About/Message Board

This is the Half-Jewish Network message board. Please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion, idea or question. We see and respond to all messages that are left on this page. 

Here is some information about our email Half-Jewish Network Newsletter and our Message Board that will make it easier to use them:


If you want to stay in touch with us, please sign up to receive our monthly email newsletter, using the “Email Subscription” box in the upper right hand corner of this web page.

The email newsletter will contain information about our activities, links to information about half-Jewish books and films, access to various media articles on half-Jewish people, and much more.

All you have to do is enter your email address in the box and then respond to an email from our website that will confirm your subscription.

People who are half-Jewish and people who are not half-Jewish are both welcome to subscribe to our email newsletter.


If you would also like a second subscription to see any replies that people make to your message or to see messages from other half-Jewish people who post in the future, just post a comment on “About/Message Board” below.

You then will see a check box under your comment asking “Notify me of follow-up comments via email.” Just check that box.

By doing this, you can socialize with, support and advise other half-Jewish people from all over the world as they contact our group.

Now here are some guidelines about posting on the message board —


We have separate guidelines for half-Jewish people and people who are not half-Jewish.

Half-Jewish People: Adult children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other descendants of intermarriage  — we ask you to show courtesy and respect for other commenters’ multiple viewpoints and lifestyles.

The message board is reserved for postings by people who are half-Jewish. People who are not half-Jewish — members of interfaith couples who are born Jews, Christians and members of other faith-based cultures, outreach professionals, researchers, media, writers, journalists, reporters and people selling commercial products — see our “People Who Are Not Half-Jewish” guidelines below.

We ask half-Jewish people who email the Half-Jewish Network privately that you show courtesy and respect in your email for our website volunteers — including words like “please” and “thank you” in emails are helpful to us.

Be aware that your first comment will probably be held for moderation. If your comment goes to moderation, it should be approved within 24 to 72 hours. Please keep in mind that the website and message board are maintained by volunteers, so please be patient. 

We will remove any postings that violate our guidelines. Thank you for respecting our guidelines! It is much appreciated!

People Who Are Not Half-Jewish: People who are not half-Jewish — members of interfaith couples who are born Jews, Christians and members of other faith-based cultures, outreach professionals, researchers, media, writers, journalists, reporters and people selling commercial products —  please do not post on our message board.

Instead, please go to our “About/Contact/Leaders” page and connect with us through the email address listed there. 

People who are not half-Jewish are also welcome to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter.

The reason that we ask that only half-Jewish people post on our message board is that we try to maintain our message board solely for half-Jewish peoples’ questions, stories and issues. Our message board is one of the few spaces on the Internet entirely devoted to the needs of half-Jewish people in a respectful manner.

Questions from people who are not half-Jewish are answered privately by contacting us through our email address shown on our “About/Contact/Leaders” page. If we cannot answer your questions, or we are not the correct group to deal with them, we may refer you to another group with appropriate resources.

We ask people who are not half-Jewish that if you email the Half-Jewish Network privately, please show courtesy and respect in your email for our website volunteers — including words like “please” and “thank you” in emails are helpful to us.

Thank you for respecting our guidelines! They are intended to make life easier for all of us.


551 responses to “About/Message Board

  1. Dear Friends: Our first message — how did you find our website? Cordially, Robin

  2. Elmer

    Are there trips to Israel for young persons that have a Jewish parent but raised Christian??? Thank You.

  3. Dear Elmer: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    If you have switched over to Judaism from Christianity and have some type of membership in a Jewish organization, you may be eligible for a Birthright Israel trip. But they will only take you if you can prove that you have switched over to Judaism.

    With regard to trips to Israel for Christian-identified half-Jewish young people, I would suggest you do a Google search using the words: “Christian youth trips to Israel” and see what pops up. When I did it, here is one link I found:


    I don’t know if those trips are free or not. But it looked like that search brought up a lot of different trips through different Christian groups.

    Whether you go on a Jewish trip or a Christian trip, be sure to read the Half-jewish Network essays on Israel at:

    https://halfjewishnetwork.wordpress.com/israel/ and


    Also, be sure and sign up for our posts through an email subscription or an RSS feed, and we will keep you up to date on the latest news.

    In addition, if you send me a private email, I will send you an information email with a lot of material that is not on this website. I can be reached at: binarystar [at] aol [dot] com

    Please let us know if you find any free or low-cost Christian trips to Israel for young people and then we can list them as a resource.


  4. Rebecca

    Hello everyone! My name is Rebecca, and I am the daughter of a Lutheran mother and a Jewish father. I traveled to Israel for the first time on the Aish Jerusalem Fellowships trip…and certainly can provide a unique perspective on what was taught during that trip regarding half-Jews and intermarriage as a whole. I decided to give Israel another chance and studied abroad at Tel Aviv University, which I loved. If anyone has any questions, or just wants to talk about the unique challenges which we face, please post back and I would love to chat 🙂

  5. Dear Rebecca:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! be sure and sign up for our posts through an email subscription or an RSS feed, and we will keep you up to date on the latest news.

    In addition, if you send me a private email, I will send you an information email with a lot of material that is not on this website. I can be reached at: binarystar [at] aol [dot] com


  6. Dear Friends: Here is a truly annoying article about an Israeli Orthodox organization that fights intermarriage. Their latest activity is trying to prevent Israeli Jewish women from socializing with Israeli Arab men whom they meet at the beach:



  7. My grandmother who brought me up was a ashkenazi jew, i only found this out recently but i makes so many things clear like some of the things she used to do etc.
    My mother was christened a protestant in Germany when she was born, my Grandmothers jewishness was never spoken about. What i would like to know is am i considered jewish as i understand it is passed down the maternal side of the family. I would love to learn as much a possible about the jewish faith and lifestyle and follow it if possible in honour of my grandmother who had to hide her heritage! Can anyone help me and answer my question and point me into a direction as to were to start!

  8. Dear Alexandra: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! It is an immensely emotional thing to discover a part of your family’s heritage later in life. I will send you a private email packet with some information responding to your questions.

    With regard as to whether you are are considered Jewish, have a look at the essay on this website, “Who Is A Jew.” With regard to resources on Judaism, have a look at our “Jewish Resources” page.

    With regard to living as a Jew — before you decide to live as a Jew, I would suggest that you learn about Judaism, but also visit Jewish communities and see if you would be comfortable socializing and worshiping with them. Sometimes when people find a lost part of their heritage, there is a strong emotional pull to affiliate with that “half” of themselves, but they have not yet learned enough about that :”half” to know if they would be comfortable in that community.

    I will send you more information by private email.


  9. lobwedge83

    I recently stumbled upon your site. After 40 something years of life I recently came across my Jewish lineage on my biological Fathers side. I have enjoyed discovering all the history on that side of my Family and I’m proud to be half Jewish. I appreciate your efforts on this site and enjoy reading the information in the different sections. Thank You!

  10. Dear Lobwedge83: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! We are very pleased that you like our website and congratulations on discovering information about your father’s Jewish heritage. We are sending you a private email with more information that is not on our website.


  11. Benjamin Rosenblatt

    Hey, I just found your website. My father was jewish, my mother catholic, I practice neither. I’d be interested in any information you can provide about patralineal half-jews. Also, why in Israel do politics fall so far to the right, when in America my jewish family and most celebrity jews seem center left to left wing? Am I just seriously misinformed about the politics regarding jews here?

  12. Dear Benjamin: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! I have sent you two emails. One is our free email info packet, that has a lot of information about patrilineal Jews. I also recommend that you review our essays on this website, “Who Is A Jew?” and “Israel.”

    The second email contains an essay I have been working on about why Israel is so much further to the right than the American Jewish community. Your perceptions are correct, and I hope the two informational email packets will answer your questions.

    Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter. There is a subscription form, entitled “Email subscription,” on the upper right hand corner of this web page. That way you can stay in touch with us.


  13. Victoria

    Hi All,

    I have planned a trip to Israel in October of this year. I thought that I had worked out dates to avoid major holidays but it turned out that I was not very good. I will be in Jerusalem for Yom Kippur. From what I have read the city shuts down for the day. When I first realised this I was disappointed as I saw it as a wasted day of my holiday. However, upon reflection I think that this will not be such a bad thing. I am not religious at all and was not brought up practicing Judaism so I would not feel comfortable attending services. But I wondered if there might be opportunities to help at a shelter or other charity working with vulnerable people who might not be with their families on such an important day for Jewish people. I am a social worker in real life so I realise the kind of checks that are normally needed for someone to work with vulnerable people and that I might have left things too late … but I thought that I would ask if anyone had any suggestions or contacts.

    Also, while I am in Israel I wondered if there are any places to visit of particular interest to half Jewish people like me that you know of.

    I should say that I live in the UK.

  14. Liora

    I am a Muslim girl in a relationship with a Jewish guy, I was wondering if there were any people who could share some advice and experience?
    🙂 I would love to hear from someone in a similar situation, how did your families accept it? I should also mention we are also both living in the heart of the middle east..

  15. Duality

    Dear Victoria: L’shanah tovah (a happy Jewish New Year!) I am sending you a private reply with information addressing your inquiry about charities that you could work with during your visit to israel and also about places to visit that might be of interest to half-Jewish people.

  16. Duality

    Dear Liora: L’shanah tovah (a happy Jewish New Year!) I also understand that the Islamic festival, the Eid al-Adha, is coming up on Monday, November 7, so accept our best wishes for that day.

    Regarding your inquiry about getting advice from other Jewish-Muslim couples on this website — this website is used primarily by adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage.

    We are always happy to advise interfaith couples, but if you need to talk with other interfaith couples, you will need to also visit websites where interfaith couples post and visit.

    I will write you privately and make some suggestions as to websites that you might visit to locate other interfaith couples.


  17. Dear Friends: Our first “blog post/email newsletter” has been posted on our “About/HJN Page” — be sure to have a look at it!


  18. Linda Phillips

    Dear Friends, I only discovered in my late teans that my father was Jewish, my grandfather was the only person in our family who ever spoke of it.. Our family was also German, another well kept secret, they emmigrated to the UK before WW2. I always feel as if there is this precious hidden part that is longing to re-connect somehow, thank you so much for your site. I grew up in the UK and now live in Canada. kindest regards Linda.

  19. Liora

    Dear Duality,
    Sorry I don’t think you can send me a private message because I posted as an anonymous user.
    I know this site is more for the half-jewish audience, but that’s exactly why I joined. Our children will be half jewish, and I wanted to know how life for half jewish children is, and what kind of problems we might need to think of before starting our family. We will raise them fully knowing both of our religious backgrounds. But I know that can sometimes be hard to live with, although it is also one of the best gifts a child could be given to be raised with such love. Speaking from experience I was raised in a half christian half muslim home, you grow up with an open heart, I think thats one of the reasons I was brave enough to start a relationship with my jewish boyfriend, in addition to him being an amazing person.

  20. Liora

    Oh, thank you for your wishes,
    L’shanah tovah

  21. Ron F

    I guess the name of this Web site is a settled issue, but one might have also pondered aloud using terms like Semi-Semite, Isreal-Lite, Half-brew, Less-saic, etc.

    Maybe we can still talk about a symbol. If you want rainbow colors, fine – but how about using them to paint a Star of David missing its bottom half?

  22. Duality

    Dear Linda:

    Linda: Thank you for sharing your story! Other half-Jewish people visiting this website are always really happy to see the stories of other half-Jewish people and know that they are not alone in their concerns.


  23. Duality

    Dear Liora:

    Liora: I think you did eventually send me an email with an address — did you receive an information packet from me? If not, please contact me again, and I will be happy to resend it.

    If you are curious about how half-Jewish children think and feel as adults and their childhood issues, then you have definitely come to the right website, and you will read many comments and opinions from them as the website grows and develops.

    As someone who grew up in an interfaith family, you have a head start on our issues that most intermarried couples do not have.

    Many blessings on you and your husband for a happy family and children.


  24. Duality

    Dear Ron F:

    If I understand your message correctly, you are wondering why the Half-Jewish Network was given this particular name when it was founded in 2005.

    You may want to have a look at this explanation from our “About/FAQ” (Frequently Asked Questions) section:

    “2. Why was the organization named “The Half-Jewish Network”?

    When we first started thinking about a name for our group, we realized that we would have to come up with a term that the adult children of intermarriage would recognize immediately, wherever they saw it.

    It would have to be a term that the adult children of intermarriage and other descendants frequently used about themselves and regarded favorably. It would also have to be a term that internet search engines could locate easily. “Half-Jewish” was the term that best met these criteria. It was the term that half-Jewish people appeared to use most frequently.”

    There is additional information about why we chose this name located at:


    See my next comment below responding to your inquiry as to why didn’t we choose a more light-hearted, humorous name for the group.


  25. Duality

    Dear Ron F:

    Now with regard to your inquiry as to why we didn’t pick a more humorous name like “Semi-Semites” and a logo showing half of a Star of David — well, I co-led and co-founded the first attempt to start a U.S.-based international organization for half-Jewish people in the middle 1980s, and we did just as you suggested.

    We had a humorous name — “Pareveh: The Alliance for Adult Children of Jewish-Gentile Intermarriage” — foods that are “pareveh” or “parve” in Orthodox Jewish law are foods that can be eaten with either meat or milk products, which we thought reflected the situation of half-Jewish people symbolically. We thought that was very amusing and would lighten up the discussion.

    We also had a logo that was a half of a Star of David.

    Well, we learned the hard way that humor didn’t work. First, Jewish groups were offended by the use of a food term. Intermarriage is a serious subject for them. They were not too happy with the half of the star of David either.

    Second, many Jewish groups didn’t “get” the name at all — we started getting mail from Jewish Orthodox kosher food and cooking groups. Christian groups totally didn’t get the name.

    Third, most half-Jewish people are not raised as Jews but as Christians, secular, or “both” because the Jewish community has been so reluctant to reach out to interfaith families — so they had no clue what “pareveh” or the joke behind it meant. It made it much harder for half-Jewish people to find us.

    Fourth, a lot of half-Jewish people didn’t think their issues were that funny. It’s a serious subject to them.

    Fifth, a lot of the Christian, secular and “other” half-Jewish people weren’t too happy with a term which implied that only the Jewish ‘half’ of their identity counted.

    Sixth, a lot of other organizations, Jewish and Christian — few Muslim groups at that time had interfaith Jewish/Muslim couples or descendants of Jewish/Muslim intermarriages — anyway, few Jewish and Christian groups took an organization with a ‘joke’ name seriously. It totally detracted from our credibility.

    So you can see why we didn’t go down that path a second time. I will go ahead and include this information in our “FAQ.”


  26. Dear Ron F: I have added my response to your questions about the group’s name to our “About/FAQ” page, as it is likely that others will have the same questions. Thank you for helping us to improve this website!


  27. Hanna

    I want to convert to Judaism. I have been wanting to do that for a few years now. However, my kids do not want to convert. We are not religious but I was raised celebrating Christmas and visiting churches. I “tried to be catholic” but it alway felt really wrong. Like a big lie.
    So, can I convert while my kids stay Christian and we will celebrate Christmas for the tradition not for the religion?
    BTW, I am single so “what my husband” thinks is not an issue.

  28. Duality

    Dear Hanna: You can convert to Judaism, even if your kids do not want to convert.

    Now, some rabbis insist that if the mother converts, the children must do so also, but there are rabbis who don’t insist on that.

    I would suggest that you check out the liberal synagogues in your area — Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal or Humanistic — and see how you feel about their practices. Once you have found a synagogue that you like, make an appointment with the rabbi or cantor who is running it, and get his or her advice.

    You may also want to have a look at the “Jewish Resources” web page on this website, which has two rabbis who can advise on long-distance conversions.

    If none of these options work out, please contact me directly at:

    binarystar [at} aol.com

    and we will think of something else.

    Also, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter using the “Email subscription” box in the upper right-hand corner of this web page.


  29. Caro

    Hello everyone. I’m very pleased to be able to write here. I’m a patrilineal Jew from Latin America. After a long period of thought, I’ve decided to convert through a Masorti community. I have a very strong desire to live my life as a Jewish person, and raise my children Jewish. However, I still find sometimes strange the word “conversion” since I’ve always felt Jewish, I visited Israel with Birthright, I’ve celebrated all the Jewish holidays with my family and feel very attached to our culture, but when it comes to marry a Jew or raise my children in a Jewish framework, I’m still not considered Jewish by the community, and so would be my children. I would appreciete to contact other half Jews who converted, to share our unique experiencies.
    Kind regards,

  30. Chana (Annette)

    I was active on this site a long time ago, and recently had contact with Robin. I came back here to see how things were going!

    My situation is very complex; I was raised an Orthodox Jew, in an Orthodox community, by a born-Jewish father and a mother who though raised Italian Roman Catholic (before Vatican II), chose to convert to Orthodox Judaism…a few years later, she met and married my father (this was in the late 1940s; I was born in the late 1950s).

    Because most of my father’s family was dead by the time I was born, I consequently was closer to my mother’s family. They were very unassimilated Italian Catholics, very traditional religiously, and very upset about the changes that took place in their church in the late 1960s. I used to over hear snippets of their conversations, and began watching old Catholic movies to learn more (or so I thought!), like The Bells of St Mary’s, Going My Way…I adored the nuns in their long habits, and how serene they looked! They looked that way when they walked through our working-class neighborhood too, on their way to Catholic houses.

    Judaism never felt fulfilling to me; it felt like a religion of laws and not much else. I remember associating it with death, because it seems so much revolved around sitting shiva, funerals, and lighting yahrzeit candles. When I was in my late teens, I went on a trek to find the lost church my Mom’s famly told me about. I discovered Traditional Latin Masses being said in motel rooms, because the mainstream church had kicked it to the curb, so to speak. Traditional Catholics were holding fast to their faith in spiritual catacombs, if you will. I joined them, but it was more as a way to identify and feel close to my Mom’s family.

    Years passed; I went back to Judaism when my father was very ill; it was my way of identifying again, with a parent, in the hopes it would make him feel better. But I was miserable, and unhappy. I CRAVED contemplative, prayerful spirituality, which I’d only found in the traditional Catholic church.

    To make a long story short, I returned to the Traditional Catholic Faith earlier this year, and have never been happier. Except that this time, I REALLY DO BELIEVE. I don’t identify as Jewish anymore, and probably never will again. I was turned off by a lot within Judaism, not only the lack of true spirituality, but also, their obsession with ethnicity and bloodlines. I wanted to escape that too….I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and for the restoration of all of fallen Creation, both human and animal. I believe He is above all racial, ethnic and blood barriers and ties; in fact Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female; for you are ALL ONE in Christ Jesus”. That passage more than any other made me see the difference between Judaism and Christianity. The New Testament also says that Christ has “broken down the middle wall of partition between us”; this is a reference to the walls that existed in the Bais haMikdash, the Temple, separating Kohanim from other Jewish men, and Jewish men from Jewish women, and all Jews from the Gentiles who also worshipped the One God there.

    I am so indescribably happy. I am at peace. And I thank God for all He has done for me. I sometimes think my mixed background caused all this lifelong searching, and it probably did. But I think in many ways I am so much richer for it, because I have learned so very much.

  31. Dear Carolina and Chana/Annette:

    Thank you for leaving such detailed accounts of your rich life experiences as half-Jewish people. I hope other people seeing these messages will respond.

    Very cordially,

  32. Rachel

    Hello, I just stumbled on this website today and was happy, for the first time, to see life stories of people like me.
    My father comes from a purely Jewish background. He even has a few notable Jewish scholars in his ancestry. My mother is Italian/Sicilian and was raised Catholic. Some time around the time she met my dad she became disillusioned with Catholicism and converted to Judaism.
    I was raised Jewish though compared to most Jews I’ve met, it was a fairly secular environment. Other than going to temple for the high holidays for a few years while I was young, we basically celebrated only Passover “lite” and Chanukah in our house. We never went to synagogue regularly though my parents did make my brother and me go to Sunday school so we could have our bar/bat mitzvahs but once that was done we never had to go again, and didn’t. In addition, my parents were very close to my mother’s parents so we happily celebrated the major Christian holidays with them. There was a lot of resentment with my dad’s family as they did not did not care for my mother (apparently because she wasn’t a born Jew) so we didn’t see them much and my memories of holidays with them are slim to none.
    As an adult I practiced no religion at all but married a Jewish man (though I thought I never would). He considers himself to be Jewish but really is non-practicing (but he grew up in NJ in a fairly Jewish area while I was the only Jewish kid in school). About 10 years ago I realized that I just couldn’t continue to consider myself Jewish as I felt aboslutely no connection to the religion and thought I would be a hypocrite if I pretended to practice it just for my children. I explored liberal Protestantism and also Unitarian Universalism. Currently I think that my beliefs fit into the UU category but have not been to services in a while. I think that I am half-Jewish. I recognize and respect my Jewish ancestry but also respect my Italian ones as well and really feel no connection to the Jewish religion. It’s just all kind of confusing because technically I am Jewish because my mother converted but I really don’t think I was raised very Jewish and I enjoy celebrating the Christian holidays.
    Anyway, thanks for this website. I can’t wait to check it out some more.

  33. Duality

    Dear Rachel: Thank you for sharing your story. You are not alone. Sadly, many of us were distanced from one or both sets of grandparents due to resentment over intermarriage, and often given a “Judaism lite” or a “diet Christianity” that didn’t really give us any depth in either faith-based culture..

    We are glad that you are enjoying the website! Cordially, Robin

  34. Jesse I.

    Hi! My name is Jesse and my story is similar to that of Rachel. I am 22 years old. My Father is Irish/English and of a Christian background, and my mother Russian Jew & Hungarian Jew. I am often confused for being hispanic, italian, or arabic though this is due to my dominant features from my mother’s side. I attended Synagogue until the age of five and was distanced due to relocation from the area and my parents irreligious nature, as my Grandmother was the main influence in my attendance. I consider myself to be Jewish though I have had little to no interaction with the Jewish Community. My sense of Judaism is a basic belief in God, and due to my separation from those of my faith and race, I lack a fundamental understanding of Judaism, not in a book or information sense, but in the sense of something deeper. I wish to somehow network and learn more about these things, as I have a great longing towards doing so. The world is a strange place, and I strongly seek a sense of belonging. I am deeply troubled by events in history as well as currently. I consider myself Jewish due to the sacrifice and persecution of my ancestors, and it is my duty to them to adopt their faith and build a stronger community, dedicating myself to the blossoming of peace and love, to expand upon their religion, life, and struggles that fell together in the act of my creation and arrival here in this odd thing we call life.

  35. Dear Jesse: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network at the beginning of your spiritual and ethnic journey! We appreciate you sharing your story with other half-Jewish people. You have been sent a copy of our email information packet.

    Regarding living as a Jew — the best way to do that is to start visiting Jewish communities in your area and see if any appeal to you. If you are interested in studying Judaism, please have a look at our “Jewish Resources” page at:


    Any Jewish community that you visit will also have Jewish study resources of various kinds.

    Regarding identifying as Jewish — examine the Jewish communities that you visit carefully. Read Jewish publications and books online. Ask yourself if you are comfortable with them and if what is said matches your particular ethics and spiritual or secular belief systems. If you are comfortable with Judaism, then explore formally affiliating with Jewish institutions.

    If you are not comfortable with Jewish communities and their teachings, consider exploring your other “half.” If you decide to affiliate with another belief system, you can still be of help to the Jewish people in various ways as someone who is concerned about their welfare and happiness.


  36. Victoria

    Hi All,

    I have just noticed that there is a documentary on British TV this evening (Monday 14th November 2011) that might be of interest to us.

    It is on BBC3 at 9pm and is called ‘Mixed up in the Middle East’. The documentary follows a half – Jewish / half Arab women as she visits the Middle East for the first time.

    It is repeated on 15th Nov at 01:05 am and 16th Nov 04:00 am. Programs are usually available to be viewed on the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/ for about a week after they have screened for those who miss it or are not in the UK.

  37. Dear Victoria: Thank you for mentioning this! That is very thoughtful.

  38. steve


    What happened to the actual message board with separate topics? This comments thread is less conducive to discussion.



  39. Dear Steve: Our old message board on the old Half-Jewish Network website was paid for by me, as was the rest of the old website. The total fees for the website, including the message board, cost me over $200 (U.S.) per year.

    I switched the website to WordPress to get a less expensive, more modern and flexible website with a nicer appearance. The new WordPress website is free except for the yearly domain name payment of about $9 per year. That is a lot less money than $200 per year.

    However, WordPress does not provide free message boards. I have been looking for free message board software to link to this website, but it would not be WordPress software. That raises a number of technical problems that I hope to resolve eventually.

    In the meantime, WordPress provides a way to send everyone a free monthly email newsletter, a capability that I did not have on the old website. As soon as I have resolved the technical problems involved in attaching a new message board to this website, you would be informed through our monthly email newsletter.

    If you sign up in the “Email Subscription” for the free monthly email newsletter, you will hear from us regularly. Each issue of the newsletter will link back to this website with room for comments on the content of the newsletter.

    Also be sure to subscribe to this “Message Board” comments thread by posting a comment and then checking a box under your comment asking “Notify me of follow-up comments via email.” You will then be notified of every new comment on this message board.


  40. Chana (Annette)

    Rachel, I would LOVE to be able to correspond with you! Our backgrounds are almost identical, to a tee, except for the unitarian thing.

  41. Rachel

    Hi Chana, I sent you an email that has my email address in it. Did you get it? Looking forward to chatting.

  42. Hi I have a Jewish Dad and a Christian Mother due to me borne in Germany during the Nazi Regime I have been christened at my birth but feel more Jewish than a Christian most likely from the treatment I received due to my Jewish Name growing up in Nazi Germany.
    I wrote my autobiography;
    maybe interesting to people with Jewish or partly Jewish heritage.
    With a message to all people considering entering in to intermarriage,
    “No matter how much in love you are! Go ahead it is your right and choice so live with it and enjoy your love and life.
    But before being selfish by thinking to bring innocent children in this World think about the burden you inflict up on them, with the possibility for them of not being accepted by either site of religion or race, therefore outsiders for ever during there entire life, ask your self the question;
    are you being fair?
    http://www.lostlostandlostagain.com or http://www.ernestgoldberg.com

  43. Chana (Annette)

    Hi Rachel, Yes I did, I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you yet! Life offline is very hectic for me right now, hang on and I WILL reply! 🙂

  44. Dear Ernest: Thank you for sharing your online autobiography. Sounds like you went through a very bad time during the Holocaust. I’m glad you survived. It is a credit to your personal strength.


  45. Dear Ernest: One more thing — I have sent you two emails with more information about the Half-Jewish Network, plus some information that might be of interest to you personally. I hope that you got the emails.


  46. I would to thank this website for existing! I have just uncovered my Jewish roots through my Mother and a father who pretty much abandon his being part of Judaism when he was young. Can someone tell me if there is a support group for people who have just discovered their heritage and would like to obtain knowlegde about Judaism? I want my daughter to have a story to tell.

  47. Reading your article I have stumbled upon answers for most questions that have been bugging me for long time now. Its troublesome to find coherent articles on the internet as plenty of those texts are written by someone with ignorant of the topic. Your publication is different and definitively worth recommending. I’ll return for more in some time.

  48. Hunter

    Great to see the new site! My name is Hunter and I’m currently studying Arabic in Egypt. My father is Ashkenazi Jewish and my mother is Norwegian-German (raised Lutheran); in the past (including a few census forms) I’ve referred to myself as Hebrew Viking. Both my parents have fairly ambivalent feelings towards their own religious backgrounds, so I was never Bar Mitzvah’ed or taken to church, but I’ve always felt a strong connection with my Jewish heritage in an ethnic if not religious sense (truthfully, I lean towards atheism).
    I figured I’d made my peace with being neither fully Jew nor fully non-Jew, but a few recent occurrences in my life brought the internal debate up again. Amusingly, one of them is studying Arabic in the Arab world. We never learned Hebrew beyond a few basic prayers and expressions, but I’m constantly struck by cognates, customs, and even mannerisms that remind me of my Jewish side. For one thing, the New Year here is “Ras es’Sana,” literally “head of the year” but with a profound resemblance to a certain Jewish holiday. “Day” is “Yom.” “Dog” is “Kelev” in Hebrew and “Kelb” in Arabic. My own Hebrew name, “Ze’ev,” is “Ze’eb”–“Wolf.” You see the hamsa, which the Jews call the Hand of Miriam and the Muslims the Eye of Fatima, everywhere. There’s a drama to interactions here that reminds me a lot of my Dad’s family. Arabic doesn’t differentiate between the act of liking something and the act of loving it–and how Jewish does that sound? It strikes me here how much of the Middle East really remains in Jewish culture. I’m frequently asked if I’m Lebanese or Turkish.
    Secondly, I recently got married to a wonderful woman of German-Irish background. I always assumed I would never have children, so the issue of what sort of exposure to Judaism to give them never came up. Turns out she wants kids. I would love to do what my family did for my sister and I–light the chanukkiah and celebrate seder, but also open presents on the 25th and put up a (originally pagan) tree. That said, I don’t want to leave any future children we have feeling as I have through much of my life–wanting a Jewish connection, feeling rebuffed by many Jews’ feelings on intermarriage, and coming to hate the fact of my Jewish ancestry.
    Whew! Sorry for the length of that!

  49. taboo

    Hi, I was just wondering if there were any other half-Jewish children of the now defunct communist party hiding in the woodwork. I was raised by militant athiests who believe that “religion is the opium of the people” but am increasingly coming to the opinion that Marx was a false prophet.

    P.S. Does anybody else feel a deep sickness in the pit of their stomach at the widespread demonization of Israel that is currently being indulged in by the Left?

    P.P.S. My grandfather’s name was Israel and he was born in a small village in Poland which no longer exists.

  50. Duality

    Dear Sandra:

    Please excuse the delay in replying to your messages — this is a volunteer website, so when outside work is heavy, replies are sometimes delayed.

    Sandra asked: Can someone tell me if there is a support group for people who have just discovered their heritage and would like to obtain knowlegde about Judaism? I want my daughter to have a story to tell.”

    Robin replies: Sandra, I don’t know of any such support groups. If you are trying to trace family history, I would suggest contacting Jewish genealogical online websites as they may have information.

    You may also want to visit DNA family websites, which allow you send DNA samples and then alert you when someone with similar DNA joins them.


  51. Duality

    Dear Nilistusa:
    Nilistusa said: “Reading your article I have stumbled upon answers for most questions that have been bugging me for long time now. . . . Your publication is different and definitively worth recommending. I’ll return for more in some time.”

    Robin replies: Glad you enjoy our website! Don’t forget to sign up for this comment thread and our email newsletter!


  52. Hunter said: “Great to see the new site! My name is Hunter and I’m currently studying Arabic in Egypt. My father is Ashkenazi Jewish and my mother is Norwegian-German (raised Lutheran); in the past (including a few census forms) I’ve referred to myself as Hebrew Viking.”

    Robin replies: Hunter, welcome back! Again, don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter, as well as this comment thread.

  53. Dear Taboo:

    Taboo asked: “Hi, I was just wondering if there were any other half-Jewish children of the now defunct communist party hiding in the woodwork. I was raised by militant athiests who believe that “religion is the opium of the people” but am increasingly coming to the opinion that Marx was a false prophet.

    P.S. Does anybody else feel a deep sickness in the pit of their stomach at the widespread demonization of Israel that is currently being indulged in by the Left?

    P.P.S. My grandfather’s name was Israel and he was born in a small village in Poland which no longer exists.”

    Robin replies: I don’t know if we have any other half-Jewish children of the now defunct Communist part, but we certainly have some members whose parents were socialists and leftists of other types.

    My two Jewish great-grandfathers were both born in Poland and left in the 1890s. I don’t know if their villages still exist. So much of the history has been lost.

    Regarding Israel — you may want to have a look at the “Israel” essay on this website here:


    where we document in great detail the very poor treatment of half-Jewish people by the state of Israel.

    I would urge you to read it, as it is meticulous, and the information is taken mostly directly from Israeli Jewish newspapers I read, ranging from left-wing to right-wing. The essay is periodically updated as I get more information.

    I don’t think what is going on is “demonization” of Israel — I think, sadly, that for many years the Jewish community allowed no criticism of Israel at all, and now criticisms finally cannot be silenced any longer.


  54. Ryan

    Hello Robin I have visited and posted the old site many times in the past and this is a new posting on your new site. Your very last comment about how the Jewish community has allowed no criticism of Israel and cannot be silenced any longer is spot on!!! This criticism is long overdue!

    Anyway, I found a couple of interesting reads about half Jews that definitly shows we half Jews are being heard. Let me know what you guys think about the article. http://www.jewcy.com/religion-and-beliefs/why_many_jewish_outreach_workers_ignore_halfjewish_people


  55. Duality

    Dear Ryan: I am glad that you enjoy our new website. It is always good to welcome visitors from our old website!

    Thank you for posting links to the two articles on half-Jewish people. I feel that the more that is written about us advocating for our point of view, the better off we will be.


  56. Duality

    Dear Ryan: I am glad that you found my comment about Israel of interest. Israel’s behavior towards half-Jewish people is truly tragic, and I am hoping that if criticisms of this behavior are made, Israel will reconsider this behavior.


  57. Hi Robin. The new website looks very nice. I wanted to let you know about a book I co-authored (“self-published” direct to Kindle) on Jewish ethics: The Path and Wisdom for Living at Peace with Others: A Modern Commentary on Talmud Tractates Derek Eretz Zuta and Rabbah, which is based on Rabbi Arthur Segal’s online course and compiled & edited by me. I’m very happy about it. One can borrow the book either for free or about a dollar fifty if an Amazon Prime member, and I believe it can be shared with anyone. Also, I was excited to learn there is a conference this spring about descendants of intermarriage (finally?) – I noticed HJN is listed as a group that will speak. Very cool. Would love to hear about what happens.

  58. Catherine

    Taboo asked : “P.S. Does anybody else feel a deep sickness in the pit of their stomach at the widespread demonization of Israel that is currently being indulged in by the Left?”

    Yes, Taboo, I feel the same way !

    I’m a “Half-Jew” working in France as a psychologist (with Holocaust survivors and their offspring, also with “Half-Jews”, and with immigrant families from all over the world) and I teach in a university that has both a deeply-rooted Marxist tradition and a large body of Muslim students from foreign countries or born in France of immigrant parents.

    I have regularly been a witness to blatantly antisemitic slurs painted on classroom walls mixed in with antisionist slogans (for example : “Death to the jews and to Israel”, “Jew = Nazi”), many Jews I know (mostly secular and Left-wing) have become estranged from non-Jewish friends because merely supporting the existence of Israel amounts to being a fascist, Muslim youth (often living in poverty and themselves victims of discrimination on the part of mainstream society) generally make no distinction whatsoever between antisionism and antisemitism and openly express antisemitic thoughts based on their hatred of Israel (fed by satellite TV channels in arabic).

    As a direct result of this antisemitic-antisionistic propaganda supported by both the extreme Left and Islamic fundamentalists, in 2006, in Paris, a 23-year old man (Ilan Halimi) was set up and kidnapped by a group of kids and young adults (ages ranging from 16 to 28), tortured for three weeks, set on fire and abandoned in a ditch on the sole ground that he was Jewish. He died from his wounds in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.

    Ten years ago, a friend of mine who is a secular patrilineal Half-Jew, and also a high-level biology researcher and staunch critic of Israeli politics, decided, as an experiment, to wear a yarmulke to a very large antiracist demonstration organized in Paris after the leader of the extreme right came in second in the first round of the presidential election. My friend was physically attacked twice during the demonstration by young people yelling antisemitic and anti-Israel slogans.

    I myself have witnessed the burning of Israeli flags along with the yelling of “death to the Jews” during demonstrations in Paris protesting Israeli politics in which the Left and fundamentalist Muslims were seen marching together, while booming sound systems blared “Allah wakbar” (Allah is great).

    This has been the reality here in France since the second intifada in 2000.

    Scary, sickening and unjustifiable.

  59. Dear Catherine:

    There is an imbalance — half-Jewish people are always being invited to sympathize with Israel and defend Israel — but Israel continues to discriminate against us in laws and public policies.

    Unfortunately, all the anti-Semitism in the world, distressing though it is, does not justify how badly Israel treats half-Jewish people or entitle Israel to our automatic uncritical support. The discrimination against us in Israel is getting worse rather than better.

    It is hard to support a country where patrilineal half-Jewish people are referred to as “psuley hitun” — forbidden to marry.

    I invite anyone reading this message board to examine the long and carefully documented essay I have compiled on Israel’s poor treatment of half-Jewish people. It is updated regularly:


    I am not surprised that anti-Semitism is on the rise in France and worldwide.

    I believe Israeli policies in many areas have fueled anti-Semitism, harming Jewish communities like your community in France. Israel needs to change some of its policies, which have a very bad impact on Diaspora Jews and descendants of intermarriage.


  60. Dear Sarah Davies:

    Please excuse the delay in replying — things have been very busy here. I will contact you about your book, so that I can post your description of it and a link to it on our “Jewish Resources” page.

    Thank you for your kind words about the new Half-Jewish Network website!


  61. Catherine

    Dear Robin,

    Blaming Israeli politics for the rise of antisemitism in my country (France) and around the world strikes me as a little to simple, unfortunately. Israeli politics certainly add fuel to the fire, but the fire is there and needs to be recognized as such.

    Regarding the treatment of Half-Jews by Israeli institutions, I am well aware of the discrimination patrilineal Half-Jews are up against and have no intention of minimizing or justifying it in any way. However, as I’ve written to you in a private email, at least for many French patrilineal Half-Jews I’ve met and interviewed, moving to Israel can be a life affirming and even therapeutic experience. Regardless of politics and despite institutional discrimination. I’m referring primarily to Half-Jews who want to identify as Jewish and are having trouble doing so in their current environment (for lack of support on the part of family members and friends, or because there are no Jewish organizations or congregations in the area they live in, and so on). I think the reason this is so is that despite all its faults, Israel is the only Jewish country in the world today, and for people who have not had much access to Jewishness or Judaism, it is the only place where everyday life is collectively and constantly informed by Judaism (take the calendar for example). Of course, there are many vibrant Jewish communities with much to offer in the Diaspora, and hopefully they will continue to thrive, but Israel nonetheless stands apart in this regard.

    As a therapist, my focus is on helping people find ways of living their lives as fully and as happily as possible given their circumstances. I understand that as an activist, you’re focus is on consciousness-raising and promoting broader change which I deeply commend. We’re looking at this from different perspectives.

    Thanks for the work you put into building and monitoring this website.


    PS : my research on the topic is currently written up in French but I will give a paper in English in July and will be happy to share it with you once I manage to get it written…

  62. Oscar

    My names Oscar, my moms from Israel, my dads Black. I consider myself full Jewish though because that is my religion, and thats what I believe in.

  63. Dear Catherine and Oscar:

    Catherine: I look forward to seeing your research paper in July. I’d like to read it if you would send me a copy!

    Thank you for your kind words about the work I have done on this website.

    Oscar: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! A number of our members are biracial or multiracial and identify as Jews. I am sending you more information about us by email.


  64. taboo

    Dear Catherine,

    I am also living in France and have been quite shocked at the unconditional support for the Palestinians on behalf of the university educated left-leaning lapsed catholic population. If I mention that Hamas deliberately targets civilians, encourages the use of child suicide bombers and brutally silences any form of internal opposition or sympathy towards Israel, then I basically get yelled at and told I am an evil nazi fascist who is spouting out Israeli propaganda. The situation is not nearly so bad in Australia where I was born. Most people in Australia will admit to being disturbed by the situation and are reluctant to “take sides” from a feeling that they don’t really understand what is going on.

  65. taboo

    Dear Robin,

    I have recently done some reading on the “status quo” in Israel. It seems to me that the decision to give the Orthodox Jews authority over “births, deaths and marriages” was a political calculation with the deliberate intention of keeping them out of mainstream politics, which is more or less dominated by secular Zionists. This seems to me a fairly laudable solution to Israel’s own “fundamentalists” problem. I personally would not want religious extremists in the government, nor would I be comfortable with a communist-style “outlawing” of certain forms of religious expression – despite the fact that I have many problems with orthodox stances on women, gays, etc…

  66. Dear Taboo: I don’t know what sources told you that handing over Jewish status decisions to the ultra-Orthodox was ‘laudable.’

    It has been a disaster for Israel. Far from keeping the Orthodox out of politics, it has given their religious voter parties a stranglehold on coalition politics in the Knesset, where they have steadily eroded the rights of other Jews — especially half-Jewish people like us.

    Here is an article about a patrilineal who has given up and left Israel because of her poor treatment on status issues:


    The article also discusses how the Orthodox religious parties in the Israeli government are trying to widen their control of other Israeli citizens.

    Is this what the rest of us want for ourselves in a supposedly Jewish state? Is this a democracy? What about the human rights of half-Jewish people?

    I strongly suggest that you read the Israeli Jewish newspapers online and see what the Israelis think of their theocracy. Here’s a sample:


    I also urge everyone that before posting on Israel, please read:


    an essay I wrote which explains the Israeli political system, how the Orthodox political parties gained power, and how half-Jewish people have ended up as second-class citizens in Israel. It is composed of information that I have obtained from Israeli Jewish newspapers and organizations.

    Finally, I don’t know how many people you have spoken to in Israel on behalf of half-Jewish people — but I have spent the last five years begging and pleading and rebuking on our behalf with various Israeli Jewish scholars and government folks.

    Consider writing yourself to Israeli scholars, rabbis and government officials on behalf of the half-Jewish people of Israel and the Diaspora each time you see an action against half-Jewish people. Suggest to them that treating us badly is harmful. Much of the time you won’t even get a reply. And the replies that you do get, you will wish you had never received them — they are sometimes very unpleasant.


  67. Dear Taboo:

    One more thing regarding your concerns: “Dear Catherine,
    I am also living in France and have been quite shocked at the unconditional support for the Palestinians on behalf of the university educated left-leaning lapsed catholic population. If I mention that Hamas, etc..”
    Taboo: I have noticed that whenever I criticize the Israeli government’s poor treatment of half-Jewish people, people sometimes bring up the Palestinian factions fighting the Israelis.

    The underlying message seems to be: “Yes, Robin, the Israelis don’t treat half-Jewish people very well, but look at how badly Hamas behaves to Israeli Jews with two Jewish parents! Let’s change the subject to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — that’s much more comfortable! It’s too painful discussing how badly the Israeli Jewish government and some Israeli Jews treat us half-Jewish people!”

    This message board is not here to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are lots of other message boards for that. This message board is strictly for half-Jewish issues. I will have to remove postings that stray off onto issues that are not directly related to half-Jewish issues.

    Second — there are between 20,000 and 30,000 Israeli Jews married to Palestinian Arabs — and many of them have children who are half-Jewish and half-Arab. I am concerned about their happiness and welfare because as half-Jewish people, they are our brothers and sisters.

    The Israeli government and various ultra-Orthodox religious organizations are engaged in efforts to prevent and break-up their parents’ intermarriages. I was contacted by an Israeli social worker for help on the issue. He’s trying to publicize this discrimination against these intermarriages in hopes of stopping it.

    The Knesset recently held a day of discussion about how ‘bad’ these intermarriages are. Can you imagine the uproar if the Australian parliament had a day devoted to how ‘bad’ Jewish-Christian intermarriages are and how to prevent them, because the children might grow up to be Australian Jews instead of Australian Christians?

    So when you talk about the Palestinians, please keep in mind there are a lot of half-Palestinian, half-Jewish children who need our support and advocacy. The Half-Jewish Network is one of the few groups speaking out on their behalf.

    We could not advocate for these children and their parents, if we adopted the Israeli government hasbara (spin, propaganda) that “Palestinians = bad” and “Jews = good.”

    Robin Margolis

  68. taboo

    Dear Robin,

    I assume that as a patrilineal half-jew myself I am entitled to my opinion that there are far more pressing concerns for the jewish people, and for the world at large, than the Israeli Orthodoxy making a nuisance of themselves with respect to marriage laws. I respect the fact that you disagree with me.

