Category Archives: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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:

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

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:

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:

(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:,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:

and our “Israel” essay at:

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



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:

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.

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

(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):

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

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:

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:

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

Wishing you good holidays and many blessings,

Robin Margolis



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

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

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:

Selected News Items About Half-Jewish People

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

Some German Jewish liberal groups disagree with them:

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.

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

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

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:

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.

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

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>:

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

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

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

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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

Fourth Half-Jewish Network Blog/Email Newsletter

February 1, 2012

Dear Friends:

Greetings to everyone who is celebrating Candlemass (Feb. 2 — the presentation of Christ as a baby at the Second Temple), the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (Feb. 5 — birthday of the founder of Islam),  Tu B’Shevat (Feb. 8 — begins at sundown on Feb. 7 — the Jewish New Year of Trees), Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22 — first day of Lent, Christian season of repentance), and Purim (Mar. 9, begins at sunset on March 8 — celebrates Jewish deliverance from a plot).

Here is the latest news on half-Jewish people that we have collected:

1., which hosts our blog, has sent a 2011 summary of our new website’s statistics. Our new website was only in existence five months when the statistics were collected.

I was greatly surprised to read the following announcement:

“The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.”

MEBO (My Eyes Bulge Out)  — even setting aside possibly 2,000 views as probably being from me while I built the site last summer — and let us exclude 5,859 spammers —  that still leaves about 4,000 views over a five month period, an astonishing statistic for a website that caters to a very specialized niche.

2. Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser (Jewish father, Christian mother), Canon Chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, has given up his lucrative, perk-filled job to protest the Cathedral’s decision to evict the Occupy protesters:

If you are into prayer, please pray that he will find a new job soon, as he has a wife and several children to support.  Whether you agree with his politics or not, he is a very principled man.

3. Jennie Goldstein (Jewish father, Christian mother), is the only Jewish employee of the Arab-American Association of New York:

The Arab-American Association is a support group, helping new immigrants in America. If you look at the “Comments” section following the article, you’ll see that Jennie was harshly attacked — by other Jews — for:  (1) having a Jewish father instead of a Jewish mother and being brought up as “both” — you know that as a young child her parents made those decisions, not her;  (2) identifying as a Jew; and (3) daring to suggest that Arab-Americans should be treated courteously.

I posted a comment defending her, and would suggest that you also do the same. There were some comments in her favor besides mine, but not very many. I believe that it is important that we “push back.”

3. Reya El-Salahi, (Jewish mother, Muslim father), is a BBC radio broadcaster and television writer:

She recently toured Israel and the Palestinian territories and incurred the unhappiness of a politically conservative Anglican Christian group, the Anglican Friends of Israel,  for expressing some sympathy with the Palestinians.

Matters were not improved when they discovered that her brother had supported the second Palestinian intifada (uprising).

The website claims that she was turned away from the Al-Aqsa Mosque as “not Muslim enough.” Since I didn’t see the broadcast, not sure what the commenter was referring to.

(Note: many people think all Episcopalians and Anglicans are politically and theologically liberal, however,  that is not true. In some countries the majority of Episcopalians and Anglicans are liberals; in other countries, quite the reverse.)

4. William Hensley (Jewish father, Native American mother) is a famous activist on behalf of the Inuit of Alaska. He had a very tough childhood.

His well-off Jewish father abandoned Hensley and his very troubled Inuit mother — as he had apparently previously abandoned another Inuit woman and Hensley’s half-sister by that relationship —  and Hensley had a very bad childhood until he was rescued by his mother’s cousin.

Hensley grew up to be a remarkable and talented advocate for the Inuit. Here is a picture of Hensley’s father:

Here is a picture of Hensley’s mother:

Here is a link to Hensley’s book about his life:

which has pictures of him as an adult inside.

4. The Israeli Orthodox Chief Rabbinate now requires proof of matrilineal descent going back to a maternal great-great-grandmother for any Jew marrying in Israel.

This is a problem since no half-Jewish person can marry a Jew in Israel without having an Orthodox Jewish rabbi perform the ceremony, and the rabbi will insist on this proof first.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who the rabbis are trying to screen out.  Half-Jewish people, of course.

People who can’t produce this proof have to live together or fly to another country to be legally married, usually Cyprus.

So, how many of us have our maternal great-great-grandmother’s wedding license? Everyone who has your maternal great-great-grandmother’s wedding license, please raise your hand.

Remember, it must be your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s wedding license. No substitutes will be accepted. <internet grin>




Filed under Biracial, Christian Half-Jewish People, Ethiopian Jews, Half-Jewish Celebrities, Half-Jewish Network, Intermarriage, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Multiracial, 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),


Robin Margolis, Coordinator


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