

(Robin notes: In other words, make our intermarried parents and grandparents feel even less welcome! They are certainly not doing any real outreach to half-Jewish people, so there’s nothing to cut back on there.)

c. Some Jewish communal leaders have said: Some interfaith couples are raising their children as “both”? The Jewish community should drop — literally overnight — its decades-long opposition to this option and begin embracing these families!

(Robin notes: Few things can be more startling than to see than these statements.)

d. Some Jewish communal leaders have said: Greater efforts should be made to involve half-Jewish people with Israel trips! The Israeli government has announced it will be funneling more money to American Jewish groups to involve American Jews more deeply with Israel!

(Robin notes:  Israel has negative laws and policies against half-Jewish people. Greater exposure to Israel for most half-Jewish people is not likely to increase their involvement with Judaism, quite the contrary.)

e. Some Jewish communal leaders have said: The Pew Report shows that the intermarriage rate has stabilized at 50 percent! Nothing to worry about! The intermarriage rate is stable!

(Robin notes: If 50 percent of all Jews marry people who aren’t Jewish each year — what will happen to the Jewish community? That’s one of the highest intermarriage rates in Jewish history!)

4. If you’d like to see more Jewish communal responses, just input “Pew report Judaism America” into your Google search engine.

5. What should our response to the Pew Report be as members of the Half-Jewish Network? Let’s wait and see.

A 1990 American Jewish population survey foreshadowed many of these findings, as did a 2000 Jewish population survey, which contained similar alerts.

After both surveys were released, the Jewish community went into panics similar to their responses to the Pew study. I became hopeful for outreach to half-Jewish people. My hopes proved erroneous.

In the decade following 1990, most Jewish institutions stuck by their anti-intermarriage policies. In the years following the 2000 survey, most of the American Jewish community responded by declaring the survey’s research to be inadequate and erroneous, and began increasing outreach to young Jews with two Jewish parents and trying to get them to marry each other.

So let’s wait and see if the 2013 Pew survey actually generates real outreach to adult half-Jewish people. Real outreach would be the same outreach interfaith couples and their parents currently receive: books, movies, DVDs, CDs, books, discussion groups, listserves, becoming a recognized, written priority of Jewish outreach groups and Jewish institutions, welcoming language in Jewish policy statements and synagogue websites, etc.

I’d like to see such outreach treat courteously half-Jewish people who are “undecided,” “other,” “both,” or who belong to Christian, Muslim and other faiths and secular cultures and listen to their stories, as well listening respectfully to Jewish-identified half-Jewish people.

We have asked for this for decades. We should accept nothing less.

Israel and Its Half-Jewish Population

1. Israel has dropped support to the remaining Ethiopian Jews in Ethiopia, most of whom are patrilineal — they have an Ethiopian Jewish father and an Ethiopian Christian mother or other patrilineal descent:

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/142440/left-behind-in-gondar?all=1

2. But Israel is importing the “B’nai Menashe” — group of people from India — whose Jewish history only goes back a century, when they switched from Christianity to Judaism on their own:

http://www.jta.org/2013/10/17/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/lost-indian-jews-immigration-continues-despite-skepticism-over-their-claims

(Robin notes: I believe that the B’nai Menashe are being brought to Israel because they are lighter-skinned than the Ethiopian Jews and perceived as less bother to the Israelis than the deeply unhappy Ethiopian Jewish Israeli community.)

3.  But Israel isn’t terribly nice to patrilineal white Jews — here’s what happened to some enrolled in the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) Orthodox Judaism conversion class:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4443687,00.html

What the article does not mention is that the soldiers involved are most likely Russian patrilineal Jews with a Jewish father and a Christian mother.  One way they can achieve status as “real” Jews in Israel is to convert via the IDF’s “Nativ” course, taught by the Orthodox.

The Nativ classes were intended by the IDF senior command as a friendly and respectful gesture to patrilineal half-Jewish soldiers, an effort that would help them get Orthodox conversions more easily than stringent classes for civilians taught by Orthodox rabbis outside of the IDF.