  69. taboo

    As far as the halacha is concerned, matrilinearity does not have its foundations in the Torah, but rather in a specific historical-political crisis, namely the destruction of the second temple by the Romans. In my opinion, the holocoaust, and the re-establishment of the State of Israel are a historical-political crisis of similar magnitude and a valid case can be made for offering “full Jewishness” to anybody with partial Jewish ancestory, or indeed anybody who has showed consistant loyalty to the Jewish people through this trying period. I am more than willing to argue this point with any talmudically trained Orthodox rabbi who is willing to spare me the time of day.

  70. Dear Taboo:

    Actually, I would suggest that there is nothing more important for the Jewish people than how they treat half-Jewish people.

    People — and nations — are judged by how they treat their families.


  71. Dear Taboo:

    I certainly agree with you that “a valid case can be made for offering “full Jewishness” to anybody with partial Jewish ancestory … I am more than willing to argue this point with any talmudically trained Orthodox rabbi who is willing to spare me the time of day.”

    If you are signed up for the Half-Jewish Network email newsletter, you will see links to articles sometimes where I urge our group members to post comments objecting to certain articles attacking us.

    I’d welcome the help.

    And it is not just Orthodox rabbis — articles attacking half-Jewish people are posted by Knesset members, Israeli Jewish scholars, non-Orthodox rabbis, and people who post “talk-backs” in Israeli newspapers, Diaspora Jewish media, Diaspora Orthodox and some non-Orthodox rabbis, etc.

    I try to ask Half-Jewish Network members to reply to only one or two articles at a time for which I supply links in our newsletter.

    Again, I’d welcome the help!


  72. Ryan

    I will help! Be glad to help! In fact I already did, in 23andme.com where I made some very valid points to an Orthodox Jew on a thread for people who share partial DNA (either patrilineal or matrilineal) who was trying to tell me there is no such thing as a half-Jew, another Jew had come to support me with some very valid points on how half-Jewish Jewish father’s important role on a half-Jewish person’s Jewish ethnicity actually does count. Specifically for the Cohens.

  73. Duality

    Dear Ryan: thank you so much for helping other half-Jewish people on the DNA website, 23andme.com. It is very important that we be visible.

    There are many DNA Jews who have contacted this website. That’s why I have set up a page just for them:


    It is very helpful when other half-Jewish people speak out on our behalf. I hope if you see any articles in the Half-Jewish Network newsletter where I ask for comments on online articles that you will offer your thoughts in their comment sections.


  74. taboo

    Dear Robin,

    One of the great strengths of the Jewish people is the spirit of lively, passionate debate, so I gladly take you as a valuable havruta partner and continue to vigorously disagree (though you might want to consider adding threads to this message board so that we don’t end up shouting everybody else out).

    Firstly, by middle-eastern standards, Israel is not a theocracy. Saudi Arabia is a theocracy. Iran is a theocracy. Were I a true orthodox Jew, I would be weeping and lamenting in unconsolable grief at the adultery and idolatory to be found openly practiced on the streets of Tel Aviv.

    Secondly, it is indeed an honourable prophetic calling to cry and bemoan the corruption and hypocricy which has engulfed Israels leaders and princes – a tradition which goes back to Isaiah and Jeremiah. However, I would advise taking a good look at the motivations and backgrounds of those crying “racism” and “human rights abuses” most loudly against Israel in the public media, and ask yourself if you truly want your name associated with these people.


  75. Duality

    Dear Taboo:
    Nowhere in your reply do you mention half-Jewish people. This is not an abstract problem. Israel is becoming a theocracy — their Orthodox religious parties speak of this openly in Israeli newspapers as their plan for the future — they are proud of it — they plan to make halacha (Orthodox religious law) the law of the land, as the number of ultra-Orthodox voters grows.

    One part of this plan, which will directly impact on half-Jewish people — and the Orthodox religious parties mention this part of their plan repeatedly in the Israeli newspapers — is removing the right of patrilineal Jews to make aliyah and become Israeli citizens. They want a completely matrilineal standard of Jewish citizenship. This repeatedly comes up in the Knesset (Israeli parliament).

    I’ve been fighting this for years, writing letters to their newspapers and their officials. All of us need to start fighting this.

    I am not interested in supporting an Israel with “middle eastern standards” of governing and behavior. Israel repeatedly claims support in America on the basis of being the “only Western democracy in the MIddle East,” to use their favorite phrase.

    If Israel is a “Western democracy,” then let them treat their half-Jewish citizens and the Diaspora half-Jewish people as people with full civil and human rights. Treating us as second-class citizens is not acceptable. All of us need to protest this.

    I am proud to be associated with three Israeli Jewish groups fighting for the rights of half-Jewish people, among other causes, and recommend them to you and others:

    1. Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism at:


    2. Association for the Rights of Mixed Families (in Israel):


    3. New Family:


    For more information about them, also see:




  76. Joseph Montrym

    I am a 48 year old man who was raised as a Catholic, having grown up in San Francisco, CA, Ottawa, Canada, and the Boston, MA area. When I was in the second grade (40 years ago) my mother died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My father continued raising me and my older brother as Catholics, and we received the Catholiic sacraments of baptism, first communion, and confirmation. We almost never missed Mass.. Five years after my mother died, my father remarried a divorced Catholic woman. I accepted my new stepmother as “mom” without question for the rest of my childhood and well into my early adult years.
    I met my wife in 1992 when I was 28, and we got married the next year. She grew up as a Methodist. Although neither of us were strongly adherent to our childhood faiths, we had a Catholic wedding. Two years later, our son was born. For a number of years after he was born, we tried different Catholic and Protestant churches. We ended up not attending any regular religious services.
    In 2004, I came across my late mother’s journals. I found many pages in her journals where she had written the words “oy” and “oy vey”, usually whenever she was upset about something. I had no idea what these phrases meant, and I typed them into Google, where I learned that they were Jewish expletives.
    My mother was born in Canada in 1933 to recently arrived Polish immigrants. She was born in Saskatchewan (my grandfather worked for the Canadian National railroad). They moved to Toronto during WW II, and after graduating from high school, my mother obtained a bachelor’s and law degree from the University of Toronto, graduating in 1959. She then travelled to San Francisco and worked as a legal secretary. She also met my father and they got married (in a civil ceremony in San Francisco city hall) in 1961.
    After considering these aspects of my mother’s life, I have been thinking about the possibility that my mother (and her parents) were actually Jewish, and they were.concealing their faith to avoid persecution. If they were Jewish, then it is a good thing that they left Poland before WWII.

  77. Duality

    Dear Joseph:

    I think it is very likely that your mother was a Jew. A number of us are children of “runaways” — either Jews or Christians who secretly gave up their faith-based culture — and had their children raised in ignorance of that parent’s background. My mother opted to conceal the fact that she was a Jew from me. I didn’t find out until after her death, when I was an adult.

    You might consider getting DNA testing, which could suggest whether you are carrying ethnic Jewish DNA. If your maternal grandparents and mother were Jews, I am glad that they left Poland before WWII.

    I will send you a private email with more information that is not on our website. Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!


  78. el

    Coming from a situation where my parents hold differing beliefs. I decided that my son have a bris milah due to his dads background. Since the bris i as a mother have felt such anger and had some nitemares of being smothered. Though my son is very happy.

  79. Duality

    Dear el:

    We have difficulties as adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage — and then the same difficulties occur when we raise children of our own. We make decisions about how to raise our children, and then wonder if the decisions were right.

    I am sorry that you are feeling angry and having bad dreams after your son’s bris.

    If you continue to experience anger and dreams of suffocation, you may want to consult a counselor or a therapist to see what the dreams mean in your current life. It may be that you need to change course.

    Many blessings for Pesach (Passover) and Easter and for clarity about your current emotions.


  80. Nancy

    It is so nice to hear about people with similar stories. My grandmother and mother were most likely jewish, they lived in Lodz, Poland during the war. The catholic church took them in and hid them. Unfortunately, no one will confirm this, I have no documentation. My grandfather died alone in Lodz, while my mother grandmother and aunt escaped to Germany. I am trying to put pieces together but so much has been destroyed.
    I was raised without religion but find myself asking many questions now.

  81. Allie

    Hello all,
    What a great website – I never knew that half-Jews had a unified group, and I’m glad to find that we do.

    I am half-Jewish. My father is Jewish and I was raised with Reform Judaism. I had a Bat Mitzvah at age 12 in a Reform synagogue. Some Conservative/Orthodox Jews found out that my mother isn’t Jewish, so they told me that I would need to convert to Judaism in order to be considered Jewish. Doesn’t this seem a little bit ridiculous? The Reform synagogue should have given us a disclaimer that doing the whole religious school, Bat Mitzvah prep, Jewish youth thing would be a waste of time if I ever came into contact with non-Reform groups.

    I’m not sure how common this is – has anyone been through a similar situation? If so, how do you go about dealing with it? Honestly, the cards that have been dealt to me in terms of the “Who is a Jew” debate are enough to make me want to abandon it all and declare myself Unitarian.

  82. rhelburn

    Hi Allie.

    according to Reform Judaism, you are Jewish and if someone asks you (if you are Jewish), the simple answer is yes. I can understand that as a child growing up in the shelter of a synagogue and the traditions you were raised with that it might come as a bit of a shock that there are other denominations that don’t share the Reform view of Jewish identity. But hopefully by then you would be older and strong enough in your sense of spirituality and identity that it wouldn’t matter.

    I don’t believe that a Reform synagogue has any more obligation to put some “disclaimer’ on your identity than a pastor of an Episcopal church is obligated to tell his (or her) congregants that some other fundamentalist Christian group might tell them they are not “saved”. Religion is complex. No one needs to be told that.

    If you go off to become a ‘Unitarian’ (a Christian demonination) it should be because you embrace their culture and faith not because you feel that the Jewish community is trying to run you off. But it’s your choice.

    I too have a Jewish father only. I wasn’t even raised Jewish, but I embrace that side of my identity now ( i.e.. I have a synagogue though I haven’t gone in a while. I go to passover Seders at a friend’s house etc.) If someone wants to know whether I am Jewish, it depends on how close to me they are. For strangers on the street, I just say yes..

    robin h.

  83. Allie

    Robin H. –

    I’m so grateful for your reply. Happy Passover to you!


  84. Dear Allie and Robin H.:

    Allie: We are glad that you like our group’s website! Your experiences are very common and one reason why this group exists.

    Robin H.: I think your advice to Allie is very good. I’m just going to offer a different perspective.

    Allie: You should be advised that Reconstructionist Judaism, Jewish Renewal and Humanistic Judaism also accept you as a Jew. Reconstruction and Humanistic Judaism officially accept patrilineal descent. In Renewal, the decision is left to the individual rabbi.

    I would respectfully disagree with Robin H. that it is OK for Reform, Reconstruction, Humanistic Judaism and some segments of Renewal Judaism to conceal or downplay in discussions with their patrilineals the fact that Conservative and Orthodox Jews and, in some instances, the state of Israel, don’t accept them. They are just ducking unpleasant discussions and are afraid of losing half-Jewish members.

    Certainly the Orthodox and Conservative Jewish groups make their policies on half-Jewish people very clear to their young half-Jewish adults. It is time that the other groups did the same thing.

    I also don’t think it is OK for Reform and Recon to conceal or downplay in discussions with young half-Jewish people that matrilineals and patrilineals raised outside of Judaism are considered “non-Jews” and required to convert in order to join Reform and Recon.

    Also, the state of Israel will not accept matrilineals whose Jewish mother or grandmother converted to Christianity or another faith. Humanistic Jews are very accepting; in Renewal, it depends on the rabbi.

    I also would respectfully disagree with Robin H. — but the choice is up to each half-Jewish person! — and there are many different views among us about this! — about not telling other Jews about your Christian mother. She is your mom. Other Jews need to get used to it. If other Jews who oppose acceptance of half-Jewish people aren’t aware that there are a lot of us in their shuls and organizations, their views will never change.

    I’m not suggesting that you tell every Jewish person the minute you meet them. As Robin H. wisely points out, there are some people who are not on a “need to know” basis, perhaps permanently. But I hope that you will never sit silently in a group of Jews when there are discussions about intermarriage and half-Jewish people. I hope you will speak up for yourself and the rest of us.

    Robin H.: In Christianity, my personal experience — your churches must have been different — is that churches are actually very open about how other churches might not accept your baptism or might not accept you for participation unless you have officially joined them.

    Allie: If you found a home with the Unitarians or other Christian groups, you would still be welcome here at the Half-Jewish Network. But you’d want to check out the Unitarians or other groups carefully before making a switch — visit their websites and churches — study their literature — before making such a big decision.

    I myself have an Episcopalian father and a Jewish mother and was raised Episcopalian. I lived as a Jew as an adult for many years, but I have recently returned to the Episcopal church.

    Like you, I was very tired of listening to the “who is a Jew?” stuff. I know matrilineal and patrilineal half-Jewish people who have left Judaism over that issue. It is one valid reason to leave Judaism.

    It was one factor in my decision to leave Judaism and return to the Episcopal church of my childhood. But — it wasn’t the only factor. I would not have left Judaism solely over the “who is a Jew” issue — there were a number of other aspects of Judaism that I had grown to disagree with..

    A number of positive theological and personal factors drew me back to the Episcopalians. I realized that I was theologically and culturally better suited to Christianity.

    And I checked out the Episcopalians very carefully before making the decision to return to Christianity — visited Episcopalian websites, had discussions with members of my Christian family, reviewed the New Testament, etc.

    I also made the decision to continue advocating for half-Jewish people within the Jewish community, because the rejection of us by some segments of Judaism and parts of Israeli society are very damaging to all of us, no matter what faith or secular belief system we ultimately adopt.

    But these are just my opinions, others may differ.

    Robin Margolis

  85. Dear Nancy:

    Replying to your posting: “It is so nice to hear about people with similar stories. My grandmother and mother were most likely jewish, they lived in Lodz, Poland during the war. The catholic church took them in and hid them. Unfortunately, no one will confirm this, I have no documentation. My grandfather died alone in Lodz, while my mother grandmother and aunt escaped to Germany. I am trying to put pieces together but so much has been destroyed.
    I was raised without religion but find myself asking many questions now.”

    Robin replies: Glad our website is helpful to you! Your story is not unusual as you can see from some of the posts on this message board. You are not alone!

    Your grandmother and mother were lucky to survive. Had they been put in the Lodz Jewish ghetto, they might well have died. I am glad that the Catholic church hid them. I am sorry that your grandfather died alone.

    If you have not consulted them already, the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC might be able to help you trace your family’s history. Yad Vashem in Israel also has resources.

    You might also consider enlisting the help of a local Catholic church in terms of finding out which church in Poland might have made the decision to help your mother and grandmother. It was an act of kindness and people are usually willing to research something that will make their church look good.

    Also, you may wish to consider DNA testing. Sometimes DNA testing will show if you have Jewish ancestry. Some online DNA databases will keep your DNA if you request this and match it against their current and new members, assisting you in finding living relatives.

    Regarding being raised without religion — if you are currently having questions, you might consider consulting a rabbi or a priest. Most spiritual groups are happy to answer questions. If you don’t want to meet with someone in person yet, you are welcome to consult them through online websites.

    Keep us posted on your search, if you wish!

    Robin Margolis

  86. Dear Allie and Robin H.:

    Please keep in mind that my opinions are — well — just my opinions. Robin H. is a valued group member and she and I have argued in a friendly way about these issues for years!

    Robin Margolis

  87. rhelburn


    Thank-you for your replies…and..…what a shock to find that you have left Judaism and joined (or re-joined) the Christian faith (Episcopal ). I guess you have been doing some soul searching and may have been struggling all along. What happened to the rabbi training program that you were involved in (if I may ask)?

    I do want to say that I don’t understand your comment implying that I would conceal from other Jews the identity of my Christian mother. I would never do that. I simply have never been in a situation (synagogue or other) where anyone asked about my family in that context. I don’t attend round table discussions, and the ‘strangers’ I was referring to (in my post to Allie) who have asked if I was Jewish are people on the street or in the subway handing out leaflets. They want a yes or no answer (I know that from experience…lol..). If I can only say yes or no to someone I’ll never see again and who doesn’t care about me…then I guess it is my call… I think neither would be a lie…. given that situation… I don’t want anyone to think I am Christian. The few Jewish friends that I have (outside my family) all know of my half Jewish status and that the half I choose is Judaism.

    I apologize for my comment on the Christian Episcopal church (…I can see now how it struck a chord..), Frankly, I don’t know much about their policies. To be honest I really never had much of a relationship with that church or Christianity. My parents are secular. My older brother and I were not raised religiously but were ‘sent’ to Sunday school (at a neighboring Episcopal church) because it was the socio-cultural thing to do. My experiences w/ the Christian faith (growing up) were mostly inconsequential or awful. Thus, coming to my Jewish side (however late in life) was a bit of a relief. But it DOES take time and I believe strongly in going slow and making friends in the ‘community’ and I don’t feel I need to conceal anything to do that….more later..

    Robin H.

    PS. Hey Pj, it can be hard to think of the right response in a moment like that. I think one way to disarm such people would be to throw the ball back in their court by saying something like.. ‘what do you want me to do??.. i.e. since I do exist..’.It at least forces them to think.

  88. Dear Robin H: Please pardon the delay in replying to your email. I am dealing with a huge project unconnected with my volunteer work, so I am behind on replying to messages.

    I appreciated your reply to my postings. We are just coming from somewhat different backgrounds and perspectives. No need at all to apologize for your comments on the Episcopalians — you experienced them differently than I did.

    Explaining why I have returned to the Episcopal Church would take such a long post, I fear it would be taking up way too much of the message board’s time and space. Remember — there are no short stories in Judaism!

    You have my personal email address and are welcome to ask me privately about it.

    Very cordially,
    Robin M.

  89. rhelburn

    I understand. actually, after I posted I realized that this information (i.e. going back to the Episcopal church) was already given under “Leaders”. I recognize that these things are personal and need not be spilled for all to read. Thanks again.. robin h.

  90. Dear Robin H.: We have known each other quite a while. If you’d like the information privately, I’d be happy to share it with you.


  91. Steve Katz

    My father is a Jew who married a non-Jew. When I was growing up my “ethnic status” was very confusing to me. Back in the 50s and 60s religious and racial intolerance were rather prevalent among the white, christian people I had to coexist with. On the other hand being that Jewishness in a mixed marriage is determined matrilinealy I was never considered Jewish by the Jews I grew up with. As the years have gone by I find that I have put that all aside and just enjoy being me. If you don’t like me because of my Jewish surname or shun me from your social circle because I wasn’t raised by a Jewish mother makes no difference to me now. But I appreciate both of my heritages very much.

  92. Dear Steve: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! It is good that you ae just enjoying your two heritages and not letting the bigots on either side get in your path. I’ll send you a private email with more information about the Half-Jewish Network.


  93. Steve Katz

    Thank you for your support Robin. All of my life I have been in certain social situations on both sides of the fence which have made me rather self-conscious of my ethnicity. Now, as I become a wise and mature adult I am beginning to realize that half jews really have an advantage over pure breds on both sides. In most cases we have been able to be a part of both cultures intimately as blood family. We have been influenced over the years by relatives from both sides (in my case the sides were extremely opposite. I could sense tension between the in-laws on almost every occassional family get together). My mother might as well have a married a black man in 1950 in her father’s eyes. But even with the negatives it has given me a strong sense of humanity that I think many people do not possess.

  94. Steve Katz

    By the way. There is a very interesting story behind how I became.( a half-jew). I will type it sometime if anyone is interested. It reads like a forbidden romance novel.

  95. Dear Steve and Will:

    Steve: I understand about your interfaith parent’s courtship in the 1950’s being like a “forbidden romance novel.” My parent’s courtship had some of those elements.

    Will: Glad to hear from you again! Glad you found us supportive years ago! Welcome back!


  96. Steve Katz

    Dear Will:
    I totally know where you are coming from and how you feel. Though society has quickly evolved multi-racially and half jewish is hardly an issue anymore I think that why you and I still feel conscious of it is because it had been ingrained in us at an early age through the societal standards of the era. It would be a lie if I told you that it doesn’t cross my mind. It is who and what I am. I have to be conscious of that everyday. Nice to find someone else who echos my feelings and thoughts about being a mix. Just get beyond it and concern yourself with surviving in a crumbling economy which is much tougher than being half jewish. Good Luck my friend.- Steve

  97. Steve Katz

    To All…
    The Big Question! “Why do we feel like this?”.
    —half- baked

  98. Steve Katz

    We should be whole.

  99. Dear Steve: I think half-Jewish is not a big issue with mainstream society any more — not among Christians I have dealt with — but it is still a big issue within the Jewish community, ironically.

    The wholeness question is something each of us wrestles with him or herself, I think. No “one size fits all” solution.


  100. Steve Katz

    Dear Robin: What I am trying to say is that through progressive intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews 20 to 30 years from now the half Jews will become a majoriy over the pure Jews. Maybe it is time for us to lay down the groundwork and establish an identity all our own. That is what I meant about wholeness. Haven’t other cultures succeeded at this over the milleniums? This board is a useful vehicle to relate to each other as we would in our own community of half Jews.
    To begin a new identity I think we need a new label instead of half Jewish. But it must epitomize us as a particular group of people. I hope all of you members post some insightful ideas on this topic. I think it is a very important option we should consider. This will make us special. Please think about it. Thanks, Steve

  101. Dear Steve: Like you I think half-Jewish people may become the majority of Jews in America — I estimate by the year 2040. I believe that they will identify as Jews, just as half-Jewish people absorbed into American Christianity identify as Christians.

    However — the idea of an identity all our own — may not be doable. Some group members identify as “real Jews” or “real Christians” and do not view themselves as having a “Christian” or “Other Culture” half.

    Others view themselves as “both,” “Jewish with a Christian half,” “Christian with a Jewish half,” “nothing,” or members of other cultures or faiths entirely. A common term that all of us can agree on is very unlikely. Even the use of the term “half-Jewish” is strongly disputed by some children of intermarriage.

    Now there appears to be a “metis” culture in Canada of people descended from Native American/White marriages and relationships and they have land of their own and legal recognition.

    The only reason the metis of Canada achieved legal recognition, in my opinion, was because they were part of a history that included indigenous people with land and traditional customs. Half-Jewish people have no land. We live everywhere. And we come from many different cultures.

    Half-Jewish people are a huge spectrum of backgrounds, faiths, no-faiths, social classes, etc. We have some things in common — a Jewish parent or grandparent or great-grandparent — difficulties within the Jewish and other faith-based communities — struggles with our dual and triple heritages — problems within our interfaith and interracial families — that have brought us to this message board — but that is not enough for us to become a culture of own own in my opinion.

    I correspond with half-Jewish people in Europe — they have their own half-Jewish organization because there are factors in their lives — such as the shadow of the Holocaust — more anti-Semitism in their countries than in America — that American half-Jewish people simply don’t experience. They felt an American organization couldn’t meet their needs.

    Despite shared European Jewish and white Christian ancestry that I shared with them — and my intensive scholarly study of European Jewish and Christian history — there were cultural and societal differences between us that I couldn’t bridge. We’re allies, but they would likely reject the idea that half-Jewish people form one culture.

    If you visit American websites for biracial and multiracial people, you will see the same difficulties. You might visit Swirl:



  102. Steve Katz

    Dear Robin,
    I am not trying to be a rabble rouser. I am just expressing the thoughts and attitudes that I have developed over the years regarding my ethnicity. I have come to the conclusion of wholeness and establishing a commom identity . No matter where you live in the world or what the area’s social history has laid upon you there must be a worldwide common bond between us.
    Robin, if you would prefer I left this board please let me know.
    Sincerely, Steve

  103. Steve Katz

    One last thing Robin… The only idea that splits the phrase JudeoChristianity is…………….The Messiah! Steve

  104. Dear Steve: You may have misread me. I’m just pointing out what I see from researching half-Jewish people, not asking you to leave the board.

    I hope someday to have a Half-Jewish Network national gathering in the U.S. where many of us could meet each other. I think we all have some things in common, but not enough to form a culture of of own. But this is just my opinion.


  105. Steve Katz

    Dear Robin,
    I’m sorry I came off too strong but I have strong feelings about being half jewish which I have pretty much pent up until I discovered this board. Too much too soon I guess. I’ll calm down. I promise.
    I would like to see a national gathering materialize. If you need any help on that let me know. I have connections for holding a gathering. Your friend Steve

  106. Dear Steve: Believe me, I understand. Many of us have few people to talk to about our feelings on being half-Jewish and almost no one to test our theories and ideas on until we find a half-Jewish group like this one.

    I appreciate your offer of help for a national gathering. Perhaps within the next decade it will be possible. If you are subscribed to our email newsletter, you would hear about any initial planning stages or calls for ideas, and I would welcome your help at that time.

    Ideally, it would be done in coalition with other half-Jewish groups that exist. But it is several years down the road.


  107. Steve Katz

    Robin we could turn this gathering into a vaca for our bretheren. Site it in the Carribean.. Depending on the local concentration of members going maybe charter a plane to make it affordable. If we work on this I think 2 or 3 years. A pleasant site would be conducive to heartfelt conversation between us. Also would you please subscribe me to your e-mail newsletter. Thank you.

  108. Dear Steve:

    You can subscribe to our free monthly email newsletter by going to the upper right and corner of this web page, where it says, “Email subscription” and click on the “Sign me up!” link.

    You will then be asked to input your email address, and then to reply to an email sent to you that will ask you to confirm that you want to subscribe.

    Then you are a subscriber. I can’t personally subscribe you, because WordPress software requires that individuals do it. This is to prevent spamming.

    Regarding a conference, I would like to see at least 500 people subscribed to our email newsletter — maybe 1,000 — before we undertake that project. Right now we have 94 subscribers, who have signed up since we activated this new website last July.

    (There were more on our old website, but we had to give that website up because it was technologically way behind the times. So we are rebuilding our subscribers.)

    Since internet subscriptions generally increase in rate — they tend to jump once a critical point is reached — I am assuming that we will have enough subscribers for a conference within five years.


  109. Pam Howard

    can anyone please tell me if there are any records kept when you convert to judaism. my grandmother converted in the early 1900’s and we are trying to find a copy of the certificate but don’t know where to start. thanks pam.

  110. Dear Pam: I’m assuming your inquiry is about a grandmother who converted to Judaism? So this advice is given from that perspective. If your grandmother converted to Christianity or another faith, please let me know, and additional advice can be given.

    You may wish to contact the synagogue where she converted — they may still have records. If her rabbi left his papers to a library or college research center or a Jewish archive, you might find her conversion listed among his other activities in those papers. He might have left a diary of his daily activities as a rabbi.

    You can also go to the cemetery where she was buried, if you know it, and take a photo of her tombstone, which should have some Hebrew on it or other indications that she converted to Judaism. If she was buried in a Jewish cemetery, she would like have had to convert first in that era.

    If you have inherited any family Bibles, it might be mentioned in the family records section. Also look for references to her conversion in family diaries and letters. Review any surviving photo albums for pictures of her in Jewish contexts.

    If she had a conversion certificate of some type, it might be stored with other family papers. Have your relatives search all collections of family papers.

    If all else fails, write down every family member’s recollections on this subject in a computer file or on a piece of paper, and see if the assembled recollections contain any clues to more information.

    You can also contact any major Jewish organizations that she might have joined and ask if she is listed in their records as a donor or member.

    Best of luck on your search!


  111. Pam Howard

    Dear Robin, Thank you so much for your reply, unfortunately we don’t know which synagogue my grandmother attended. We do know where she is buried, hopefully we might find some information on the tombstone, we really need to know if the conversion took place before my mother was born. Thank you again. Pam

  112. Dear Pam: Glad to be of use! Once you have the tombstone information that may lead you to additional information. Good luck on your search!


  113. Lu

    Hi Robin,
    which half-Jewish organizations in Europe did you refer to?
    There seems to be a lot more going on in the US. Also with regard to liberal synagogues that accept patrilineal descent.
    Unfortunately, we don’t even have anything like Humanistic Judaism. I’m secular and I’d really like to meet other people and to learn more about Judaism. But here, most organizations are religious (and they don’t regard me as Jewish).

  114. Dear Lu:

    The half-Jewish organization in Europe is Doppel Halb (Double Half): They are in Germany and have a website in German and English.


    They are having a conference soon. If you attend it, you could meet other patrilineal Jews.

    If you would like to contact Humanistic Jews in Europe, you may wish to contact their US umbrella organization:


    The US Humanistic Jews used to have some European havurahs (study, socializing, prayer/meditation) groups. Those groups may be independent of them now, and their former US headquarters could put you in touch with them.

    If you would like to become a contact person for the Humanistic Jews in Europe, I’m sure their American branch would be delighted to hear from you.

    We are aware that many European Jewish groups don’t regard patrilineals as Jewish or having any claim to Jewish identity. We have written letters to the editor to British newspapers and magazines when the issue comes up, protesting negative comments by Jewish groups.

    We also spend a lot of time leaving protests in Israeli Jewish newspapers against comments that speak negatively of half-Jewish people.

    In other European countries we face a language barrier, but if you see an article and would like us to protest it, please send it to me.


  115. Lu

    Dear Robin,
    thank you for your reply and especially for the link to the website of the Society for Humanistic Judaism.
    I’ve heard about the conference and will try to attend – this will be
    very interesting and a good chance to get to know some people.
    Thank you for your work and this website!!

  116. Dear Lu: I am very pleased that you found the Society for Humanistic Judaism and the conference information helpful!

    Your kinds words about my work and this website are much appreciated!

    Very cordially,

  117. Dear Robin:
    I don’t have too much time to keep up with your message board, but I read above that you mentioned that we “European Half-Jews” felt a need to have our own organization because we thought that the Half-Jewish network as a network with a different background in terms of culture and religion couldn’t meet our needs. Of course that is true in a way; but at least as important for our forming a network of our own was that this way we can form local alliances, bring people in touch with each other and actually meet many of the people that we converse with online.
    If the US weren’t so far away and flights so expensive, I would love to join your national meeting when it comes along!
    With the best regards across the big water,

  118. Dear Sarah:

    Good hearing from you again!

    My comments above were part of a discussion with a new group member who was interested in the idea of forming a separate culture for half-Jewish people.

    I was explaining to him that my experiences with various half-Jewish people suggest that we could not form “one culture” as we have many differences among ourselves as well as similarities.

    If we have a big meeting in the United States at some point, we would be very pleased to have you visit and do a presentation on European half-Jewish people.

    Or perhaps we could arrange for you to be present through e-conference software. Something for me to think about.


  119. Patricia the Half-Jewess Who Seeks Half-Jewish/Half-White Men Aged 36

    Well I hope the moderators don’t feel they have to answer my questions…. unless they really want to obviously. Agh! Moderators! Away! Just kidding.
    My name pretty much says it all. But anyone may feel free to comment on my questions, to wisely inform my odyssey.
    ===Since I’m half-white, half-Jewish, will I find the most chemistry with the same in a man?
    ===Is chemistry overrated?
    So if you think there’d be chemistry (if it matters) =======or===== (big “or”) you love giving advice, here’s your chance!

  120. Dear Patricia: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    A number of half-Jewish people have asked for advice about finding other half-Jewish people to date and form relationships with. Sometimes it does make a relationship or marriage a bit easier, as both parties feel more understood.

    I will send you a private email that contains additional information not currently displayed on this website.


  121. Patricia the Half-Jewess Who Seeks Half-Jewish/Half-White Men Aged 36

    Dear Robin,

    Thank you! It’s great to be here. I was excited as it was to find out about other half-Jews. And now I know there are others who were thinking the same thing I was, fighting the odds, and seeking each other in cyber-space.
    So I guess your answer about chemistry may be “a little yes, and a little no.” That’s still good; and all information is good information.
    I’ll read the email later (thanks!), as like most people in these times I’m blitzed. I hope I don’t sound too self-important or overly-enthusiastic

    All the Very Best,

    Patricia (or “Tricia” if you tire of saying “Pa”:)

  122. Michael Kates

    Hello, If anyone is interested in going to Israel in the winter you can contact me at mmaster88@hotmail.com. It is a free trip for Jews 18-26 and regisrtation is this week!

  123. Ryan

    Dear Patricia, I half to inform you that most Jewish people are considered of the white race unless Ethiopian or of a different race i.e. Asian. Most Jews are of the Semitic group of the white race along with Arabs rather than Aryan like most Europeans. Most Jewish people (full blooded) have at least 30% Aryan blood in them as well because they have migrated into Europe years ago.

  124. Steve Katz

    Dear Sarah: You seem to echo some of my underlying sentiments regarding “half-jewishness”. I think a international conference would be a very constructive beginning in underdstanding who we are, ethnically speaking. Which to me is a can of worms…But! I believe we all share a common bloodline bond that we can all identify with back to Abraham. We won’t physically notice it in some cases but we will understand it in a abstract notion of each other.
    I hope we can put this together in the next few years. I don’t know how many more I will have left.LOL.
    Kind regards,

  125. rhelburn

    Hi Steve,

    I think you should organize and promote this event, and because it will be international, I suggest we have it somewhere in Israel. What do you say?

    Robin H.

  126. Hi Steve & Robin,

    a conference in Israel sounds great 🙂
    However, we are preparing a conference in Zurich, Switzerland, on November 1 – 3, 2012.
    The program is at http://www.hybridejuedischeidentitaeten.org/tagung/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/FLYER_Conference_HybridJewishIdentities_1-3Nov2012.pdf
    And the guests will be from different European countries, but international nonetheless.
    I don’t really expect any of the Americans to make it there, but just to let you know that things are happening “over here” …


  127. Dear Sarah, Steve and Robin H.:

    Sarah — thanks for posting more about the Zurich conference! As you see, I kept my promise to promote it!

    Steve — as soon as the number of people signed up for this website’s email newsletter reaches 500, we will start a discussion about a U.S. conference for half-Jewish people. Our current signups are 115, so we have a little way to go, but we are gradually adding people.

    If you know of anyone who has not yet signed up for our email newsletter, please send them our website address and encourage them to sign up.

    Robin H. — I would enjoy a half-Jewish conference in the U.S. and hope to see more of them in my lifetime. We will organize one if I see 500 signups for our free email newsletter. I’m prepared to wait patiently.

    But I don’t think the Half-Jewish Network could sponsor a conference in Israel, for the following reasons:

    (1) Israel trips are not within the economic reach of many of our members;

    (2) Israel has a ton of laws and policies that discriminate against us — not exactly a welcoming environment;

    (3) an Israel-based half-Jewish conference would inevitably be targeted for Israeli media ultra-Orthodox protests that there is no such thing as “half-Jewish” and that, in their eyes, many of us aren’t Jews at all and have no claim to connections with Judaism– it would get nasty;

    (4) such a conference would be put under tremendous pressure by the Israeli government — if they noticed it at all — to support Israel’s current policies of all types — we’d be asked to support aliyah, the IDF, war with Iran, etc.; and

    (5) would the Israeli media want to hear our views about the poor treatment of the half-Jewish people among the Russian, Arab and Ethiopian Israeli citizens? I find that my comments to articles on these topics in the Israeli media aren’t always posted in their “talkbacks” sections.

    I could go on — there is lots more — but you get the picture. If the Half-Jewish Network sponsors a conference, I would like it to be held in the United States, and be a happy and peaceful experience for everyone who attends.

    Anyone who is curious about how Israel views us should have a look at our “Israel” page on this website at:


    I keep the page updated on a regular basis.

    There is also the Half-Jewish Network Blog/Email Newsletter where I monitor Israeli views on us in virtually every issue:


    Robin M.

  128. Steve Katz

    Robin M., You are right about the controversy it may cause in Israel. I suggest we hold it in the heart of Ashkenaziland, which is where most of us on this board partially originated from. Although… I have heard that the white sandy beaches and pristine waters of Tel Aviv are phenomenal… Steve

  129. Steve Katz

    Robin H., I will might be able to lead and oversee the development and execution of such a conference if I can count on support from our members. I can’t do it alone. I am asking now for people that are interested to send requests on where they think we should hold the conference. This will get the ball rolling!


  130. Steve Katz

    Israel is a nation not a religion and not our origin in most cases. I feel that most of us halvees partially originate from central Europe. I know I do.

  131. Steve Katz

    They embrace a religion. Unlike the United States there is no separation between church and state. They lean on a thin democracy aimed at appeasing the United States.

  132. Victoria

    Hi All,

    I came across this article today


    It is from an Israeli english language newspaper about the issues that half jewish people have in Isreal and some thoughts on these.

  133. Annette

    I have been away from here for a long time! I’d like to say to Ernest that I completely agree with you….people often misunderstand me when I say I am against mixed marriages (racial, religious, etc) when the couple plans to have children. I grew up as a Jew, and I am Halachically Jewish; however because half my family was strongly Italian Catholic, I STILL felt confused, and even now at 53, have moved over to the faith my mother once abandoned for Orthodox Judaism (Traditional Catholicism). I think people need to give serious consideration to what their marital choice may do to future children. The children might not be honest with you about their confusion, either; children fear hurting their parents feelings, I know I did and many other half-Jews I have known did and do.

    As for the Jewish community, half-Jews and Israel: even though I am Halachically Jewish, because my mother was a convert often received many questions in my life…I detested always having to give the name of the (Orthodox) rabbi who converted my mother, I am a very private person and resented the nosiness of many Jews, many of whom were not even frum (religious) themselves! Maybe its BECAUSE I’m a half-Jew, but the racial/biological roots of Judaism always irritated me and I’m glad to be free of it now. I was also irritated by the way the Jewish community would claim half-Jews when it was beneficial to their cause, but reject them otherwise (for example, they would claim people like Paul Newman and Michael Landon, the actors, even though their mothers were Gentile.)

  134. Dear Steve, Victoria and Annette:

    Steve — I am pleased that you are agreeable to having a U.S.-based half-Jewish conference in the future. I will continue to do what I can to help the idea by collecting new members for the Half-Jewish Network. I would still like to see our email newsletter have a 500+ subscriber number before scheduling a conference, to ensure that we have enough attendees. But your idea itself is a very good one, and I am pleased that we are thinking about this.

    Victoria: Thank you for the link to the article on Israel’s discriminatory marriage laws! It is important that we keep informed on such issues.

    Annette: You are correct that intermarriage is not always a bed of roses for children, and that as adults many of us are reluctant to share our feelings with our intermarried parents as to how that dynamic played out in our lives.

    I don’t disapprove of intermarriage in and of itself — love is love — but I have always counseled interfaith couples to plan ahead for potential problems that their children may face, and to encourage their children to share these problems with them, but they sometimes do not want to hear this advice. Often they want simple solutions, like: “raise your children as X and they’ll have no problems as adults.”

    They are frequently reluctant to hear that we are a complex mix of both heritages. One Jewish father denied to me that his children are half-Asian, even though their mother is Korean. He insisted that the children are “100 percent Jewish.” It is hard to get past such a wall of denial that some — not all — interfaith couples have.

    Like you I returned to Christianity several years ago — in my case to the Episcopal Church of my father’s side of the family. I share your exasperation with the Jewish community’s obsession with bloodlines — “Mi Yehudi?” (who is a Jew?) — and the fact that the Jewish community claims all kinds of rich and famous half-Jewish people, including ones who live as Christians or who are not halachically Jewish — but is much more ambivalent, rejecting or neglectful of those of us who are not celebrities.

    The Jewish Outreach Institute coined the term “celebrity exception” to describe how the Jewish community welcomes famous half-Jewish people while leaving barriers in place that hamper the rest of us from affiliating as Jews.

    My experience among the Episcopalians has been very different. They are only mildly interested in my parentage, and much more concerned about whether I am happy with their church. It has been a very healing experience so far.

    I continue my work on the Half-Jewish Network because we need to be able to connect with one another, no matter what our affiliations are. It is helpful for all of us to connect and share experiences.

    I also continue my work because the Jewish community’s current ambivalent treatment of us damages not only those of us who are Jewish-identified, but also those of us who have chosen other faith-based cultures and secular lifestyles.

    As long as this group exists, there is a voice for changing the treatment of half-Jewish people within the Jewish community. In the end, if we can get even a few Jewish institutions to change their treatment of us, that will help Judaism to survive and assist many other half-Jewish people we may never meet.

    Robin M.

  135. Annette

    I agree, Robin, and I know FULLY what you mean about “a healing experience”; for me, that is what my adoption of Traditional Roman Catholicism has proven to be. I feel at home because its what half my family is/was, and in it I find fond memories of my grandmother and other family members, in addition to a faith I can adhere to when times are tough.

  136. Dear Annette:

    Our experiences are very parallel — my Anglo-Catholic Episcopal church is probably very close to your Traditional Roman Catholic church in its outlook and practices.

    Like you, it has renewed my bond with my Christian “half,” and deepened my connection with both living and dead relatives on that side of the family. I have found the faith very supportive in dark times, and my fellow parishioners are amazingly nice. I feel very blessed to have found a nice church so quickly — it was literally the first one that I visited.

    I will be reciting Kaddish for my Jewish mother and some other Jewish relatives this week. It feels a little odd, since I have returned to Christianity, but the parallel Christian prayers for the dead are not appropriate, because they invoke Christ. So my Jewish “half” hasn’t let go of me.(internet grin)


  137. Annette,

    Of all the people who come on to this site (especially the previous HJN site), it seems that those who were raised Jewish and where one parent (usually the mother) has converted, have the hardest time, i.e. feel the hardest sting when they encounter orthodox Jews who question their identity. You aren’t the only one Annette. Even though your mother is technically ‘Jewish’ and she shouldn’t have to always present herself as a ‘convert’, I think it is the responsibility of the parents to let the child know of his/her full ethnic & biological heritage and prepare him/her for the controversy that lies ahead.

    I believe If one is strong in one’s faith and sense of identity you don’t care what others think. I’m patrilineal and believe I have ‘survived’ in this respect because my expectations have always been low and I have never expected anything from anyone. So If I manage to make friends in the Jewish community, I am thrilled and what little I have is good enough for me.

    Just the other day when I was at my club sport, I was chatting w/ a high school girl who had previously presented herself as Jewish. Someone asked about her ethnic background and she said she was Italian. I asked her if there were Italian Jews. She said it it was her father that was Jewish and her mother who was Italian (Catholic I believe). I didn’t probe. She certainly looks Jewish (has kinky hair like me…. ha ha…). It appears she knows her heritage and is comfortable in her ‘skin’ and with a Jewish identity.

    Annette, I imagine that every ‘Jew’ probably has some mixed marriage somewhwere in their recent or distant ancestry (whether they know it or not) and this has been a healthy thing for the Jewish people (biologically speaking).

    Robin H.

    PS. today is my birthday, also the birthday of Neils Bohr, a half Jew (through his mother) and a famous physicist / chemist who pioneered our knowledge of atomic structure and early ideas on quantized energy levels of electrons (in atoms). I am so thrilled (i’m a chemist, physical / analytical emphasis)…i feel some karma… sometimes it just doesn’t take much to make me happy…

  138. Dear Robin H.:
    Happy (belated) birthday!
    Robin M.

  139. Dear Robin H.:
    P.S. It is nice that as a scientist you share your birthday with a famous half-Jewish scientist — a nice synchronicity!

    Robin M.

  140. E Binis Unum

    Hey all,
    I’m a half-Jewish, half-Gentile 20 y/o guy from the Northeast US and I gotta say that this site… Has been very useful, helpful really, in helping me figure out my identity. I honestly don’t feel comfortable identifying either as just ‘Jewish’ or ‘Anglo-Irish’, and so I’ve settled on just saying ‘American’ and then when pressed, ‘Half-Jewish’.

    My mom converted back in the day to Judaism before I was even born, then she met my father -a Kohen- and pretended to have been born Jewish. So now he’s a defrocked Kohen, I’m halakhically Jewish, and she still denies to the core of her bones that she was born a Gentile. As you might imagine, my father’s parents somewhat doubted her, a blond-haired steel-eyed southern girl, when she told them she was Jewish and of Jewish blood.

    What can I say? Sometimes life is strange like that.

    Anyhoo it’s good to be able to get in touch w/ others who’re of mixed ancestry like me, and the idea of a national conference seems exciting! Us half-Jews *might* soon outnumber the full-Jews in this country, at least for a few decades until Orthodox birthrates change the demographic landscape again. So why not take advantage of this brief “moment of glory” to at least organize, and see if a national “Half-Jewish” culture emerges from there or not.

    The American Half-Jews 😉
    Stranger tribes have come about before I’m sure…

  141. Dear E Binis Unum:

    Delighted that you have found the information on this website helpful in your spiritual and ethnic identity quest!

    I am sending you privately a PDF with more information about the group that is not on our website.

    Your background — in which there were parental identity secrets — is shared by some of us. My Jewish Orthodox mother converted secretly to the Epsicopal faith, and I did not find out that she was Jewish until after her death, when I was a young woman.

    So you are not alone in dealing with the impact of family secrets.

    Hopefully, some day we will have or co-sponsor a Half-Jewish conference and then all of us can share insights in person.

    Robin Margolis

  142. Michael Reynolds

    RECORDS? I am trying to locate a branch of my family descended from a mixed marriage. What records did Germany keep of mixed couples during the period 1933-45 & how can they be accessed?

  143. Dear Michael:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    Regarding records kept by Germany of intermarried couples during the Holocaust — suggest you start by contacting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum here:


    If they cannot help you, please come back to this message board, and we will try to think of other ways that you can find the information.

    Please understand that intermarriages became illegal in Nazi Germany during the mid-1930s, so there might be no record of your relatives’ intermarriage. Interfaith couples were not allowed to legally marry after a certain point in time. Couples intermarrying after that point in time were considered criminals and could be prosecuted.

    Couples wishing to intermarry had to leave the country to do so, and were best advised not to return.


  144. Robin. would it be possible for me to trace the DNA that I have from my father even though I do not have his Y chromosome? Some jewish geneology websites suggest having the Y DNA of a sibling tested and then you assume you have the same. But I would like to check the X chromosome that my father gave me because his mother is from a family of Levys. Can the lab tell the difference between the X I got from my Dad vs. the X from my mother? I’m not much of a geneticist so I’m not sure if I even know what I am talking about. Robin H..

  145. Dear Robin H.: This is Robin M. Happy Hanukkah!

    I am not sure about what geneticists have learned about the X chromosomes inherited from Jewish fathers by half-Jewish daughters, but I believe that a lab could tell the difference between that X chromosome and the X chromosome you inherited from your mother very quickly.

    That might offer you some information about the Jewish side of your family.

    Here is an essay that might be useful to you:


    Please keep us posted on what you find out!

    Very cordially,
    Robin M.

  146. Thanks Robin, I’ve concluded that maybe the most accurate and useful way to do it would be to have my father’s mt-DNA (mitochondrial) analyzed since that would be an intact version of the chromosomal x-DNA that he gave me… am I right?. That way the lab wouldn’t have to try to tell the difference between my two x’s. And then I may as well have his y-DNA analyzed while they’re at it. It would be the same as my brother’s y-DNA wouldn’t it?

    It is not like I’m going to rush out and do this immediately. I just want to have a plan Of course I’d have to ask my father if he would let me have a sample.

    I think the most interesting thing I’ve learned is that a woman is most closely related (genetically) to her paternal grandmother and her brother to the paternal grandfathe. So from a Jewish lineage standpoint my brother (from same mother… I have others) and I are different. …….i’m like Bessie Levy and he’s more like Leonard Helburn….Robin H.

    PS.. I’m guessing this is the first year in many years in which you will be truly celebrating Christmas. Do you have a plan? Merry Christmas in advance!

  147. Dear Robin H: Please pardon my delay in replying! I got behind on my email over the holidays.

    I am guessing that your best bet would be to consult a medical genetics counselor. Sarah Lawrence has a master’s degree training program for them, and they could advise you about one close to you geographically. Such a person would have the latest information on mitochondrial DNA.

    Thank you for your kind wishes about my Christmas celebrations! I hope that you had a great Hanukkah!

    Very cordially,
    Robin Margolis

  148. jay

    I see a lot of references to children.of intermarriage, but something you might consider is you now have readers with intermarried grandparents! both sets of my grandparents intermarried.

  149. Dear Jay: Sorry for the delay in replying — the Half-Jewish Network has always looked after the grandchildren of intermarriage, so please don’t worry that we have forgotten you.

    If you see our title: “Welcoming Children & Grandchildren of Intermarriage” at the top of this webpage, you’ll see that we have always paid attention to this topic.

    Plus, this website contains dozens of links on many of its pages to stories about grandchildren of intermarriage. Welcome aboard!


  150. Dear luckyfatima:

    Thank you for bringing the article to our attention about a half-Jewish IDF officer who can’t marry her fully Jewish fiance in Israel because her father was Jewish, but her mother was not:


    I appreciate you bringing this story to our attention. Stories like this are one reason why the Half-Jewish Network no longer supports aliyah (immigration to Israel) for half-Jewish people:



  151. Steve Katz

    Why would anyone want to emigrate to Israel now anyway unless they have militaristic intentions? Israel is under the gun by all sides now. It must be true that Israel still remains a theo-democratic society stringently ruled by the doctrines of the fanatical orthodoxy unwilling to bend to new societal mores. Tsk. Tsk.

  152. Michael Reynolds

    Why would you think your politics have a place here?

  153. Dear Michael Reynolds:

    You may wish to read the two posts preceding Steve Katz’s comment. The posts are referring to this English translation of an Israeli newspaper article attacking a half-Jewish IDF officer who is protesting the fact that she is not allowed to marry a fellow IDF officer who has two Jewish parents:


    Israeli governmental discrimination against half-Jewish people — such as that documented in this article — instituted by Israeli Jewish politicians and rabbis — has forced the Half-Jewish Network to formally oppose half-Jewish people making aliyah (immigration) to Israel:


    Steve Katz’s description of Israel as “theodemocratic” is actually, unfortunately, correct.

    In fact, if you look at the “talkbacks” section at the bottom of the article — comments by Israelis and overseas Jews about this discrimination — and you see my comment (Talkback No. 168) — where I protest the cruel “talkbacks” made about the young half-Jewish woman featured in the article — you will see that my protest is treated very contemptuously by some Israelis.


  154. Michael Reynolds

    I did read the article and obviously I concur: Israel should allow civil marriage. Some day they will. It was the ‘militaristic’ part of the post that irked me. It sounded (and sounds) like a prolonged sneer….

  155. Dear Michael Reynolds:

    There is sometimes an unconscious double standard in discussing Israel and half-Jewish people, whereby half-Jewish people are required to be very polite in our references to Israel at all times, even when we are discussing Israel’s poor treatment of half-Jewish people — while Israelis get to say anything nasty that they want about half-Jewish people, as you can see from the Israeli news article.

    There’s also an unwritten rule that half-Jewish people are not supposed to mention our disapproval of any Israeli policies of any type, or we are supposed to express it in a very polite way.

    But Steve Katz is bluntly — and truthfully — discussing something that is well-known — that aliyah is often motivated by “militaristic intentions.” The Israeli state has long recognized that many people who make aliyah do so because they want to join the IDF.

    Consequently, the Israeli government does everything in its power to encourage young people who make aliyah and young people visiting Israel for prolonged stays to join the IDF. The Israelis make no secret of this. It is discussed frequently in their newspapers as a one way to coax people to make aliyah, using their overly-romantic views of IDF service.

    Here’s one of those programs designed to encourage young people from overseas to join the IDF:


    Now I must create a separate post to explain why civil marriage laws are not likely to pass in Israel, and why they will not solve the many problems that half-Jewish people have in the Israeli state.


  156. Dear Michael Reynolds:

    First, it is not likely that Israel will ever allow full civil marriage. Their current population statistics indicate that the Orthodox will become one-third to one-half of all Jewish voters in Israel between 2040 and 2050. Even if a large-scale civil marriage law does pass the Knesset in the near future, this emerging large Orthodox voter bloc would likely some day repeal it.

    Second, Israel currently has a restricted civil marriage option — only for half-Jewish people with Jewish fathers — patrilineal Jews — which allows patrilineal Jews to legally marry only each other in Israel. They can’t legally marry anyone else.

    Since many patrilineal half-Jewish people want to marry people with two Jewish parents or people with a Jewish mother and a Christian father, this option isn’t very useful. (And it has an uncomfortable resemblance to aspects of the Nazi Nuremberg Laws and policies regulating who half-Jewish people could marry during the Holocaust.)

    Third, allowing civil marriage will not end the discrimination against half-Jewish people in Israel, even if such a law did pass.

    Half-Jewish people are still excluded from burial in Israeli Jewish cemeteries. Because the Jewish cemeteries are under Orthodox control, we are buried “outside the wall” — as in, just outside the cemetery walls — the traditional place for people who are considered of uncertain Jewish status, i.e., not “Jewish enough.”

    We are also discriminated against by the Israeli state in many other laws and social policies beyond marriage and burial. Just one example — I repeatedly see cases where non-Jewish women marry Israeli Jews, have a child, and if the Israeli spouse dies, the immigration ministry tries to find some problem with the widow’s immigration paperwork so as to deport the mother and her half-Jewish child back to her original country.

    Finally, about your concern that Steve Katz appears to be “sneering” at Israel — if you read the over 100 “talkbacks” — mostly from Israelis — beneath the article about the half-Jewish IDF woman officer — you’ll see that at least 50 percent of the “talkbacks” speak of the half-Jewish woman written about in the article in a very sneering manner:


    While I personally try to be polite, I fear that some Israelis might respect and listen to Steve Katz’s approach more than mine. Some segments of Israeli Jewish society regard polite people as weaklings whose needs can be safely ignored.


  157. Duality

    Dear Michael and Steve:
    Israel recently had elections and center/left/Arab parties won about half the Knesset seats, for the first time in years. Some of those parties have begun talking about arranging easier “conversions” for patrilineal half-Jewish people in Israel, so they will be accepted as Jews.


    But what about Israeli half-Jewish people who identify as secular Jews and don’t want Orthodox conversions, even ones that are arranged in teams with Reform or Conservative rabbis? What about Israeli half-Jewish people who identify as Christians or Muslims?

    And what kind of democracy requires people who have intermarried parents to undergo a religious conversion in order to have full civil rights?

    I am skeptical that the new gains in center/left/Arab Knesset seats will accomplish much in the long run — Israel’s demographics are shifting to the Orthodox. Unless the secular Israelis are prepared to start having 6 to 8 children per family, I see no way that will change.


  158. Michael Reynolds

    “And what kind of democracy requires people who have intermarried parents to undergo a religious conversion in order to have full civil rights?”

    Full civil rights: You mean like the right to vote or hold public office, or the right to ride public transport or eat in a restaurant? Oops, no, wait–they already have those. I guess all you mean is marriage–which doesn’t require conversion; it requires a weekend’s plane ride to Nicosia. In fact, someday when the Secular Democratic state of Palestine is created next door, it’ll just require a shuttle bus to Ramallah.

    And, no, I’m not a fan of the increasing demographic of the ultra-Orthodox.
    It’s something Israel’s founders never really contemplated. But maybe not all the descendants of the haredim will stay that way. History is full of surprises.

  159. Maddie J

    Michael, those covered under the Law of Return who don’t have a proven Jewish mother are also not eligible for low-interest federal housing loans and can’t be buried in Jewish cemeteries.

  160. Dear Michael:

    No truly democratic country requires people to convert to any religion in order to have the same rights as their fellow citizens. If the United States denied full civil rights to anyone who had ‘only’ a Christian father, for example, compelling children of Christian fathers and Jewish mothers to fly to Ottawa, Canada to legally marry — there would be nationwide riots.

    And your idea that Israel will be rescued because thousands of Haredim will defect from ultra-Orthodoxy — not likely. Here’s the one of the latest demographic reports from Israel’s government:


    “According to the forecast, state secular [Jewish] pupils will still constitute the largest group, with 41 percent of the system in 2017. But by then Arab pupils will comprise 26 percent of the system, ultra-Orthodox pupils, 18 percent, and state [national Orthodox] religious pupils, 14 percent.”

    In other words, by the year 2017, Orthodox students will constitute 32 percent of all Israeli school children, a portion that has risen steadily for years. Since the Orthodox have far more children than the Jewish seculars, and usually educate their children away from secular Jews, the likelihood of some massive shift in Haredi and national religious outlook is very slim.

    Finally, are you the child, grandchild or great-grandchild of an intermarriage? You contacted this message board seeking information about a branch of your family in which a German Jewish relative had intermarried with a German Christian relative shortly before the Nazi era. We are happy to give information, but you need to remember that only children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of intermarriage are allowed to post on this message board. That rule is posted above the messages on this web page under “Message Board Guidelines.”


  161. Steve Katz

    Robin, You are right! Israeli policy toward intermarriage reeks of the Nazi pogroms of the late 1930s designed to ensure the purity of the “master race”. Yes Robin I am blunt, but I am an American before I am a Jew and I will speak my mind in public without regret or fear of retaliation.

    Steve Katz

  162. Dear Steve Katz:

    It is hard for us to say these things about Israel. And I know Michael Reynolds must have had his feelings hurt by our comments. It distresses me. But if people like you and I keep silent about these things, then they will never change.


  163. Steve Katz

    Dear Robin,
    Don’t beat up on me on that last post. Israeli purity doctrines have been compared to Hitler’s many times before. And they know it!

  164. Steve Katz

    Israeli policy interferes with a innate, universal and God given human attribute. Love. We don’t seek out our life long partner based on their ethnic or religious ancestry. We meet someone and if it clicks it clicks and no country on the earth should halt men and women from doing God’s work ………Pro-Creating

  165. Dear Steve: I’m not beating up on you for your last post. I believe you and I are in substantial agreement on these issues. I’m just expressing regret that our comments likely hurt Michael’s feelings. But there may be no tactful way to say certain things that have to be said about Israel’s policies towards interfaith families.


  166. Steve Katz

    Dear Robin and All
    Not to get off the subject but… While thinking about the impending international convention and absorbing these posts I did come up with a concept for the convention… Jewish Spectrum… Partial Jews with many different shades…


  167. Steve Katz

    Robin, Michael probably isn’t even eligible to be on this board so don’t beat yourself up because he is hurt. He doesn’t understand our position. Keep going like your going Honey. You’re doin’ great!

  168. Hi all,
    I like the term “Jewish Spectrum”. I even have an idea for a logo based on the ‘electromagnetic spectrum. I’ve been thing (however) that iof such event came and went and nothing changed as a result (i.e. acceptance of us as part of the Jewish landscape) then it would be a shame.
    robin h.

  169. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    I am so glad there is a Half-Jewish network. I am a quarter Jew. I was in my teens by the time I learned I had a Jewish grandmother. My parents were atheists and their one concession to organized religion was to join a Unitarian Fellowship. I don’t remember my Grandma ever talking about her background until I asked her some questions when I was in my twenties, and I think most of the information I have was gleaned from conversations with my father. Grandma came from Lithuania at age 16 with her 13 year old brother. Her parents and siblings never made it, to the best of our knowledge. She married a non-Jewish man from Serbia.

    Most of my adult life, I didn’t see myself as religious though I sometimes called myself spiritual. I married a man who was brought up as a Quaker. Things have worked out well – we recently celebrated 30 years of marriage. When my daughter was about eight, she and I went to a Judaica store and bought a menorah and candles. At the time, it seemed an important symbol of Judaism. I didn’t know any of the blessings but had some idea of how the candles are lit. I think for most of my adult life I’ve thought of myself as “kind of Jewish” culturally and only very recently have I begun to feel connected to Judaism as a religion. When my daughter was in college she began to ask me more about our Jewish background – she never got to meet her Grandma. After college she lived at home for a year and she began to attend services at several local synagogues, some Reform and some Conservative. I began to go with her occasionally. The first Saturday morning service really bewildered me – the Hebrew had translation and transliteration on the same page, but I didn’t know any of the tunes. I also didn’t realize that the service consists mostly of prayer. Remember, my atheist parents didn’t explain much about religion to me. My daughter, one eighth Jewish, feels some connection to her Jewish heritage. I wish I had been able to help her more along the way.

    After my daughter left for graduate studies I pretty much stopped going to services. Then, last Spring, my father died. His health had been in decline for a while, yet it was still a surprise. I’m so glad I got to see him a month earlier. So as I dealt with my grief I began to want to know more about how Judaism had helped shape his life, and what my grandmother’s experience as a Jew in Poland might have been like before she left at age 16. I started going to services specifically so I could say the Mourner’s Kaddish. Over the past 8 or 9 months I have been going to services almost every week, including Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur, and I am amazed how much I enjoy prayer. Perhaps because it is a liberal, egalitarian congregation I feel particularly welcomed and I have begun to know the Rabbi and the members. So that’s my not-so-brief introduction. I have an appointment to meet with the Rabbi and am not really sure what to expect.


  170. Dear Steve, Robin H. and Lisa:

    Steve: Thanks for your kind words of support. Much appreciated!

    Robin H.: Sorry for delay in moderating your comment — been busy at home, so got behind on my volunteer emails — have approved it!

    Lisa: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! You and your daughter have had a long journey. Many of us of have had similar long spiritual and ethnic journeys. I hope that your meeting with your rabbi goes well — keep us posted! I will send you a private email with more information.

    Very cordially,
    Robin M.

  171. Dear Steve and Robin H.:

    I think the idea of a conference for half-Jewish people called “Jewish Spectrum” is very interesting. I will hang onto it and I hope you will too.

    I am waiting for the signup for our email newsletter to reach 500 — currently at 150 — before I send out surveys and get into conference planning — but welcome any ideas people have in advance. Our email list has been growing much faster recently.


  172. Cindy

    I am glad I found this site to reconnect to the Half Jewish network. I belonged to the old forum but didn’t post for years and sort of “lost touch.” I am a patrilineal halfsie married to a matrilineal half Jewish man. He grew up identifying as a Jew; I, a non-Jew. We both came from rather secular homes, although we are both Episcopalians now. We have two kids who are half-Jewish – 25% from each of us.

    Recently, I had my autosomal DNA tested because I am heavily into genealogy as a hobby, and of course tested as 48% European Jewish – no surprise there. But, it got me to thinking…do you think there might be some changes in the way we are viewed in light of the fact that those of us with Jewish fathers can now “prove” we are indeed of Jewish ancestry? Because one is considered Jewish if they have a Jewish mom (like my husband, who was never religious nor even believed in G-d growing up), I am inclined to think there is a bit of a “racial” aspect to being considered a Jew. Just curious what will happen in light of all the DNA testing going on now.


  173. Steve Katz

    Robin H.
    You read my mind! My education in physics I am sure contributed to the concept. I think a logo depicting a color spectrum co-mingled with subjects would be wonderful. Any artists out there with some feedback?

  174. Steve Katz

    Dear Robin H.
    I think that if we are a big enough voice to be heard then it will be a move in the right direction toward acceptance. The powers that be in Israel understand that might makes right and they will perk their ears toward us.
    This convention is much more than a “convention”. It could be a step toward change. Something to think about……. Steve

  175. Dear Cindy: Welcome back! I remember your posts on the old Half-Jewish Network website. I myself have left Judaism and returned to the Episcopalian faith of my childhood.

    Regarding whether DNA testing proving people are Jewish makes Jewish groups friendlier to half-Jewish people — not sure. One person wrote me that his DNA test showing partially-Jewish descent did not get him a better welcome — the only Jewish group that he found friendly were Jewish belonging to the Humanistic Judaism movement. Other Jews did not see the DNA testing as requiring them to be more friendly to him.

    My personal perception — but I could be wrong — is that Jewish groups do seem pleased when people in places like Latin America have DNA tests showing remote Jewish ancestry, suggesting they are descended from Jews expelled from Spain in the Middle Ages.

    There’s usually a flurry of articles in Jewish publications about such groups and sometimes — not always — they are sent positive assistance from mainstream Jewish groups.

    There seems to be excitement when the DNA testing tracks groups who can be used to discover aspects of Jewish history. When it turns up individual half-Jewish people — not so much excitement, unless the person is a celebrity or has some unusual Holocaust parentage story.


  176. Alexandra Boyd

    You should start a facebook group !! I have been waiting for ages to find one!

  177. Dear Robin H., Steve and Alexandra:

    I am keeping all suggestions made for a future Half-Jewish Network conference in a special file in my email, so we will have them ready when the group gets 500 people on its email newsletter list, and we can then start conference planning.

    It would be nice if the conference changed a few minds among Jewish communal groups. I would like that very much, though I am not holding my breath for that outcome. When the time comes, I will make sure that the Jewish communal world knows that it is being held. I will also advertise it within the Christian communal world and among other faith-based and secular cultures to the best of my ability.

    But I will view the conference as a whopping success if it focuses entirely on half-Jewish peoples’ issues and needs, gets an attendance of at least 100 people, lasts at least 2 days, gets a few favorable news articles, grows the Half-Jewish Network’s membership — and — most important — 90 percent of all half-Jewish people who attend feel heard, respectfully treated, affirmed, and bonded with each other, no matter what their affiliations, ethnicities or belief systems. That is a “good enough” outcome.

    Joke: And there can be no early morning or breakfast panels or workshops! I’ve sat on too many of them.

    Obviously we may think of more goals and needs for the conference, but I am hoping we can plan for a modest first conference.

    Alexandra — thank you for the Facebook sugggestion. I had been thinking we might want to have a Facebook page eventually, certainly at the time we decided to start conference planning. I had not set one up at the present time because I coordinate this group as a volunteer activity, and maintaining this website plus a Facebook page would be a lot of work. We could not go to a Facebook-only web presence because many people are not on Facebook.

    When the time for a conference comes, I’d be interested in setting up a Facebook page for the group. If it got “friended” a lot, then I would be willing to keep it. I have added your suggested to the conference file I am maintaining.


  178. Cindy

    Thank you for the welcome back! My husband and two adult kids would love to attend a conference. I’m on Facebook, and I would join a group there, too.

  179. Steve Katz

    Very good point on the “racial aspect” Cindy. It has always been a question among halvees I am sure. It certainly has crossed my mind a lot. Is being a Jew racial, religious or nationalistic? Or all three?

  180. Dear Cindy and Steve:

    Cindy: Glad to welcome you back and that you’d be interested in attending a conference! Will keep in mind that you also support eventual creation of a Facebook page for the group.

    Steve: In my experience — hopefully Cindy and others will chime in with theirs — some Jews think of Judaism as ethnic, others focus more on religion and others more on Israeli nationalism (some Israeli sabras — native-born Israelis — no longer think of themselves as “Jews” — call themselves “Israeli” only).


  181. Steve Katz

    Hi all… My thinking cap is on again in regard to the upcoming convention. As a basic format I feel that the program should be devoted to each and every member that attends. By that I mean, each and every member shall by their own choice speak about their individual experience of being mixed. Other formal presentations may be able to build upon this but for the first time I feel we should concern ourselves with ourselves.

  182. Dear Steve:

    I agree with your suggestion and will save it in my “Conference” file.


  183. Steve Katz

    Robin and All,
    We all must have various reasons for attending this conference and that is the focal point. I feel that if everyone there speaks about their heartfelt feelings of being a Halvee new conversation and ideas may be exchanged. Political and societal issues I am sure will be hot topics but also how we personally feel surely will be discussed. I hope you catch my drift.

  184. Dear Steve Katz:

    I agree completely and hope that we can arrange for as many people as wish to share their feelings on a wide range of half-Jewish topics to be able to do so.


  185. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Thank you, Robin, for your welcoming words. It does seem that there are a lot of us – Half-Jewish, one quarter Jewish and so forth and also a growing number of people who are discovering Jewish roots through family stories, genetic research and other ways. I like the ideas that Steve and others have for a conference. I am sure we have many stories to tell and hear.

    I met with the Rabbi and had a very interesting, thought-provoking conversation. For such a high-energy guy, he was very calm and kind. After telling him the long version of my story, he asked me some questions and also made a few comments that questioned my assumptions about my Jewish grandmother. Toward the end of the conversation, he asked me if I wanted to affiliate. By the way he said it, I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant – join the synagogue? He said, “become Jewish”. The word “affiliate” surprised me, and I liked it a whole lot better than “convert” – as I was not raised in a religion, I have nothing to convert from. Anyhow, it’s not a decision to rush. The Rabbi indicated that I would know when and if I am ready.

  186. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    A few months ago I complained to my daughter about some of the challenges of becoming Jewish. Someone had read me the riot act for bringing my Starbucks coffee to a lunch at the JCC. Is keeping kosher the deal-breaker? Are there a lot of other mizvot I should consider? Judaism, even the more liberal denominations, seems to be moving toward more strictly following kashrut. My daughter, being the practical sort, suggested I become a secular Jew. So I did a bit of research. Robin, I think you had mentioned Humanistic Judaism and that they seem open to us half Jews. I found their newsletter online that mentioned last year’s conference on Half Jews. I would have loved being a humanist Jew in my solidly agnostic days and would have been able to more easily participate in Jewish traditions such as Passover. This is an option that may appeal to some members of the Half Jewish Network.

  187. Dear Lisa Jacobsdaughter:

    I am glad that you had a positive encounter with your rabbi — keep us posted!

    I have frequently recommended Humanistic Judaism to half-Jewish people who are atheist or agnostic and want to live as Jews — it does definitely work for them.

    Regarding your inquiry on the “challenges of becoming Jewish” — the boundaries and requirements vary from one Jewish group to the next — much depends on which group you decided to join. Some groups are fussy about keeping kosher — others are not. This is true for other Jewish issues as well.

    There is a tendency within some Jewish communities to lecture newcomers in a manner that is critical rather than welcoming. Until the last 30 years, Judaism has been mostly a culture closed to outsiders, unlike Christianity, where there is a centuries old mandate to convert them. This means that many Jewish people and institutions don’t know how to ‘do’ welcoming. Traditionally, people were brought up “Jewish-with-two-Jewish-parents,” and, if ignorant of Jewish folkways, they were chastised.

    The Jewish community is trying to create programs that teach Jewish institutions how to ‘welcome’ newcomers. Sounds like your rabbi and hopefully his congregation have gotten the ‘welcoming’ message, but your local JCC has not.

    Just like Christianity and other faith-based cultures, Judaism has its own unique “feel” and communal norms. You must find Jewish groups that you feel comfortable with or reconsider whether you wish to live as a Jew.

    Best of luck on your quest!


  188. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Several of the members are aware of my situation and are very supportive. The rabbi mentioned a large percentage of interfaith couples and non-Jews in the congregation, and also a large number of Jews who came in, wanting to be involved, and feeling guilty that they knew so little about their own religion! Many of the people in my Judaism 101 class were Jews and many were not (we were not required to say) and all seemed hungry for more knowledge so any synagogue or JCC that doesn’t recognize this reality is losing potential members and supporters, and also perpetuates the stereotype of Jews isolating themselves from the rest of the world.
    Thank you, Robin, for creating the Half-Jewish Network, and to everyone who has shared a bit of her or his story. We’re not alone.

  189. Dear Lisa:

    Thank you for your kind words about the Half-Jewish Network and my work with it!

    I am very pleased that your rabbi and congregation are supportive of you and that some of them have experiences with interfaith families, conversion and similar topics — that helps!


  190. Steve Katz

    Hi Robin and All,
    It has been rather quiet on this board lately. Thought I might stir up some conversation.
    I never mentioned that other than being half jewish I am also a professional Chef. Today I catered a Bat Mitzvah for a wealthy doctor. I did the menu with some suggestions from the client and adhered to minimal kosher laws such as meat with dairy. He dropped 11 grand on the food alone. He asked me if I was was Jewish today today because of my surmname. I told him my mother wasn’t and you know what he did? Patted me on the shoulder and smirkingly said “The food was great anyway”. He wouldn’t have said that if I was all Goy or all Jewish. That really capped off my day!

  191. Dear Steve:
    I think born Jews often don’t know what to say to us when they learn that we are half-Jewish. There are no programs that teach them welcoming behavior towards us, so they struggle to come up with appropriate responses and sometimes blunder. I am glad that you got a high fee and that he attempted to be warm.


  192. Steve Katz

    Yeah… It was a nice payday! I rarely have to explain my ancestry to a direct question so I didn’t know what to expect from him. Him and his wife were nice people to work with. Steve

  193. Steve Katz

    Oh, I almost forgot! Happy St Paddy’s Day to all of you Irish-Jews in HJN land

  194. Hi Steve,
    So did you, later on, wish you had responded differently? We’ve all had similar experiences and I (based on my own) have strategies so that I don’t feel ‘on the spot’. Everyone has their own way, but I like to take the question literally, meaning that if they are asking me if I am Jewish, I answer about ME not my mother or father (recognizing of course that there is a correlation). But my answer can vary depending on who is doing the asking. I don’t mean to say that it would be ‘yes’ to one person and ‘no’ to another. It will always be some version of ‘yes’ but different levels of information.

    A few years back after I had returned to NYC, I was sitting on a crowded subway. It was near to Passover and a man (Jewish obviously) was passing out leaflets and little boxes of candles, prefacing that by asking selected persons if they were Jewish. So he asked me. I hemmed and hawed about my father yes, mother no…. blah… blah…blah etc. Eventually he grew tired of me and stepped on to his next prospect. I really wanted the candles and wanted to read the little card he was handing out, So I re-approached and was able to get.

    Lesson learned (for me at least). Some people , strangers on the street, just want a yes or no answer. They don’t want detail. They are looking for “their own” according to their definition (which they do not specify…. Ha Ha .. I am a literalist). To them I now just say yes.. because I want whatever it is they are handing out… to see what is is going on in the New York Jewish community, which I feel ‘sort-of’ a part of. So there!!

    But my Jewish friends know all about my family and they accept me. Anyone who knows me will not get the short answer. The short answer only goes to someone *I assume” I will never see again and who doesn’t care about me.

    Your case seems kind of in between because you are working for this guy and you want his business in the future. I migtht have said (in your place… if I had my brains about me), in a friendly manner something like “hopefully I’m jewish enough to cook for you”. He doesn’t need to know about your family. But if he were to probe more fully, then you could elaborate a bit, starting with “I am part Jewish”..

    These are just my thoughts; someone else might think differently.

    robin h.

  195. Dear Steve and Robin H.:

    Steve: Glad it turned out positive!

    Robin H.: You’re right, it is complex!

    Robin M.

  196. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, Robin and all. Steve, I am glad your cooking job went so well, and it seems you did a bit of low-key educating so that some day Half-Jewish or part Jewish will be an accepted and understood definition. And Robin H., I know what you mean, I have different answers in different settings while at the same time I don’t wish to contradict myself. It would be great to reach a point where I don’t end up feeling defensive or like I’ve given TMI. Some of my long-time friends, Jews and non-Jews, know a bit of my story and accept it because they accept me. With other, newer friends it depends – as I am involved in synagogue life I want to be honest with people I’m likely to see frequently, and most assume I’m Jewish because I’m there so often, yet it’s still an uncomfortable topic for me, and I am afraid of someone feeling like I misled them. Just yesterday I had to turn down the offer to do an aliyah (blessing during Torah reading) because it is not done by non-Jews. It would be great to reach a point where I don’t end up feeling defensive or like I’ve given TMI. Actually, the only negative reactions I’ve had (surprisingly and happily rare) have been in other mostly-Jewish but non-religious settings. The other day I had a great reaction from a new friend – she seemed interested in my background of one Jewish grandparent, and supportive of my situation as I explore Judaism, and she mentioned that she is Jewish, and her husband is not. I asked, “so both your parents are Jewish, and all of your grandparents?” A bit hard to explain why we both ended up laughing.
    I hope that with our great numbers, and our diversity of experience, we will become visible, to Jews and to each other.

  197. Dear Lisa: I have noticed that some non-religious Jews are uncomfortable with half-Jewish people — sometimes their only connection to Judaism is having two Jewish parents — so they sometimes assert this in ways that are not welcoming to us.

    All of us must negotiate how much information we will give and gradually determine our behavior in each Jewish and other faith-based cultural settings we regularly visit. It is a kind of trial-and-error process.

    Lisa, our great numbers are not evident to the Jewish community. Many half-Jewish people who are “raised Jewish” are socialized to keep quiet about their parentage and talk about being “real Jews.” I’ve defended some of them when they’ve been attacked as “not Jewish” by other Jews on the internet, and they do not acknowledge my emails or thank me. Some of them have been brought up to despise people who call themselves “half-Jewish,” so receiving help from me is — to them — a sign of how weak their position is, not a reassurance that other half-Jewish people support them.

    Many of us who were not “raised Jewish” but raised in other faiths are shunted into synagogue conversion programs and taught to call ourselves “converts,” which is not always the same as “half-Jewish.”

    Other half-Jewish people, after repeatedly going through “should I tell them” encounters in Jewish settings, stop talking about it. This includes a fair number of half-Jewish rabbis, who are “in the closet” about being half-Jewish, and so are no use to us.

    Also, keep in mind, Jews are not happy to hear to about our great numbers. Their communal goal for many centuries was a community of Jews married to each other. They regard our existence in large numbers as a sign of massive communal failure on the intermarriage issue, rather than as the existence of a large group of people who need to be outreached.

    I suspect these constraints keep the number of half-Jewish people who openly identify themselves within the Jewish community artificially reduced.

    What does this mean for us? It means that those of us who identify as Jews can search for and find individual welcoming synagogues and organizations, but we should not expect a major communal shift in attitudes towards us — that would result in outreach for us — for another 30 years at least.

    I believe that there will be a massive shift when the Orthodox Jews become the majority of Jewish young people — already starting to happen — and the liberal denominations — Reform, Conservative, etc. — decide that to survive they must actively recruit half-Jewish young people and possibly some older ones as well.


  198. Dear Lisa:

    As someone who has returned to Christianity (my dad’s Episcopalian faith), I usually offer information about my parentage when I explain that I have returned to Christianity after decades “away” in another faith (Judaism), to explain my ignorance of certain past events within the Episcopalian denomination’s recent history or why I know a great deal about Israel and the Palestinians and certain Jewish aspects of the New Testament — etc.

    I’ve been treated in a very kind and cordial manner. Episcopalians are mostly curious and respectful. I haven’t encountered any anti-Semitism, even though there was some lingering anti-Semitism among some Episcopalians many decades ago shortly after WWII.

    It is a very strange experience to be routinely welcomed again in Episcopalian settings, after decades of entering Jewish bricks-and-mortar and online settings and never knowing what the reaction to my presence would be.

    Even when I did conceal being half-Jewish in Jewish settings or simply not mention it within Jewish settings, my ‘otherness’ seemed always to be noticed immediately — as in the “funny, you don’t look Jewish” attitude — and often caused a lack of acceptance for me. This occurred even in the few Jewish venues that admired or tolerated my work for half-Jewish people.

    But each one of us must develop a niche by trial-and-error experimentation, searching out the places where we feel welcomed and at home. It will be different for each person.


  199. Cindy

    In my genealogical search for my ancestors, having had my DNA tested, I match many Jewish people. Or, people who THINK they are fully Jewish. One thing I’ve noticed – no one is 100% Jewish. I see 86%, or 92%, or 78%, etc. So many, many people who think they are “real Jews” are still only part Jewish – the result of some intermarriage back there. I found that quite interesting.

  200. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi! Lots to think about with Robin’s responses and Cindy’s comment. Robin, I’m going to give myself a bit more time before I respond to your thought-provoking comments – and I appreciate the thoughtfulness of what you are saying. Cindy, was the % you were told in the ballpark of what you thought it would be? I don’t care about the actual %, because it’s really none of my business, but I am wondering about your reaction to it. My sense is that many Jews have some ethnic & religious background that is not Jewish – it may be recent, or many generations back. There were certainly converts early in Jewish history according to the Bible though some may not want to think about it. I’ve also been hearing about “converso” Jews (and Muslims), usually forcibly converted to Catholicism many generations back, who often have retained some Jewish customs such as lighting Shabbat candles. Their descendants would likely have Jewish DNA if tested. A friend recently went on a study tour of New Mexico and learned a lot about this, and talked to some of these people. I wonder if my % would by higher or lower than my guess of 25%? I would think Jews and non-Jews and those of us along the spectrum (as Steve called it) who are interested in genealogical research would want the truth.

  201. It’s true. Every one of us including claimed born jews has some intermarriage somewhere in their recent or distant past. And we can be thankful for that or we’d all be genetically deformed. It’s a healthy thing. Given what Robin has said about orthodox jews becoming the majority, I would think that in an age of DNA analysis and all of this being brought to light, it could cause the orthodox and ultra orthodox to cling more tightly in their groups, marrying only within and having lots of babies (while reading talmud and torah 24/7). But this is not healthy, and while their population may grow it won’t be an economically viable one, and so there is an entree for the rest of us to have intellectual, creative and economic clout.

  202. Cindy

    Lisa, yes my DNA % on the Jewish side is just under 50% – definitely what I expected. Autosomal DNA tests recent ancestry, up to 4th to 6th cousins. After that, it gets too unstable. So, the matches I have are my cousins going back only 4 or 5 generations – fairly recent. My point was actually in response to those being told they aren’t “real Jews” because of being “mixed.” It is ironic that those who say that are “mixed” themselves. I wonder what their response would be knowing that? (Rhetorical question)

  203. Steve Katz

    Dear All,
    As a child I remember how I wanted so much to go to hebrew school with my friends. I used to hear about their little escapades there and wanted to be a part of it. my mother looked into it but it was not doable according to her. I was never told why. On the other side of the coin as I got older I spent more time at my maternal grandparents farm in Indiana and was taken to Methodist church with them on Sundays much to my parents chagrin. I began to really understand it and back home was baptized and confirmed in a Congregationalist church community. I do have to say that the Christian community opened up

  204. Steve Katz

    The Christian brethren have reservations about us, the Jewish community won’t accept us… Are we in limbo or do we get together and communicate mano a mano at a national/international conference. We may be able to enlighten all of us…
    Thoughtfully, Steve Katz

  205. Steve Katz

    Maybe we can explore an attitude embracing our life values with a different look at Judaism that relates to us.

  206. Steve Katz

    I would deem this conference a success if all who attend leave feeling different from when they arrived (Good or bad). If they feel the same in and out then the conference is a failure. They should be taking something away from this meeting!

  207. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Robin , I am sorry that you had so many negative reactions from so many Jews when you were exploring and active in Jewish life. At the same time, I am happy for you that you have found a home in the Episcopalian faith. I’m not sure how much geography affects our experiences – where I live, the San Francisco bay area, is diverse in about every way you can imagine. There is, I think, more tolerance for people who do not fit in neat little boxes. To some extent people get along.
    You talk about us being largely invisible – statistics would have us believe that before the 1970’s intermarriage was rare, and a survey from over 10 years ago places it at almost 50%! When I was in college I met many more part-Jewish people than I do today and that was in the ‘70‘s. I am sure if my grandmother had stayed in Lithuania – and survived – she would have married a Jew. As you likely know the pogroms made that impossible. Without a cohesive family in the U.S. I imagine it wasn’t too hard for her to marry a non-Jew, there were no parents to disown her. I am grateful that I am here and somehow think being half-Jewish gives me a richness of experience and acceptance of diversity I might otherwise lack.
    I am exploring becoming Jewish in conversation with my Rabbi. It strikes me a bit like the process of becoming a citizen of a country. Lots to learn, history and customs and language. He’s upfront that some people will never accept me as a Jew, including the Orthodox who control so many aspects of life in Israel. It seems to me one thing that Half-Jews can do from within the Jewish community is hold the door open for others. No promises but perhaps mine may be the first congregation to openly advocate for the welcoming of Half-Jewish adults as it already does for interfaith families.

  208. Cindy

    Lisa, I live in the Bay Area too – the north bay. We should meet sometime. Have you been to the JCC in SF? My husband & I used to go Israeli folkdancing there some years ago.

  209. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Cindy, I’d like that. Any other SF or bay area folks here? Let’s have a meet-up! I live on the peninsula so a bit south. Have not been to SF JCC yet, though many years ago I was a regular at Israeli folk dancing in Pasadena (So Cal). Maybe we can exchange contact info. through Robin?

  210. Cindy

    My husband and I, while in college, used to go to UCLA Hillel on Wed nights in the late ’70s/early ’80s. They had folkdancing there too. I think I may have gone to Pasadena once or twice. Or, maybe it was Cal Tech. I also went to Cafe Danza somewhere in West L.A. (I can’t remember) and Cafe Shalom for Israeli folkdancing. My friends and I went three times a week! I wish I could find a place close to me now. I am in the north bay – Sonoma County. Maybe we could meet in S.F.!

  211. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    When I was in college in the ’70’s I went to international folk dancing – it was a big venue in Pasadena, don’t remember the name. Israeli folk dancing was at Cal Tech. After moving to Santa Cruz and graduating, my first date with my husband was at Ashkenaz in Berkeley for folk-dancing. Also Stanford. I’d go now if I could find a convenient place. Maybe we could continue this conversation via email so the HJN can get back to its regularly scheduled programming. 😉 Thanks for your indulgence, HJN followers. Cindy, you can reach me via email, making the appropriate changes : L alexander 733 at g mail dot com

  212. Cindy

    I sent you an email, Lisa.
    I just bought a book called The Half-Jewish Book by Daniel Klein & Freke Vuijst. I found it quite by accident surfing the Web. It seems interesting so far; I had never heard of the book.

  213. Shayna Rose Lax

    I can’t believe this actually exists. I’m feeling very alone on this Passover eve, as my late father was Jewish, and I’ve lost touch with my roots. Just finding this site has made me feel 100% better about who I am and where my history is.

  214. Cindy

    Does anyone here know about Karaite Judiaism? I have a question about them. Thanks.

  215. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    I don’t know much more than you could find on the internet. There is a Karaite synagogue in Daly City (not far from San Francisco) and the Rabbis from other local synagogues seem to know a bit about them.

  216. Cindy

    I am hoping someone here might be a Karaite or more knowledgeable than what I can find online. I am not sure if they take the Tanakh literally, word for word, or if there is some interpretation. Why do they reject the oral law, does that mean they do not interpret, etc etc?

    Did you ever get my email, Lisa?

    Happy Passover to all.


  217. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, Cindy, I did – and am guessing you didn’t get my response… wonder if it got lost or ended up in spam… I will send you an email now. About Karaite Judaism, I have heard that they consider oral law less important than the Torah but don’t altogether reject it. If you’re feeling brave you could talk to them and report back to us! I may ask around. As part of my decision to become Jewish I have been asked to visit several neighboring shuls in order to experience the differences in denominations, so I may ask my Rabbi about them and how they might be toward visitors.
    I figured out something that may be obvious to most everyone else and I’m not sure why I didn’t really “get it” until now – becoming Jewish is a lot like becoming a citizen of a country: study the customs and laws, agree to some shared views or beliefs, learn a bit of the language, and take a test. It’s a rough analogy, to be sure, and along the wayI am going to be working one-on-one with the Rabbi, which is also how he works with young people preparing for their b’nai mitzvot.

  218. Dear Lisa Jacobsdaughter and Friends:

    I have read with interest the continuing conversations. In response to a question by Lisa Jacobsdaughter about whether my negative experiences in Jewish life were due to geography — her thought was that I might have had a better experience in San Francisco, which has a reputation for greater tolerance.

    Actually, no.

    I consulted a highly-connected and influential Jewish outreach worker in San Francisco two years ago. She has always been friendly and supportive to adult children of intermarriage. I asked her if she could start suggesting to synagogues that they post welcoming statements on their webpages for half-Jewish people, along the lines of “we welcome adult children of intermarriage” and add those statements to any current language on their websites about welcoming interfaith couples. It would cost them virtually no money or time and would be a nice gesture.

    Here is her reply — I’m quoting from memory — “Are you kidding, Robin? I can’t even persuade most of the synagogues in this city [San Francisco] to post welcoming language on their websites for interfaith couples, never mind children of intermarriage.” She went on to say that she would be happy to meet with any adult children of intermarriage in San Francisco that I wished to send her, but I should expect no outreach from the San Francisco Jewish community towards them.

    For more information on why this occurs, you may wish to read an essay I wrote on why Jewish outreach workers usually ignore half-Jewish people:


    Lisa, there’s a phenomenon I think of among people entering Judaism that I call the “conversion romance.” In the past, we were rejected at every level of the Jewish community — few of us ever entered it. Now, the ‘lower’ levels of some institutions — individual synagogues and rabbis of some denominations — have some partial and inadequate training in “welcoming” — they often agree to see and supervise half-Jewish peoples’ entry into Judaism. That’s an advance from from the 1980s when they often either refused to meet with us or met with us and were very chilly.

    Many half-Jewish people then enter a sort of emotional ‘romance’ with Judaism once they have found a rabbi and a shul. That is a natural and positive part of joining any faith-based culture. It is a sort of honeymoon.