But the IDF has begun to fall increasingly under the control of the Orthodox, as the number of officers graduating from Orthodox schools increases and the Orthodox rabbis in the IDF — only Orthodox rabbis are allowed in the IDF — become increasingly conservative politically and religiously.

For more information on this, see our “Who Is A Jew” essay at:

http://half-jewish.net/who-is-a-jew/

and our “Israel” essay at:

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

4. Continuing harassment of Jewish-Arab interfaith couples in Israel:

http://972mag.com/idf-soldier-passes-ids-of-jewish-girls-who-socialize-with-arabs-to-anti-assimilation-ngo/79349/

and

http://972mag.com/jewish-women-cant-volunteer-at-night-to-avoid-contact-with-arabs/80527/

and

http://www.hartman.org.il/Blogs_View.asp?Article_Id=1174&Cat_Id=275&Cat_Type=Blogs

The Freedom Theater, founded by Jewish-Arab activist Juliano Mer-Khamis, has continued to produce plays and follow its policy of peaceful “cultural resistance” to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank:

http://www.thefreedomtheatre.org/

For those of you not familiar with Mer-Khamis — he was an Israeli citizen with an Arab father and a Jewish mother, who fought tirelessly for peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.  He spoke often of being “100 percent Palestinian” and “100 percent Jewish.” There were segments of both the Israeli Jewish public and the Palestinian Muslim public who disliked him intensely.

He was assassinated by traditionalist  Palestinians who objected to a modern play about teenagers and sex that his theater produced. I was only surprised by his death because I thought Israel’s Shin Bet would kill him first. I admired him greatly for his courage.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juliano_Mer-Khamis

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julian-schnabel/juliano-mer-khamis_b_849235.html

5. Continuing refusal to bury patrilineal Israeli Jewish IDF soldiers with other Jews:

http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Non-Jewish-IDF-soldiers-to-be-buried-in-same-section-as-Jews-319003

(Robin notes: I have had a decades-long commitment to getting patrilineal Jewish-identified half-Jewish people buried with other Jews in all Jewish settings. The IDF has buried them in the “non-Jewish” sections of IDF cemeteries with Christian and Muslim soldiers. Well,  in the future, patrilineal Jewish-identified half-Jewish soldiers will be buried in the “Jewish section” of the IDF cemeteries — which are run by the Orthodox Jews — but they will be buried in separate rows of their own.  I am not satisfied with this ‘compromise,’ and I hope you will speak up against it also.)

Newly-Released Literature

1. Poetry by Aaron Samuels on growing up biracial (Jewish mother, African-American father):

http://aaronsamuelspoetry.com/portfolio/yarmulkes-and-fitted-caps/

2. Book by Susan Katz-Miller on raising children in both Judaism and Christianity:

http://www.susankatzmiller.com/

Note: Katz-Miller is herself the child of an intermarriage. She’s been an activist on the “raise in both” front for many years and her book deserves respectful attention.

Half-Jewish People In The News

1.  Media has confirmed — after years of rumors — that Muammar Gaddafi, the former dictator of Libya, who died in 2011, had a Sephardic Jewish mother and a Muslim Arab father:

http://www.timesofisrael.com/gadhafis-mother-was-jewish-his-protocol-chief-says/

2. Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, head of the Church of England and the Anglican communion, recently discovered that he had a German Jewish paternal grandfather:

http://kiwianglo.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/the-telegraph-interview-with-the-archbishop-of-canterbury/

3. Troubled half-Jewish baseball player, Ryan Braun, berated by Jewish fans:

http://forward.com/articles/187662/can-ryan-braun-repent-enough-to-win-back-jewish-fa/

Wishing you good holidays and many blessings,

Robin Margolis

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Filed under Biracial, Christian Half-Jewish People, Conservative Judaism, Ethiopian Jews, Half-Jewish Celebrities, Half-Jewish Network, Interfaith Half-Jewish People, Intermarriage, Israel and Half-Jewish People, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Pew Report, Russian Half-Jewish People, Who Is A Jew

Sixth Half-Jewish Network Blog/Email Newsletter – Additional Information

Dear Friends:

Our original post was missing some information, which we would like to make sure that you receive.