    But the upper levels of outreach — congregations posting a few welcoming sentences on their websites, for starters — are still locked against us. Many newly-arrived half-Jewish people don’t see this because they are being exposed to the newly-welcoming lower levels. They think the welcome that they may be getting from an individual rabbi and shul is reflected further up.

    You can test this idea at any time, by asking your rabbi to install welcoming language for half-Jewish people on your shul’s website. Then ask other shuls in your area. Let us know what responses you get. If you get even one positive response, I would be very anxious to hear about it. That would mean that change was finally occurring on this issue. If even one shul would do this, we might be able to persuade others to do it.


  219. Dear Lisa:

    One other thought for you — about the idea you mention that “becoming Jewish is a lot like becoming a citizen of a country” — it may be that your rabbi is using this language to you in the hope of conveying the complexity of Jewish identity to you.

    However, this language is often used in a much darker context — half-Jewish people are often told that they must think of themselves as “immigrants” in Judaism — this language is used as a justification for all the hoops we are required to jump through to join Judaism.

    Be aware that the “citizen” language is often used to justify all kinds of discriminatory barriers and language against us in U.S. Jewish and other Diaspora settings, as in “why do you expect to be treated in a polite manner or accepted as a Jew when you have a Jewish father, or X or Y other concern — Judaism is like a country and you must comply with our immigration regulations.”

    This language is also often used to justify Israel’s appalling treatment of us where we are declared “Jewish” or “not Jewish” by an immigration bureaucracy staffed largely by people who think we should not be considered Jews.

    In fact the “citizen” language forms a deadly, self-reinforcing loop in which American and other Diaspora Jews have justified poor treatment of half-Jewish people because “Israel has citizenship requirements, so it is not just joining a religion” and Israel justifies unpleasant behavior towards us by referring to Diaspora (outside of Israel) religious laws and policies as justifying discriminatory conversion and citizenship policies towards us.

    The “citizen” language also has another subtext — it is often used in contexts that frequently suggest that once a half-Jewish person opts to live as a Jew, they are somehow — even if they are not — an overseas ‘citizen’ of Israel — and must always support Israel’s interests before the interests of the countries where they are actually legal citizens, on pain of not being considered a “real [citizen] Jew.”


  220. Dear Shayna Rose Lax:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! I am pleased that you have found our website comforting and affirming.

    I have sent you by private email a welcoming letter and a PDF report with more information about the Half-Jewish Network that is not on our website.

    If you have additional questions, feel free to let us know.


  221. Cindy

    Hi Robin,
    Just curious, is it easier to convert to Judiasim (i.e. more welcoming, being considered fully Jewish, etc) for someone who is 100% Gentile than it is for half-Jews? Is there some kind of disgust maybe that Judaism feels about us that isn’t felt about non-Jews wanting to convert? It is one reason why I was asking about Karaites and whether they might be more welcoming since they don’t adhere to the oral law.

    Lisa, I didn’t receive your email. 😦

  222. robin h.

    Robin, I was going to ask the same question as Cindy.i.e. are you saying that it is MORE difficult for a half -jewish person to go through a regular conversion process that for a total gentile? I’m always confused by these experiences that you discuss because I can’t quite figure out if you were asking shuls and outreach workers to accept us a jews or asking them to actively invite us to convert…..robin h.

  223. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, Robin and all, it seems there is welcoming language on some websites but not others. I will send you a private email with links. In fact, that was a major element in my early research into are synagogues. It needed to be interfaith-friendly; even if I become Jewish my husband may never feel so inclined. It also needs to be gay- and lesbian-friendly so my extended family could feel welcome at events they might attend. The two I’ve been most active in have been consistently welcoming. It is possible that my experience is unusual even for the bay area and as my experience is very limited compared to yours and I may have generalized something that is not true overall.
    As you said, I am in sort of a honeymoon phase with my love of Judaism – we’ll see what happens. Either things continue to progress, or not. I don’t want to suggest that my path is “the one” for any of your readers, our spiritual journeys may take us to different places, and some are not really looking into a religious community and may be more interested in ethnic and cultural aspects of Jewish life
    Also, my Rabbi didn’t make the citizen analogy – I did, and I haven’t really mentioned this to anyone in the community yet. The handout did however mentioned the issue of whether a conversion would be recognized in Israel, and some Jews would be jerks (his words, not mine) saying a convert is not being a “real” Jew.
    Best regards,

  224. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    @Cindy – sorry my emails are not getting through – I just sent you one more, your first one got through to the email addy I posted so you could try again. Kinda don’t want to post my phone # publicly – will call you if you email your #. Does this make sense?

  225. Dear Cindy:

    In my experience — from what people who underwent conversion who had no Jewish parents told me — and people who were half-Jewish — it is easier in some ways in some Jewish settings for people who are not half-Jewish to convert. But bear in mind it is difficult to generalize — Jewish settings are not all identical and monolithic!

    In some Jewish settings, rabbis and other synagogue and outreach folks appear more comfortable with potential converts who are not Jewish — people who have no Jewish background at all are familiar to them — they have set procedures for their conversions — people with no Jewish parentage usually express a lot of gratitude to the Jewish community for accepting them, etc. They are “gerim” — converts, and fit into a category that the Jewish community understands. It can be very a very “feel good” experience for the Jews involved in overseeing the conversion.

    When half-Jewish people arrive for conversion or integration, it can be very smooth in an accepting shul. But in some instances, half-Jewish people have reported to me that they were told, “well, your Jewish father doesn’t count” and similar types of remarks — who they are has triggered some insecurities or other problems in the Jewish people doing the outreach to them. Half-Jewish people are sometimes encouraged to think of themselves exclusively as “converts” and to minimize their parentage.

    Our life stories represent to some Jews things they don’t want to think about, like intermarriage and blurred boundaries with the non-Jewish world and the possible disappearance of Judaism, and violations of religious laws.

    If you are thinking of conversion, the best thing to do is look at liberal synagogues’ websites online — Reform, Renewal, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Humanistic — and then check out a few of them in person.

    When you find some that you feel comfortable visiting regularly in person — it is kind of like dating — then its time to make an appointment with its rabbi. There are some synagogues that are very accepting, others not so much. Judaism is in an era of change, and the best way to proceed is simply to check out various institutions.

    The difference between Christianity and Judaism in looking for a house of worship and other institutions is that Christians have a centuries-old mandate to convert everyone who crosses their threshold. Now there are cliquey Christian congregations that ignore newcomers, others that overwhelm them, etc. — but they all know, in theory, at least, that they are supposed to be reaching out — it’s their job. Getting a conversion is not usually a problem with Christians — they have other problems.

    Whereas Jewish groups spent centuries shunning intermarried couples and pushing their offspring away, and over the last 30 years some Jewish institutions are now slowly changing course. Certainly there are DNA indicators that some Jewish communities had intermarried couples, but it was generally — as far as I can tell — hushed up — after all, Christians in some countries had passed laws making intermarriage illegal and Jews thought of it as sinful.

    Regarding the Karaites — I respect them, but I doubt that they would be easier on half-Jewish people. They are modern survival of an ancient Orthodox group that separated from Talmudic Judaism over various issues:



  226. Dear Robin H.:

    Yes, it is sometimes — but not always — more difficult for a half-Jewish person to find a Jewish institution with friendly conversion program. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it does happen sometimes, for the reasons I explained to Cindy.

    I have talked with half-Jewish people who wanted to formally convert to Judaism and listened to their descriptions of their conversion programs. I have also read many articles that half-Jewish people have written about their attendance at conversion programs. Some found a lot of support and warmth from the Jews running the programs and their fellow non-Jewish-descent converts — others had more negative experiences. It depends on the individual institution, which is why people considering conversion should “shop around” until they find one they like.

    Robin Margolis

  227. Dear Lisa Jacobsdaughter:

    I’d be interested in seeing your email with links to welcoming language, when you have time, no rush. It sounds like you have been doing your research in searching for friendly rabbi and Jewish institutions, and it is paying off. Your rabbi sounds like he is an honest and caring person, and the handout is truthful, which is important.

    I am glad that your rabbi did not use the “citizen” language — it is often used in a kindly manner to make helpful and complex explanations about Jewish identity easier to understand, but it is also used in darker contexts. Much depends on the person’s intent who is using it.

    Your welcoming experience in your shul is likely not unusual for the Bay area at the “first level” — synagogue welcome. The Bay area hosts one of the most intermarried Jewish communities in the United States. My experience with the Jewish outreach worker involved “second level” — she had written an article on getting shuls to create more welcoming websites, and I wrote her suggesting that she could encourage Bay area shuls to put language on their websites specifically welcoming adult children of intermarriage, and you saw her reply to me above.

    So the ‘second level’ of welcome for us isn’t there yet. Over the next 30 years we may see that ‘second level’ finally appear — website language and programs and welcoming language specifically for half-Jewish people, such as currently exist for interfaith couples. I get exasperated because I have been asking for this ‘second level’ outreach for nearly 3 decades and am getting tired of waiting.

    I hope my remarks in responses to you are not coming across in ways that might seem negative or critical of your gradual entry into the Jewish community. I try to keep a balance between what I know of continuing opposition to outreach to half-Jewish people at the ‘second level’ and the slow changes that are occurring throughout Judaism that are opening up the ‘first level’ to half-Jewish people.


  228. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Robin, I have always felt that you have advocated for me and for all of us at the Half-Jewish Network, so keep telling it like it is. Whether we have good experiences or bad ones in the Jewish community this is the place to share. I do not feel you have been critical of my process but that you want me to be aware the issues so I’m not blindsided.

  229. Steve Katz

    Robin… You’ve put the first piece of the puzzle together with the statement “Judaism is like a country…”. Now, how does ethnicity fit in? The last piece.

  230. Dear Lisa and Steve:

    Lisa: I am glad that my comments on your ideas are coming across as solicitous and based on advocacy for half-Jewish people. I sometimes worry that “full disclosure” of everything I know about the Jewish community will come across as criticism of peoples’ exploration of that culture, which is not my intent.

    Steve: the entire issue of ethnicity within the Jewish community is immensely complicated, with no consensus. They tend to regard someone with two Jewish parents as ethnically Jewish, no matter how that person affiliates, though if that person joins another faith, they may see them as “meshumad” or apostate.

    Half-Jewish people are a different story — the weight given to our DNA fraction of Jewish identity varies from one Jewish community to the next.

    The Jewish media in the Diaspora and Israel, after being hammered for calling half-Jewish people unattractive names, now refers to us (sometimes) as “non-halachic Jews,” “having Jewish roots,” “of Jewish descent,” etc. I personally find these terms annoying, as they blur the very real issues of having two ethnicities, but that’s my opinion.


  231. Cindy

    Robin, I think you are doing a wonderful thing in advocating for half-Jewish people. It is very brave of you in light of all the abuse we face. I also see & hear a lot of anger among Jewish people about our very existence in discussions pertaining to half-Jews.

  232. Steve Katz

    Cindy and Robin,
    I was thinking of mixed race (white -black) children suffering the same abuse as us from children of two black parents or two white parents. To comment on my own statement first, please forgive me, I would say no. My decision has been based on a very reliable source… myself. I am the father of a half black and half me child. At some times it is more frequent for my son than it has ever been for me. Plus he has his Jewish surname thrown into the mix. He always thought it odd that people thought his name strange for a person of his looks.
    He actually looks Puerto Rican. That must really confuse things.

  233. Dear Cindy and Steve:

    Cindy – thank you for your kind words about my work. It has been very difficult sometimes, due to the opposition we face among some Jews, which you also have experienced.

    In addition to sometimes receiving harsh feedback or very chilly silence from some — not all — born Jews, I have recently received three emails from Christian-identified children of intermarriage who think this group is not “tough enough” on the Jewish community. (?????) Two of the emails had profanity.

    I usually receive very polite emails from other half-Jewish people, so this was a new experience. I replied to them that I can’t really get any “tougher” on the Jewish community about half-Jewish issues than I already am.

    This website, for example, is, to my knowledge, the only half-Jewish website that consistently criticizes Israel’s poor treatment of us, and discourages half-Jewish people from making aliyah or serving in the IDF. We are the only half-Jewish website that consistently objects to discrimination against us by Diaspora Jewish communities. No other half-Jewish websites have touched these issues in any deep way.

    But I don’t see trashing the entire Jewish community — which is what they seemed to want — is fair — not all Jewish insitutions oppose our inclusion.

    Steve – on the front page of this website, under “Blogroll,” we maintain links to some multiracial groups — some specifically Jewish, others not, so they might have resources that would be useful to your son. We also have a “Multiracial/Biracial” page that I update from time to time.

    You are correct that biracial children and grandchildren of intermarriage, like your son, do get even more negative feedback than those of us who appear “white” The multracial Jewish groups under the “Blogroll” links do some work on this issue.


  234. Cindy


    I agree with you. Getting “tough” with the Jewish community will only result in their alienating themselves from us further. As a Christian-identified person myself, I am appalled that you were subject to profanity. That is a decidedly un-Christian thing to do!


  235. Dear Cindy:

    I am glad that you think getting “tougher” with the Jewish community would not be a productive strategy. I’m at a loss as to how we could be “tougher.” These half-Jewish people wanted me to actively oppose half-Jewish people joining the Jewish community. I don’t think that would be fair. As a group, we’ve always tried to be even-handed in our approach, helping people who approach us find the spiritual and ethnic path(s) best for them.

    The profanity in their emails was applied to the Jewish community, which had hurt their feelings very badly, but it was disturbing to read in the context of appeals to the Half-Jewish Network. Like you, I’m Christian-identified, but I try to be even-handed in the advice I give.


  236. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    I was wondering why it is important to us to acknowledge our Jewish ancestry as Half-Jews. Certainly we all have other ethnic and racial identities, and often other religious identities as well. When I connected the dots between my Jewish relatives and the pogroms and the Holocaust, I took it personally. When it concerns family, it is personal. There are so many relatives we all had who died before their time. That is true whether we had two Jewish parents or one Jewish great-grandparent. Certainly throughout history part of the definition of being Jewish has been from the surrounding non-Jewish population, as well as from Jewish religious tradition. Because of Jewish religious law, some of us are seen as Jews and some of us are not. I can see following the traditions within Judaism if one practices it as a religion, and the rules vary between the denominations so choose yours carefully (just kidding). Change has happened in my lifetime – those raised as Jews with a non-Jewish mother are accepted in some denominations. Outside of religious settings I’d like to see self-identification be accepted as I do, and “Half-Jewish” is the best label I’ve seen.

  237. Dear Lisa:

    If you check out our “Frequently Asked Questions” page, you’ll see Item “2. Why was the organization named “The Half-Jewish Network”?” which explains some of the reasoning behind why we chose “Half-Jewish” for the group’s name.



  238. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Thanks, Robin, I understand. What I wanted to emphasize was our own self-identity. Now I am wondering if most Jews (and now I mean by religious definition) with only one Jewish parent think of themselves as “half” or do they think of themselves as Jewish and perhaps not even inclined to acknowledge the non-Jewish ancestry? I have met a rabbi who has a mother who converted to Judaism and he has mentioned interesting extended family get-togethers, but I’n not aware if that knowledge is widely known – I think he wouldn’t have mentioned it if it were any kind of secret. I don’t know him well enough to broach the “Half-Jewish” topic and to see how he feels about outreach to us, but am thinking I may do that soon – it could be an interesting conversation.

  239. Dear Lisa:

    Not sure what you mean by “most Jews (and now I mean by religious definition) with only one Jewish parent think of themselves as “half” or do they think of themselves as Jewish, etc.”

    There are multiple religious and ethnic definitions of “who is a Jew” which is laid out in more detail on this page:


    If you are asking how do most half-Jewish people who have affiliated with the Jewish community think of themselves — that’s difficult to say. The Jewish community done very few studies of half-Jewish people. The few studies that exist are flawed by low numbers of participants (usually less than 100). That’s one reason I’m still working on my book, as I hope to assemble a much larger pool of study participants.

    The half-Jewish people I have encountered who identify as Jews have a wide range of identit(ies) ranging from “I’m a real Orthodox Jew because my mother was a Jew and my Christian/non-Jewish half — my dad — doesn’t count under Orthodox law, and I don’t consider children of Jewish fathers to be real Jews” to “I’m secular Jewish, but I am ethnically biracial and had an African-American mother.”

    If you feel like it, ask the half-Jewish rabbi that you have met if his shul or organization would be willing to: (1) put language specifically welcoming half-Jewish people on their shul website; (2) create a one page brochure welcoming us to their institution; and/or (3) set up a monthly discussion group for us. I would be interested to hear his replies.


  240. Hi… again. I think I am finally gonna ‘bite the bullet’ and start down the path of conversion. I am in the process of signing up for a class “Derekh Torah” at the Bronfman Center NYC (92nd St Y). The Rabbi there just returned my call. I’m to call tomorrow for a phone interview. They want to know a bit about me.. I’m sure. It’s a 30 wk in depth class, once a week for 7-8 months. I was suddenly motivated when I re-visited the website of this Reform synagogue that I haven’t been to in ages and there was a new pull down site under conversion, and the Rabbi there (whom I know) was saying that he had received numerous inquiries (none from me) and that he wanted people to first enroll in this class before inquiring.

    I had always thought that I could read and learn on my own. But now I realize the value of the class would be in meeting and talking with other like minded people and studying with as many Rabbis as possible (multiple perspectives). So Lisa I’d be interested in comparing notes with you in your quest. A couple weeks back I went to Shabbat at a neighboring Conservative synagogue (my diving coach’s shul) and actually liked the service better, no musical instrument accompanyment, all acappela chanting. I like both Rabbis. Now I am in a quandry. I like the service at the conservative synagogue but I am likely more “Reform” in my view of Judaism and Jewish life. I’ll have to sort this out eventually…. more later, robin h.

  241. Dear Robin H.:

    That’s great! Please keep us posted on how it goes for you.

    Robin M.

  242. rhelburn

    OK.. I haven’t even started the class and already I have something to share.

    So I called the Rabbi (at the Bronfman Center) back today for the interview. One of the questions (there weren’t many) was something like.. ‘..was I in a relationship with any Jewish person?….’.. I said well… do mean am I dating anyone? ( of course I have relationships with the Jewish people in my family.. i.e. my father and youngest brother and sister (from my Dad’s 3rd marriage to a Jewish woman, so they are Jews).. So I finally had to say ‘well half my DNA is Jewish .. so I must have some relationships with Jews… I said something like that;.. note:I had told him last night on the phone that my reason for wanting to take the class was for eventual conversion). I then said during the interview that it was the wrong half…. So he said .. OHH..! so your father is Jewish. After a bit of hemming and hawing on my part. He then said something like: “..say no more!.. this is different. when you approach a Rabbi for conversion, you should tell him this because it changes / shortens the process… you are already half- way there…”

    I was happy with that response… Robin M. I didn’t know what to think when you said, a while back, that conversion for us half jews can sometimes be harder than for total non-jews.

    Anyway, this was the 1st Rabbi to whom I had confessed a desire to convert… the Rabbi in charge of Jewish education at the Bronfman Center at the 92nd St Y, NYC . I don’t know if all Rabbis would feel that way. That said, he does know the Rabbis at the synagogues in Brooklyn that I have been to.

    nuff said…. too long… sorry… just thought some people might like to know this.

    robin h.

  243. Dear Robin H:

    Thank you for sharing this! It is very refreshing to hear this, as three patrilineal half-Jewish people I have advised over the last three years have quit trying to affiliate with Judaism — in Washington, DC, Florida and London, U.K., respectively — because they were repeatedly told that their Jewish fathers were not enough to claim Jewish identity and other rejecting remarks, etc.

    So it is good to hear of a Jewish institution where having a Jewish father is a plus.

    The Bronfman family of Jewish philanthropists has a heavily-intermarried member, Charles Bronfman — has adult children by several intermarriages — and he has spoken out publicly about the need to welcome non-Jewish spouses and their children.

    I’m hopeful that your welcome at the Bronfman Center stems partially from Charles Bronfman taking a stand on the issue.

    Please let us know — if you would like to — what your classes are like and any additional experiences you may wish to share.


  244. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, Robin, I think I will mention to the rabbi and the executive director my thoughts about inclusion of the adult children/grandchildren of interfaith families in their outreach. I am still figuring how to do this in an articulate way. I will report back to the group.

  245. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, Robin and all, I have been occupied with family matters the past several days. First, Robin H., congrats and may you have good experiences on your Jewish journey. I look forward to comparing notes! I am continuing to feel welcome among the Jews that I meet. Passover had a more personal meaning this year, and for the first time I went to two family seders along with my husband. It was also a very emotional time for me when I attended a service on the last day of passover that is also a yizkor (remembrance) service.
    Robin H., I take advantage of many of the classes and lectures that will add to my knowledge of Judaism. The Judaism 101 class I took sounds similar to the class you will take, but at 12 sessions seemed too short, really a survey class. Over the period of 30 weeks you will learn a lot and also get to know some of your classmates. At Torah study I sometimes feel like a first-year college student in the advanced graduate study seminar. However, it seems that every rabbi I hear is still learning and that helps me feel a bit better about being a beginner. So far I have gone to services of most of the liberal denominations (Conservative is considered to be liberal!) and my rabbi also wants me to experience orthodox services when I am ready. I think it is unusual to be a member of a congregation before converting, but at ours it is required. Mine is unaffiliated and is described as having elements of Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Judaism. So far, Reform services are my least favorite – I think my tastes are more traditional, but my theology (so far) is very liberal.

  246. Dear Lisa:

    Please let us know what the rabbi and executive director say when and if you decide to discuss inclusion of half-Jewish people with them. I would be very interested to hear what they have to say.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences in learning about Judaism with Robin H. and the rest of us. We look forward to hearing more.

    Robin M.

  247. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, all, I had some more thoughts about inclusion of half-Jews. I just joined the Festivals Committee and learned a bit about efforts to include Israelis who live here in Synagogue life, and there may be some parallels with us. They are interested in a specific aspect of Jewish life – festivals! Many of them find American synagogues too religious, and their involvement in Jewish life in Israel was focused around the many festivals. Recently our shul has done a lot of outreach to the Israeli community. It’s hard to say how this started, although a new member, a young Israeli woman, dove right in and headed the organizing of the recent Tu B’Shevat (kind of a Jewish earth day) celebration, and the rabbi worked with her and others to put together a Tu B’Shevat Haggadah with Israeli songs, and there were a couple tables of mostly Israeli people. It was a very fun evening and had a huge amount of volunteer participation, especially food prep and cleanup.
    Now we half-Jews are not a cohesive group, yet I’d guess many of us are interested in Jewish culture – food, dance, art and of course festivals. My question for you, fellow half-Jews, would you come to festivals and other events at a synagogue? What would it take for you to feel welcome?

  248. Hi, everyone:
    I’m sort of Jewish and struggling–my mother converted before I was born in a Conservative congregation. I was raised Reform and Bar Mitzvahed. I always thought of myself as Jewish, but I was forced to attend a horrible, boring Reform Hebrew school and Wednesday services that did not leave me with warm feelings towards the place. My family moved while I was in high school and we found a small, eccentric Reconstructionist group (that no longer exists) of converts and other misfits. Most of the time only Dad went. I participated when out of college or law school, but had the habit of not saying the prayers or singing with the congregation, as that was the only way I could resist the forced services as a child. My Mom said she was sorry they forced young, crying Matt to attend, but the damage is done.

    I met my non-Jewish wife in college. It was the rabbi there who delivered a high holiday sermon that both of us were attending that made some mention of how Jews cannot discuss themselves the way the Christian community can discuss Jews or some other meaningless topic lost in the sands of time. My wife was upset, so I went to talk to him in his office. After finding out what a conservative jerk he was, I stopped any semblance of observance, except when at home and Dad’s feelings might be hurt. My sister just doesn’t do anything Jewish apart from working for a JCC totally incidentally.

    Independent research during college revealed the Halakhic identity problems. Since my sense of religious identity was as a liberal or secular Jew, it took a greater hit. Also, I majored in philosophy, and as Steve Martin has [more or less] said of the philosophy undergrad work, “You learn just enough philosophy in college to mess you up for the rest of your life.”

    I live in a pretty rural place. We’re at least 45 minutes from any Jewish group. It’s the time in my life when I need to consider children. My wife and I had agreed that bringing them up as liberal Jews would be acceptable, but when I think about how alienated I am as a result of my own religious upbringing, I’m sort of at a loss as to what I should do. I told my wife I would never expect her or any prospective children to do what I am not willing to do, and given that my mom seems to regret her conversion, I am not willing to push my wife in any way. Overall, I think I want to live an agnostic, non-religious life. Every time I think that, some part of me cringes and recoils and then I experience guilt and a sense of betrayal relating to my dad and my former sense of identity.

    I’ve given other Jewish denominations a try. I attended a Conservative-style Reconstructionist group, a different small Reconstructionist group a couple of times, an open non-denominational group, and a typical large Reform group, all in the DC area. I didn’t like them. They all felt “wrong.” I feel more religious in a bar than in a synagogue.

    I’ve looked into Buddhism and decided against it, and Christianity is simply not of the slightest interest to me. I am just about finished with Hicthens’ God is Not Great and I am pretty much in sympathy with his views. I think I have some cognitive dissonance between my rational beliefs, moving me towards secularism, and my emotions, desiring not to leave a hole where I used to believe my Judaism was, just in case I ever wanted to go back and be religious. Hitchens asks whether raising a child in a religion before the age of reason might be a form of child abuse. My own experience suggests that it might. Maybe it’s my nature as a half-Jewish person manifesting.

    Given that I am in a rural place, does anybody here have suggestions or ideas for ameliorating my identity confusion, or just encouraging words? It seems lonely to be in this position now. I’ve talked to my parents about the issue–my dad is unable or unwilling to address the issues and my mom says they’re proud my sister and I can decide what we want to believe. That’s nice, but it doesn’t provide me with direction.


  249. Dear Lisa:

    Replying will take two posts. First post, what won’t work. Second post, what will work.

    In my experience, many half-Jewish people don’t know enough about Judaism to see festivals as a form of outreach. They may not know what a particular festival symbolizes or means. They may never have heard of the festival and be uncertain how to act during it.

    Understand that the half-Jewish people raised as Jews know about Jewish festivals, but they may already be embedded in the Jewish community.

    Your outreach population will be the much larger numbers of half-Jewish people raised outside of Judaism in other faiths or no faith, who likely will know little or nothing about Judaism’s festivals.

    Remember the Israeli Jewish population you are referring to are already accepted as Jews by the shuls and are seeking Jewish celebrations similar to those they have already experienced. They are not dealing with uncertainty about being Jewish and a possible history of rejections, nor are they dealing with little or no knowledge about Judaism.

    Also half-Jewish people showing up at a festival can’t be sure of a warm welcome. It only takes one born Jew saying, “You don’t look Jewish” or “But you are not a Jew according to halacha” to end the interaction.

    I once dealt with a group of outreach workers who wanted to hold an Israel Independence Day festival to outreach interfaith families. I said, “That’s not a good idea. Interfaith families are aware that Israel isn’t friendly to us and has laws and policies against us.” The outreach workers were angry with me, even though I was telling them the truth. In fact, they ignored my warning and held the festival anyway. I don’t know the outcome, but I am guessing the attendance was mostly born Jews.

    You see the gap between the established Jewish community’s understanding of us and our reality?

    Next post — what will work.


  250. Dear Lisa:

    Here is what will work. It’s already been tried successfully several times, but the Jewish community baulks at doing it again for reasons that will become clear.

    Half-jewish people interested in living as Jews have repeatedly expressed to me their desire to meet each other and talk about their concerns in a half-Jewish or “adult children of intermarriage” group sponsored by a Jewish institution.

    I have tried to persuade Jewish institutions to do this. 99 percent refused — excuses were “children of intermarriage don’t want to be treated differently” — how would born Jews know this when they seldom talk with us? — “it will upset the interfaith couples in our shul, they don’t want to hear that their kids will have problems when they grow up” — etc.

    However, I did manage to persuade one West Coast JCC to host a six week discussion group for half-Jewish people. I have also seen this tactic tried by other adult children of intermarriage activists. Here’s what happened.

    The JCC set a topic for discussion each week, explanations about Judaism, maybe one film. The JCC reported to me and a group of outreach officials in a phone conference after the six weeks was over.

    The JCC staffer reporting to us said the group was small — not surprisingly, since few adult half-Jewish people have ever been specifically invited into the Jewish community — but the group was extremely cohesive. Every one of the 8 people signed up for it showed up for each meeting for six weeks. All of the group participants seemed to like each other. They were were all ages and different economic groups. Everyone behaved in a respectful manner to each other.

    The JCC staff member then said they “might do it again sometime” — Jewish communal worker code for: “we aren’t satisfied with the outcome and won’t hold this function again.”

    I asked the JCC staffer why she wasn’t jubilant? I pointed out that it is a near-miracle that 8 people would faithfully show up at a Jewish institution for anything once a week for six weeks, and also get along well despite many age and cultural differences.

    The JCC staffer said that she was uncomfortable with the fact that the half-Jewish people came from all ages and backgrounds. It seriously bothered her.

    Then there was this unpleasant silence among the other Jewish outreach workers on the phone call. It was clear that they agreed with this JCC, but felt they could not tell me why. I eventually figured it out from conversations in other Jewish outreach contexts — the JCC had hoped for 10 to 15 half-Jewish people who would be 20somethings with high salaries and good jobs.

    The JCC was gravely displeased to have half-Jewish people of all ages and incomes and backgrounds in the group. They were unwilling to try to ‘grow’ the half-Jewish group to a larger size if it didn’t deliver the population group they sought.

    Here’s a second experience — a born Jewish Conservative rabbi created a monthly half-Jewish group on the East Coast — they would talk about half-Jewish issues and Judaism in general. The group rarely had more than 6 to 8 people in attendance, but it was very successful in terms of half-Jewish people ultimately affiliating as Jews. Near the end of the rabbi’s tenure, the group actually secured a tiny funding grant.

    When the rabbi retired, the successor rabbi abruptly canceled the group and reallocated its funding elsewhere. Evidently the group was not recruiting the type of Jews he deemed desirable.

    Lisa, this tactic will work if the sponsoring institution is: (1) willing to accept that the group may be small, but cohesive; (2) the group will produce new shul members if encouraged to join and treated in a kindly manner; and (3) it should be strictly for half-Jewish people — I saw one half-Jewish discussion group collapse when Jews recovering from mental illness were directed into a half-Jewish group on the grounds that they need socializing opportunities — not a good decision, because it completely disregarded the real needs of both populations.

    If you decide to start such a half-Jewish discussion group, contact me privately at my email address, and I can tell you in more detail what was done that made those groups successful.


  251. Dear Matthew: I have already sent you a long private email reply, so I will just add one suggestion. There is a Jewish atheist/agnostic group, Humanistic Judaism, which might meet your needs:


    They are very friendly to interfaith families and held one of the first scholarship conferences on half-Jewish people.


  252. Dear Lisa: I just thought of another example of a half-Jewish discussion group where a Jewish institution sponsored it, the event was successful, it was held once more, and then the institution refused to hold another event like it.

    Several years ago — all of my examples occurred within the last 10 to 15 years — a Jewish interfaith family outreach group in an East Coast city held a one day workshop for half-Jewish people. I had nothing to do with it — another half-Jewish activist organized it, just as the born Jewish Conservative rabbi in my earlier reply to you organized her monthly half-Jewish group with no connection to the Half-Jewish Network.

    Anyway, the half-Jewish activist’s one day workshop for half-Jewish people was extremely successful. At least 16 half-Jewish people from varied backgrounds showed up. The photograph of their workshop showed them all smiling from ear to ear.

    That institution held a second event, somewhat similar, a year later. That also attracted half-Jewish people. That Jewish outreach institution has never held any further gatherings for half-Jewish people, despite diligently and regularly holding a variety of events for interfaith couples and Jewish couples whose children have intermarried — our Jewish grandparents, in other words.

    I decided to casually write this institution after a few years, mention that I saw records online of these two workshops, and suggest that while I had had no connection with the people who organized them — very nice people, I might add — it might be worthwhile for the outreach institution to consider having similar workshops at some point.

    I’ve written them four times — about once a year — for four years — suggesting that they consider this. Each time someone different is delegated to reply to me. Each time there is a different excuse for not doing this. They have never said to me that the workshops went badly or that the half-Jewish activist who organized them did anything wrong — those reasons I would have understood.

    Instead, I have received patently false reasons — no funding — how much funding does it take to sponsor a one-day discussion? — etc.

    The half-Jewish workshops clearly produced results that made them uneasy, and they won’t use this successful tactic again. I can tell from online records that the two workshops were successful and harmonious.

    So if you can get your shul to sponsor a monthly half-Jewish discussion group, and persuade them to be patient when 6- to 8 people with widely varying backgrounds show up — that would definitely work.


  253. Hi Lisa and Robin M.

    May I join this conversation about outreach? (far be it that I would know anything on the subject..). It seems to me that it would be important to see things from the perspective of the shul in question (not just our wants and needs). What does any shul or jJewish organization want?? (1) to make more Jews according to their definition (Reform, Reconstructionist… whatever), (2) increase Shul membership (according to their membership requirements) and (3) enhance the financial vitality of the institution. With those things in mind it easy to see why things like group diversity and cohesiveness are at best tangentially related, and why they favor interaction with interfaith couples (potential for raising children as Jews). From their perspective us half Jews need to be educated and to know what our options are, and if some event would promote that and lead to an increase in their number of congregants and conversion prospects then I think a liberal synagogue would open to that.

    So Lisa.. how about this? Instead of asking to be able to hold some event (which could make you uncomfortable or feel like like you are over-reaching), why not throw the ball in their court. Why not pose it as a question? and say something like “Would there be there something, some event that I could help with that might create more recruits such as myself? I am happy to help and could contribute ideas that might draw in more persons like myself…. ” This way you offer to be of service while protecting yourself and your desire to feel at home in this synagogue.

    Just my thoughts

    robin h.

  254. Dear Robin H.:

    I’d be interested in what reply Lisa would get when she asks her shul about their willingness to outreach adult half-Jewish people.

    If you scroll further back up on the message board, you’ll see our initial discussions where Lisa suggested that her shul would likely welcome half-Jewish people and be wiling to engage in low-key measures to reach them.

    I’m suggesting that she test that idea and see what happens.

    I think it is important to establish where a Jewish institution stands on half-Jewish people before any of us half-Jewish people as individuals invests substantial personal time and money as a volunteer or a paid worker for that institution.

    Robin H., I am weary of hearing about Jewish institutions’ priorities because I have to ask — why do they seldom include outreach to us?

    Shouldn’t half-Jewish people be treated as a valuable group to outreach, the same as other Jewish sub-populations?

    I have repeatedly dealt with half-Jewish people — myself included –who felt that they had to prove themselves to shuls and Jewish institutions by doing a lot of volunteer work or paid work for them before they could ask for any outreach to half-Jewish people.

    So they did a lot of work, often for years, and finally, after establishing that they cared about the institutions’ welfare and the institutions’ outreach to every other Jewish subgroup imaginable, they would realize that there wasn’t any outreach to half-Jewish people by their institution and — based on what they’d learned about their institution’s attitudes from years of laboring for them — likely never would be.

    These volunteers — myself included — had exhausted themselves and spent a great deal of their personal time and money on helping their Jewish institutions recruit every other imaginable Jewish sub-group — but never anyone like themselves.

    Before Lisa gives her shul a lot of time or money, I suggest that she check out whether they are willing to do anything for half-Jewish people. Are they willing to experiment with a small discussion group for half-Jewish people? Are they willing to add “we welcome adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage” to their existing language — if any — that specifically welcomes interfaith couples? These are very small, low-cost/no-cost ideas.


  255. Robin M.

    I hear ya and I don’t know the answer. All I do know (and I constantly have to remind myself) is that religion is not a rational construct, and religious institutions and groups exist because they feed a fundamental human need, and in doing so, their ‘modus operandi’ is not always reasonable, just or kind.

    I think persons of mixed heritage will always struggle until they find their niche (..fatalistically said… perhaps the one that is meant to be…).In my case, I don’t think any amount of signage on a synagogue would have affected me. I had to find myself at a place and time and in the company of certain people where I realized that my Jewish self was actually the side I was most aligned with, and that all the stereotypes I had built up in my mind growing up were unjustified.

    I believe becoming Jewish is a slow process; one of gradual learning and acclimation; one can’t go too fast or expect too much and there is no honeymoon (in my view). But everytime I put some effort in, I seem to get something in return. I guess I am selfish in that I can’t imagine getting involved in synagogue activities (recruiting etc) when I’m still just trying to get through the door (literally). This past week I went w/ colleague to attend a seminar entitle “Talmud for the Timid’ (I said to my colleague that I was timid so I guess I needed to go and he said he was too..believe it or not..and that he sometimes needed prodding to just get through the door). Well the seminar had been cancelled but instead there was one on Shavuot and its meaning and relation to Pesach. And it was great, There was some deep discussion and little tidbits relating to welcoming of outsiders and I felt that my comments caused a lot of that discussion. This was that Conservative synagogue I spoke of previously (that Ithink I’m liking better).

    Robin, I think this website and message board has been one of the most helpful in my journey… watching listening and learning from other peoples’ experiences. This IS where where us half Jews will learn and get tips. It is resources like this that help to smooth the way, even though we are all different.This is where the meaningful discussion (and yes debate!) can occur.

    robin h.

  256. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Thank you, Robin and Robin H. for all your thoughtful comments. I get the kind of feedback here I don’t get anywhere else. Robin H., I think you hit the nail on the head. I believe I had a spiritual need that came to the surface after my father’s death a year ago. Then I was blindsided by some health issues including a cancer diagnosis, followed several months later by good news that I am currently cancer-free. The prayers about the body and health took on a very personal meaning. Coming to services gives me something I don’t get from therapy or family (and I have a very supportive husband). I’ve only begun to feel strong physically and emotionally the past few months and I still feel very self-protective. I am also dealing with an aging mother and am fortunate that my brother has taken the primary role in helping her. So you can see I need to carefully choose my battles.There may be a time when I can initiate a larger effort such as starting a peer group for half-Jewish people.
    I prefer for the current time to take a low-key approach, sharing a bit of my story with individuals as well as the rabbi. I came in through my daughter’s interest, not through the website or even a friend. I am not suggesting my approach for anyone else unless they have a daughter like mine. Interesting – my rabbi has said when people call and want to meet him he always suggests they come to a service or two first to see if they like it here. Sure, the rabbi is important, but so is the rest of the community. It took me 3 years from my first visit so you could say I like it.
    Robin, in part because of your cautionary tales, I feel more confident and supported, and it’s OK for us to explore, question and even disagree.
    Best regards to all,

  257. Dear Robin H. and Lisa:

    Robin H. — very wise thoughts — I value your common sense and shrewd insights! You are correct that religion is not a “rational construct.”

    Lisa — definitely support picking your battles in situation that you describe! I am pleased that you find the message board useful and that the cautionary tales are not too “wet blanket” in their effect.

    Robin M.

  258. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Thank you, Robin. I am continuing on the path to becoming Jewish and as I tell this to more people I’ve had several respond they thought I was already a Jew! I am also meeting more Jews by choice here – one converted a year before her daughter’s bat mitzvah, another was invited by the rabbi when there was a cancellation at the beit din and the miikvah (by this time he had been married to a Jew for 20 years and raised a daughter).
    Robin H., thanks for your feedback and support – yes, religion is not a rational construct and we humans are definitely complex beings!
    A bit off-topic, but very happy news – my daughter who lives in Montreal is coming to visit this June!
    Thanks to all of you for being here,

  259. Dear Lisa:

    Glad your daughter is coming to visit in June and keep us posted on how things go with your shul!

    Robin M.

  260. Maddie

    I still think it would be so great to have a convention for half-Jews. Perhaps near but not overlapping with Christmas would be a good time, as college students across the board are usually on break then and would be able to travel and attend. I also have much appreciated this board during my journey from patrilineal Reform Jew as a kid to an adult who is dating a more traditional Jew who will eventually want me to convert to conservative Judaism.

    Robin, we were in contact a while back. My name is Maddie. If you start planning a convention and need assistance with tasks, feel free to email me!

  261. Dear Maddie:

    Good hearing from you again! I will add your offer to help with a future convention to an e-file I keep of all suggestions and advice about a future conference.

    Once we have 500 sign-ups for our email newsletter, then I would be willing to start actual planning, as we would then have a large enough base to assure attendance at the conference. We have 163 subscribers, so we are slowly working our way towards the desired number.

    I will email you privately with updated information about the Half-Jewish Network.


  262. Cindy

    I recently visited the Karaite Jewish synagogue in Daly City as we happened to be in the area on a Saturday. It was amazing to me how warm and welcoming they were. They had just finished their worship and invited us to join them for snacks. To me, especially, it was different because they consider me a Jew and not my husband. So opposite of what usually happens when we visit JCC’s and shuls. They were quite interested in me and invited us back. So amazing for me! Anyway, if there are any patrilineals who wish to worship as Jews, find a Karaite shul. You would be welcomed. Just thought I’d pass that along…

  263. Maddie

    Cindy, that’s so nice! I think the only US Karaite synagogue is in California though, correct? I wonder if maybe there are some smaller groups of them in other parts of the country.

    I am transferring schools this year and my new one is a large U about 15% Jewish. If you would like me to try to get the word out about the Half-Jewish network and have any ideas of how I could do so, feel free to let me know!!

  264. Maddie

    Maybe a Facebook page for the Half-Jewish network would help? That way people could easily invite their half-Jewish friends.

  265. Dear Maddie:

    Please excuse the delay in replying to you!

    I will save your suggestion in my e-file on “Half-Jewish Network Convention Suggestions.” We had discussed setting up a Facebook page for the convention when we start planning in a few years, and I am hopeful that we will do so.

    At the present time, we don’t have a Facebook page for the group for several reasons:

    1. Facebook has serious privacy and ‘drama’ problems. I did not enjoy my previous personal Facebook account, to put it mildly.

    2. Some half-Jewish people are not (yet) Facebook users.

    3. I’d have to maintain the Facebook page at the same level of supervision that I give this page — monitoring comments to make sure that spam, hate postings, flame wars etc. are removed, updating information, making sure only half-Jewish people post on the site, etc.

    That’s extra work for myself as a volunteer.

    However, when our email newsletter sign-up reaches 500 people, and we then start planning a conference, I’d be willing to put up a test Facebook page for the conference, as the time, energy and annoyance factors might be outweighed by the additional publicity.

    Also, there might be a viable Facebook alternative in a few years that would be more careful and respectful of peoples’ privacy. Or Facebook might have changed some of its current ‘personal data mining’ policies that make using it uncomfortable sometimes.

    So I’m waiting until we settle down to serious conference planning in a few years to try Facebook for this group. But I will save your suggestion in the “Conference” e-file.


  266. Dear Maddie:

    You had mentioned: “I am transferring schools this year and my new one is a large U about 15% Jewish. If you would like me to try to get the word out about the Half-Jewish network and have any ideas of how I could do so, feel free to let me know!!”

    Robin replies: If you start mentioning the Half-Jewish Network to any other half-Jewish people you meet at your new school that would be much appreciated. Feel free to send them a link to this website. I can then send them our free email info packet and welcome them.

    Also, if you wished, you could start a half-Jewish discussion or dinner group at your school or even a one-time get-together of students who identify as half-Jewish. I could talk with you more about what that might be like if you are interested.


  267. Maddie

    Hi Robin,

    Thanks for your responses! I have noticed that when half-Jewish issues arise on online forums, it often leads to flame wars. I can see how a Facebook page could be very troublesome and maybe even counterproductive in that way!

    I would definitely be interested in learning more about how I could go about starting a half-Jewish group or event at my new school. I have a couple half-Jewish acquaintances there but haven’t spoken to them for a few years and am not sure if they are interested in half-Jewish issues. I’m interested in any ideas you might have, and additionally any ideas of how to bring up this topic, either with my acquaintances or the Hillel. I read your article about how Jewish outreach workers relate to half-Jews and liked your phrasing about “embedding” oneself in the local Hillel. If you want to email me your ideas or post here, I would be very receptive.


  268. Dear Maddie:

    I will email you privately, and we can discuss various options for what you might want to do.


  269. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Happy 4th of July, to those celebrating! I have the opportunity to have free genetic testing through my synagogue. A company is providing this service to collect information and probably promote their service as well. I am not expecting any big surprises, yet I’ve always been curious about a rumor of a native American ancestor that I could never verify. We Americans often have very interesting backgrounds… I’ll let you know what I discover.
    Also, last month we had a lovely visit from our daughter and a family reunion of sorts for 4 days at the beach. It was also fun to go to Torah study and services together.

  270. jayyyblock

    I’m so confused on which Chicago congregations are open and accepting towards children of intermarriage who were raised without any religion. I am a third generation matrilinial Jew (ie a maternal Jewish grandmother), with a paternal Jewish grandfather as well. That is, both my parents are “halfies” as well. I can’t figure out if I’d have to convert if I joined a Reform temple, which is just one I’ve looked at. I would convert, but I don’t want to look stupid with all these questions most Jews who were raised that way would know as children. Even just looking at congregation’s websites is confounding to me. I know I should probably just talk to some rabbis, but…

  271. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, jayyyblock,
    I certainly don’t have the answers to all of your questions but I do have some thoughts. One thing I’ve discovered is that many Jews, along with many of us half-jews, were not raised religiously or in many cases did not engage in religious life after bar/bat mitzvah, so there are a lot of people who are now trying to learn about and become involved in Judaism. This was the case in my Judaism 101 class. So don’t let lack of Jewish knowledge dissuade you. I began by attending services and now that I’ve been regularly attending for almost a year, I feel like a full participant. I am in the process of conversion – since I am a patrilineal Jew with no religious upbringing I am not considered Jewish. The great thing about the conversion process is the educational aspect. This of course will be different in each synagogue. I have studied Jewish history, the Siddur, prayer, an intro. Hebrew class (basically to learn the alef-bet), and will be studying a section of the Talmud, and meeting with the Rabbi on a regular basis. I know it’s intimidating to be such a beginner as an adult, but you are not alone. I have talked to rabbis, and they have all been encouraging and helpful. So best wishes in your explorations!

  272. Mark T.

    I don’t know whether I fit in anywhere here – Viennese assimilationist Jewish grandparents; when my father was 7 his widowed mother had him and herself baptised (catholic). 1938 he fled as a refugee to England, I was born after the war, my mother English not Jewish, not religious. I wasn’t baptised but no Jewish cultural background at home either. Grew up in England, family friends tended to be people with a similar Jewish background. Now I live in Germany. Go figure…
    My main identification with the Jewish people concerns the historical experience of assimilation and betrayal. I also have great respect for the remorse felt by many Germans for what they did and their honesty in coming to terms with it.
    Now here’s my issue: My father (died 1982) had twenty-one cousins – never told me! Three died in the concentration camps, as I have since found out. But there is only a page of testimony at Yad Vashem for one of them. The other two (spinster aunts that stayed to look after their aged parents) are nameless. One had left Judaism and become non-religious, the other was baptised protestant.
    I am thinking of writing pages of testimony for them. My question: are most people (I mean especially, but not only, Jews) happy with Christian converts having pages of testimony at Yad Vashem, or is there a problem with that?

  273. Andrew

    Hi, I’m the son of a non practicing Jewish father who was raised orthodox but rejected that life and married a Australian cristian woman , my mother. we were raised cristian but celebrated the major Jewish festivals with some of my father’s family that were in australia. I have always known of my Jewish roots but been told that I am not Jewish , technically at least. Yet I have owned a yumulkie (not sure of the spelling) my whole life and my families shabas candle sticks still sit on the cabinet in my loungeroom. I have always felt a sense of my jewishness sometimes stronger than at other times but always it remains, a part of me but unavaliable to me , frustrated by the internal contradiction I wondered if other people like me felt this way, I talked with my father about it and he was open with me but he has the experiance of a Jewish man not a half Jewish man and could not relate, that is how I found this website it is the next thing I have found in that search to relate to people like me

  274. Dear jayyyblock:

    Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism count half-Jewish people as Jews if they were raised as religious or secular Jews from birth and do not practice another faith. If a half-Jewish person was not raised as a secular or religious Jew, but was raised in another faith, then Reform and Reconstructionist congregations usually ask that person to convert to Judaism.

    See the “Who Is A Jew” page on this website, which contains information about what each group in Judaism thinks about partially-Jewish identity and parentage:


    Your best best is to look at the Chicago Jewish congregation websites, and then go “shul shopping” — attend services or other functions at a few of the congregations.

    When you find one that you especially like, and wish to return to, then you may wish to make an appointment with that congregation’s rabbi.

    Don’t worry about appearing ignorant. Many Jews with two Jewish parents are raised nowadays with no religious or secular Jewish education of any kind.

    Best of luck and keep us posted on what happens!


  275. Dear Mark T.:

    If you have one Jewish parent and one Christian parent, you definitely belong here!

    Regarding your Jewish dad dying without telling you about his relatives — it is common for many Holocaust survivors to have lots of secrets from the families that they started after the Holocaust. Some families discover that a Holocaust survivor had a previous spouse and children who died and the survivor never told his/her post-Holocaust spouse and kids about his/her previous family.

    Regarding your inquiry about submitting information to Yad Vashem about your Jewish relatives who died in the Holocaust who were assimilated, and/or lived as Christians — I doubt Yad Vashem would mind that. They seem to be focused on getting information about people who died in the Holocaust.

    Here is a link to their information submission page:


    They also have a “Contact Us” link here, where you could contact them about your concern:


    I would be very surprised if Yad Vashem took only information about Jews who weren’t assimilated or only practiced Judaism — that would leave out a large number of German and Austrian Jews who died in that era!

    If you have any difficulties with Yad Vashem, consider trying the U.S. Holocaust Museum and donating your information to them. Here is a link:


    It is kind of you to take the time to memorialize your relatives. Let us know how it goes!


  276. Dear Andrew:

    You are not alone! Many of us have grown up with a Jewish “half” or a Christian or other cultural “half” that we could not really access due to family decisions about how to raise us as children or due to barriers within the Jewish community or other faith-based and secular cultures.

    Many of us are left with religious or secular objects or symbols from one or both parental cultures, but no clear sense of how they fit into our lives.

    I saw an message on another website from a Jewish-identified half-Jewish person, who was raised as a Jew, identifies as a Jew — but recently realized his family told him nothing about his mother’s Scottish Christian ancestry, and was searching for other half-Jewish people who had half-Scotch Christian ancestry.

    So this missing “half” phenomenon appears in many different ways.

    If you read many of the posts on this Message Board, you will see posts similar to yours.

    Regarding you feeling cut-off from your Jewish “half” — what you do about connecting with it depends on how you identify. If you want to live as a Jew, we could talk about what that would involve in Australia in terms of finding a synagogue, or secular Jewish groups, which groups would expect you to convert, and which ones would not, etc.

    If you do not want to live as a Jew, but want to integrate that part of yourself better, you could start by reading more about Judaism online — there are many informative websites on our “Jewish Resources” page:


    If none of these resources meet your needs, we can recommend others.

    Many of us struggle to integrate parts of “other” ethnic and religious heritages that we were not given information about or ways to express them. There is no “one size fits all” solution — each one of us works out how we want to express the other “half.”

    If you need more information, please let us know.


  277. Andrew

    Hi robin
    Thanks for your response.
    It seems like such a complicated thing it is hard to know where to start with it all.one of the questions that I wonder about is why does the orthodox and conservative Jews have such resistance to the children of intermarriage, it seems important in trying to decide wether I would want to be a part of a institution that would seek to exclude me and also wether I could in good concience adopt that attitude in the future to exclude people just like me . Also I’m currious about the signifigance of the blood line running through the mother and not the father and has it always been like that throughout history

  278. Cindy

    Hi Andrew,

    I completely relate to your experience. Mine is very similar. Matrilineal descent was not always the case. It began around 200 CE. Before that time, you were Jewish if your father was Jewish, and some Jewish sects still practice that (e.g. Karaite Jews). If you read the “old” testament, you will see how all genealogy was recorded through the father’s line. Rabbinate Judaism is the most recent; they added the oral law to the Talmud. If you put the Mosaic law before the oral law, you are Jewish. If you put the oral law before the written law, you are not.

    It is frustrating and confusing. I feel for those patrilineals who want to be Jewish, and it makes me angry they are not accepted. I am comfortable being a Christian, so I don’t feel the need to be included, but I would still like to be an “Israelite” because genetically that is my heritage too.


  279. Dear Andrew:

    Glad that my reply was of use to you!

    Cindy’s answer is pretty comprehensive, but if you would like more information on why some Jews have such resistance to including some half-Jewish people within the Jewish community — the resistance is concentrated within the Orthodox and Conservative Jewish communities, and the state of Israel, but is not confined just to them — there are pockets of continuing resistance elsewhere in Judaism — you may wish to read our “Who Is A Jew” web page here:


    This web page gives a complete history of the many different ways that Judaism has determined Jewish ancestry throughout history, and some idea of why resistance to inclusion of half-Jewish people continues among some Jews.

    Like Cindy, I currently live as a Christian, but I strenuously object to the continuing disparaging “not Jewish enough” comments about half-Jewish people within some groups in the Jewish diaspora (Jewish communities outside of Israel) and the discriminatory laws and social policies against us that exist in Israel as extremely damaging to half-Jewish people whether they identify as Jews or as members of other faith-based and secular communities.

    Most Christian-majority religious sects and secular democracies have given up the disparaging attacks and restrictive laws on intermarried couples and half-Jewish people that existed until the end of World War II — the Holocaust caused a major change in most Christian-majority democracies in terms of their ideas on this subject — and it is time that Judaism did the same.

    The only half-Jewish people who have reported to me large numbers of attacks on them outside of Judaism are usually living in Christian-majority Eastern European countries that have continuing anti-Semitism problems and were part of the former Soviet Union until 1989, such as Lithuania, or are living in very strict Islamic-majority countries, such as the Republic of the Sudan.

    I have never understood why the government of Israel and some segments of the Jewish community elsewhere would want to emulate behavior towards us that exists in some parts of Lithuania or the Republic of the Sudan.


  280. Dear Andrew:

    I should also mention, in the interests of fairness, that I sometimes — very rarely — hear from half-Jewish people who have met with poor receptions among Christian family, friends, co-workers, and churches while being treated warmly in Jewish settings.

    The complaints I’ve had about poor Christian treatment of us — at least in the U.S. — mostly have come from people who grew up in earlier eras when anti-Semitism was much stronger in the U.S. — but I did have a recent complaint from a much younger person, who felt that this website ignored that aspect of some of our lives, and who had experienced a strong welcome from his Jewish associates, while being treated poorly by Christian friends and family.

    Also, regarding Muslim majority countries — I don’t get complaints from half-Jewish people so much as a great fear of discovery — they want complete confidentiality in their emails — so I am guessing that in some very strict Islamic societies, they fear discovery, which suggests that they might not be treated very well if the people around them found out about their Jewish-Muslim ancestry.

    Just making these clarifications in the interest of fairness.


  281. MK

    Just wanted to say hello;
    I have been browsing through this website for a while and I just had to write something about myself.I am a daughter of a jewish father and a non-jewish mother. My identity has always been a complicated issue. From my childhood I was very drawn to judaism(it was actually only religion I knew, because my mom was not a member of any religious community). Conversion(orthodox) was my goal for a very long time and I nearly made it through, but under current circumstances it is most probably impossible. At the moment I am exploring my identity and trying to find some kind of balance.
    For a long time I have been alone with my feelings and my identity crisis. I have relatives and friends who have listened and supported me during these difficult times, but they can’t really understand my situation.
    I was so relieved to find others who have similar experiences.


  282. Dear MK:
    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    You are definitely not alone in your struggle with identity issues.

    I am sorry to hear that your Orthodox Judaism conversion has run into roadblocks. Is there any advice any of us can give you about making that easier? Alternatively, is there any advice that we can give you about conversion to Judaism in another denomination?

    I know these identity issues are especially painful during the High Holidays and Sukkot, which are currently going on.

    While I was not an Orthodox Jew during the time I spent in Judaism, I studied it extensively, including its prayer books, mystical Kabbalah texts, the laws (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch) and the Hasidic stories and theological treatises, so I can empathize with your desire to join it.

    I am happy to hear that you have relatives and friends who have listened to you and supported you as you struggled with this situation. We understand that since they are likely born Jews with two Jewish parents or born Christians with two Christian parents, they don’t totally “get” what you are dealing with.

    I have sent you privately an email info packet about the group and its work, containing information that is not on our website, including our history, goals, why the group was founded, and a little bit about my personal history.

    If there are any thoughts we can offer you, please let us know. I can also be reached privately, at the email address I used when I sent you the information packet.

    Many blessings,

  283. Seren

    I have a Jewish father, a mother who converted to Reform Judaism, grew up in UK Reform Jewish community and was told to identify as Jewish. Israel was the golden country, aliyah the ideal aim. I absorbed these values without question and viewed Israel with love, allegiance, admiration and awe.

    Of course however throughout my childhood I was aware that there was a silent implicit necessity to diminish my mother’s identity- or risk outright rejection myself. I experienced one off events of callous rejection from the community I lived amongst from pre school age. The impact of these experiences was compounded by the fact that as a family we were both physically and culturally miles away from my mother’s original family and community: so the Jewish community was literally all I had ever known- and still substantial elements of it rejected me.

    This really came to the fore in my early twenties where I received the message loud and clear that I was deemed inherently spiritually and racially inferior because of my mother’s background. The damage this did to my self esteem was unforgiveable. And the only option available to somehow rebuild myself so I could be a functioning human being with a modicum of self respect, was to reject Judaism and the Jewish community in equal measure to its rejection of me.

    A few years on I married a lovely ‘gentile’ man, we have kids and we are a happy family. I cannot believe how incredibly lucky I am. My life is infinitely better now than I ever imagined it would be.

    And I wish with all my heart that that would be the end of it.

    But of course it can’t be- half my family, who I love, are Jewish. I find myself putting the Jewish perspective across in environments where noone else has any Jewish connection at all, yet are discussing issues regarding the Jewish community and Israel- unfortunately I’m often shocked at how ignorant and conspiracy theorist people can be. My own children have started coming home from school wanting to know what they are- ‘mummy are we Christian or Jewish?’- ‘ err I don’t know’- ‘ well do we celebrate Christmas or Canada?’- ‘ Do you mean Chanukkah?’ -‘ That’s what I said mummy! Christmas or Canada??’- I’m actually quite up for celebrating Canada, just for a laugh.

    But seriously, as much as I do not want to even acknowledge it, as my current life is lovely, it IS still a problem. Just as much as the clear cut rejection from some other Jews does not bring resolution or clarity, the decision that I made myself to move away from my original ‘Jewish’ identity has not brought me resolution or clarity either- or peace of mind.

    All I want is to be accepted and wanted for whatever it is that I am, as part of a larger community somewhere. And I want my children to be accepted and wanted by a larger community somewhere as well. Surely that’s a reasonable request?

  284. Seren

    Really wonderful to read so many stories. Such varied experiences yet also many recurrent themes amongst them. Your site is filling a gap for a group of people who are so often ignored. It is an intelligent, sensitive and informative resource which I am really pleased to get to read.

  285. An interesting post concerning people who ‘half-Jewish’:


    “I’ve just finished Susan Katz Miller’s Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family. This is a book which pushed some of my buttons, nudged against some of my boundaries, and left me with a lot to ponder. Miller writes:

    “[T]he majority of American children with Jewish heritage now have Christian heritage as well. In other words, children are now more likely to be born into interfaith families than into families with two Jewish parents. And Jewish institutions are just beginning to grapple with that fact. // Some Jewish leaders still call intermarriage the ‘silent Holocaust.’… [But] many now call for greater acceptance of Jewish intermarriage in the face of this demographic reality.”

    Given the flurry of communal response to the recent Pew study A Portrait of Jewish Americans (my response, in brief, is Opportunity Knocks in Pew Results; I also recommend Rabbi Art Green’s From Pew Will Come Forth Torah) this book could hardly be more timely…”

  286. Dear Seren:

    Please excuse the delay in replying to you — I’ve been dealing with some family illnesses, which have cut into my volunteer time and have put me behind on responses within this website.

    Your story is not unusual — you are not alone — I have heard a number of similar stories, especially from the UK. I live in the United States, but finally decided that the Episcopal Church of my childhood would be a better fit for me, after spending several decades in Judaism as an adult. Like you, I received one too many reminders that I wasn’t “Jewish enough,” which eventually led me to start questioning many aspects of Judaism, Israel, etc.

    While I am happy as an Episcopalian again, like you I still wrestle with my Jewish “half” — it’s not as simple as saying “good-bye” — no matter which choice any of us make — the other “half” is still there — children, relatives, childhood and adult memories, valued spiritual and secular teachings, friendships — like you, I continue to struggle with how to live with my Jewish half, while other half-Jewish people who identify as Jews struggle with a Christian or Islamic or (fill in the blank) half.

    If your “Christmas or Canada” children are seeking answers, you might want to consider checking out a Christian or (fill in the blank) faith-based or secular community with teachings that are age-appropriate for them. I have fond memories of my childhood Episcopalian Sunday school — juice, cookies and simplistic Bible study coloring books appear not to have harmed me. It would give them a foundation from which they might pester you and their father with additional questions later, and might provide you with a larger community that might offer you and your questions a welcoming environment.

    Glad you like the website and have found it helpful!

    Again, please forgive the delay in replying. Dealing with a lot of family stuff.

    Robin M.

  287. Dear Lucky Fatima:

    Thank you for posting the Velveteen Rabbi’s review of Susan Katz Miller’s “Being Both” book! It is good to have it brought to our attention!

    With regard to the recent Pew Study, I don’t know if the Jewish communal organizations will pay any real attention to it. They were warned by a Jewish communal study in 1990 — two decades ago — that the intermarriage rate had risen to 52% — 52 percent of all Jews who married that year married people who were not Jewish. That should have sounded the alarm. After a flurry of articles and fussing —

    — some Jewish organizations did a few positive initiatives for interfaith couples — nothing for adult children of intermarriage — other Jewish organizations increased their opposition to intermarriage.

    I predict, based on past experience, that Jewish communal institutions will do a tiny bit more for interfaith couples — and continue to do nothing for half-Jewish adults. I could be wrong. We’ll see.

    Robin M.

  288. Hi Robin and everybody,

    Finally I am reporting back on the Derekh Torah class I am taking at the 92nd St Y in NYC, taught by a very passionate Sephardic jew of UK orthodox extraction; he’s in a rabbinic study program at the relatively new “open orthodox” yeshiva in the Bronx, (Yeshivat Chovevei, a left leaning version of orthodox study that has not, to my knowledge, received acceptance by members of standard orthodox unions… they reach out to women and the non-orthodox). Anyway, I am loving this class; it has been very illuminating. The regulars have essentially boiled down to 7 of us, a gay couple (two guys), two straight couples both where the woman is converting and then me.

    I used to think I could learn judaism by reading and studying on my own but I now see how one could not grasp it from the standpoint of meaning and intensity (by just reading); the exclamation marks and punctuation just wouldn’t be there. It ends in January 2014. I have talked to a rabbi at a local conservative synagogue (liberal leaning congregation) in Cobble Hill Brooklyn (not the reform one I attended previously) about conversion and the rabbi has agreed to supervise me. I expect it to be a slow process.

    So in our last class we discussed intermarriage and the instructor opened the floor to our thoughts on the effect intermarriage would have on Judaism and the the jewish polulation at large. Having previously made my pitch for the children of intermarriage and the effects on them, I chose to read Seren’s piece (Oct 14 message); I was totally bothered, Seren. by the fact that your mother and family (both Jews, one converted) did everything ‘right’ (whatever that is) and still you felt rejection; Our instructor (also from UK) was emotionally affected by your story (he said that). To be honest, I think a lot of people in the community just aren’t aware of these occurances. I also said that I thought part of the reason the Jews have survived as long as they have is intermarriage (i.e. biological reasons…. just think of the movie ‘Deliverance’ based on the novel by James Dickey and you’ll know what I mean).

    Robin, I hope everything is OK with your family.

    robin h.

  289. Dear Robin H.:

    Robin M. here —

    Delighted to hear that you like your classes and that your conversion plans remain on track. Please continue to keep us posted!

    Thank you for sharing Seren’s experiences with your class! I think you are correct that many born Jews just don’t hear about what happens to some half-Jewish people who experience rejection even when their families do everything possible to satisfy the Jewish community’s requests. It’s important that they hear these stories.

    I share your belief that intermarriage has kept the load of negative genes within the Jewish gene pool from becoming too high, and wish more Jews realized that a totally “inmarried” (as opposed to “intermarried”) Jewish community would be a medical disaster.

    Thank you for your kind wishes about my family’s current difficulties.

    Robin M.

  290. Seren

    Robin H, I echo Robin M’s sentiments.

    Thank you for writing about your experience with your instructor and class. I wrote my post to put my thoughts in written order- I am surprised to find how much it means to me to learn that my story was heard by somebody else. So I am really grateful you took the time to read it and to share it with others.

    The fact that it emotionally registered with the Orthodox listener you spoke with is also of particular note to me- as I think Robin M and Robin H, that you are both right, there is a remarkable lack of awareness.
    People are brought up not to acknowledge the experiences of children of intermarriage as meaningful. As a result they either do not contemplate the issue, or if they do find themselves confronting it they often do not imbue it with any significance.

    The effect of being on the receiving end of this attitude is to face not only negation of your cultural or religious identity but also negation of your individual worth: Your experience is unimportant. You are not worth engaging in discussion. You are not worth being understood. You are not worth being acknowledged as holding any intrinsic value.

    It’s a pretty effective tactic unfortunately. I for one certainly cannot withstand it. This personal weakness ironically comes from having so much respect and connection for the people I am descended from. If I did not have so much affection for the Jewish community then its disrespect of me would not have injured me so much.

    But I do. And it did. So while these realities exist my family will not identify itself as Jewish. I will of course very happily tell my children (when they’re old enough to understand such subtleties), that they have a partially Jewish ancestry, as that is fact and it would be ridiculous to live a lie.
    Though I cannot teach them to have a strong personal sense of identity and affiliation with a specific group of people, when significant numbers within that group would think it correct to callously reject them. I love my children, why would I encourage them to connect to people who will tell them that they are inadequate?

    Of course, I wish this was not the case. I would proudly own my Jewish identity if it were otherwise and would educate my children accordingly. But we have to live in the present. So I am reluctantly responding to the reality I am faced with.

    Robin M, once again thank you for running this excellent site. Robin H, I hope all goes well with your journey.

  291. Seren

    On a more general theme, it is galling to come across several voices from the community saying they are against intermarriage because a) children from intermarriage marry out themselves, and b) children from intermarriage abandon the faith when raising their own families. This is a very basic mistake of verbal reasoning: how can a child from intermarriage do anything other than marry out if they are not allowed to marry in? How can a child of intermarriage not abandon the faith when they are not allowed to participate in the faith?

    This flawed logic chronologically places the effect ( disengagement from the community) before the cause ( the rejection from significant strands of the community). When of course it is the other way around, the child is rejected first, they disengage in response.

    This attitude blames the rejected child for the actions of the rejecting community. And that does not strike me as characteristic of the Jewish mentality, which places a high value on logic, fairness and compassion.

  292. Cindy


    You write so well! I completely agree with your point in your last post. I was rejected by the Jewish community and left out of activities in which my Jewish friends and family could participate.

    It was all or nothing, was my experience. You are either Jewish or you are not, they told me.

    I remember a Jewish lady who very condescendingly explained to me what a dreidel was – as if I didn’t already know! I was fuming but didn’t say anything. It was the rejecting, condescending attitudes which turned me away, but in retrospect, it was all for the best. Like Robin M, I am happily an Episcopalian.


  293. Hi again,

    Seren, I want you to know that when I read your piece to the class I stopped at the point where you stated that you decided to reject Judaism. I did not talk about your subsequent decisions, children or current personal life. Anyway, there were a few things (in that post) that confused me. In the USA Reform judaism accepts, as Jews, persons with a Jewish father (only) who are raised as Jews. It seems you exceeded those criteria so I didn’t understand why you weren’t ‘accepted. Is Reform Judaism defined differently in the UK ?

    I figured that since you were in a rural part of the UK where there may not have been many synagogues, the Reform one in your neighborhood may have have been the only one and that it attracted Jews in the area from a variety of denominations and views, and that would explain why some members seemd obsessed with your mother and her geneology. Here in the US the Union of Reform Judaism dictates criteria (mostly) and congregations can range in their diversity. Also, here in NYC there are many Jews and intermarried Jews and children of the intermarried and there’s likely a synagogue somehwere for just about anyone. I’m guessing your circumstances arose in part from the isolated rural area that you lived in

    I’m also wondering if people (in the community) actually made overt negative comments to you or if the rejection you felt was a general feeling of being ignored.

    I’m just trying to get a better feel for what happened to you. I totally get what you say in your recent post. For sure, we children of the intermarried have to be like salmon swimming upstream in order to become part of the Jewish community.

    robin H.

  294. Dear Robin H.:

    Seren will likely have clarifications for you, but I can address some of your questions. UK “Reform Judaism” is actually “Masorti” (U.S. Conservative Judaism in beliefs and practices, but got labeled “Reform” for historical reasons).

    UK “Liberal Judaism” denomination is actually “Reform” (U.S. Reform Judaism in beliefs and practices).

    These labeling differences cause a lot of confusion among Americans. When I first began hearing from half-Jewish people in the UK, I had to look into how their denominations evolved.

    Regarding Seren’s experiences — based on what I’ve heard from other UK half-Jewish people — and bear in mind, these are the UK folks who contacted this website — UK Judaism is much more under the domination of the Orthodox than American Judaism — for historical reasons, they have a “Chief Rabbi” who is always Orthodox.

    Their Jewish religious day schools — many of which are funded by the state! — are controlled by the Orthodox Jews — and their recent ex-Chief Rabbi, when he was in office, spent thousands of pounds (dollars) to fight a lawsuit to keep a patrilineal child out of one of those religious day schools and was highly indignant when the British government compelled him to admit the child. Bear in mind, the poor child was being raised Jewish, but I think his mother’s conversion to Judaism wasn’t Orthodox.

    Those same Orthodox Jewish state-funded day schools admit matrilineal children being raised as nothing or even Christian — if I understood my sources correctly — they are ‘real’ Jews — and also children with no Jewish ancestry at all — whose parents want good educations for them — because of British anti-racism laws and government rules about funding.

    The Liberal Jews — UK Reform equivalent — officially accept patrilineals — but when I spoke with a UK patrilineal who identified as a Jew and had spent years trying to find a shul before he and his half-Jewish wife gave up and went Christian — he told me that even the Liberal shul he visited was very lukewarm about him, due to his parentage. He was not made to feel welcome.

    I also heard about a group of half-Jewish people meeting a few times a year in a very liberal UK shul, whom I tried to contact. They were very secretive, and used no names in their internet postings. This group seems to have existed in the early 2000s. They seemed very afraid other UK Jews would find out who they were. It was like reading the postings of closeted gay people in the 1950s. Their group had disappeared by the time I contacted them.

    But just because the UK Jewish community is so unwelcoming doesn’t let the American Jewish community off the hook.

    Just reading recent comments in the Jewish media on the Pew report on Jewish American population statistics in 2012 has been a very bruising experience for me.


    I predicted decades ago that the intermarriage figures and disaffiliation figures would continue to rise if the American Jewish community didn’t change its policies, so the report was no surprise to me. The report is very objective — it was prepared by an organization outside of the Jewish community at the request of a prominent Jewish journalist.

    But I continuously read articles and comments in our Jewish media about how bad intermarriage is and how all of the offspring will intermarry and leave Judaism, based on the Pew report.

    Yet the American Jewish community does almost no outreach to adult half-Jewish people.

    Robin M.

  295. Dear Seren and Cindy:

    I agree with you that the unwelcoming attitudes usually precede the departure or failed attempts to join when half-Jewish people approach the Jewish community or try to confirm their place in it.

    I have repeatedly pointed this out online to other American Jews during discussions of the Pew Report, but at the moment they are not listening.

    When I point out that unwelcome precedes departure, I get replies that deny that segments of the Jewish community are unwelcoming (!!!) — statements that American Reform Judaism accepted patrilineals decades ago, so the problem was solved and it is half-Jewish peoples’ fault if they can’t find a shul — or suggestions that there is something about an intermarriage that just intrinsically assures that children raised as Jews will leave Judaism as adults, so the Jewish community should keep being negative to interfaith families.

    Other times I am told that the person replying to me has a wonderful shul that has always welcomed interfaith families, and that their shul always welcomes half-Jewish people. They don’t get: (a) just because their shul is welcoming doesn’t mean that others are; (b) their synagogue’s welcome may not be explicit on its website or literature; (c) there may be pockets of ‘unwelcoming’ within their shul hidden from them; and (d) what does it say that half-Jewish people have to search for welcoming spaces?

    I mentioned the “but my shul is welcoming, I don’t understand these terrible stories” approach to a Jewish-identified friend of mine living in an area with one (unfriendly) shul that she has to cope with. Its the only shul, so she has to attend it or not have a Jewish life. The shul doesn’t care about her being patrilineal — its Reform — but it has many other unwelcoming behaviors and policies.

    She replied, “Great! If I give up my job and move across country to this person’s welcoming shul, then I’ll have a welcoming synagogue. Please!”

    Robin M.

  296. Seren

    Hi Robin M, Cindy and Robin H,

    Robin M, thanks for elaborating with so much detail and clarity re the situation in the UK! It is very confusing. Also re your subsequent post it is infuriating that even in direct communication with other Jews the desire not to listen or take any real time over the issue is so strong.

    Cindy, good to hear I’m not alone in my experiences. That sounds so frustrating to be either flatly shut out or alternatively to be treated like an ignoramus. Really glad to hear you are happy now and made choices that worked out well for you.

    Robin H,
    I have a friend who had a British non- Jewish mum and an American Jewish dad- when she went to the States she would be informed she was a Jew by her family with a sense of duty and importance. She would return to Britain, (with the gifts of prayer books and a mezzuzah from her American family) to be told she was not a Jew.

    It is very different in Britain, I do not live in a rural area, the EXACT opposite. There are of course many Jews who are Reform or Masorti who have been kind and welcoming to me- I am still incredibly close to those people now as an adult- but as individuals not as part of the Jewish community. In those very same Reform and Masorti congregations there have been others who were not accepting or welcoming. That meant the experience of attending events even in the Reform community was a case of running the gauntlet, especially when I was a child and did not have perspective, (as children commonly do not).

    For example when I was attending Cheder at the Reform synagogue I was blessed in as a baby, I mentioned to another child that my mother was not Jewish. I meant in an ‘ethnic’ sense- we visited my mother’s extended family once a year for a week, so I was aware that there was a difference between her family and my father’s. But at the age of 6 I did not have that sort of vocabulary to explain myself. The other child told me I was not Jewish and should not be there. Then other children in the class got involved to the point where the teacher had to get involved. She did not tell the other children to stop. She left the classroom where I remained the focus point of clearly stated rejection by my classmates, while she went to find the rabbi to ask him herself what I was doing there.
    I remember the the hostile atmosphere while I waited for her to come back and wanting the ground to swallow me whole. With hindsight I assume the rabbi must have reassured her about my mother’s conversion, I don’t know I never saw him. She came back, gave no explanation and the class continued. Of course because of the lack of discussion my sense of humiliation and the rest of the class’s confusion about what I was doing there remained.
    I did not tell my parents why I did not like Cheder anymore, I felt too ashamed- as they obviously wanted me to be accepted, that’s why they were sending me there. I did not want to disappoint or upset them to the extent that I now felt disappointed and upset. Instead I protested going entirely without explanation. So they just thought I was lazy and difficult! Ha! ( I probably am a bit, in fairness to my parents!)

    In the UK there is a lot of fluidity between members of the ‘middle of the road’ Orthodox, the Reform and Masorti movements within the community, at secular schools and in local neighbourhoods. So even if you are part of a Reform shul you will not be able to ignore the rest of your local community. And I wouldn’t have wanted to, I was fascinated by all of it. The Jewish area I grew up in was great. It was safe, interesting people, lively debate around dinner tables at family and friends’ houses – as long as I didn’t directly admit or address the reality of my own identity and how it would affect other people’s reactions to me if I did break my silence on the matter.

    That’s quite a heavy burden of silence to expect people to carry without explanation throughout their childhoods and on into adult life. As the years continue, the delusions you would have to put yourself under in order not to address this very obvious problem, could lead to serious mental disturbance!

    In my late teens I met a guy I was interested in who was becoming more religious himself. I started learning more about Judaism myself as a result. So I started along the path of Orthodox conversion to try to resolve the identity issue because I was genuinely interested in adopting a ‘middle of the road’ Orthodox way of life long term- the actual philosophy and genuine nature of that element of the community attracted me in a way that felt true to me.

    The Orthodox conversion process however was so intensely controlled by the ultra Orthodox that although I came across many wonderful people, I also came across some very bigoted people. Too many for me I am afraid. I did not continue with the conversion because I could not let myself be judged by a mentality that too easily lent itself to the idea that I was innately less valuable because of who my mother was.

    Unless I converted however I would not be allowed to engage with the more ‘standard’ Orthodox community either.

    Because my personal life experience had shown me there was doubt regarding how secure my footing was within all aspects of the Jewish community- from the Reform of my childhood to the Orthodox and ultra Orthodox of my young adulthood- I reluctantly realised I could not establish my future with this community as a reliable central feature of my life.

    My Jewish background is obviously always going to be a ‘part’ of my life. It cannot be otherwise, after growing up in that environment for decades, and having some of my closest family and friends from this community. However circumstances being what they are, it is a background which I, my family and friends share- and yet I cannot call my own with confidence.

  297. Seren

    Cindy, sorry didn’t mean it is ‘good’ that you had similar experiences-obviously having those attitudes aimed at you is rubbish. I just meant it is really therapeutic to share and hear other people’s personal experiences where they’ve grown up in similar circumstances. I am starting to feel so much better and less affected by it all as a result 🙂

  298. Dear Seren:

    There’s a book you might be interested in about a woman, an American patrilineal who was raised Reform (UK Liberal) Jewish, started dating Orthodox Jewish men in college in NYC, tried to convert via Orthodoxy.

    Both of her Jewish boyfriends’ mothers broke up the romances — even her conversion to Orthodox Judaism was not enough for them. She said her Orthodox conversion ‘family’ — a family assigned to mentor her — was very kind to her, but she never recovered from two broken romances over her parentage issues.

    She finally visited the UK during a scholarship, converted to Christianity via Church of England, and is now an Episcopalian teaching at Duke University Divinity School. She still retains a very strong connection to her Jewish “half” — her dad, some of her studies, and books she’s written.

    The book is “Girl Meets God” by Lauren Winner. There is a link to it on our “Christian Resources” page.

    Robin M.

  299. Dear Robin H., Seren and Cindy:

    In all fairness, there are welcoming spaces in American Judaism for half-Jewish people. I think Robin H. would want me to be fair about that!

    I know this, because both I and other people on the Half-Jewish Network Message Board have helped many half-Jewish people find conversions and welcoming institutions. I think many of them are very happy.

    So each person has to make a decision as to what’s best for them and what difficulties they can navigate. It’s a case-by-case thing.

    Robin M.

  300. Seren

    Thanks Robin re the book recommendation. Will be interesting to look at her story.

  301. Dear Seren:

    I think you will find the book both interesting and supportive.

    Also, thanks for your kind words about this website. I am pleased you find it interesting! I owe a lot to the help of people like Cindy, Robin H. and others who collaborate in nurturing the message board.

    Robin M.

  302. Cindy

    Dear Seren, no worries! I completely understood what you meant. I always find it ironic that, in biblical times, Judaism was passed through the father’s line, but when Rabbinical Judaism took over in the 3rd century C.E., it switched to the mother’s line.

    I believe the written Law warned against intermarriage, but nothing was said about the offspring of such a union. There are many examples of patrilineals in the scriptures whose “Jewish-ness” was never questioned.

    In the NT the disciple Timothy had to convert to Judaism because his father wasn’t Jewish, only his mother. So, that brings into question why Judaism is so obsessed with the maternal lineage today. The rabbis decided the Oral Law was more important than the written Law.

    Robin M, thank you! for your kind comments.


  303. Janette

    Thank you Robin, for presenting and breaking down this amazing material for us. I am not shocked and horrified anymore to hear of what goes on, but I am still saddened every time, that in this post-Holocaust age, there are still so many Jews who seek to drive away “the wrong kind of” Jews who are ready, willing, and able to participate in Jewish community.

    Being of the Renewal/Reconstructionist persuasion, I never ran into that issue personally until just recently when I moved to Vancouver, Canada. I was stunned to discover that the supposedly progressive Jewish Renewal synagogue here, Or Shalom, officially won’t count me as a real Jew because I am patrilineal. That’s right, folks, a Jewish Renewal synagogue!

    I wonder if this is how Lesbians felt in the early 70’s when N.O.W. said, “Oh, no, no, no, Lesbian rights are NOT part of women’s rights and we just cannot advocate for you.” Well, NOW saw the light before long, and I hope that at least the more progressive Jewish institutions will lead the way on this issue. In the meantime, I’m thinking of checking out the Sikhs (no, that was not a joke).

    Happy Chanukah to all who are observing.

  304. Dear Janette:

    Welcome to the Message Board! Regarding the Jewish Renewal synagogue of Vancouver, Or Shalom —

    When I was a member of Jewish Renewal many years ago, I was shocked to discovery Or Shalom’s official policy that patrilineals were not considered Jewish by them.

    At the time, Or Shalom had had a congregational debate on the subject, and a transcript — or summary — my memory is sketchy — was posted on their website. I found it very painful to read. Basically, the congregants — presumably not all of them — were terrified of offending the rest of the Canadian Jewish community, which at the time was heavily Conservative and Orthodox Jewish — probably still is — and was — and probably still is — bitterly opposed to patrilineal descent.

    The majority of the congregants felt that Or Shalom was on thin ice as a Renewal community in Canada — they felt that the socially and politically “Conservadox” Canadian Jewish community regarded Renewal with great disapproval — and that accepting patrilineal descent would cause other Canadian shuls to reject them completely.

    I was astonished to see a Renewal synagogue openly confess to being afraid of other Jews. I did not really understand their position within an unfriendly Canadian Jewish community. On the other hand, most Renewal shuls are pretty feisty in certain ways and might not have accepted the surrounding community’s outlook on an issue. Later, the congregational debate transcript was removed from their website, so I can’t refer you to it at the present time.

    To my knowledge, they are the only Renewal synagogue with this official policy, and the only one I have ever received complaints about with regard to their treatment of half-Jewish people.

    When I was a member of Renewal, Renewal’s policy was that every rabbi decided “who was a Jew” for his/her shul. Since Renewal’s rabbis came from every denomination in Judaism, this led to policies on half-Jewish people varying from one shul to the next, though no one went as far as Or Shalom, and I received no complaints from half-Jewish people about any other Renewal shul or havurah.

    About 10 years ago, I tried to get Renewal to officially commit to outreaching half-Jewish people. I realized that I couldn’t get them to change their “every rabbi makes his/her own rule” on the subject. I just asked that Renewal would create an official written policy of welcoming half-Jewish people — they already had written policies welcoming interfaith couples.

    I could never get Renewal to add language welcoming us to their official written policies, even though I told them that it would increase Renewal’s membership.

    Instead, when I brought it up, their listserve had a debate for several days on whether I was really officially Jewish. (I have a Jewish mother who converted to Christianity and married my Christian father.) I was horrified that they were debating whether I was Jewish or not — since I was studying for entry to one of their rabbinic programs — that suddenly my legitimacy was questioned, instead of the discussion staying on whether to officially welcome half-Jewish people to Renewal.

    The listserve decided that I was really Jewish — after a debate that hurt my feelings pretty badly — though I did not say so — and then said that it was good that I was doing this outreach to half-Jewish people and that I should continue the outreach.

    But my request that they consider adding official written language to Renewal’s policies welcoming half-Jewish people was ignored.

    I felt very ambivalent afterwards. It was good to see that some Renewal rabbis and lay people had stood up for me, but also alarming to see my legitimacy as a Jew personally challenged by other Renewal rabbis and lay people when all I wanted to do was increase Renewal’s membership.

    I was especially alarmed when some Renewal listserve participants began suggesting that I undergo a formal conversion to Judaism. The final ruling by the listserve was that I was Jewish according to Orthodox law and shouldn’t be asked to convert.

    I could not figure out what was happening. Why were Renewal members, notorious for their freewheeling ways, invoking Orthodox halacha?

    In retrospect, I believe that one way some Jews deal with their discomfort with half-Jewish people is to shift a debate on acceptance of half-Jewish people by a shul or other Jewish group to a debate on whether the half-Jewish person requesting the change is “Jewish enough.” That derails the debate from a group-wide change to whether an individual half-Jewish person should change.

    I think that was the beginning of the end of my connection with Jewish Renewal, though I said nothing about it at the time. I had been a devoted member of Renewal for years and was very open about my background and work, but I was not challenged on my personal “who is a Jew” issues within Renewal until that debate.

    A lot of Renewal’s older rabbis grew up in Orthodox and Conservative homes, and I found that as they grew older, some of them tended to backtrack from more liberal opinions that they had adopted in their youth.

    So while Or Shalom is the only Renewal shul that I have ever had any complaints about regarding half-Jewish issues, I did find that Renewal as a whole was backtracking a bit on many issues where they had previously been more liberal.

    They originally — in the 1980s — had a very liberal policy statement for their group — emphasizing feminism, welcoming interfaith families, arguing for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians — but after I left, they issued a new policy statement which backed away from a lot of their original language on these issues, and also talked about how wonderful it was that Israel exists, and dropped all direct mention of the Palestinians, according to the best of my memory.

    So I would suggest that half-Jewish people evaluate each Jewish Renewal shul on its own policies and rabbi — most, I gather, are very welcoming to half-Jewish people, but there may be some exceptions.

    I learned a great deal from Renewal and have fond memories of my time with them, and would encourage other half-Jewish people who identify as Jews to consider joining them, but to choose your shul carefully.

    Regarding your comparison of this controversy to the argument over the presence of lesbians in N.O.W. in the early 1970s — I was a N.O.W. member at one time — several years after the controversy — and while the controversy was very painful — at least N.O.W. only took about a decade to get its act together on the subject.

    But within Judaism, I’ve been advocating for official outreach to half-Jewish people for several decades and still see almost no outreach for us, and many negative statements about interfaith families and half-Jewish people in the Jewish media. It is hard to imagine N.O.W. arguing against inclusion of any group for three decades.

    I believe it is Judaism’s “am echad” (one people concept) that is the problem. It means that individual Jews and smaller Jewish groups are afraid to alienate the Jewish communities that surround them and there is a lot of “group think.” There is a lot of pressure for everyone to remain in the same communities and not dissent on touchy issues.

    I think that will have to change if Judaism is to survive and thrive.

    Robin M.

  305. betina

    Hello everyone and Happy holidays.
    I am new to this site so, I have been reading the posts on this page for the past couple of days trying to understand where things are really ‘going’. The more I read the more I got confused. But before I explain I wanted to introduce my self.

    My name is Betina
    and I am Married to a Christian African/American fine man. I was born and raised in Israel to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother. I was raised in a very Jewish religious environment in Israel (Chabad) for a while. We have lived a lie concealing the fact that my dad was a Muslim from the immediate environment and society in order to function . I have lived here in the U.S since 1997 (when I turned 27).

    Robin I loved analysis about Israel and the religious aspect of what’s
    going on there. You are a hundred percent right in your observation about the Jewish community and government in Israel which have a horrible attitude towards us. However, shamefully the Christian/ Palestinian community and the Muslim/Palestinian community in Israel also, are not very open to people like me and my siblings who still reside in Israel. And so, some people in Israel are rejected by many communities and have no sense of belonging at all on any level. I feel and share the same concerns you have about the half Jewish community in Israel.