Share Our Newsletter

Do you have a relative, friend, co-worker or acquaintance who might find our free email newsletter interesting? Please forward it to them and suggest that they visit our website at:

www.half-jewish.net

and subscribe.

Plus, you may wish to visit our “Resources” pages:

Jewish Resources — http://half-jewish.net/jewish-resources/

Christian Resources — http://half-jewish.net/christian-resources/

Muslim  & Others Resources — http://half-jewish.net/muslim-resources/

Multiracial/Biracial Resources — http://half-jewish.net/biracialmultiracial/

We add new resources to each page as they become available. If you know of any resources that we have not listed, please contact us. The most recent additions are some Jewish resources, see below:

6.  Zinn House

http://www.zinnhouse.com

Lauren Zinn, Ph.D., Rev., leads a Jewish-Interfaith Community, Jewish Roots with Interfaith Shoots.  Her programs for Kids, Adults, and Families, since 2001, include classes, celebrations, ceremonies, and coaching.  Hebrew tutoring, for adults or children seeking Interfaith Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, is available through Skype.

If interested in learning more, please see the website. Lauren can be contacted at laurenzinn[at]gmail.com

7. MyBarMitzvahTutors.com

http://www.mybarmitzvahtutors.com/

MyBarMitzvahTutors.com is an online Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Jewish learning program which embraces all Jews from all backgrounds in meaningful Jewish learning. MyBarMitzvahTutors offers learning programs for all Jews regardless of age, location, or affiliation.With online learning, MyBarMitzvahTutors brings Jewish learning into the comfort of your home and works around your schedule.Please visit our website for more information or email Danielle Eskow, the co-founder of MyBarMitzvahTutors at dani@mybarmitzvahtutors.com. Let us help you bring Jewish learning into your heart, life, and home.

8. World of Judaica

http://www.worldofjudaica.com/

World of Judaica is an Israel based company offering a large selection of high quality and crafted traditional and modern Judaica items.  World of Judaica combines retail items and education to provide the most complete Judaica experience to every customer.   World of Judaica is proud to offer an extensive Learning Center where you can learn about the basics of Judaism, from beliefs to Shabbat, Holidays and Biblical Figures as well as how the Jewish calendar works.

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Filed under Biracial, Christian Half-Jewish People, Half-Jewish Network, Israel and Half-Jewish People, Multiracial

Sixth Half-Jewish Network Blog/Email Newsletter

Dear Friends:

Greeting to all of you observing Rosh Hashannah (Sunday, sundown, September 16),  Yom Kippur (Tuesday, sundown, September 25), St. Michael and All Angels (Saturday, September 29), Sukkot (Sunday, sundown, September 30), Eid ul-Adha (Thursday, sundown, October 25),  Halloween (All Hallows Eve) (Wednesday, October 31), All Saints Day (Thursday, November 1), Islamic New Year (Wednesday, sundown, November 14), and Ashura (Friday, sundown, November 23).

Happy Holidays!

Upcoming Conference

European Conference on Interfaith Couples Will Include Patrilineal Adult Children of Intermarriage

November 1-3, 2012 — Zurich, Switzerland

http://www.hybridejuedischeidentitaeten.org/tagung/

One of the conference’s primary participants is Doppel:Halb, a European half-Jewish group:

If you are going to be visiting Europe at that time or you already live there, please contact Doppel:Halb at:

http://www.doppelhalb.de/english.html

Selected News Items About Half-Jewish People

1. Many German Jewish communities continue to accept only matrilineal half-Jewish people:

http://www.economist.com/node/21559462

Some German Jewish liberal groups disagree with them:

http://www.hybridejuedischeidentitaeten.org/tagung/?page_id=58

2. Student at Princeton Hillel Rejected by Other Students after Discovery Mother was a Convert — This story has a better ending than many such stories. The Half-Jewish Network contacted the rabbi, and it is probable that many other people and groups did as well.