    With that being said, I got confused about the goals, agendas, equality, sincerity, and the sincerity of the ‘equality’ we all share on this page.
    Let me explain where I am coming from:

    One of the ideas presented here by one of us was to hold the meeting in Israel which seemed to upset you Robin. I do understand the logic behind the why not! BUT wouldn’t you want to include the people that are suppressed the most and do not have civil rights in Israel in this discussion?
    Wasn’t it the main goal of this fight? Or is the main goal just to sneer Israel?
    You do understand that some of these people that your website is targeting with the most novel intentions may not be able to attend a conference in the U.S.A as they may not be able to obtain a visa to get here. I really believe that it is most important that they are heard!

    In addition one of us has posted the following post which really bothered me at my core and made me think that maybe after all we are not all perceived equal halves on this page and I quote:

    “Steve Katz
    September 22, 2012 at 1:24 am
    Robin M., You are right about the controversy it may cause in Israel. I suggest we hold it in the heart of Ashkenaziland, which is where most of us on this board partially originated from. Although… I have heard that the white sandy beaches and pristine waters of Tel Aviv are phenomenal… Steve”

    I am not sure if he was being sarcastic but it came across WRONG!!!! Let me just say that we are not all Ashkenazis here. This is not whites (Ashkenazis) vs. Blacks (Spharadics).
    Us ‘blacks’ thought we were equal on this site (at least)! I know we are not REALLY equal in Israel and that it is not the agenda of this site but maybe we should start here at ‘home’? If people are going to talk like that on this page you can count me out!

    Lastly, YES it will steer up controversy. So what? Are we trying to change the system or just gain publicity?

    No one said it was going to be easy. It is a process and we are here to support you. Together we have a stronger voice. Together we can be heard.

  306. Dear Betina:

    Thank you for your interesting post! You have asked several questions. I will try and answer them. Some of your questions are on complex topics that may not have easy answers, so I hope you will be patient with my answers.

    First, thank you for sharing your life story — we have been concerned about half-Jewish Israelis for a long time and are happy to hear from you. We greet your husband as well!

    It is interesting that your family was associated with Chabad — I myself studied Chabad online materials extensively for several years. I also studied with a Hasidic rabbi in S’fad — via the internet — he was not Chabad, but was very sweet and helpful the way some Chabad rabbis are.

    I am pleased that you found my analysis of the Israeli Jewish community’s and government’s attitudes towards Jewish/Muslim families to be accurate.

    I am truly sorry to hear that the Christian/Palestinian and Muslim/Palestinian communities are not supportive of you and your siblings. I understood from some research I did that many years ago, they were more supportive of Jewish-Muslim families than the Jewish Israeli communities, but that they had begun to turn away from them.

    I am sorry to hear that they truly have begun to turn away. I will make a note of that in the Half-Jewish Network’s “Israel” website essay.

    With regard to your inquiry about why I have not supported having our group meet in Israel — there are several reasons.

    1. While the Half-Jewish Network has members from all over the world, most of our members appear to be based in the United States. So our first conference will likely be here in the U.S., because many of us cannot financially afford a trip to Israel.

    A similar situation exists for European half-Jewish people, who we assisted in starting their own group, DoppelHalb, because they felt that they couldn’t afford travel to the U.S. and also needed a discussion group and future European meetings of their own.

    They are still welcomed as members of the Half-Jewish Network, and participate on our “Message Board” regularly.

    Many Israeli conferences and visits are subsidized by the Israeli government and U.S. Jewish organizations. It is unlikely that they would subsidize a conference of half-Jewish people in Israel. If they were willing to subsidize it, they would require guarantees that we not criticize Israel’s treatment of half-Jewish people.

    Obviously, we could not give such a promise.

    So it’s partly a question of money.

    2. I’m reluctant to have a Half-Jewish Network conference in Israel, because Israel is not a friendly environment for half-Jewish people at the present time.

    We’d like our first conferences to take place in a friendly environment — a place where our attendees could enjoy the conference in a peaceful manner, a hotel where the managers were pleased to see us, and media that might give us favorable press coverage.

    We are uncertain that we would get any of that in Israel. If we held a conference in Israel, the Israeli government might put a lot of pressure on us to say nice things about Israel, which we can’t because they don’t treat half-Jewish people well.

    We might possibly get Israeli media to interview some of our conference organizers and attendees — but what would our media coverage be like when they discovered that our conference would be very critical of Israel’s poor treatment of Israeli half-Jewish people?

    Some of the reporters might not be happy to hear that we object to how Diaspora Jewish communities sometimes ignore or rebuff us. Some reporters might write fair stories about us. Others might not.

    I fear it would be a very tense atmosphere for our conference attendees. We’d be asking non-Israeli half-Jewish people to travel a huge distance and spend lots of travel money to attend a very uncomfortable conference.

    3. If we had a Half-Jewish Network conference in Israel, I’m uncertain that Israeli half-Jewish people would attend at the present time.

    I share your concern about Israeli half-Jewish people. The Half-Jewish Network is the only American organization that has devoted substantial time and effort to studying them and exposing the unkind treatment they receive in Israeli society.

    (The Israeli government and several other organizations recently stopped all funding to the AMF of Israel, which worked in Israel with half-Jewish people and studied their needs, causing the AMF to collapse. So the Half-Jewish Network is pretty much the only group working heavily on this issue.)

    But we both understand that Israeli Jewish/Christian and Jewish/Muslim people are well-hidden within Israel. Those who are Jewish/Muslim Palestinian/Arab and Jewish/Christian Palestinian/Arab are especially well-hidden — the Russian Jewish/Christian Israelis are more visible, but even they tend to stay hidden.

    I understand why the Jewish/Arab adult children of intermarriage are especially well-hidden in Israel. But because they and other types of half-Jewish Israelis stay hidden, I am uncertain how many of them would attend a Half-Jewish Network conference in Israel.

    It would be very difficult to organize a conference, fly to Israel, and then discover that many Israeli half-Jewish people of all types were reluctant to attend it, because the conference would be public, and their identities might be revealed to Israeli society.

    It is my hope that Israeli half-Jewish people, over the next two decades, will start protesting more publicly about how poorly they are treated, and form online networks. Then we could contact their networks, and help them.

    I’d be willing to help them organize such networks and have written you privately about that.

    You also asked what the main goal of our organization is — it is to help half-Jewish people from all over the world network with each other and share experiences online. Our second goal is to fight injustices against us. Our third goal is to collect information and research about us and post it on the website.

    We discuss our goals on our home page here:


    Our resources are limited because we are a volunteer group, composed of middle class, working class and poor people. We do not receive any money from outside organizations. So we try to pick low-key, low-cost goals that we have a reasonable prospect of achieving.

    With regard to your concern about Steve Katz’s joke about “Ashkenaziland” — there was no racism intended. Steve was humorously referring to the fact that the American Jewish community is mostly Ashkenazi by ancestry.

    Everyone in this group is aware when they first visit this website — if they did not know before — that not all half-Jewish people are Ashkenazi by ancestry — some are Sephardic or Mizrahi — and that not all of us are white. As you have seen, our website has a number of pages addressing these issues, including our “Multiracial/Biracial” page.

    Betina, I hope my reply answers some of your questions. I share your impatience with the Israelis’ poor treatment of half-Jewish people. We are especially angered by the poor treatment of Israeli Jewish/Arab adult children of intermarriage.

    But as most of us in the Half-Jewish Network are not living in Israel, the best we can do is publicize their problems, write letters to Israeli institutions on their behalf, and encourage the Israeli half-Jewish people who do contact us to start networking and organizing, so we can help them more effectively.

    Finally, you said that after reading the “Message Board” messages, you were confused about the organization. We welcome half-Jewish people with a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs to post on our message board, so there is no particular theme — just a steady stream of inquiries, requests, shared stories, etc. from many different backgrounds.

    It is confusing to read messages from such a wide variety of people, but we are scattered all over the earth with many different backgrounds.

    I hope this post answers some of your questions, and feel free to post additional thoughts.


  307. betina

    Thank you Robin so much for your input. I am afraid you are right again never the less, I am very disappointed although I completely understand the valid points you have made.

    Thank you for your kind words and understanding. You are truly a leader!!!

    warm feelings and best wishes to you.


  308. Dear Betina:

    Thank you for your patience with my long (and somewhat disappointing) reply.

    Your kind words about my leadership style are greatly appreciated!

    Please know that my offer to assist you and your family members in Israel with setting up an online network for Jewish/Muslim children of intermarriage is still good.

    If you want to discuss how that might be done, please email me privately. I think a public Jewish/Muslim adult children of intermarriage web page with a confidential private message board might work.

    Robin M.

  309. Lisa

    Hi! My name is Lisa, and I never post here. Too be honest, I want to know the opinion of fellow (half)-Jews on an idea that I have for a tattoo. The reason that I ask here is because I am able to reach a variety of Jews with different views in one message. I could ask on an Orthodox Jewish website, but as you know, tattoos are forbidden in Judaism and I won’t get any opinions. By the way, I am half Jewish, so it should be okay for me to post here!

    My idea is to have ‘l’chaim’ tattood on my arm. I think it is nice. It is ironic, positive, and also a little light. I am doing this to cover up another tattoo that I have, with the initials of a friend who passed on. I no longer want to dwell in the past, but instead embrace life, and celebrate those who are and have been alive. What do you think of this idea? My Jewish father thinks that it’s awful, and suggests that I go for a simple ‘chai’ instead, which I might do, if many of you take his side.

    Sorry if I’m not allowed to ask personal questions, but I could really use opinions from different types of Jews, and not only religious Jews. Thank you!

    By the way, I’ve known about this website for years, and I really like the idea. The creators of this website are awesome half-Jews :).

  310. Noah

    Hi there. I am a man born to a Muslim arab father and a Ashkenazi Jewish mother. They are from Israel. I was born and raised in the United States. I was raised as a Muslim and I consider my religion to be Islam. Do I qualify as half-jewish according to this website? I am interested particularly in finding other people in a similiar situation (chlidren of an arab parent and jewish parent.) I feel torn about the Israel/palestine conflict as i have family on both sides and would like some support from people who are children of such intermarriages. It would also be nice to meet anyone in this group whether you are half arab or not Because I dont have many friends. Thank you.

  311. seren

    For this website I’m sure you fit the ‘half- Jewish’ definition. I know children of such marriages you describe, but they are too young to write on this message board i’m afraid. My father is jewish and my mother from a completely unrelated background re the middle east and yet I feel torn on Israel/ palestine. So I can’t imagine how conflicted you must feel with a family ancestry as directly relevant as yours.

    If it’s any help those of us who do not have arab/ muslim/ jewish parentage may still have some capacity to understand a little bit of what you are experiencing. It is obviously not to the same degree. Yet many half Jews of all backgrounds often grow up aware of the prejudices the different sides of their families hold against each other. Hearing negative, conflicting things from both sides whilst actually inescapably being the product of both sides oneself, is a confusing place in your head to inhabit. So many of us may have some awareness of some of the aspects of inner conflict you might be facing.

    I really hope you find support you are looking for and the people you want to talk your experiences through with. It is definitely a therapeutic thing to do.

  312. betina

    HI Noah My name is Betina and I too have a Muslim arab father and a Jewish mother. They are also from Israel. Would love to get in touch with you via e-mail. If you wish you can post your e-mail here and i will get in touch with you.

  313. betina

    Hi Lisa, I think you should do whatever makes you happy:)
    Chai and l’chaim are very similar words. One means ‘alive’ and the other means ‘to life’:)


  314. betina

    Hi Robin,
    Wanted to share something with you.
    About two weeks ago I logged on IRAC website and read through it to get familiar with their goals and agendas as you talked about that organization and their noble causes. Their article on the Hebrew blog page addressed the issue of how women are treated during funerals of loved ones among other things. I posted as well, and in my post have said that I have attended funerals in Israel in the past but never felt or was told that I had to leave because I was a woman. I added my concerns and feelings about the burial and status of half Jewish/half Muslim people in Israel and their right to be buried in a cemetery. MY POST WAS REMOVED!!!!

    This is not new or surprising to me BUT disappointing that an organization that chooses to ‘fight for justice’ DOES NOT TRULY DO SO!

  315. Noah

    Hi Seren. Thank you for your response. Betina, you can email me at noahmitty@live.com Hope to hear from you soon.

  316. Noah

    Hi Betina. Im not sure if my lost post went through but I posted one of my email addresses. By the way, Noah is not my real name. My real name is Gabriel. I didnt feel comfortable at first putting my real name, but I think now its not such a big deal. You can email me at jibreelfromoc@hotmail.com . It’s the email I use most frequently.

  317. betina

    Thank you. I will be writing you soon.

  318. I have problems, in this era of “exploring your roots”, with people who demand “What are you?”
    If I say “American”, then they complain I am “rude” and “obnoxious”.
    If I say “Jewish”, then “the” Jews will tell me I am lying, because I made the wrong choices of mother and religion.
    If I say “German” because that is the second-largest fraction of my ancestry, that would be just silly.

    How do people handle this?

  319. Dear Lisa, Noah, Betina, and wlinden:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! I will try to send each of you a private email with a PDF information packet containing information about the group that is not on our website.

    Lisa: tattoos are a very personal choice. I know many older Jews frown on them for various reasons of religious law and custom — on the other hand, many younger Jews like them.

    So I would expect half-Jewish people to have a wide spectrum of opinions on the subject!

    I would just urge you to think carefully about whether you will be happy with your new tattoo in 10 years. When I was young(er), I kept thinking I wanted tattoos — my ideas on what I wanted changed every 10 years. I never got any, and in retrospect, it was a good thing, as my belief systems, friendships, etc. changed a lot over the years.

    You must do what will make you happy when you see your tattoo again in 10 years.

    Noah: You are definitely considered half-Jewish by the Half-Jewish Network and welcomed to this website! As you have probably seen from my responses to Betina earlier on the message board, our group has a strong interest in the welfare and happiness of half-Jewish descendants of Arab/Jewish intermarriages.

    Betina: I have written you privately about IRAC, but wanted to also respond to you publicly. I am very disappointed to hear that your post was removed. I hope it is not a sign that IRAC is backing away from half-Jewish issues. I have noticed that they have been paying less attention to those issues over the last few years.

    Organizations are like people, and sometimes change their beliefs and outlook over the years. I hope IRAC has not given up on half-Jewish peoples’ issues in Israel and Palestine.

    wlinden: You raise a question that many of us encounter. There is no one right answer. The question came up for me when I spent more time in Jewish settings. I don’t “look Jewish,” and people always noticed that I did not look Jewish. They would ask questions about where I came from, or made erroneous assumptions that I was a convert.

    I will offer you my answer, but I hope other people will chime in — I told people that I had a Jewish mother and an Episcopalian father. I was raised Episcopalian, and was now living as a Jew. I told them that I identified as a Jew spiritually, and as half-Jewish ethnically.

    Several years ago, I decided to return to the Episcopal church, and began spending a lot of time in Christian settings. I don’t get that question in those settings much, because I look like my Episcopalian father. Having been raised Episcopalian, I also know a lot of the unspoken “rules” and behaviors, so people don’t see me as “different.”

    I usually have to explain myself only when church groups notice that I know a lot about Judaism. They pay little attention to my Jewish last name (I took my mother’s last name years ago), because many Episcopal churches have Jewish members and interfaith families.

    I hope other people will offer you their thoughts on this matter!


  320. betina

    Hi everyone,

    I keep reading the comments about how society rejects us over and over again. I am also aware of how the Jewish religion sees and defines us. The thing that is mind boggling to me is that we are not defining our selves.
    We are letting other people do it for us. Some of us are having DNA tests while others are waiting for someone rabbi to approve their Judaism and yet others refer to the bible or the halacha to approve them. When I stop and think about all the posts here and the way I was previously thinking, as well, something had changed for me. I have realized that I do not need anyone to tell me how I feel inside. I do not need someone to ‘approve’ me and give me a stamp of approval. I am who I am cause that is what I choose and that is how I feel.
    To me as long as we explore and rationalize paternal/maternal and bloodline religion than we are agreeing with the way we are being treated and seen by Judaism. A religion (any religion) is a matter of faith and belief. You are what you feel inside.
    Certain things in life can not be rationalized. Things like feelings such as: love, hate, and faith. In other words, our religion is in our hearts. No one can tell us how we feel inside. We should be who want to be. We should stop giving all these people that kind of power over our lives, our hearts, our faiths, and our feelings. To sum this up, hope we all find happiness and a sense of inner peace within in.

  321. Dear Betina:

    You raise some interesting and valuable points. I agree that in the end, we must each decide who we are and refuse to let others define us.

    I think it’s not just Judaism that makes decisions about who is Jewish. If the internet and this website had existed before World War II, you might have seen postings from half-Jewish people in Germany, complaining about the Nazi system for determining whether they were “Aryans” or not.

    The first organization for half-Jewish people (as far as I know) was the Paulus Bund, a 1930s organization of Christian-identified half-Jewish people in Nazi Germany, who united to keep track of the endless Nazi regulations affecting them, and placed ads in a newsletter seeking jobs and dates from other Christian-identified half-Jewish people. The Nazi rules had deprived them of the right to mainstream jobs and dates with fully German Christians.

    Ironically, while the Jewish community worldwide was not welcoming to interfaith families prior to 1970, the German Jewish community between 1850 and 1939 was somewhat more relaxed about these issues. They had the highest documented rate of intermarriage for a Western country at that time (25 percent) and both their liberal and Orthodox wings were considerably friendlier to members of interfaith families than in other countries.

    Orthodox Italian Jews also were more relaxed about interfaith families and tended to welcome them until they recently began receiving Orthodox rabbis from Israel to lead their synagogues.

    Half-Jewish people in 17th century Spain with partial Muslim or Christian ancestry sometimes feared publicity about their family backgrounds might attract unfavorable attention from the Inquisition. St. Teresa of Avila doesn’t mention her paternal Jewish grandfather in her memoirs, even though people in her city knew about him.

    Biracial groups in the United States have literature very similar to this website — they share many issues with us, even where their parents are not a Jewish/non-Jewish intermarriage.

    So much depends on context. I am often asked why I persist in advocating for half-Jewish people and leading this group when I personally returned to the Episcopal Church several years ago. I always reply that the discrimination against us in Judaism is bad for all of us, no matter how we identify.

    No one should have to feel that some of their mother’s or their father’s people actively discriminate against them, especially when — as in Israel — this affects their civil rights as well as their emotional health. No one should feel that they must “play down” or “keep quiet” about partially-Jewish parentage in Jewish settings of this era.

    Judging from the emails I receive from people who are half-Jewish and half-Muslim living in some Islamic countries in this era — if they are living under a sharia (strict Islamic law) regime — they feel it is safe to contact me only once or twice. I have to answer all of their questions quickly, because they apparently feel unsafe conducting a long email exchange with me, for fear their governments will notice it.

    I am still learning about Islamic countries and don’t have enough historical information to make a definitive statement about half-Jewish people in those civilizations prior to the modern era.

    I have not publicized this issue, because I don’t yet have enough information about Islamic countries discriminating against half-Jewish people in the modern era to make definitive statements.

    I guess the consolation is that in other eras we would likely have been dealing with legal and social discrimination from some Christians, some Muslims and some Jews. Sadly, it is our fellow Jews who discriminate against us most visibly in this era, but at least we are not dealing with Spain’s 17th century “purity of the blood” and Nazi Germany’s “Aryan blood” rules anymore.

    Another consolation is that in this era, we can network with each other, make friends and learn information about overall trends among half-Jewish people. We can push back against discrimination. These were things that it was very difficult to do prior to the Internet.

    Robin M.

  322. betina

    Hi Robin,

    I definitely agree with all the points you make here. History and our personal experiences speak loud.
    At the same time, I think we must remember that feelings such as love, religion, sadness, and happiness are subjective and that no one in the world has power on how we feel on the inside. With that being said, we MUST continue to educate and fight for the rights of those who are effected by it and change laws so people will have basic civil rights and freedom to feel and exercise their religion.


  323. Dear Betina:

    I agree 300 percent that we must not let other people have power over how we feel inside about our complex identit(ies).

    But the reality may be more complicated.

    For example, I’m aware of a young half-Jewish guy who was raised as a Reform Jew. As an adult he became interested in his mother’s Scottish Protestant heritage and wanted to discuss this with other children of intermarriage, but apparently got little or no support within Judaism for his search for other children of intermarriage.

    He apparently didn’t want to leave Judaism, but he did want to learn more about his mom’s family and connect with other half-Jewish people from a similar background.

    Next, he became interested in Conservative Judaism, and began attending a Conservative synagogue near his home. He really liked them and their services, and wanted to join. The synagogue told him that he couldn’t have an aliyah to the Torah (meaning in this context, being called to the bimah (platform in synagogue where people read from the Torah scrolls during services.)

    The synagogue said that since he was a patrilineal Jew and raised Reform, and Reform doesn’t require patrilineals to formally convert, in the eyes of his Conservative synagogue, he wasn’t really a Jew.

    He felt badly when they told him that he couldn’t have aliyot (plural of aliyah) to the Torah because they thought he wasn’t really Jewish. That meant he wouldn’t really be a full member of the synagogue.

    He decided to convert to Judaism — even though he had been raised as a Reform Jew — so he went to the mikveh (ritual bath) in front of three rabbis, as the Conservative Judaism movement requires.

    Now you or I might have said to him: “Quit that synagogue! Return to a Reform synagogue, where you can be a full member and have aliyot to the Torah without a formal conversion. Don’t let these people make you feel bad or that you are not a Jew. Look at what’s in your heart. If you consider yourself to be a Jew in your heart, that’s all that counts.”

    But he would have thought we were being inconsiderate of his feelings. He couldn’t help letting his Conservative synagogue’s opinion of his Jewish status affect him emotionally.

    Another concern I keep in mind is that even if a miracle occurred — tomorrow morning Israel made a real peace with the Palestinians and then abolished all of its negative laws and social policies directed against Jewish/Arab intermarried couples and their adult children and grandchildren —

    You and I would still be dealing with widespread prejudices against half-Jewish people within both Israel and the overseas Jewish communities, and obstacles to them joining Jewish groups. Plus continuing problems for them in some anti-Semitic European countries and in some strict Sharia law Islamic countries.

    In addition, we would still be dealing with the complex feelings and identity searches of many half-Jewish people living in democracies, regardless of whether they join Judaism, Christianity, Islam or other faith-based or secular cultures. There would still be identity issues and a need for networking among ourselves that no amount of good feelings in our hearts about who we are as individuals could address.

    I guess what I’m saying is that having good feelings about ourselves and our identity choices in our hearts is extremely important, probably the most important first step, but it is only one piece of the puzzle.

    But this is just my opinion, others may differ.


  324. betina

    Dear Robin,

    When I disclosed to my friend that my dad was a Muslim she had the same reaction you described above. I too was told during the conversation that: “I could ALWAYS convert to Judaism. Up until that point, I too wanted to belong and be accepted. I too wanted to be ‘whole’ and not broken. I too wanted to be loved. It is human nature to want all those things. But that was all in the past. Little did she know that her comment changed everything for me. Something clicked for me and I thought to myself: “who in the world is she and what makes her think that she is more Jewish than I am”? She was raised as a secular Jew and I was Raised and studied in a Chabad school system. At that moment I found my self telling her that maybe I should and want to convert to Islam. That she and society can not tell people how and what to feel inside. I told her that society can make rules and laws but that my Judaism is not open to HER interpretation.
    All of the sudden I felt free and happy.
    I now realized that some people are ignorant. I realized that she was not a bad person and that people like her are the result of there environment. They act that way because they were ‘brain washed’ for hundreds of years.
    After this realization, she did not matter. People like her didn’t matter. People like her did not have power over me ANYMORE.
    I took that power away from them!
    I understood that the price we are asked to pay is a little too high (for me). I did not wish to pay it anymore.

    That does not mean that I do not understand how other people may still feel and that they may react differently to rejection. It use to bother me on the personal level in the past. And it still does when I see other people hurt.
    I have been there and I feel and understand the pain we are all going through. That is why I am SO grateful to this website. It has been an eye opener at times. I can honestly say to you Robin that you have put life in the right prospective for me. Now I am able to look at these experiences through different glasses as well. I can finally rationalize experiences when before things were only emotional for me.
    To sum this up, people still act the same way towards me but now I choose to react and feel differently. So things did not really change. I have.

    So once again, thank you for your support. So happy I ‘stumbled up’ on your website.


  325. Dear Betina:

    I am very pleased to hear that you have achieved a personal viewpoint of this nature. I believe that you are correct — we must all get to a point where we personally decide who we are and stop letting other people have power over our identi(ties).

    Your kind words about the website are greatly appreciated, and I am pleased to hear that it has been useful to you!

    I share your interest in Chabad. When I lived as a Jew, I immersed myself in their website and their books. It is a deeply spiritual vision.

    No matter how you decide to identify — Jewish, Muslim or some combination — your decisions will always be respected by the Half-Jewish Network.


  326. betina

    Thank you!!!

  327. rhelburn

    Hi everyone,

    Chag Sameach!! whether it is Passover or Easter (or neither). Robin M. I wanted to catch you up on my progress. I finished the Derekh Torah Class in January. I enjoyed the routine of study and the people so much that when it ended there was this gaping hole. So I started going to weekly Beit Midrash at this conservative synagogue in Cobble Hill Brooklyn that I ‘associate’ with (now). Then the Beit Mdrash ended for the season (bummer) but now i’m working on a set of essays (answers to questions) to turn give to the rabbi there, which is the next step in my ‘conversion’ (I see it more as an affirmation) process. If all goes well probably I’ll finish (mikvah) in the summer. I’ve been so busy with classes and taking care of instruments in the lab here at the college (and w/ my mother and all her needs at home) I haven’t had a chance to get this done but I make notes here and there. My half jewishness and strong feelings about how it defines me will feature strongly (in the essays). My fiction love these days are the novels of Isaac Bashavis Singer.

    Betina if you are still there I agree with everything you say i.e. on how we feel inside should define us (not someone else). For me the decision to go through a conversion process is totally personal and no one has ever said it was necessary (only us patrilineals would bother anyway… you are Jewish so it is a non-issue for you). The group learning and study that I have had (as part of the process) has been so amazing. I could never learn and understand what I now know alone with books. Having a teacher and people to discuss (and even argue) with is the best part. Probably everything I studied you already know (since you grew up Jewish and are Jewish).

    That you are now straddling all three Abrahamic Faiths (via your Christian husband) is truly amazing. Have you read the book by Bruce Feilor ..’ Abraham, Journey to the heart of three faiths’? I enjoyed it.

    Lisa Alexander I hope you are well… looks like we have lost touch. Let us know where you are in your journey.

    Robin H,

  328. rhelburn

    Hi again Robin M.
    I was looking at your response to Betina (above) quote:

    “….I guess what I’m saying is that having good feelings about ourselves and our identity choices in our hearts is extremely important, probably the most important first step, but it is only one piece of the puzzle…”

    I agree with this (in context) i.e. the other piece of the puzzle being that the conservative synagogue (as opposed to reform) isn’t asking the person to convert out of prejudice; it’s simply an issue of policy, a conservative ‘gogue’ aligned with USCJ doesn’t make policy, it just tows the line until some higher person changes the policy. I too found that I preferred conservative over reform; I liked the rustic nature of their service and I have a friend there. I didn’t like the musical instruments (piano etc.) used in shabbat at the reform gogue; I fiound the people at Kane St (my new gogue) to be just as liberal. The rabbi there who is supervizing my conversion is very liberal. My desire to undergo this process is really more of practical thing than anything else. i’ll be the same half-jewish me (geneologically) afterwards. But from a spiritual standpoint I can’t do both and i’m not interested in going into some long song and dance about it if someone should ask and I don’t want to lie about it either. If the beit din doesn’t accept me… fine……. but I’ve sure learned a lot over the process and have only positive things to say in that regard.
    -Robin H.

  329. Hello, I found out about this website, not sure if I’m considered half Jewish or not, my mother converted before my birth to conservative judaism, my dad was born a Orthodox Jew and was a kohen. My mother converted in the 70s when standards were more strict but I didn’t grow up Jewish and my mother didn’t consider my brother or I to be Jewish although my dad did, this created much conflict in our family, I recognize my self as a ethnic Jew from my dad but not necessarily halachic Jewish, I want to convert orthodox and follow the tanakh because I love Hashem.

    It has created some issues with acceptance but my last name will always be kohen even if I am not recognized as one, it’s who my descendants were and I am proud of that. I love israel and consider myself a Zionist.

  330. Seren

    hello, been a while.
    Robin H , nice to read that you are having positive experiences.

    I have recently come to terms a lot more with my decision not to instil any personal sense of identification with the Jewish community in my children. And to adapt my own sense of identification with the Jewish community myself- given my background and circumstances the external elements are so negative and from so many different but simultaneous sources that are not going to change- and in fact the negative issues of antisemitism on one hand and vehement rejection from elements of the Jewish community itself on the other, look like they might possibly increase in the UK if anything- so I know I am doing the right thing by my children by not passing on that sense of identification with the Jewish community, as given our particular set of circumstances it just invites too many multifaceted layers of negativity coming at them from all angles into their lives.
    I will of course be honest with them that they have Jewish ancestry but very very clear that they are British and of no religion and to identify with that. Their father is Celtic as is my mother’s family, and I particularly hope they might attach to their father’s background as it is a very tangible thing- we visit his mother across the border regularly, he has the accent and owns the traditional dress which he and other members of his family wear on special occasions like weddings etc. And in a few months time there is a possibility that his home might become a separate country- if that becomes the case we may all have to get dual citizenship, which regarding finding a tangible sense of cultural identity for my children, it can’t get more tangible than giving them a solid passport- though there is fierce debate about it at present, and it may well not happen at all.

    For me it is harder to offer my kids an authentic sense of connection to my mother’s family background as I don’t know much about it. Beyond offering superficial awareness of the language and of certain beaches we have always visited on holiday there once a year, I can’t suddenly pretend an affinity, bilingualism or even an accent when speaking English, or shared cultural experiences in that community during formative years, that I never had. It would feel fraudulent and would also be recognised by others as fraudulent. But I suppose in a very light way, that connection is real.

    I think what I am going to try and explore is Britishness- but as a concept of modern Britain which is multicultural and that as long as you are prepared to contribute positively to society you ought to be given a fair chance, free from discrimination. Rather than Britishness in the sense that entails being of Anglo Saxon (ie English, which is the dominant culture re government and policy making in Britain, rightly or wrongly) descent to ‘feel’ British. I think in that modern conceptual sense, then actually yes I do feel very British. Unfortunately I am coming to this realisation just when UKIP ( one of the most far right anti- immigration anti- ‘anything other than the conformist mainstream’ parties) is gaining popularity amongst voters and the general populace in a way it hasn’t before. But still there is significant opposition to them and their morality in many circles and UKIP are repeatedly ridiculed for their bigotry and irrationality in a very public way on a regular basis.

    So we will see how it all works out. I keep on going dramatically back and forth with the whole thing in my mind. But in the end I don’t have a crystal ball to look into the future to decide what is best. So I just have to go on the facts at hand and try to go forward with my children’s best interests in mind.

    Best to all!

  331. Dear Robin H., Seren and Israel:

    Robin M. here to say hi.

    Please excuse the delay in replying — temporarily ‘lost’ some of my personal emails this spring, but have retrieved them and am replying to them.

    Robin H.: Great hearing from you! Delighted that you have found a shul and a conversion/study program, rabbi and friends that meet your needs. It sounds like a match!

    Like you, I am a huge fan of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short stories. You may also have already located his brother, Israel Joshua Singer, who wrote one of my favorite Jewish novels, “The Brothers Askenazi.”

    Please keep us post on how things go — it is gratifying to hear that you are happy and have found the right niche within Judaism for yourself. I trust that you and your Conservative shul will live together happily ever after.

    I hope your mother continues well. It’s not easy having two generations living in the same house.

    Seren: It sounds like you are doing the right thing. There is no point raising your kids as heavily Jewish-identified under the circumstances that you describe.

    As someone who has recently reconnected with my own Celtic heritage — my father’s family are mostly Scots-English — I understand the difficulties in connecting with a heritage after being ‘away’ for many years or never having been exposed to it.

    I was raised in my Dad’s Episcopalian faith and heritage, but was ‘away’ in Judaism for decades, so the reconnection process has taken a while. I found it helpful to research my Dad’s family, and discovered that we originated from a farm in the Scottish Highlands near Inverness, about five miles from the Culloden battlefield. I was astonished.

    So I’ve been doing a great deal of reading on Scottish history and culture and music — and immersing myself in the English history, culture and music I learned as a child — and learning about the three clans that this branch of my father’s family came from. I’ve also joined an online Scottish Episcopal church historians group.

    So you can take on your other ‘half’ even if you were taught little about it as a child.

    I envy you and your husband’s chance to obtain Scottish passports if Scotland becomes independent!

    Israel: please excuse the delay in posting your message! The first message anyone posts goes to me for moderation, to ensure that we don’t post notices from scammers. Any future messages you post will likely appear immediately.

    Your story of family conflicts between your parents over whether you and your brother were Jewish or not are very familiar to the rest of us. Many of us posting on this message board have been through similar family conflicts. In the end, we all have to decide for ourselves how we will live as adults.

    With regard to your questions: on this website we welcome you as a half-Jewish person ethnically, who identifies as Jewish spiritually. If you want to convert via Orthodox Judaism, go for it!

    Given your strong commitment to traditional concepts of the Tanakh and Hashem, I believe most Orthodox rabbis in the U.S. would be happy to work with you on the conversion process. I am uncertain whether they will accept you as a Cohanim under traditional Orthodox law, but again — sometimes we have to cling to our identities and gently rebuff attempts to deprive us of them.

    Now, I’m assuming here that you live in the U.S. — if you live in another country, much depends on where you live as to whether the Orthodox rabbinate will be flexible and work with you. Let us know if you are living in another country and need any extra advice on finding a friendly Orthodox rabbi.

    Regarding the state of Israel — it’s admirable that you are a Zionist and love the Israeli state — but you might want to have a look at the “Israel” and “Israel and the AMF” pages on our website:



    as there are segments of Israeli society that would welcome you warmly, and other segments that would treat you very poorly.

    Robin M.

  332. Seren

    Hi Robin,

    Always great to have your responses, as they are really personalised and detailed, on topics that are so often made inflammatory by kneejerk reactions or oversimplified explanations of complicated issues. Thanks again for running this organisation. At times it must take a lot of strength in the courage of your convictions. It is greatly appreciated that you do continue to keep it all going.


  333. Dear Seren:

    Thank you for your kind words! I am pleased if group members find my thoughts useful to them.

    You are correct that it sometimes takes a lot of emotional strength to keep running this group. The Jewish establishment mostly does not understand what we are trying to do or is opposed to it, so I deal with a lot of negative “knee jerk” responses from them that are very tiring.

    If those of us who are half-Jewish can advise each other, that provides a much-needed source of support and affirmation.

    Very cordially,

  334. Alexandra

    Dear Robin,

    I am so glad I found this! My mother is Jewish and my father is Greek-Orthodox. My mother’s family never fully accepted me and neither did my father’s family. I have always felt stuck in the middle. I never knew my mother had a Jewish birth certificate with her Hebrew name until a year ago. I asked her why she never told me and the reason I do not have one. She said her parents were opposed to it and that I should not be given a Hebrew name because I was not Jewish. She did not want to tell me all these years because she knew it would hurt me. It took her 44 years to tell me.

    I was raised as a Jew, but even in synagogue I faced discrimination and finally turned my back in my teens. I got sick of hearing how I was not really a Jew. Or having my great-grandmother tell me I act the way I do because I am half goy! It also did not help I carry a Greek first name and my father’s surname, which is certainly Greek!

    Orthodox Christianity is alien to me as my parents divorced when I was very young and raised by my mother. I went to Hebrew school and temple until I finally said no more. It is sad that I feel I really do not have much of an identity with either side as I was also alienated from my father’s family. I am just now getting to know my cousins!

    When I saw your site I was so happy. Thank you for starting it up!


  335. Dear Alexandra:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! We’re glad our site is useful to you.

    You are not alone — many of us feel “caught in the middle” or left in some other way to struggle with our two (or more) heritages by ourselves.

    It is good that you are finally getting to know your paternal cousins — that is a gain after many years of losses.

    With regard to your Jewish family’s actions about your Hebrew name, birth certificate, and the way you were treated in shul as a teen — in the 1970s and 1980s, the Jewish community in America experienced its first large wave of intermarriage, and unfortunately — except for a few Reform, Humanistic Jewish and Reconstructionist educators and rabbis — did not react well.

    During the time that you were a teen, I co-founded the first organization in American for adult descendants of intermarriage — we were received very poorly by the Jewish community, and eventually had to shut down. Because there was no internet back then — at least in the form we know it today — I had no way of reaching teens who still lived at home like yourself.

    I found in that era — and every era since — that matrilineals like yourself — people with a Jewish mother — are sometimes treated by the Jewish community in the same manner as half-Jewish people with a Jewish father — poorly — despite claims that matrilineal Jews are “real” Jews.

    I know that awareness of the historical context in which you and I experienced painful rebuffs is not necessarily healing, but it can help put misbehavior in context.

    You and I cannot fix the hurtful incidents of the past, but perhaps the next step is to look at how we might live at peace with our two heritages in the future, and harvesting some of the benefits we did not have in the past.

    Many of us feel that having had the doors closed upon us in the past means that all doors in a particular group are closed upon us forever. That’s not always true.

    I will offer you a few suggestions, but they are only suggestions. You must do as you think best.

    You might consider exploring both your Jewish and your Greek Orthodox heritages. Some of this search can be done online.

    Some Jewish synagogues — usually Reform, Humanistic, Reconstructionist or Renewal — and some Jewish secular institutions — are now welcoming to members of interfaith families. This welcome is not uniform — you might have to do a bit of “shul shopping” both online and in-person — visiting the websites and then the buildings of one shul or secular Jewish institution and slowly sleuthing out whether they feel truly welcoming or not, at least on a local level.

    There is a sort of institutional “mixed message” among many Jewish institutions in 2014 in which some Jewish institutions officially oppose welcoming interfaith families while a few local branches take us in anyway, and vice-versa — some Jewish institutions have national welcoming policies for members of interfaith families, but some of their local branches don’t want us.

    But some members of this group have found local Jewish synagogues and institutions that do welcome them. This was rarely true when you were a teen. You might want to start such a search with the Half-Jewish Network’s “Jewish Resources” page:


    Keep in mind that nowadays even some Jewish Orthodox outreach groups, such as the Chabad synagogues, would consider you to be a “real” Jew because of your mother, and would likely welcome you. We have also found that some — not all — Conservative Jewish synagogues now welcome both matrilineal and patrilineal Jews.

    I would suggest the same exploration procedure with the Greek (Eastern) Orthodox community. I know that the Greek Orthodox Church (in America at least) long had the attitude that intermarriage should be opposed, and, if an intermarriage was carried out, the children should be raised only as Greek Orthodox. Intermarried families seem to have experienced discrimination in the 1970s and 1980s.

    However, I have detected sign of change in this outlook, as the level of intermarriage between Greek Orthodox Christians and people of many other belief systems has risen dramatically in recent years. One group of Greek Orthodox have set up an official “Office of Interfaith Marriage” to welcome these families:


    There is also much Greek Orthodox history, music, culture and cuisine that you might explore in either a spiritual or secular way.

    I personally found it very healing to reconnect with my father’s Scots-English heritage — exploring the history of the Scottish clans I am descended from, using a clan ancestry website to find the exact farm in Scotland one of my ancestors grew up on, listening to Scottish music and immersing myself in Scottish history and culture through watching online documentaries and movies.

    But these are just suggestions, and you will decide on the right path for yourself.

    I will send you a private email with an informational report about the Half-Jewish Network that contains more information about the group and its history that are not posted on this website.

    Robin M.

  336. Making Aliyah

    I saw somewhere on this sight that it is not recommended for patrilineal Jews who have not had on officially recognized Israeli (ultra orthodox) conversion to make Aliyah, due to being treated like second class citizens. While this is understandable, I actually think that the opposite could be true. Patrilinial Jews should make Aliyah in large numbers to have their voice heard more clearly! It seems to me that many Israelis want religious pluralism, they want other conversions other than orthodox to be recognized, the Conservative/Masorti movement is growing, and they want a democracy – not a theocracy. So, within this particular segment of Israeli society, patrilinials could find a niche, no?

    I was in Israel a few years ago, and I found regular secular Israelis to be friendly with me, even though they knew I was a patrilineal and Masorti. But I’m not sure how things would play out, if I actually lived there. I think it all just depends on the specific types of people I would actually be around.

    Also, the ultra orthodox are now being put to work and starting to serve in the military so they can integrate into society. This self sufficiency should make it easier for those who want to leave ultra orthodoxy, to leave. There should be more support systems in place to help people who are caught in the fold of ultra orthodoxy (or even orthodoxy) and need help getting out!

  337. Making Aliyah

    Actually…after the reading the study at the link below, I came to the same conclusion as this web site, that is not a good idea for patrilineal jews to make aliyah. I’m sure it’s exactly what the orthodox-ultra orthodox want. But who wants to subject themselves to the kind of ethnic extortion described in the study? Treating patrilineals with sub-equal social status if they do not have an officially recognized ultra orthodox conversion is just a way of making somebody pay for something they don’t need to be paying for, in infinite ways and infinite repercussions. It’s the definition of extortion:


    Unless Israeli society can find it’s way out of this mass corruption, it’s just on it’s way downhill like so many other non-democratic states. Terribly tragic, because I still like to think of myself as a Zionist and supporter of the State of Israel. I’m glad that there are Israelis and Diaspora Jews who advocate for religious pluralism and democracy, and I hope for the sake of the continued existence of the Israeli state, that we can make the state system more functional and democratic. Who in the western world wants to support a theocractic state that extorts its own people?

  338. Making Aliyah

    I would also like to add, that since the Israeli government seems in many ways to set the “tone at the top” for the diaspora Jewish population, it’s my guess that the prejudiced theocratic mentality currently in place influences the opinions of many in the diaspora, which at least partially explains some of the prejudice I have received from the Jewish communities here. Sad. I just feel sorry for the situation. While I recognize that the majority of Jewish people I interact with are wonderful, there is also a rather large (and hopefully not growing) percentage of the Jewish population that is being cowed and influenced by some negative aspects of Israeli state policy.

  339. Dear Making Aliyah: I agree with your analysis of the situation. You appear to have thought things through very carefully.

    I believe that you have mentioned an especially valuable point that Israeli government disapproval and discrimination against half-Jewish people have impacted the higher levels of Jewish Diaspora leadership in the U.S. and the people they influence, because these Diaspora leaders are often anxious to please the Israeli government.

    I encourage children and grandchildren of intermarriage to live in countries that do not have laws and social policies specifically tailored against them.

    Welcome, Making Aliyah!

    Robin M.

  340. Betina

    Hi Robin H.

    Wanted to apologies to you. I have not been logging on as I have been busy with other things and have been to Israel this summer (I just got back).

    I am so glad to hear that you have found a good conversion program. Sounds like you are doing well and I sure hope that all goes well for you. I did grow up Jewish and I do feel Jewish. On the same token I feel that your strong feelings towards Judaism is what SHOULD define you and not your “patrilineal”. You should NOT HAVE to convert as YOU ARE JEWISH. I am NOT more Jewish then you are. The program is awesome as it will give you the knowledge you crave and need. Funny how we fight all the stigmas and beliefs that are imposed up on us as half Jews by the Jewish community and yet agree and give in to it. I feel that I must say it again as I do believe strongly that I am not any more Jewish then you are Robin or any one else who is a patrilineal Jew even though we are told (brain washed) that patrilineal Jews are not Jews and must convert. This is wrong and I wish people understood that it is. You seem an amazing person to me and I wish you the best. I also hope you have an amazing journey discovering how amazing you are. Remember who you are. You and only you know the answer to that.

  341. Dear Betina:

    Totally agree with your comments on Robin H !

    Robin M.