The rabbi reached out to the student involved, set up an open community meeting on the subject, and created a committee to devise new policies for the future that will cut down on this type of incident. Rabbi Julie Roth’s response was impressive, as most Jewish institutions ignore complaints from half-Jewish members.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rivka-t-cohen/raised-orthodox-not-jewish-enough-sabbath_b_1474682.html?show_comment_id=152413069#c

3. Murdered half-Jewish, half-Arab peace activist Juliano Mer-Khamis honored:

http://www.haaretz.com/culture/arts-leisure/juliano-mer-khamis-impossible-legacy-brought-alive-in-rocket-torn-sderot.premium-1.439798

4.  Hungarian anti-Semitic politician discovers he is grandchild of intermarriage:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/14/csanad-szegedi-jewish_n_1776617.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl1%7Csec3_lnk2%26pLid%3D192560

5. Israel’s ‘war’ on Arab-Jewish couples — Decades ago, the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) walked out when a rabbi member gave speeches calling for legal measures against Arab-Jewish couples. The Knesset speaker of that era pointed out that the Holocaust had taught Jews why legal measures against intermarriage were horrific. These days, the Knesset has discussions about “Jewish identity” and the best ways to prevent Israeli Jews from marrying Palestinian Arabs:

http://972mag.com/campaign-calls-on-arab-men-to-keep-out-of-jlem-away-from-jewish-girls/54263/

6.  Many Jews of Krakow, Poland are half-Jewish — Half-Jewish people in the article are referred to as “having Jewish roots.” Israeli newspapers now sometimes refer to us as “non-halachic Jews.” One the one hand, some people are obviously trying to be more welcoming to us. On the other hand, calling us by these terms avoids use of the term “intermarriage” and minimizes the very real discrimination we face within Judaism, preventing open discussion and demands for change. Terms like that hide our intermarried parents and our existence behind phrases that kind of whitewash our difficulties.

http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/international/american_style_jcc_thriving_krakow

7.  Scandal-plagued French politician is grandchild of intermarriage:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominique_Strauss-Kahn

8. Continuing debate in Jewish community over use of term “half-Jewish” — The Half-Jewish Network has repeatedly suggested to Jewish institutions that they let us call ourselves whatever terms we are comfortable with, but that suggestion has always been very poorly received <internet grin>:

http://www.interfaithfamily.com/blog/iff/growing-up-in-an-interfaith-family/what-can-i-say/

9. Rain Pryor touring in “Fried Latkes and Chicken,” her show about being the child of a Jewish/African-American intermarriage in the 1970s:

http://www.interfaithfamily.com/arts_and_entertainment/popular_culture/Afros_and_Yiddish_and_Soul_Food_Oy_Vey.shtml?

10. Prominent atheist writer Christopher Hitchens descended from several intermarriages:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Hitchens

11. Michael Servetus, one of first Christian Unitarians executed in Europe, and a pioneering physician, was half-Jewish:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Servetus

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

Fifth Half-Jewish Network Blog/Email Newsletter

March 16, 2012

Dear Friends:

Greetings to everyone celebrating St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), Palm Sunday (April 1), Good Friday (April 6), Erev Pesach – First Seder (Passover – April 6),  Pesach  – Second Seder (Passover – April 7), Easter Sunday (April 8), Easter Monday (April 9), Yom Ha-Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day – April 19), and Earth Day (April 22).

You’ll notice that Passover and Easter fall on the same weekend this year.  We know this creates conflicts in some of our families — best of luck in dealing with them!

1. Conference on Half-Jewish People (April 20th, Evanston, Illinois):

Dear Friends: We have been asked to publicize this conference and hope to have a speaker present. If any one living near Evanston, Illinois sees this notice and attends this conference, please let us know what you thought of it.

The organizer, Rabbi Adam Chalom of Humanistic Judaism, has always been friendly to the Half-Jewish Network and displayed concern about the adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage.

Conference Information: Upcoming Colloquium of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism: “Half Jewish?” The Heirs of Intermarriage.