  342. Kanton Hart Levine

    Hi, I cannot explain how happy I was to have first found this website, I thought I was alone in being half-Jewish or the product of intermarriage, depending on how you look at it. Having a challenging disability while being of patrilneal descent Jewish, has been intense my entire life, especially with my mother being a non-denominational Christian. There are many myths about different Jewish families within non-denominational and similar forms of Christianity that I do not always agree with. It has affected my outlook, politics and perspective on life both directly and indirectly. This site has helped me to know it is not just me who seeks out other people who are half Jewish, and that we can all get to know each other in the digital age as more people do genealogical records. It is important we do not let rabbis or Christian clergy say we give up our Jewishness if baptized when still a child, as for me, it is our race not our religion that make us Jewish and has more to do with a rabbi that I contacted when still in elementary school who refused to accept me, a practice that I accept but has really just made me feel more Jewish, not less Jewish.

  343. Dear Kanton:

    We are glad this website has brought you pleasure.

    Many half-Jewish people who have posted on this board share your experience of wanting your Jewish roots respected and acknowledged, and feeling upset when authority figures in the Jewish and Christian communities denied or disparaged those connections.

    I am hoping that the Jewish world — and the clergy of both the Jewish and Christian worlds — will eventually see how counter-productive those policies are.

    Christian groups seem to be doing better about intermarried families in the current era.

    Some Jewish groups have slowly modified their group norms to be more welcoming to us; others have not.

    Jewish groups are also wrestling with better welcoming procedures for persons with disabilities, but both they and the Christian groups have a way to go in that area, to put it very miildly.

    At least we have this way of sharing our experiences with each other in this era, which was not available before the internet.

    You are welcome to our group!


  344. Hello,

    Have you heard about “Stories of Polin”? It’s a platform (http://storiesofpolin.com) where people can share their stories about their encounters with Jewish culture. They can tell a story as a graphic, song, photography, film or text. What’s your story? Share it!

  345. Barbara

    What a great idea for a network and for a message board! Thank you so much to those who have organized this!

  346. Barbara

    Do any of you practice Karaite (sp) Judiasm? My understanding of it: Karaites believe in adherence to the original text of the torah without considering the influence of the Sanhedrin or Talmudic interpretation. It is each individual’s responsibility to study Hebrew and the torah in order to come to know it first-hand and personally. An interesting by note: This group believes in patrilineal descent rather than matrilineal which apparently came to be followed as a result of Roman influence. That being said, let me make it clear that I don’t believe in defining Jewish identity merely through either line of descent.

  347. Dear Marta and Barbara:

    Marta: Thank you for suggesting that members of this group who have Polish Jewish ancestry post on Polish Museum of Polish Jewish history website. I hope some of them will see your invitation and participate.

    Barbara: Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network! I hope to contact you by private email within a few weeks and give you additional information about our group that is not posted on our website.

    We have had inquiries about Karaite Judaism in the past. Our patrilineal American members were interested in its acceptance of patrilineal descent. However, there have been several obstacles to them joining the Karaites:

    1. There are very few Karaite Jewish groups in the United States;

    2. Not all Karaite groups believe if your father was a Jew, then you are a Jew. Some Karaite groups believe that both parents must be Jewish, for a person to be considered Jewish:


    3. The Karaite Jews are an Orthodox Jewish Sephardic group — they emerged from what other Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews saw as a heresy (denial of the Talmud and other post-Hebrew Bible writings as authoritative) — but in their essence — at the present time — they appear to be a variant of Orthodox Judaism.

    The Karaites have their own Orthodox traditions, developed over many centuries.

    While many of our group’s Jewish-identified patrilineal members are interested in Orthodox Judaism — read books, study websites, buy DVDs and CDs, etc. — few of them are willing to join any type of Orthodox Jewish groups unless they are actually planing to become Orthodox Jews.

    If you are interested in living as an Orthodox Jew according to Karaite traditions, we hope you will contact their websites and let us know how you are received by them. That information would be useful to other people who visit the Message Board.

    Robin M.

  348. Kohen

    Hopefully I can share my experience here, I have had conflicting identity for a long time since I was a child, my mother is of German background and my father was born Jewish to a Kohen family. My mother converted to Conservative Judaism and married my father, never the less my fathers family was not pleased that a Kohen was marrying a convert let alone a conversion that would not be recognized by everyone. Throughout my life, I knew very little about my Jewish background, my mother raised us with Catholic traditions, we went to a regular public school and when we would question or ask about our ethnic background, my mother would always remind me that I was German, Russian, and Romanian which seemed odd because none of the other kids who were of that ethnic background saw me as such. My father on the other hand taught that we were Kohanim and that we descended directly from Abraham and from the high priests, he mentioned something about Canaanites but I believe he meant we were levites who went into the land of Canaan, We grew up eating regular food, we didn’t eat kosher and I guess at some point my father figured my mother didn’t really want to give up her catholic traditions and so there wasn’t much we could do. Every now and then, my father would bring up a few topics about Israel when I was younger how they read right to left, how Hitler wanted to exterminate our people, he mentioned how Israel was a tiny country and America’s ally and how Israel made the desert bloom when no one else could.

    For a long time I rejected the idea that I could be Jewish, I didn’t like going to my relatives homes for Jewish holidays, we went sometimes for passover and I didn’t understand it, I went to my uncles for a brit milah, a family member of a non related aunt critisized my father for not having taught us Yiddish (despite none of our family speaking Yiddish) and my father became offended not seeing Yiddish as our language but Hebrew. I felt more American than anything, kids used to make fun of my last name not knowing what it meant and ironically the only person who actually knew what it meant was a Assyrian who seemed to harbor respect towards my background.

    Over time, my father I think tried to get me to follow Judaism, he mentioned that a Jewish race exists and that we have a unique Jewish skull and that Jews are a racial ethnic group that are different from other people, I became extremely angry and wouldn’t talk to my father immediately ignoring him and any requests about this. My father suffered from mental illness being bipolar and killed himself when i was 17.

    When I became older people would refer to me as Jewboy or focus on my Jewish heritage even though I didn’t see myself as such, my father is passed away and died when I was 17, my mother wanted to baptize us and change our last names to her German names erasing our Jewish roots, over time I felt like I wanted to learn more about Jews, I started reading a lot of Nazi websites to try to understand the hatred against Jews and the amount of anti semitism and hatred made me feel sick, the amount of things I saw made me into a Zionist and a defender of Israel learning about things, the more I defended Israel and became pro Jewish, it seemed like people would attack on all sides, on one side I had a family who was Jewish who didn’t care and rabbis who didn’t consider me really a Jew at all, on the other side I had Nazis and others who would call me a Khazar or claim I was a imposter Jew, I had Arabs who would say the same, American nationalist groups would say that I don’t belong in the US and would consider me a Jew and tell me to leave, Christian missionary groups wanted to target me, and other Jews would claim that maybe i’m not really a Kohen that maybe i’m just a German or Irish person as if they were ashamed of me.

    Overtime I grew distant with the half acceptance, I met some Israeli friends who still considered me a Jew, it seemed the more I tried to hide my identity the more people saw me as a Jew but the more I tried to be like a Jew people would call me something else like some sort of sick mind game and 2 parents who told me I had 2 different ethnic identities, my mother never saw the jews as a ethnic group and would remind me theres chinese jews, black jews, mexican jews and constantly remind me I was german russian and romanian and I would reject this, she would become extremely angry I didn’t accept her heritage and claim I was rejecting my fathers despite my father never seeing himsefl as a russian or romanian but a hebrew. My mother sometimes made comments about Judaism being a dying religion and claimed she was treated poorly in synagogue, that she didn’t want to give up belief in Jesus and that she was seen as a outsider and wanted to follow christmas. She seemed to have a lot of resentment towards Judaism and renounced her beliefs, became a catholic and looked poorly on Jewish woman specifically and didn’t want me to have any part in it.

    When i was still living at home, I tried to make aliyah to Israel because I wanted to join the IDF in 2005, I was still young, I found a box with my paperwork a brit milah from a orthodox rabbi, a marriage ketubah and my mothers conversion papers, I had thought I could finally go to Israel and had looked at a lot of pictures of Israel and researched fanatically for months that this is what I wanted, to learn Hebrew, be a Jew and go to Israel, when my mother found out, she hid the paperwork and denied knowing where it went, I took pictures, the other problem is anytime I’d speak of being a Jew, my mother would shoot me down and say “your not a Jew, you weren’t raised Jewish, dad was a Jew, you are not” “Your Russian Romanian and German not middle eastern”, and we would argue about this.

    Everytime I’d refuse to eat pork, it was like she would continue to serve it as if it was normal and I was being stubborn.

    Over a period I started to feel abandoned by the Jewish community, I talked to rabbis who said I’m not a Kohen and can never be, that it doesn’t matter what my heritage is and if my mothers not a Jew I can’t be either, I looked up the aliyah process and realized that the jewish agency doesn’t consider a child Jewish if the mother converts to another religion because the descendants aren’t Jewish either, but I could make aliyah via my father.

    I started to feel more isolated not living near a Jewish community far from everyone being forced to move when I was younger, yet still felt attached that I couldn’t escape it, I felt a lot of pressure from people who hated Jews on the internet as well as in real life, people who denied the holocaust, people who attacked my ancestry I started to feel that it was attacking what I was yet knowing little about my heritage.

    I fell into depression, a friend invited me to a church which I started to forget about being a Jew or even Israel for about 3 years, I met my wife overseas and after finally having a lonely feeling, I felt like a traitor that I wasn’t doing what my father would have wanted, I started to teach my wife about our background, I read about Karaites who believed in paternal descent but it seemed other Jewish sects were opposed to them because they rejected the talmud, anytime I’d bring this up to chabad or other websites, I would be told “you can’t always be sure of the father but you can be sure of the mother”, I did a DNA test and found out I had the kohen marker and my ancestry originated in the middle east, my DNA marker being J1c3 found in other semitic peoples, I went to a conservative synagogue for the first time but felt somewhat alien there, the rabbi still considering me a Jew.

    Over time i’ve felt frustrated, about not really being fully accepted as a Jew by the Jewish community but also being considered a Jew by outsiders, i’ve grown tired of the hatred and people who deny the holocaust, destroy our graves, i’ve also grown tired of people who have made rude remarks about me not being the son of my father or a kohen, and looked down as a second class citizen, my questionable ability to make aliyah, overall I just want to be accepted and be able to live as a Jew the way our ancestors did and be able to live in Israel.

    I know that I will never be seen as a true Jew without a conversion and even then I will never be accepted as a Cohen and my Hebrew name my father gave me will be lost through conversion but the identity crisis has been killing me, also dealing with a mother who rejects the Jews and our self determination as a people.

    I have read a lot about Karaite beliefs, but, there’s also things about Karaites that I see from them that they harbor a lot of hatred towards rabbinical Judaism and some things that can’t be explained like Ezra in the bible, at the same time there’s things in the talmud that don’t quite make sense to me either that seem to say opposite what is in the Torah/Tanakh. I suppose I will always be in doubt, I figure a true conversion to orthodox Judaism may be the only way as in my heart I feel as a Jew, it’s in my blood, my veins, my dna, and I can’t erase that half of my ancestors from my life.

  349. Betina

    Hi Kohen,
    Sorry to hear about your experience. You express what many of us have experienced throughout life. People reject us, and so, we learn to reject ourselves. Learn to love and accept your self. It is an important process that will help you heal. In time you will come to see that these people do not really matter in how you define yourself. It is a long and hard process but well worth it if you can do it. With that being said, I hope your mom will come around and see how much it means to you. Keep in mind that some people are ignorant. Do not let ignorance effect how you feel on the inside. You are who you want to be.

    Good luck,

  350. Hirsch1234

    Dear Kohen,

    I understand much of what you are going through, since I am also patrilineal. I’ve found the best thing is to accept and embrace all parts of my ancestry, the good and the bad. All cultures have hangups and crappy people. You only need a few good people around you in this lifetime to make you happy, and stick to them. The most important opinions as you go through life are the opinions you have of yourself. Make it a priority to surround yourself with inspiring people and thoughts of yourself throughout the day.
    Now, about not being accepted as a Kohen in most Jewish communities. That is extremely sad and difficult to deal with, and I hear you on that. However, you do not need to be recognized as a Kohen to be happy. Your father was a Kohen – and yet he killed himself. Happiness or unhappiness is a product of self acceptance. It is not a product of external identities imposed on us by society, or a product of rejection by certain elements in a society.

    I’ve gotten to the point that I couldn’t care less about who accepts me as a Jew and who doesn’t. I had a conservative conversion because I wanted to learn about the Jewish religion under a denomination that wasn’t extreme or judgmental. There are still judgmental people in the conservative movement but I ignore them. I’m proud of who I am and I don’t need to be judged by any traditionalist or religious extremist anywhere in the world.

    And you don’t need an official Israeli recognized orthodox conversion. Those are now a joke. The rabbinate can prolong or revoke your conversion for a litany of insane religious reasons, and it’s just another form of religious and ethnic extortion to control your mind and gain political control. Lots of Israelis don’t even like the Israeli rabbinate, and want to get rid of its control. So in another ten years, things might change anyway. Free your spirit and your mind from all religious, political and ethnic hangups and find a way to embrace the positive, multiple aspects of your ancestry and identity. Ask yourself who you are as a person apart from any ethnic identity. Life is so short, don’t waste it on politics. My sole reason for making comments on boards like this is so people can wake up to religious and ethnic brainwashing and the connected politics that corrupt the mind, so you can be free from it and create a life for yourself that makes you happy.

  351. Hirsch1234

    Dear Kohen,

    I would also like to add, that I also share some German Christian ancestry as my grandmother was either half or fully German Protestant, while my Grandfather was German Jewish. Luckily, I was told that my great-grandfather was an Anti-Fascist, and too old to serve in the German draft. However, that is not the case for all people who have mixed German and Jewish ancestry. I have relatives in Germany who are mixed German Christian and German Jewish, but they grew up Christian. Wrestling with this particular ancestry given the stain of German history is no easy task, so I do understand your conflict. It is even possible that some people who have this particular ethnic make up might have some ancestors who were persecutors (Fascists). So in this scenario one would have to live the embodiment of conflict resolution. The best solution I’ve found is to love and respect both the good things about German and Jewish culture, and any other culture that you might have some ancestry, and just promote non-judgment and peace wherever possible.

  352. Seren

    Hi Kohen

    I really empathise with the sentiment behind your message. Similar issues have led me to extreme feelings of anger, sadness, confusion and inner loss at different points. However for the most part nowadays I don’t feel that way. I think ultimately understanding that these problems I was experiencing were not due to any inherent shame or fault within myself- but that they stem from doing something normal to everyone, even right from childhood: seeking connection and acceptance from others. Sadly the communities our parents come from at this era in history mean that this connection and acceptance is denied or made awkward for people like you and me – usually by those with a rigid and often narcissistic sense of their own ethnic or religious identity. I think what changed everything for me however, was realising I do not actually wish to connect strongly or identify with people who place their ethnic or religious identity before their kindness and humanity. Regardless of all subsequent and any current difficulties I have experienced in life, ultimately I was born as a result of two people’s admirable, universalist values- including the values of tolerance, courage, love for humanity regardless of boundaries, acceptance of all peoples and hope for a better more open future in the next generation. That is my heritage. And it is yours too. There is no better heritage than that.
    And if anyone has convinced you otherwise, then they have done you a disservice. But you are an adult, as am I, and unlike when we were children absorbing the confused and at times damaging messages from our families and communities, as adults we now have choice. So we do ourselves a disservice if we choose to persist in believing in other people’s supremacy theories which reject us and were foisted on us as children and at other vulnerable points in our lives. Quite frankly, when you and I were born from such beautiful values in my opinion it is a waste to seek acceptance from people who prioritise values of narcissism and separateness leading them to callously reject or even take pleasure in the schadenfreude of stating how they fall into a special circle, and how others do not. Those people by such actions only prove themselves to be the opposite of what they claim to be: because if people act in such a way, then in my opinion they automatically are not special. And if they are not really special, but just severely narcissistic and deluded, then what is the value of joining, identifying with or being accepted by them?
    There are of course many horrid people in the world like this- racists, antisemites and unfortunately sometimes some Jews are like this too. But there are also many people, people from a vast array of backgrounds including some Jews, who prioritise valuing who a person is as an individual over and above the ethnicity or religion of their parents. Seek out those people. To me, those people are my true people. I am proud to belong with them.
    I personally am glad not to be accepted by the others who think it is right to believe the opposite. As I would be insulted to be accepted by people -whether they are antisemites or Jews- who think that the fact of your parents’ ethnicities or religions gives them the right to negatively judge or reject others. To think in that way is vile and it is not to be valued, or sought acceptance from.
    You are so much more interesting and so much better than that. I just hope you can realise it. Very best wishes.

  353. Rachel

    Hello all,
    I will start by saying that I am extremely glad to have found this network. I have struggled with my identity my whole life, and for the past couple of years have been searching. My father is Jewish, and mother is not. She was born a non-church going Christian, but has found a relationship with Jesus Christ later in life. Early in life, my father celebrated Jewish holidays such as Passover, Yom Kippur, and Hanukkah when his extended family was still alive, but as I got older my father all but phased anything celebratory out of our lives. We did celebrate Christmas and Easter with my mom’s relatives, but my dad preferred not to celebrate those holidays at home. It wasn’t as if we were “raised Jewish”, as the religion involves a vigorous methodology of schooling, learning Hebrew, and adopting a certain lifestyle which my father couldn’t afford and grew tired of. We weren’t also “raised Christian” since my mom wasn’t really involved with Christianity. I guess you could say we knew that our father identified as Jewish but we were nothing. I know inter-faith marriages are difficult and tricky, and often times I felt biracial; not quite one, not quite the other. Additionally, not quite also accepted by either. I am now in my thirties, married to a wonderful man who is from a mixed Christian background. His mother was Catholic, now Buddhist, and father was Protestant. He does not identify with any church affiliation. He and I are both interested in welcoming religion into our lives, as we have two small children and would like for them to have a relationship with God. I just don’t understand the strict rules that oftentimes accompany Judiasm. Am I allowed to be Jewish? I think not as my mother was not Jewish. Am I allowed to believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior? I think not as I was born with half Ashkenazi blood. So……..the dilemma continues. I am not necessarily interested in the salvation in my afterlife that comes from accepting Jesus into my life, but I am also not necessarily interested in living a life of Jewish culture, based on what I know and remember from my early childhood (not much, admittedly.) Am I relegated to a life of no religion? I DO believe in God and I am missing something from my life. I yearn for community and love, acceptance, and forgiveness that I would get from Christianity. I am thinking that perhaps many others feel this same way?

  354. Dear Rachel:

    You ask: “I just don’t understand the strict rules that oftentimes accompany Judiasm. Am I allowed to be Jewish? I think not as my mother was not Jewish. Am I allowed to believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior? I think not as I was born with half Ashkenazi blood. So……..the dilemma continues. I am not necessarily interested in the salvation in my afterlife that comes from accepting Jesus into my life, but I am also not necessarily interested in living a life of Jewish culture, based on what I know and remember from my early childhood (not much, admittedly.) Am I relegated to a life of no religion? I DO believe in God and I am missing something from my life. I yearn for community and love, acceptance, and forgiveness that I would get from Christianity. I am thinking that perhaps many others feel this same way?”

    Robin replies: I will offer you my thoughts, but I hope others will chime in as well.

    You could live as a Reform, Reconstructionist or Humanistic Jew, but you’d be required to convert to Judaism because you weren’t raised totally Jewish. See “Who Is A Jew?” at:


    You’d also be asked to convert your kids, because your husband isn’t Jewish, and you weren’t raised totally Jewish. If you decided to go “shul shopping,” you might be able to find a friendly synagogue in your geographic area.

    Some synagogues might be very friendly to you and your family, others might not be friendly.

    You could live as a Christian. Most Christian communities these days are very accepting of half-Jewish people and their families. Especially in the U.S., Christian communities are currently invested in exploring Jesus’ Jewish background and roots.

    You mention that you “yearn for community and love, acceptance, and forgiveness that I would get from Christianity.”

    If you feel a strong pull towards those elements in Christianity, consider going “church shopping” in your geographic area. Why shouldn’t you and your family have a spiritual home?

    You mention that “I just don’t understand the strict rules that oftentimes accompany Judiasm” — have a look at the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament, Tanach) — it’s full of statements against intermarriage, along with a few stories (Book of Ruth, Book of Esther) that seem to defend intermarriage. The rules emerged from those debates. Again, see “Who Is A Jew?” at:


    This is very different from the early Christian attitudes in the New Testament, where Christians are encouraged to remain married to non-Christians in hopes of converting them and their kids.

    The Christians haven’t always kept to that outlook — during the Holocaust, ironically, many Christians adopted anti-intermarriage attitudes — but most U.S. Christian groups gradually dropped anti-Semitic attitudes after World War II and the Holocaust.

    I can personally attest that after several decades in Judaism, I was welcomed back to the Episcopal Church that I was raised in as a child and a teen with open arms. I’ve been treated with great warmth and kindness. I am sometimes asked friendly technical questions about Judaism and Jewish holidays, but I’ve seen no anti-Semitism.


  355. Betina

    Just came back from Israel. I went to see my dying mother and later on, that week, to a funeral. What we encounter as half Jewish people is normal in that country for Jewish people that come from different walks, streams, ethnic groups, half Jewish people, as well as different religions. For example: the burial of Sephardic Jaws and Ashkenazi Jaws. Did you guys know that in most cemeteries in Israel in 2014 the two different ethnic groups can NOT be buried in the same area and are separated by different helkot (areas)? Other ethnic groups have their own helka (area) as well.
    Set the Shiva, of course, and said the caddish on the last day at my mom’s house. Needless to say, that on that day we sinful women had to leave the room so mighty men can pray undisturbed……. I felt as if I traveled back in time….Such ignorance!

  356. Dear Betina:

    I am sorry to hear that your mother has died. I hope that she was not in too much pain. I know that she must have been glad to see you before she died.

    May you be consoled among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

    I had no idea that Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews in Israel cannot be buried in the same cemeteries, and that other ethnic groups maintain their own cemeteries.

    Regarding sitting shiva in your mother’s house and then saying Kaddish — very sorry to hear that it was done Orthodox style so that the women had to leave the room when the men prayed — ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic groups in the United States follow the same customs.

    So the exclusion of women from certain rituals is not confined to the Israeli Orthodox — U.S. Orthodox also do it. Only exception in U.S. are the “Modern Orthodox,” who give women more of a role.

    Betina, very sorry about the loss of your mother!

    Robin M.

  357. Betina

    Hi Robin,
    Thank you so much.
    Hope is all well with you Robin. I have been thinking about you and wanted to take the time to wish you the best wishes and happy holidays.
    Just wanted to clarify a point or two. Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews can be buried in the same “cemetery” except not in the same area (helka). Different areas are allocated to different ethnic groups which is still all the same and very outrageous in my opinion.
    Regarding the service at the end of the Shivea…You would think that the service (Kaddish) at my Mom’s house was done by Orthodox Jews, but it was NOT. It was done by Hilonic Jews which are a group of Jews who don’t even practice the religion on daily bases except for maybe holidays and that made it even more sad. Seems like people in Israel are stuck in another era. For example, I mentioned to my brother that some women in the U.S.A can and do wear the tallit and even tfilin. He replied and let me quote: “Maybe I should install an IUD…what else do women think they can do?” I was very disturbed by such comment for the fact that he is not even an Orthodox. Some would even consider him a modern Israeli young man (haha).
    I replied to him that not too long ago women did not wear pants and furthermore, that women can wear tfilin and tallit however, he would never be able to use and IUD. He told me I must have lost my mind.
    I came back re-evaluating what we all consider as the only democracy in the middle east.
    Once again, Best wishes and happy holidays to you Robin and everyone else.

  358. Alix

    Hello Everyone.

    I am new here and hoping to connect with others. I am the daughter of a mother whose Jewish family converted to being Northern Baptist after WWII. To this day, my mother will not admit to being Jewish. The most she will say is that she had “a little Jewish grandmother.” When I was in college, my friend from Queens said, “Hey! That makes you Jewish too!” As far as I know, my mother’s family were not Holocaust survivors, but they lived in NYC during what was (I gather) a time of intense anti-Semitism. According to my mom, that’s part of the reason they converted.

    My father is not Jewish and I was not raised in any faith tradition. I’ve gone to synagogues and Jewish organizations but I don’t fit in there. I’m Wiccan/Pagan and feminist and GLBT and have very little knowledge of Jewish culture and religion. I have one brother who looks Jewish and is equally in denial about our family origins. However, I vowed to find out about my Jewish origins when I reached my 40s.

    It’s time, and this is the first step. Here’s my question:

    Are there other people like me, whose families denied their Judaism and were raised outside all of the faith traditions? There must be….is there a name for us? Is there a community I can connect with? What would be a comfortable venue in which to learn more about Judiaism?

    Thank you,

  359. Hi Alix,

    I hope you are still here and that maybe you too live in Queens (or one of the NYC boroughs.. I live in Brooklyn). Anyway, I can relate to the issue of having a Jewish parent who went through a period of rejection and/or denial regarding being Jewish. That was my father who is a product of the WW11 era. He told me that when he was younger he would lie when asked, and often said that he was Catholic. He never went so far as to convert to another faith; he came from a largely secular Jewish family on the upper west side of Manhattan. He is much more accepting and actually ‘possessive’ these days about his Jewishness and I think a lot of that may have had to do with my constant probing of our family history on his side. But in NYC in the 50’s, 60’s, even 70’s etc, Jews were not as accepted as they are today; multiculturalism and religious pluralism were not all the rage as they are now; my father experienced his fair share of anti-semitism in his youth and early career days. My brother and I knew of our Jewish heritage. We grew up with the food and the jokes here and there and that was it.

    Dad also seemed to have developed a love affair with Christmas perhaps based on Bing Crosby and all the black and white movies of that time with NYC plots.

    To answer your question, there are plenty of us around. I don’t think there is a specific community for half Jews raised outside of all faith traditions (my brother and I were sent to a neighborhood protestant church though our parents did not participate; it was about conforming to expected norms of the time). Today I think most of us just go through a period of struggle to find that chink in the wall where we can slide ourselves in (metaphorically speaking) I have learned a lot over the years by reading, through this message board which was really lively quite some time ago, by taking a class at the 92nd St Y and by going (now) to beit midrash at a Cobble Hill Brooklyn synagogue and I am in the process of moving toward conversion but I’ve been so busy that I’m still not there yet. I have a few Jewish friends, not as many as I would like.

    Keep posting and let us all know how you are approaching this. There is no one prescription.

    Robin H.

  360. Dear Alix:

    There are a certain number of adult children and grandchildren of intermarriages where one side of the family opted to conceal its heritage. The children were then raised in the “other” faith or in no faith at all.

    I refer to their parents and grandparents as the “runaways.” People have many and varied reasons for abandoning an ethnic or religious heritage. Sometimes they are tired of persecution. Other times they are distancing themselves from very dysfunctional family members. In still other instances, they are dissatisfied with the other faith/ethnicity and associate it with unhappy experiences.

    It varies from family to family.

    My mother abandoned most of her “Conservadox” Jewish family and Judaism, then married my Episcopalian WASP Dad and converted to Christianity. I was raised as an Episcopalian and did not find out that my mother was a Jew who converted to Christianity until shortly after her death, when I was 34 years old.

    There is no community for the adult children and grandchildren of the runaways. We visit this message board, and try to share information.

    Regarding finding a Jewish community where you might feel comfortable, have you contacted:

    1. Nehirim — GLBT Jewish national group:


    2. Also — I’m assuming that you live in NYC area — but that assumption may be wrong — have you tried a GLBT synagogue in your area:


    If you don’t live in NYC, there are GLBT synagogues in other cities.

    3. Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute:


    A lot of Jewish Wiccan/Pagan oriented material is referred to as “Jewish earth based” spirituality.

    4. If you look into Jewish Kabbalah study classes, you will also see some material that is clearly connected with Wiccan practices — see Martin Buber’s book “Tales of the Hasidim” — it is available as a paperback from Amazon.com. There are many neo-Pagan practices embedded in the Kabbalah of the Hasidim.

    Please post again, as Robin H. suggests, and let us know how things are going.

    I have a free PDF information packet I can send you which talks (in part) about my personal experiences as the daughter of a “runaway” parent, and how that led to the formation of this group. If you email me at:


    I will send you a copy.

    Robin M.

  361. Dear Betina:

    Thank you for your kind wishes and holiday greetings to me!

    I read with interest that your Israeli
    Arab-Jewish chiloni (secular) family is following Orthodox Jewish shiva practices that discriminate against women and prevent women from reciting the Kaddish.

    That is very unfortunate, and I hope your brother will consider what you have said.

    Robin M.

  362. Dear Alix:

    Don’t forget to check out our “GLBT Resources” page at:


    Robin M.

  363. Ilias

    Hello, I am a half jewish, half greek teenager who has been on something of a spiritual journey in the past several months. I was baptized in the Orthodox Church but have never really felt connected to the church or christianity in general. My dad (my jewish parent) no longer really practices judaism and all my relatives who do don’t live nearby. Anyways I am beginning to consider what religion I wish to follow and I am seriously considering judaism. I’m wondering if anyone knows any rabbis or congregations that are friendly towards patrilineal’s who are willing to convert in the chicago area. Thanks for any help.

  364. Dear Ilias:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    There are several ways that you can approach conversion.

    1. Shul Shopping — Before going to a conversion class, you might want to do some “shul shopping” — visiting synagogues and finding one that you feel comfortable with. Then they can refer you to their own conversion classes or to a rabbi and conversion classes that they prefer.

    Here’s a website covering one Jew by Choice’s experiences in the Chicago area Jewish community. I would suggest that you contact him first, as he has visited a lot of synagogues and is very honest about his experiences. His email address is on the website:


    The reason I advise you to “shul shop” is that prior to converting to Judaism, you need to get a sense of what living as a Jew by Choice (convert) would actually be like — how will you feel as “a Jew in the pew”?

    You can check out Chicago area synagogues on the internet, and start visiting the ones whose websites appeal to you. Just as in Christianity, there are different denominations — Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstruction, Renewal and Humanistic. Each one has its own policies on conversion.

    You may wish to start out with Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal and Humanistic synagogues, which have official policies of welcoming patrilneals who wish to convert to Judaism. Keep in mind that some synagogues are welcoming and some are not — some synagogues pay attention to their denomination’s official welcoming policies, and others ignore the policies and ignore or diss newcomers.

    2. You can go directly to a conversion program, also known as “Jews by Choice” programs. One place to start is Reform Judaism’s free “Taste of Judaism” classes — you sign up for three weekly classes that serve as an introduction to Judaism:


    Here is a link to the Conservative movement’s Chicago conversion program:


    Bear in mind, that conversion classes will tell you all the good stuff about Judaism — but they won’t tell you the so-so or negative stuff. That’s natural, it’s their job, but it means that you get a one-sided picture.

    Here is a list of Jewish young adult programs in the Chicago area:


    and here:


    A lot of these activities are aimed at Jewish 20somethings, so you may have to specifically ask to be directed towards a synagogue youth group for teens.

    If you can, let us know of any welcoming groups that you find and post their names and contact information. That will help other people considering conversion in the Chicago area.

    Robin M.

  365. Ilias

    Thanks! I’ve contacted a local renewal congregation and I’m waiting for a response from them. The congregation (makom shalom) appears pretty welcoming so I’m excited to hear back from them. I’ll be sure to let you know what happens.

  366. Dear Ilias:

    Good luck! Let us know how it goes.

    Robin M.

  367. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, Robin M. and all, I am back to the HJN after a long hiatus of sorts while sorting out my life. This is a LONG post. I will give as brief a recap as I can manage and those of you who remember my story, thank you for being patient with me. What follows may be the most concise telling of my journey so far. I am a 50-something adult who has known since the age of 15 that I have some Jewish heritage. My paternal grandmother emigrated from Lithuania with her brother in 1914 and later married a Serbian Orthodox (Christian) immigrant, then they had a family, my father and two more boys. To my knowledge Dad loosely identified with Judaism, but was raised in a secular household. I think my grandfather was not happy with Grandma’s Judaism. My dad studied to be an engineer and married my mom, a beautiful, intelligent small-town girl from San Diego area (not many Jews lived there back in the day) and during that first year of marriage, she hears her mother-in-law speaking Yiddish with neighbors, but is OK with the Jewish connection, or so it seems. By this time our family has two generations of intermarriage. As a family of atheist Unitarians, religion and religious identity don’t seem important to us.
    Fast-forward to me age 15 and my older brother on a family car ride. We’ve just bought bagels and Dad says, “By the way, your Grandma is Jewish”. So for a long time I didn’t “get” that this made him a Jew. My strongest previous association with Judaism is the horror of the Holocaust and the diary of Anne Frank. A year later our high school group goes to see “Fiddler on the Roof” and I start developing my Yiddishkeit (Jewish feeling and identity).
    Somehow I have the foresight in Graduate school to take advantage of a class assignment and interview my aging grandmother about her story.
    Several years later I make sure my 8 year old daughter knows about her Jewish heritage, and we start lighting Hanukkah candles. It takes many more years until I begin to understand the importance of Shabbat and learn how to light the candles.
    About 5 years ago my daughter finished college and move home for a year. Her Feminist Studies Profs. encouraged all their students to study their family’s history, and she spends many Saturday mornings going to local synagogues in the SF bay area to understand Judaism, and I get curious and start going with her to her favorite one, a liberal non-denominational shul.
    When she leaves the next year for graduate school, I find myself wanting to return to services, and learn more about this mysterious religion and its customs. My father died in the Spring of 2012 and it doesn’t take long for me to realize I want to say the Kaddish for him. I don’t know how, or that it’s in Aramaic, not Hebrew, but I am determined to do it. I begin attending a weekday minyan at a Conservative synagogue so I can learn and practice the Kaddish. Eventually I take an intro to Judaism class at the JCC and almost exactly a year after Dad’s death I decide I want to become a Jew.
    I am very close to finishing up, and while at first I thought it would take a year, it’s been my decision more than the Rabbi’s to take it slow. At my Rabbi’s suggestion we had a belated memorial service in my father’s memory last week and we also recognized my grandmother and earlier generations. This has been an incredible process of healing, emotionally and spiritually. Over the past almost-three years have learned much about Judaism and perhaps more importantly about myself and what kind of person and Jew I will be.
    Thanks, especially to Robin M, Robin H, and Cindy who have helped me so much in the HJN forum with acceptance, cautionary tales, and encouragement. While I’ve been “away” I have been lurking and following every post. This forum and its participants are a gift.

  368. Dimitri

    Hi i like to know my mother was born jewish but she was adopted when she was baby and change her religion to christian ordodox and my father is christian did i am going to accept as jewish by origins or need to convert to a religion that i never have contact!!!

  369. Dear Dimitri:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    Looking at your email server, I understand that you live in Greece. I will try to answer your questions assuming that you are a Greek citizen living in Greece.

    The answers to your questions are very complicated because your mother was adopted and then converted to the Church of Greece. I hope you will read my entire response.

    If you wish to be considered Jewish by birth within the Greek Jewish community, please understand that they are Sephardic Orthodox Jews. Most Sephardic Orthodox Jews follow the matrilineal rule — they accept only the children of biological Jewish mothers as Jews.

    They would likely accept you as the biological child of a Jewish mother and therefore as a Jew. They are considered an easygoing Orthodox Jewish community — not as strict as the Jewish Orthodox communities in Northern Europe.

    Your Jewish mother’s adoption by a Church of Greece Eastern Orthodox Christian family, her conversion to the Church of Greece, her marriage to your Christian father, and her decision to raise you as a Christian means that the Greek Jewish community will probably consider your mother to be a “meshumad” (apostate from Judaism) — a sinner — but still a biological Jew.

    Your mother might be considered a sinner until she stopped practicing Christianity and started living as a Jew.

    Orthodox Jews are not supposed to consider your Christian father — it is your mother who is important under their rules. Some Jews may dislike you for having a Christian father. Other Jews will not care about your father.

    The Greek Jewish community may require proof that your mother was Jewish in her origins. By proof, I mean papers — some type of birth or adoption records for your mother showing that your mother was Jewish.

    Other types of proof include letters from relatives, legal documents such as an affidavit from your mother swearing that she was born Jewish, photographs of the tomb stone of your biological Jewish grandmother — some type of record that shows your mother was Jewish at birth and born to a Jewish mother.

    If you cannot produce any proof that your mother was a Jew, you may have to sign up for an Orthodox Jewish conversion program and convert to Judaism.

    As part of your conversion program, the Greek Jewish community may also ask that you promise to live as an Orthodox Jew and give up any connection to the Church of Greece.

    Now if you are thinking about leaving Greece and becoming an Israeli Jewish citizen, that is much more difficult.

    Current Israeli civil and religious law states that the child of a biological Jewish mother is considered a Jew and can make aliyah (immigration to Israel).

    But you would have to provide proof to the Israeli embassy in Athens and other Jewish aliyah organizations that your mother was Jewish — her adoption or birth records, legal documents, photographs of your Jewish grandmother’s tomb stone, a certificate that you are Jewish from the Greek Jewish community — some type of proof.

    I am not sure what proof the Israeli government would want from you — it changes frequently.

    Another problem — your biological Jewish mother was converted to the Church of Greece and raised by a Christian family — and your mother married a Christian and raised you as a Christian — so your mother would be considered a “meshumad” (apostate from Judaism).

    Israeli government bureaucrats and civil courts would probably refuse to recognize you as an Israeli Jewish citizen because your mother converted to Christianity.

    You could immigrate to Israel, but you would be considered a “non-Jewish” Israeli and would receive no government help for the move.

    If you wished to be considered a Jew before making aliyah and get Israeli government help once you arrived in Israel, and you cannot find proof that your mother was Jewish that satisfies the Israeli government bureaucrats and the Israeli civil courts —

    you would have to complete an Orthodox Jewish conversion program in Greece, and bring papers to Israel showing that you had an Orthodox conversion to Judaism in Greece.

    Be aware that Israeli Orthodox Jewish religious courts would probably consider you Jewish even if you did not convert, provided you brought papers from Greece showing that your mother was Jewish, such as her birth or adoption records.

    Unfortunately, the Israeli religious courts do not control the aliyah immigration status of half-Jewish people who were raised Christian. The Israeli government bureaucrats and civil courts control that status. That is discussed in:


    The Half-Jewish Network opposes half-Jewish people immigrating to Israel. Israel treats us very badly. For information on how Israel treats half-Jewish people, please read:


    For information on how Orthodox Jews see half-Jewish people, please read:


    Now, the best way to get your questions resolved within Greece is to contact the Greek Jewish community organizations. Here are links to information about them:




    I would guess that the Greek Jewish community would accept you as a Jew if you have some type of paper proof that your mother was Jewish. You would also have to promise to live as an Orthodox Jew according to their Sephardic Jewish Orthodox customs.

    If you do not have paperwork proof that your mother was Jewish, you may be asked to sign up for an Orthodox Jewish conversion program and convert to Judaism.

    I am hopeful that the Greek Jewish community would welcome you. Do not be discouraged if one Jewish organization rejects you or is unfriendly. Just contact another organization.

    If you decide to live as a Greek Jew, please let us know a bit about your experiences.

    If you decide to remain a Greek who belongs to the Church of Greece, that also is fine with us.

    You must do what you think is right for you. Best of luck!

    Robin M.

  370. Dimitri

    Hi thank you for the answer to tell the truth my mother was from ukranian stock and there no way to find parent grave photos ,there some papers from greece other from ukraine not .so there not any ties with greek jews wich their name is romaniotes, if i convert in the future i will do that in a ulpan in israel probably and my fate will be like any other convert person with not jewish past i have done some research for some matters.

  371. Ilias

    Hey guys! I just got back from my “a taste of judaism” class at a local reform temple. I’m extremely excited to say that the rabbi was extremely kind. He basically said that I’m welcome at services anytime, and if I want recognition by the wider reform movement and other movements he’d be happy to help me convert (while I attend services of course). My plan for the moment is to continue with conversion, mainly because I love learning about religion and philosophy and that is basically all the conversion classes are and secondly because I’m perfectly fine with going through the conversion process especially if it means wider recognition (as in outside of this 1 synagogue). Thank you so much for all your help!

  372. Lisa Jacobsdaughter

    Hi, all, yesterday I met a woman at my synagogue while several of us were putting together Purim baskets. She’s a bit younger than me and her story is so much like mine with some interesting twists – she’s an Israeli Jew whose father turned out to be a Catholic – this was hidden from her for a long time. Sadly, he died when she was young, and it wasn’t she was older, until a lot of the atrocities of the holocaust were revealed (after the Eichman trials) that sabras (people born in Israel) such as herself were told the truth about her background. She, too, felt hurt that she didn’t know about her intermarried parents. We half-Jews seem to abound in my shul; while I don’t have exact numbers I keep meeting more and more intermarried couples, converts, and occasionally adults who share our stories.
    Today is a big day for me – I meet with my Rabbi and we’ll discuss my essay that is my last assignment before the beit din. I feel excited and a little nervous. I finished my editing on Sunday and printed it out and even though I know there are still typos and things I could clarify I am done! Tonight, whatever the outcome, my husband and I plan to celebrate at a local restaurant.

  373. Canis

    Hi, I found out recently that my father by jewish definition is fully jewish although both his parent had converted to Christianity to hide from Nazi Terror in WWII. I only knew that we have far relatives in Israel but was told not to talk about it. When I finally was “brave” enough to meet them they told me the full story. That leaves me genetically half jewish although I know for jewish people it doesn’t count. Emotionally it was quite a stir, a mix of feeling proud and at the same time anxious, … I am not telling anybody as I live in Europe and as sad as it sounds I think there is still prejudice against jews in some people and I am afraid I will end up not being accepted by either side the jews prejudiced or not accepting half jewish people and the Europeans prejudiced against a half jew who they consider as jewish which is quite a strong branding (in a neutral sense) …
    What do I hope to find here? Well just to talk to people who are like me in-between and maybe we can work together to make half jewish people fully accepted by jews (in times of genetic testing the law of only matrilineal descent simply doensn’t make sense) and at the same time fight against any prejudice from non jewish people towards jews …
    I also read here that the organization that fought for the acceptance of patrilineal jews in Israel is financially not supported anymore so if it was my gene pool that made me careerwise successful so far I guess my fellows will share the same fate and it should be easy to support them financially through donations, no?! All the best, J.

  374. Dear Lisajacobsdaughter, Dmitri, Illias and Canis:

    Please excuse the delay in replying to your comments and posting them. I’ve been through two surgeries over the last year, that have left me tired as I recover.

    Lisa — glad to hear that your path is rewarding and you are continuing to enjoy your shul! Glad that the posts on this forum have been helpful to you.

    Dmitri – I don’t think conversions are done in ulpans. It is best to convert to Judaism before making aliyah. Israeli law requires recognition of converted Jews who converted in other countries and then made aliyah.

    But conversions in Israel are often made difficult and challenged by the rabbinical courts. Best to convert outside of Israel. Then you may be able to get government help in making aliyah, as your Greek conversion would be considered OK.

    Think carefully about whether you want to make aliyah — the recent victory of the right-wing parties under Premier Binyamin Netanyahu is not good for half-Jewish people.

    The right-wing parties in his coalition are unfriendly to half-Jewish people and will not change the Israeli laws and policies against us.

    Illias – I am pleased that you have found a friendly shul and a friendly rabbi. Please keep us posted on how things continue to develop!

    Canis — I know things seem very confusing right now. I also discovered that I was half-Jewish later in life. It will take a while for you to sort through the many feelings.

    It is understandable that you do not want to tell people that you are half-Jewish while you are still considering what that identity might mean to you, especially in some European countries that still have some anti-Semitism and where Jewish communities may not see you as a Jew.

    Regarding the AMF of Israel, the organization that used to work on the issues of half-Jewish people living in Israel, both patrilineal and matrilineal — their organization collapsed when the Israeli government and an American organization took away all of their funding in 2012.

    It is no longer possible to send them donations. Here is a history of the AMF which we maintain on our website, so their work will not be forgotten:


    Regarding anti-semitism — the Half-Jewish Network doesn’t do much work on that issue — there are many Jewish organizations working on that issue, well-financed and staffed by many Jews with two Jewish parents.

    We focus entirely on the issues of adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage, because almost no Jewish or Christian organizations pay any attention to our issues.

    We have worked for many years to get better treatment of half-Jewish people by Jewish, Christian and other communities. At the present time, our biggest problems (in the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK and New Zealand) come from the Jewish communities, some of which do not accept us, and some of which do.