Our Colloquium will be held April 20-22, 2012 at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL in cooperation with Newberger Hillel at the University of Chicago and Fiedler Hillel at Northwestern University.

How will the heirs of intermarriage change Judaism? Can you be “Jewish and” rather than “Jewish or”? Can the Jewish world handle “half Jewish”? Or is being “half Jewish” no big deal anymore?

For two decades, half of the marriages involving Jews have been intercultural. Their children are now young adults, choosing their own identities.

Online registration at http://halfjewish.eventbrite.com has the program details. Participating speakers and panelists will include voices from the Jewish Outreach Institute, Newberger Hillel, Birthright-Israel NEXT, the Half-Jewish Network, Jews in all Hues, The Society for Humanistic Judaism and Interfaith Family.com, as well as from the world of academic Jewish Studies and from Israel.

2.  Here is a funny interview with rapper Drake (African-American father, Jewish mother).

3. Henrique Capriles y Radonski, candidate for President of Venezuela, has a Christian father and a Jewish mother:

This article — click on Radonski’s name to view it — has the same error about Radonski’s family that I have seen in many publications, in that it implies that Radonski is fully Jewish by parentage and converted to Catholicism.

Radonski is half-Jewish, not fully Jewish by ancestry, as the article incorrectly implies. He’s the child of an intermarriage.

His father had Dutch ancestry and his mother was Jewish. His full surname is “Capriles y Radonski” — Capriles would be his father’s name and Radonski is his mother’s name. He became seriously Catholic after a very nasty time as a political prisoner. Capriles Radonski himself has always been very open about being half-Jewish and a practicing Catholic.

I’m guessing that the anti-Semites want to claim him as fully Jewish ethnically so they can target him, and that Jewish groups want to claim him as fully Jewish ethnically due to anti-intermarriage bias.

It would be more respectful to him to acknowledge his Christian family as well as his Jewish family.

4. St. John of the Cross, a prominent 16th century Roman Catholic mystic, who wrote a book on the concept of the dark night of the soul, was apparently of mixed Jewish-Christian descent on one side of his family, and possibly partly-Muslim on the other side:

5. Aish article attacking intermarriage cites to the Purim story in the book of Esther in the Bible without once mentioning that Esther’s intermarriage with the Persian ruler is what saved the life of her Jewish community.

Can we say chutzpah (outrageous gall)? I think we can. Consider leaving a comment on the article pointing this out.

6. Humorous essay on views of American half-Jewish, half-Russian young woman in “My Russian Girl Problems.” If you like the article, you may want to leave the author a supportive comment.

7. What happens to half-Jewish people who make aliyah (immigrate) to Israel?

American patrilineal half-Jewish woman refuses to convert via Orthodox Judaism, forbidden to marry Israeli Jew and leaves Israel.

American matrilineal Jewish woman fights to marry Israeli Jew in Israel.

American patrilineal Orthodox guy allowed to marry Orthodox convert in Israel.

Folks, I’m glad that the Orthodox Jewish couple was allowed to marry, but I don’t think half-Jewish people who are not interested in becoming Orthodox Jews should have to fight to marry Israelis.

8. Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue), an American organization for Jewish multiracial outreach, has asked that we publicize the trailer of a film they have made about an Ethiopian Jew who was kidnapped on his way to Israel and sold into slavery, “400 Miles“:

I’d be interested in your opinions of it.

9. The New York Jewish Federation has protested to the Israeli government about the discrimination against Ethiopian Jews within Israel.  We are monitoring this issue because many Ethiopian Jews currently trying to make aliyah are half-Jewish and obstacles are put in their way due to being descendants of intermarriage.

Here is an earlier issue of our newsletter that covers the difficulties of the Ethiopian half-Jewish people in greater detail — see especially the comments that were posted by an expert in the field on our website.

Cordially,

Robin

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Filed under Biracial, Christian Half-Jewish People, Ethiopian Jews, Half-Jewish Celebrities, Half-Jewish Network, Humanistic Judaism, Intermarriage, Israel and Half-Jewish People, Multiracial, Russian Half-Jewish People, Who Is A Jew

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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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