    In Europe, as you are aware, it is even more complicated, as the Jewish communities there usually require the children of Jewish fathers to convert to Judaism, and some countries still have anti-Semitic Christians who regard all half-Jewish people as “Jews.”

    You must do what is comfortable for you. Whether you identify as Jewish, Christian, or some other belief system or half-Jewish is fine with us. Give yourself time to consider what you want to do.

    Here is a link to a European half-Jewish group that was running a message board — you might contact them and see if they are still doing that:


    Please read the instructions at the top of the Message Board page for information on how to receive our email newsletter and receive any new comments added to this page:


    Robin M.

    Robin M.

  375. Barbara

    Hi Canis – I read your post with great interest. My background is just the same as yours though my mother did undergo a conversion and agreed to raise her children as Jewish. (Later, she regretted it and gave me some education regarding Christianity.) So, I do have influence from both sides and think I have been able to reconcile the differences between these two religions and find a path that makes sense and has meaning at least for me.

    I guess my biggest concern is the sociopolitical aspect of being half Jewish. Though the States may be friendlier in general for Jews, I do feel that anti-Semitism is rising pretty rapidly, perhaps in large part due to the current Israeli leadership. These days, I routinely hear anti-Semitic comments, probably all the more so b/c of my Scottish (married) surname – I am certainly not always recognized as being half Jewish.

    On the other hand, as you mentioned, there is sometimes a lot of prejudice on the part of conservative and orthodox Jews as well. Half-Jews of patrilineal descent are certainly not in a very easy or comfortable position, and I would love to chat more with you and and other folks here about this topic.

    For US half-jews – do you also notice or are you aware of any rising anti-Semitism? For Canis – is the situation getting worse in Europe or has it just been steadily bad for a long time?

    Thank you in advance for your thoughts…

  376. Kohen

    Robin, I am also considered half-Jewish to a degree, my mother converted to Judaism (she was of catholic German background) through the conservative movement in the 70’s however the halacha at that time seemed to be quite different and so depending on the orthodox movement some will recognize it but in Israel it appears to be a different story, my father was born Jewish and a Kohen.

    I really hate to bring up politics here but I personally believe had Herzog gotten in power it would have been worse for Jews, and while Netanyahu is not perfect, he is still somewhat centrist and not fully to the right, but I don’t believe he has made it more difficult for Jews to make aliyah. There is actually a former SHAS member who is promoting half Jews to convert to Judaism but I do agree that there are issues with the government recognizing paternal Jews as I believe similar to what the Karaite Jews believe. The thing is I don’t want to make a compromise with a government who believes in giving up historical Jewish land to the Palestinians. While I understand that this may be a sensitive issue, there are other paternal Jews and even Karaites and even Messianics (who I consider Christians) who support the same thing.

    Some of my issues is that I am not “fully” recognized in the Jewish community, it will never be recognized by the Rabbinate, that i’m sure of, however in some cases Chabad accepts it asking it depends how the conversion was done, some of the Sephardic Orthodox recognize my mothers conversion as valid, the Chicago Rabbinical Center has stated that I should not refer to myself as non Jewish as it varies how the conversion was done, certain groups like Satmar, the various Chassidic groups will not accept it which I don’t really care about to be honest because i don’t desire to be part of them, and many Kahanists and a variety of other Orthodox Jews see me as a valid Jew.

    However the anxiety is always there that somehow I am not really truly recognized as a full Jew and that I count as a Jew only for statistics purposes or for anti-semitic purposes, in other words that if I were to be attacked for my beliefs or somehow killed, that I would be used as a statistical number but as a individual I wouldn’t be seen as a Jew by the Jewish communities, on the other hand I will never be recognized as German or European as I have a Hebrew last name and am mixed. The way I see it is look at second temple Judaism, there was never unity between the sects, you had Pharisees, Sadduccees, Essenes, the followers of Jesus (Christians), the Zealots and Sicarii and they were all interfighting and spread out, Karaite Judaism formed out of Iraq and Egypt and preserved much of the Masoretic text that even maimonides commemorated despite them being considered “heretics” by the overall Rabbinical community.

    The other thing to understand is that it wasn’t until recent that there were serious changes in Judaism, before the movements like Reform, Conservative and Orthodox, you had either Traditional Judaism which varied from the Sefardi to the Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, the Ashkenazi in Eastern Europe were confined to Shtetls or ghettos for much of their life and existence and during the 1800’s during the Jewish emancipation you had break away groups such as the reform who wanted to assimilate during Haskalah which was the golden age of Jews, however they didn’t want to follow circumcision, services in Hebrew and purely wanted assimilation, this was a threat that Jews were going to forget their traditions so two movements formed such as Zecharias Frankels Positive Judaism which turned into conservative judaism and attempted to preserve what Judaism was supposed to be, due to political differences Samson Hirsch founded the Neo Orthodox (modern orthodox) movement proving that Judaism could assimilate but still practice judaism while adapting modern elements. Even the Chassidic were a reformation due to believing that judaism was too strict and focused more on Kabbalah and Talmud. The Karaites had difficulty being accepted because they rejected the Talmud or oral tradition, at that time there were numerous Karaites they claim up to 40 percent of the population which the rabbinites forbade intermarriage with because they did not recognize the divorce courts. Crimean Karaites in particular didn’t have the same restrictions as other Jews especially in Russia and in many cases during the Nazis which they were considered non Jews. Crimean Karaites are different than the Egyptian and Iraqi Karaites.

    Anyways, point in view is that no one is ever “fully accepted” as a Jew, most orthodox can’t tell the difference with my mothers conversion, merely a Brit Milah and they simply see it’s signed off by 2 orthodox Rabbis, those rabbis stated it’s the opinion of the Beth Din if it’s a valid conversion or not. There’s even many people who converted to Orthodox who aren’t fully accepted. I don’t believe this is a half Jewish issue but the same issue we’ve had for many many years.

    To give some words of wisdom, what happened when Ruth converted? She simply said she would accept the G-d of Boaz and his people were now her people, that was it, that was what made her a Jew. I am at a point I am not even worried anymore, if someone doesn’t see me as Jewish, so be it, but G-d knows and I carry the last name of my ancestors, so it’s irrelevant to me now.

  377. Dimitri

    Thank for the answer the jewish community in Greece is so small and ordodox and dont recognize easy half jewish people even if your mother was born to the faith you must convert and then accept youi dont ever know if there are a bet din in the country.

  378. Canis

    Hi Barbara and Robin,
    Thanks for your kind reply. Its not so much that we have a lot of antisemitism here but rather I think being jewish (or half jewish) is such a strong branding that I am not perceived as me any more but as jewish (or half jewish) …that’s why I think I will keep it to myself.
    I have clearly a christian identification (maybe I should say culture as religiously I consider myself as agnostic) though I am surprised how strongly emotionally it shaked me to learn I am half jewish … maybe that has all to do with the history of what happened here to the Jews?!
    If half jews are not accepted by “full” jews (who might be half jews as well but just have the “right” parent being jewish) I don’t really care for me in person but I am outraged how cruel this must be for someone who wants to be jewish and just happens to have a jewish father instead of a jewish mother …
    Why does Israel put laws in place to allow even quarter jewish people to “return” to Israel and then once they are there they are discriminated to have the wrong gender parent?!
    To summarize I am proud of my genetic background and I will always fight any discrimination or interolerance I get aware of be it against jews or be it from jews against other religions or nationalities!!

  379. Barbara

    I am with you all the way on this – especially your last paragraph! Intolerance & discrimination are ugly no matter where they come from.

    I do wonder if people whose maternal grandmother was Jewish (but with no other Jewish relatives) are better accepted in Israel and wind up with more rights. If any one knows about this, please do reply.

    One problem for patrilineal half Jews is that many are/were raised in the Jewish faith – not to date myself too much, but in the ‘old days’ society was more patriarchal and the father’s views or wishes often prevailed regardless of any belief in the importance of matrilineal blood lines!

    Throughout European history, as far as I know, Jewish migrants from the middle east were men who married local women who then converted or at least followed Jewish religious tradition.

  380. Moshe

    Greetings Beautiful and Noble People
    I have been following this website for years and am always interested to see what’s new. Kudos to the folks who keep the HJN going! I am someone who is also of mixed Jewish (Litvak) and non-Jewish (Alaska Native-Tlingit and Huguenot) ancestry and have faced many of the same challenges as my brothers and sisters who post here. Having said that, I am also someone who is very interested in the genetic sciences and I follow DNA-Genome studies very closely. Over the past few years there have been some developments that should make the Matrilineal Chauvinist’s out there do some serious soul-searching. It is now becoming apparent that 80+ % of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA-that’s the maternal DNA!) of the Ashkenazim is, in fact, derived from Gentile European Women. What this means is this: Male, single Jewish individuals (mostly traders) left the Levant and began moving into Europe; there they found some hot Gentile ladies and…poof! Ashkenazim! The 100 million dollar question is this: did these women “convert”? Is there any way for us to every REALLY know? Were there roving bands of Rabbi’s, Minyan, or Bet Din in Europe following these lonely Jewish lads around to ensure that the Halachic stamp of approval (I serious doubt it, but that’s just me) was placed on these lovely ladies? Methinks not. So, take heart my intermarried relatives! All Jews are intermarried! Don’t let the haters and supremacists out there get away with all of their talk of “dynasties” and “purity”, it is all a farce!

    I gave up long ago on trying to get approval or acceptance from anyone, Jew or Gentile. I am an unapologetic, Ebionite streetfighter, taking the best form both worlds and rocking my all blue Tzitzit without shame or apology.

    Shalom and Shalom-A good Passover to all the folks.

    Moshe Ben Sar

  381. Dear Kohen:

    A Good Passover and a Happy Easter!

    Kohen — thanks for sharing. Just some quick facts about Netanyahu and intermarriage — first, he is a hypocrite — his second wife was a British Christian who converted to Judaism when she married him — but he allies with ultra-Orthodox parties opposed to intermarriage and treating half-Jewish people as equals.

    Second, while Netanyahu is currently married to a woman who was born Jewish — his third wife — when one of his sons by this third marriage began dating a Norweigan young woman of Christian ancestry, Netanyahu didn’t give his son any support.

    Instead, a nasty article appeared in Israel’s news written by the young man’s maternal uncle, attacking the young man for dating a non-Jewish woman in a really ugly manner. There were also other nasty articles in Israel’s press about Netanyahu’s son and intermarriage.

    I saw no articles by Netanyahu saying “Leave my young son alone, it’s his life.” Netanyahu likely did not stand up for his son because the ultra-right-wing Orthodox parties in his coalition are bitterly opposed to interfaith families and full rights for half-Jewish people. I believe his son was eventually pressured into giving up his girl friend.

    Netanyahu’s coalition’s victory is bad news for half-Jewish people. The ultra-right-wing parties in his coalition are not our friends, to put it very mildly.

    Past Netanyahu governments have made it a bit easier for half-Jewish people to visit and make aliyah — but they have done nothing to change the negative laws and policies that affect half-Jewish people who make aliyah or are born in Israel.

    My personal feeling — others may differ — is that we should not support any Jewish person or institution who helps other Jews deprive us of our civil and religious rights in Israel or any Diaspora community.

    Robin M.

  382. Dear Dmitri, Canis, Barbara and Moshe:

    A Good Passover and a Happy Easter!

    Dmitri — consider contacting the new young rabbi of the Greek community. He might be able to help you:


    Canis: I understand why you have currently chosen to keep your partially-Jewish ancestry as a personal secret. You must do what is best for your own happiness.

    You asked why Israeli laws and policies discriminate against even quarter-Jewish people who have the ‘wrong’ ancestry — remember that Israeli policies are also enforced by some Disapora communities as well. I think these essays explain it:


    Barbara: you had asked: “I do wonder if people whose maternal grandmother was Jewish (but with no other Jewish relatives) are better accepted in Israel and wind up with more rights. If any one knows about this, please do reply.”

    Answer: Yes, provided they have enough paperwork proof of this ancestry. They are considered “real Jews.” Now they still face some prejudice in some segments of Israeli society — they may not “look Jewish” or have a Jewish surname, etc.

    But they are treated as Jews in many contexts that people with a Jewish father or grandfather are not treated as Jews.

    Moshe Ben-Sar: We are happy to welcome you to the Half-Jewish Network. Thank you for your kind words about the website and the volunteers who make this website possible!

    You are correct that Jewish DNA studies show that many Jewish communities began when male Jewish traders visited various cities far from Jewish population centers, married local non-Jewish women, and started new communities.

    The scientists I have read believe that when these communities imported their first rabbis after one or two generations, intermarriage was then ended.

    Robin M.

  383. Moshe


    With the importation of Rabbi’s to these communities, I suppose this is where we begin to see the “genetic bottleneck” that they are always referring to? Very interesting. I think my point that these communities were begun by gentile matrilines is still relevant, especially since we can’t really know what the circumstances of their “conversions” were. This fact alone should give people pause. The other thing to keep in mind is that “Rabbinical Judaism” wasn’t always “normative” (not until well into the CE at any rate); they were just one emerging group among many. I have read some (Jewish) authors that have said that the only reason they became “normative” is because they collaborated with the Romans on many pivotal occasions; same situation with “Pauline Christianity”, but as an Ebionite, I have to admit, I am biased, and I do not mean to offend, I am a student of history, in all of it’s complexities.



  384. Dear Barbara:

    Here is more information responding to your inquiry about Israel’s rules on half-Jewish peoples’ ancestry — it’s about Russian Israeli half-Jewish people who have three Jewish grandparents and one Christian grandparent, but because the Christian grandparent is their maternal grandmother, they are not considered “real Jews,” and cannot legally marry most Jewish citizens of Israel, etc.:


    If these people had a Jewish maternal grandmother and all of their other grandparents were Christians, and they had sufficient paperwork proof of their ancestry, they’d be considered “real Jews.”

    Robin M.

  385. Dear Moshe:

    Your historical interests show much devotion to the Jewish people and a willingness to see past the myths (no intermarriage) to the truth (there was a lot of past intermarriage.)

    Robin M.

  386. Moshe


    Thank you; if nothing else, a study of history should create a sense of humilty and compassion, as opposed to the opposite. A good Orthodox Easter to those who are Orthodox.



  387. Barbara

    Thank you to both Robin (for the info about mixed marriages and rights in Israel) and Moshe (for confirming something I have been wondering about concerning Jewish genetics).

  388. Canis

    Dear Robin,
    Thanks for recommending me the two links on your website.
    What you describe in http://half-jewish.net/israel/
    sounds like a doomsday scenario for Israel especially for all the more secular people there … how likely is such a scenario?
    And is there anything the more modern jews (including half jews) can do to help prevent such a religious radicalisation and in opposite help the country to become a modern, tolerant and peaceful state ?
    Best wishes, C.

  389. Duality

    Dear Barbara and Canis:

    Barbara: glad the link was useful in answering your question!

    Canis: the scenario described in


    is not a doomsday scenario in the sense that it is some kind of “worst case” fantasy — the analysis is based on years of reading Israeli government and other Jewish Israeli population studies and also reading the Israeli Jewish newspapers, where the Israeli Jews themselves freely discuss all the developments I mention in the essay.

    For example, as I mentioned in the Israel essay, in 2009, the Israeli government reported that one-third of all Israeli children under age 6 are attending ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools.

    That means that the population is shifting dramatically, and the Israeli Jewish voting public will be increasingly ultra-Orthodox.


    Since the ultra-Orthodox are the Jews least likely to recognize rights for half-Jewish people — and are also least likely to welcome compromises for peace with the Palestinians — and are least likely to support democracy in Israel —

    I think we both see that such a population trend will likely lead to a civil war with the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs or a situation where half-Jewish people remain second-class citizens and Palestinians remain under a military occupation.

    Here are two Israeli Jewish groups mentioned in the essay who are working on issues related to half-Jewish concerns and sometimes directly on them:



    These two groups would welcome your membership and your donations.

    I don’t know much about European groups working on Israeli issues, but there are several American groups I could recommend to you that are working for peace and democracy in Israel, and would welcome you as a member and a donor.



    If these don’t suit you, I can suggest others.

    Robin M.

  390. Canis

    and a last thought from my side: I have so freshly discovered my Jewish ancestry and I don’t want to see it so negative in the light of some orthodox Jewish People discriminating against half Jews (yes HALF – patrilineal – Jews). I don’t care about them …
    I have met so many nice Israelis (including my colleagues and relatives there) and they don’t care about religion too much … they would never discriminate against me or other half Jews and the religious radical amongst the Orthodox Jews shall stay amongst themselves I don’t need them and anyway I don’t plan to emigrate to Israel, why should I? Now living in one of the most beautiful countries in Europe with a much higher GDP than Israel …
    In case the radical religious people create a conservative religious state where THEY enforce all THEIR man made religious rules on everybody (you said 2024 Robin?) I think it is time to invite the more moderate / secular Jews back to Europe (can’t say anything about the US) … We have also a “law of return” 😉 in case you have a European grandparent and you have some kind of documentation (which usually the local administrations here have) you will be granted citizenship!! 
    We have good experience with the moderate Iranians coming to us when the religious state was declared there interestingly it was mainly the intellectuals coming and they are now excellent doctors or business people etc. … we will be very happy to invite back the Jewish people that so shamefully had to leave back then … of course here (in Europe) we need to prepare the place for them which means continue to fight the primitive people that seed hatred and prejudice and intolerance but thanks good they are still a minority and don’t get 7 children per family so it will still take some time for them to be more successful although every percentage they gain at elections is too much of course!

  391. Dear Canis:

    I am glad to hear that your Israeli Jewish relatives and friends are kind to you.

    I believe that Israel will certainly become a theocracy — a religion-dominated state — by at least the year 2050. Current Israeli population statistics show that one-third of all Israeli Jewish children under the age of 18 are now ultra-Orthodox. That figure does not include another group, the children of nationalist Orthodox families.

    When all those Orthodox children grow up and become Israeli Jewish adult voters, Israel is going to be an uncomfortable and undemocratic place.

    Already, some younger Israeli Jews have left Israel for Europe, the United States and Australia partly because of Israel moving towards a super right-wing and super religious state.

    I hope some moderate and secular Israeli Jews will move back to European countries and other countries where they will be welcome. You are correct that EU passports are being given to people outside the EU who have at least one European grandparent or parent.

    Robin M.

  392. Dimitri

    Hi to all i discover that i have some relatives in israel but i dont think that i belong there and thats true if you live in Greece its impossibile to become jewish ,its an Greek ordodox theocratic state so you must relocate in an other country ,and you cant find reform here and i read that articles also those days like that http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel/.premium-1.654867 and its a huge issue where israel go and how people with jewish roots can survive there.

  393. Canis

    Dear Friends,

    Let me just give you an update being back from Israel where I used the opportunity to meet my relatives there and also some friends who are almost all very moderately religious or even agnostic like me (for those who don’t know agnostic is less strict than atheist we say maybe or maybe not there is a god and maybe we will find out after death … I discussed the potential danger of Israel becoming a theocratic state in the future with them. They ALL think that the “radical” religious people are not interested in politics and they also don’t go to the army and thus will never pose a threat to the more moderate Israelis. All they want is to get financial support (which they already get) so they can study the Tora and prepare themselves for the arrival of Messiah … with regards to half jewish people they ALL welcome them (in case they would want to come to Israel) but in fact many Israelis hold a European passport so they actually have a plan B themselves … maybe that’s already a jewish trait to always have a plan B it’s something that I mostly do in my life … the girls I met are very open minded to half jewish people unfortunately I don’t know if jewish guys are as open to half jewish girls because for them it is a more serious issue as in fact the “jewishness” is lost but even in my jewish relaives family there is a case of intermarriage with a christian woman and the whole family is very relaxed about it … it’s true that half jewish people or other religions can’t marry in Israel but they don’t care and just marry abroad and when they come back the marriage is fully recognised – I agree a funny solution but it seems to work … so Robin, I don’t want to undermine your network and I think it is a great initiative and I will financially support some organisations you mentioned who fight for the recognition of half jewish people in Israel because I will always actively support tolerance and anti-radicalism but I wanted to mention that things are not as black and white as you described it at least when you talk to people in Israel …
    Have a great day!! C.

    PS: Is there some half jewish people living in Chicago and any chance to get in touch ?

  394. Rachel

    Do you know if there is any kind of network for people with Jewish roots in Sweden or anyway in Scandinavia? My father was a Jew, and a Holcocaust survivor. I grew up without any Jewish tradition, and became a Christian during teenage years. I would like to meet other people with some kind of Jewish heritage.

  395. Dear Canis:

    Canis: I am glad that you had a chance to visit your family and friends in Israel. It is very good that they welcomed you.

    It does seem that they were not entirely truthful with you about certain Israeli issues.

    Canis noted that: “They ALL think that the “radical” religious people are not interested in politics and they also don’t go to the army and thus will never pose a threat to the more moderate Israelis.”

    Robin replies: Canis, whoever told you this is deceiving themselves. Or they did not want to discuss the truth with you.

    Some of Orthodox political parties — Shas and United Torah Judaism — occupy several seats in Netanyahu’s new government. They are very interested in politics — see this article:


    Israel’s current government is the most right-wing government in its history.

    While that government is in power, we can expect no improvement in “personal status issues” (code words for half-Jewish people and intermarried couples).

    2. Also, please understand that one in three Israeli preschoolers are Haredi Orthodox — they will be adult voters in the very near future:


    When the Haredi Orthodox are one-third of all adult voters, the chilonim (secular Israelis) will have very little influence.

    3. You had mentioned: “with regards to half jewish people they ALL welcome them (in case they would want to come to Israel) but in fact many Israelis hold a European passport so they actually have a plan B themselves ”

    Robin replies: I am pleased that your family and friends personally welcome half-Jewish people. Did they vote for political parties in the March election that wanted to help half-Jewish people?

    If they have not thought of that before, please encourage them to vote for the center-left parties, which favor better treatment for half-Jewish people.

    If they voted for Likud or any of the other right-wing parties, they voted for parties that are against half-Jewish peoples’ rights.

    4. Canis mentioned: ” it’s true that half jewish people or other religions can’t marry in Israel but they don’t care and just marry abroad and when they come back the marriage is fully recognised – I agree a funny solution but it seems to work”

    Robin replies: Canis, half-Jewish people in Israel DO care about being forced to marry abroad and other cruelties. It definitely does NOT work for them.

    One-quarter of all Israelis who left the country in 2012 were half-Jewish people who were defined as “others” ( “others,” a term reserved for immigrants deemed Jewish for obtaining citizenship but not according to Jewish law (halakha)) — please note in the articles I have linked to below that there are interviews with them where they explain how they got tired of the discrimination:



    You will note in the articles that there is no reference to all of these people having Jewish fathers or grandfathers — just references to them as “non-Jewish.” But it is clear from the context that they are half-Jewish people.

    5. Canis noted: ” They ALL think that the “radical” religious people are not interested in politics and they also don’t go to the army and thus will never pose a threat to the more moderate Israelis. ”

    Robin replies: Some more information — not only are there Orthodox party leaders in Netanyahu’s current government — but many Orthodox do go to the army and are now the majority of the Israeli IDF officer corps.

    Your relatives and friends are focusing only on the Haredi Orthodox — who wear black coats and black hats — beyond them are the “dati” Orthodox — who do not wear black coats and hats — but who are committed Orthodox, join the army in large numbers, and are not favorable to half-Jewish people:



    Now, Canis, the question in my mind is: why didn’t your relatives and friends in Israel tell you these things? The information in these articles is well-known in Israel.

    I suspect several things. First, maybe they did not want to hurt your feelings. You are new to them, and they wanted to make you feel welcome.

    Second, perhaps they do not tell themselves truths that are frightening. I have in the past dealt with chilomin (secular Israeli Jews) who are in denial about their dwindling numbers and lessening influence.

    Other chilonim I have dealt with feel that they must present a positive picture of Israel to visiting family and friends to encourage them to make aliyah (immigration to Israel).

    Finally, I gather from your post that none of the Israeli family and friends you met are themselves half-Jewish? So perhaps they have been able to ignore the poor treatment half-Jewish people receive or mistakenly believe it is not that bad.

    It is true there is one intermarriage with a Christian in your Israeli family — and I am glad to hear that that they are “relaxed” about it — but the half-Jewish children of that marriage may not have full civil rights when they grow up.

    Canis noted: “the girls I met are very open minded to half jewish people unfortunately I don’t know if jewish guys are as open to half jewish girls because for them it is a more serious issue as in fact the “jewishness” is lost but even in my jewish relaives family”

    Robin replies: Canis, it’s nice that you met some young women who were OK with dating a half-Jewish man.

    But keep in mind that other half-Jewish people report that sometimes they are welcome on a date with an Israeli Jew, and sometimes they are not welcome.

    No half-Jewish person should have live in Israel and wonder if people will refuse to date him or her because of who his/her parents are.

    Canis noted: but I wanted to mention that things are not as black and white as you described it at least when you talk to people in Israel …

    Robin replies: This website is very honest about some Israelis being supportive of half-Jewish people. We are far from a “black and white” website.

    You may wish to send your family and friends these news links and tell them that they can be truthful with you, and it is not necessary to present a “hasbara” (propaganda) picture of Israel to you. Tell them you are willing to hear the truth.

    Regarding meeting half-Jewish people in Chicago — you are welcome to post an inquiry on this message board and ask them to contact you.

    If you are interested in starting a dinner group to find some, please let me know, and I will advise you as best I can.


  396. Dear Rachel:

    I don’t know of any half-Jewish group in Sweden. You might have to start one yourself if you want to meet other half-Jewish people there.

    I could advise you on starting an online website for a Swedish group. You could open it to half-Jewish people from all Scandinavian countries if you wished.

    You may also wish to contact this group of European half-Jewish people and see if they know anyone in Sweden:


    You may also wish to contact the Jewish community organization in Stockholm at:


    and ask if they know of any half-Jewish people you could contact.

    Also Stockholm seems to have a “Masorti/Conservative/Traditional” synagogue — you could email their rabbi and him about half-Jewish people.

    You could also contact Jewish community organizations in Norway, Finland and Denmark.

    Robin M.

  397. Dear Dmitri:

    Dmitri says: Hi to all i discover that i have some relatives in israel

    Robin replies; That’s great! Have you been able to contact them?

    Dmitri: but i dont think that i belong there

    Robin replies: Understood.

    Dmitri says: and thats true if you live in Greece its impossibile to become jewish ,its an Greek ordodox theocratic state so you must relocate in an other country ,and you cant find reform here

    Robin replies: Did the new Orthodox rabbi of the Jewish community tell you that? The rabbi mentioned here:



    Did he refuse to help you? If so, I am sorry to hear that.

    Dmitri says: and i read that articles also those days like that http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel/.premium-1.654867 and its a huge issue where israel go and how people with jewish roots can survive there.

    Robin replies: that is true, Dmitri. Israel can be a difficult place for half-Jewish people. The Ethiopian Jews mentioned in the article have suffered a great deal.

    But I hope your relatives in Israel will welcome you and that you will be able to stay in regular contact with them if they are nice people.


  398. Hi Rachel,
    here is Sarah from doppel:halb. I don’t know of any group in Sweden or Scandinavia, but you might try to contact Lars Dencik (a professor, google him…). He contributed to our 2012 conference in Zürich and was very nice, and seemed quite quite openminded. He might know about someone. If you want to, I can try to make a contact for you just write to me at info@doppelhalb.de 🙂
    Of course feel free to write about other questions also.

  399. Rachel

    Thank you Sarah! I have sent an e-mail to you. /Rachel

  400. Dear Sarah from Doppelhalb:

    Thanks for replying to Rachel!

    Robin M.

  401. Rachel

    Hi, this year I will go to Israel for fhe first time in my life. I´m looking forward to it, but I´m also nervous. I will be together with my Jewish, Hebrew speaking half siblings and their families and that will be nice, of course. I feel like in a way I am going as any Scandinavian tourist (I look Scandinavian), in another way as a person with Jewish roots with a lot of connections to Israel . . . Thats strange. What about you other “half-Jewish” people? – Would be interesing to hear abour others experiences about going to Israel.

  402. Raphael

    Hi Rachael:

    As a half Jewish person; on my father’s side, I traveled to… Israel… last year for a pilot trip. My vision of Israel, was that of a Catholic Jew. I was all set to submit the paperwork to be a citizen; but at the last minute, I changed my mind..

    I came from a prominent Jewish family; that I believe makes me… possibly… a descendant of King David (King David was a half Jew)… Also, I had thought, with my families Jewish name, connections, and prominence… in the US… would at the very least, make my life easier; had I decided to be a citizen.

    However,after my decision, to return, the minute I was off the plane and back in the US was a wise decision. In many ways, I felt, brainwashed; because, of the way things are in Israel. I could think more clearly, the day I had returned.

    In many ways, Israel, with its excessive militarism is a theo-national state; a modern day ghetto.

    That being said, Israel, generally was a wonderful place, and perhaps, next year, things will be better for me as a half Jew. I would suggest reading about Arthur Rupin’s life story in Israel, I think his philosophy of the muscular Jew; etc., as the ideal Zionist, gets to the roots, of why half Jews are second class citizens in Israel.

  403. Seren

    i went to israel when i was about 16 briefly with my parents and later when i was 19- people assumed i wasn’t jewish because i don’t look it . (funnily back home i often get asked where i’m from as apparently i don’t look like i’m typically from here either. Never mind! ) It was interesting, and warm and quite provoking both in positive and negative ways. One thing I really remember is I felt an overwhelming pressure to conform in behaviour and presentation. People seemed incredibly conscious of themselves and the image they were projecting. Despite the direct, to the point cultural stereotype that paradoxically tries to say ‘i don’t care what you think’, there were so many other behaviours that seemed to indicate the opposite, ie that people really really care what other people think. It was a very interesting place, a lot going on obviously politically, socially and culturally. I could have studied it for years, and been fascinated- but personally my life took dramatically different directions and i haven’t been back for over 16 yrs now and don’t plan to again.

    btw you may or may not be interested in the way being a mix affects you genetically, like you i don’t ‘look jewish’, but i also get told i don’t look ‘indigenous’ to the other side of my background either and it used to bother me because i wanted to know what it was that people were perceiving that seemed to be ‘different’ wherever i was-so i did ethnicity test recently as a large project was taking place looking for volunteers specifically from the side of my background that isn’t jewish- the results came back and it gave a lot of food for thought- for me the outcome was surprising, but now at least i know exactly what i literally am and i don’t have to wonder anymore. And if someone makes a comment, ‘where are you from, cos you look a bit… sort of foreign but i can’t place it’, now i know how to answer them!
    Of course culture and ethnicity is more than just your genetic makeup. It’s what you do, how you were brought up, what you feel most familiar with etc. But it is really good to know on a purely scientific level that no matter what people say either way, I literally am what I am, theres no subjectivity to the matter- it just is what it is. For me anyway, that’s very reassuring. Though I appreciate of course that ‘identity’ is very different for different people – everyone may have their own unique issues that go beyond the purely ‘scientific’ elements.

  404. Seren

    i went to israel when i was about 16 briefly with my parents and later when i was 19- people assumed i wasn’t jewish because i don’t look it . (funnily back home i often get asked where i’m from as apparently i don’t look like i’m typically from here either. Never mind! ) It was interesting, and warm and quite provoking both in positive and negative ways. One thing I really remember is I felt an overwhelming pressure to conform in behaviour and presentation. People seemed incredibly conscious of themselves and the image they were projecting. Despite the direct, to the point cultural stereotype that paradoxically tries to say ‘i don’t care what you think’, there were so many other behaviours that seemed to indicate the opposite, ie that people really really care what other people think. It was a very interesting place, a lot going on obviously politically, socially and culturally. I could have studied it for years, and been fascinated- but personally my life took dramatically different directions and i haven’t been back for over 16 yrs now and don’t plan to again.

    btw you may or may not be interested in the way being a mix affects you genetically, like you i don’t ‘look jewish’, but i also get told i don’t look ‘indigenous’ to the other side of my background either and it used to bother me because i wanted to know what it was that people were perceiving that seemed to be ‘different’ wherever i was-so i did ethnicity test recently as a large project was taking place looking for volunteers specifically from the side of my background that isn’t jewish- the results came back and it gave a lot of food for thought- for me the outcome was surprising, but now at least i know exactly what i literally am and i don’t have to wonder anymore. And if someone makes a comment, ‘where are you from, cos you look a bit… sort of foreign but i can’t place it’, now i know how to answer them!
    Of course culture and ethnicity is more than just your genetic makeup. It’s what you do, how you were brought up, what you feel most familiar with etc. But it is really good to know on a purely scientific level that no matter what people say either way, I literally am what I am, theres no subjectivity to the matter- it just is what it is. For me anyway, that’s very reassuring. Though I appreciate of course that ‘identity’ is very different for different people – everyone may have their own unique issues that go beyond the purely ‘scientific’ elements.

  405. Canis

    Hi Rachel,

    My experience is that people are friendly to you as they like Europe a lot and they are proud of their European origins (which many people in Israel have) and at the same time when you tell them that you have jewish roots yourselve they will even more like you 🙂
    Enjoy the country and I hope that your friends and/or relatives treat you as nicely as they treated me:)
    All the best! C.

  406. Seren

    Interesting video link to the range of Israeli attitudes from ‘the street’ on the issue of whether someone with a Jewish father but not a Jewish mother, is Jewish. Shows a range of opinion from a range of people.

    you could be on a downer or alternatively feel optimistic watching it, depending on who stands out most to you.

    That’s not to say those people who aren’t accepting don’t have an impact- as Canis mentioned it’s more of an issue for girls, so as I am a woman, it was harder for me to ignore it – personally I made my own family and identity elsewhere as a result. But that is my decision and I don’t want to convince anyone to act in the way I have-my choices could be wrong for someone else.

    There is a degree to which you can pick and choose the bits you want to. I don’t identify as jewish any more though I am still incredibly close to Jewish family and Jewish/ Israeli friends who over many many yrs have time and again proved themselves to be lovely and trustworthy. I could never push those individuals away just because of the elements of the Jewish community that would push me away.

    So yes there is a full, colourful and complex picture around this. But if you’re going to go there Rachel, I hope you meet all the fun people :)) because they definitely exist too.

  407. Barb

    HI, and thanks for the link to this video – very interesting! I just wrote to ‘askisraelis@gmail.com’, as the video invites us to do, to see what their thoughts might be about some of the issues raised on this discussion board. Please do let me know if any of you have also written to them and what the questions, or their responses, were like!

  408. Cindy

    I don’t want to throw cold water on the video, but I believe it gives false hope. First of all, there were only a few people interviewed – hardly a majority. Secondly, Tel Aviv is more liberal than other parts of Israel. I’d be interested in what people in Jerusalem have to say. A real survey would be an anonymous written one. People will say one thing, but when it comes to how they would feel if one of their children were to marry a someone with a non-Jewish mother, it would be a different story. I guess I’m skeptical because I am from the generation where people like me were entirely unaccepted as Jews.

  409. Seren

    Hi Barb, i haven’t written to askisraelis because i’m more of an observer than a participator ( except for on this site!).but i’d be really interested if anyone else has written to see what the result was. Cindy, I understand what you are saying, and I agree it is a flawed survey in many ways. Regardless of extra elements though, I personally find the negative opinions in the video alone too frequent to put up with ( even if only expressed in the video in the liberal Tel Avivian area and even though they are not total) . Because of such widespread attitudes i don’t want to identify as part of the jewish community anymore, though am happy to have jewish family and friends.

    Of course I am speaking from my current circumstances which are fortunate- i am lucky to be able to be ‘luke warm’ about all the issues concerned. I’m sure I would be much less able to feel luke warm about these issues, if i was fleeing rampant, violent antisemitism because of the element of my background that was jewish, only to find myself looked down on by the jewish community itself for the element of my background that was not Jewish. Then I’m sure i’d feel entirely differently.

    Oddly though for me and in my circumstances, as long as there is enough stability in my life in other ways, then i really enjoy getting a chance to have an unusual outlook from being in this peculiar situation: most people can only see the world from their perspective and their experiences of being part of a particular group .If you are stuck outside different groups whilst being linked to them, you get to have the understanding of both groups but experiences that people inside those groups are not going to have. And because of that I can’t help felling like ‘ I can see you, but you can’t see me, haha!’. Which I quite like! Though of course, I wouldn’t be able to be so sarcastic and flippant about it, if the stakes for me were higher than they are. I do understand that i am quite spoilt not to have to have to deal with any serious problems on this front. And am v v grateful for that.

  410. Canis

    Dear Friends,

    Why do we need to know what the “majority of Israelis” thinks about us?
    Many saecular Israelis I have met (colleagues, friends, relatives in Israel) are very liberal and for them religion isn’t any topic at all neither if someone is half jewish or fully jewish …
    I have a good friend, she is half jewish, lives in Israel and is married to a “full” jew … when I asked her about discrimination because she is only half jewish she replied that it is not a topic at all neither at home nor at work … (she is a medical doctor working in a hospital) btw. and they married in Cyprus and now the marriage is fully acknowledged …
    I don’t want to say that the world is perfect but it really depends on the people you deal with in your personal surrounding … of course I agree with Robin that on the long run these liberal people could become the minority and I don’t have a solution for it but my point is that at least for the current situation just find those people that have an open mind and spend your time with those and not with narrow minded ignorants. But maybe I am blue eyed (actually green;) and as Robin already stated they might paint a nicer picture for me than what the reality would look like if I lived there but anyway I would only buy a summer house (or I should say autumn/spring house because the summers there are too hot for me) somewhere at the Israeli beach at the max:)
    Best greetings from the heart of Europe:)

  411. Cindy

    Hi Canis, we definitely don’t need to care what the majority of Israelis think of us – agreed. That is the proper attitude to have. The thing is, if one of my kids (who are both half Jewish since my husband and I both are) were to decide they would like to be Jewish, move to Israel, fall in love and want to marry, discrimination would rear its ugly head. They may find it difficult to find a rabbi to marry them. Why should they be forced to marry outside the country to be recognized? And what about full citizenship for themselves or their children? Why would they have to go through a rigorous conversion process that their matrilineal Jewish friends/family don’t have to?

    We need to be concerned for all future generations, not just for ourselves. I know there are those who want to believe the lip service (and I really don’t mean to sound snarky here, I’ve just had so much negative experience). However, it appears these “liberal” Israelis don’t seem to be fighting very hard for our rights, as far as I’ve seen. I am glad many here have not had negative experiences, but I will never forget how one of my husband’s relatives sneered at me one Hanukkah as she explained in a very condescending voice what a dreidel was (as if I had no Jewish background). If things are changing for the better, I am very happy, but I don’t think that time is here yet and I still have great concern for those who identify as Jewish, but have the “wrong” Jewish parent.


  412. Seren

    Cindy i completely agree all barriers should be removed. i just got beyond fed up a long time ago with the acceptance of the status quo by so many different elements of the jewish community (liberal and secular as well as orthodox) that i don’t want to be part of the jewish community any more as a result. And as i don’t want to be and i am lucky to have lots of kind, lovely people around me, i don’t care so much.

    i completely appreciate your perspective however as i did used to care. i also have kids and when they went through a phase in last yr or two of wanting to know what religion they were, where they are from and where i am from it was very difficult. I told the older one the truth, that my dad was jewish, that my mother converted,that i was brought up in a jewish neighbourhood, but ultimately because of grandma not being born jewish i wasn’t accepted by quite powerful elements of the community- and unsurprisingly of her own accord she decided she wants absolutely nothing to do with it herself. and i don’t blame her. the little one (thanks to the supposedly secular school and an intense need to believe in miracles) keeps on bringing up jesus. which for me is rather odd. but all the practicing christians i know personally are very nice, so whatever. I wish i did have a local cultural or religious community of my own i could share with her, but i don’t because in my situation the negatives outweigh the positives:
    I am not going to bring them up in the way i was to identify strongly with a community when so many in that community will ultimately reject them. If you factor in the antisemitism which they could potentially fall foul of anyway if they came across real psychos for being of jewish descent, and then choose to put an extra layer of negativity on top by getting them to identify with the jewish community which would be highly likely to reject them because of the parts of their background that are not jewish, to me that just is not fair. And absolutely not worth the price of my children’s sense of self and happiness in their identities.

    i am not going to blanket blame the whole jewish community though so i will still be close to the people who through their deeds have proven to me that they don’t feel that way. And i will still do my best to counteract genuine antisemitism when i come across it. I just can’t be bothered to fight for acceptance for myself and my kids to be a part of the community however when i’m not sure i can trust that community to genuinely be on my and my children’s side when they need it. Jewish Ethopian refugees going to israel are now refused entry if the connection is through the father. With the right wing government and ultra orthodox movements having increasing power in the country ,and elements in the community using phrases like ‘the silent holocaust’ to describe intermarriage, when my children grow up will the same attitude be extended to patrilineal european jews? Hard to say, but even though there are Israelis who clearly don’t support such militant opinions, i’m not putting my eggs in that basket when there are still so many who do.

    Again of course that is not to say there aren’t lots of inspiring, very admirable jewish people too. Of course there are many. I just agree that on this particular issue, lots of people who you think would care, are remarkably silent.

    Re choices with kids obviously these are my experiences. Your feelings and options may be completely different and other outcomes may be far more appropriate for you and your family.

    Wishing you the best

  413. Raphael

    The way I see it as a Half Jew; is that Zionism is the answer to how to cope, with being a second class citizen in the US; or even Israel. For example, when I traveled to Israel, to see if I wanted to be a citizen there…it was not my skills at convincing people that I was a Jew like them that got me into a Israelite community; but, rather, it was my skills as a anarchist Zionist; that got me into a apartment in Jerusalem.

    Fortunately; if anyone wishes to adopt this philosophy (anarchist Zionism) ; it is quite easy for a American half Jew.. There is Hannah Arendt, Simone Weil, Bernard Lazare to learn from; most of their works; have never been translated into Hebrew, in Israel….which is all the better for half Jews.

    And, with the current government in Israel, being a military power dominated way of life; half Jews have the opportunity to be… Zionists par excellence…I think, king David, would not have wanted half Jews to be second class citizens; because he himself was a half Jew.

    The whole Story of Ruth, was a condemnation of monarchy control of the Israelites, Hebrews, in the name of the Jews, and ethnic purity. Also, It is the consensus of scholars; that it was not for the greater good of the Jews; that Ezra deported the half Jews; but rather, Ezra believed the half Jews had to be deported; because, he had to eliminate the market competition, that, he, and the elite Jews; would have faced, by them.

  414. Seren

    I’m perpetually distrustful of all philosophies though love to understand something new- what you’re describing sounds really interesting- had vaguely heard of Hannah Arendt but not aware of what her work was about. Thanks- going to look up those authors and have a good read.

  415. Barb

    Seren – No word yet from ‘askisraelis’! Now I am more curious than ever as to who may have heard back from them and what was written! And, I also appreciate the aspect of this that allows me to see viewpoints of 2 groups and to be more objective about both. It was a good point!

    Canis – Was raised Jewish which makes it hard to join a Church with sincerity much as I also respect Christian values. Was one of two ‘Jewish’ families growing up in a rural community – many great folks but anti-semitism galore as well. Even today, living in an urban environment, I am struck by how often I hear anti-semitic comments and complaints.

    I suppose there are times I resent feeling that I need to experience more anti-semitism than ‘full-blooded’ Jews who do not hear the casual comments made nearly routinely especially when the economy is troubled.

    Finally, I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder having been completely rejected by my Jewish grandmother just after my mother (born Christian and also completely rejected by grandma) passed – I was 10 at the time with almost no other female family members. While I do feel that my ‘chip’ is rapidly disintegrating, I also feel as if I want answers from the mainstream Jewish community about this kind of racism which many perpetuate and what possible justification there could be for it logically and spiritually.

    There are *many* groups who suffer from racism in Israel. I have met and talked with quite a few. How can that ever be eradicated when even people so genetically close to mainstream Israelis are rejected as not being worthy of full rights?

  416. Cindy

    Barb – I completely share your view. I am sorry your grandmother rejected you. I feel fortunate that my father’s family never rejected me, but on the other hand none of them are religious in any way.

    Have you tried a Reform congregation? They generally accept half Jewish people who were raised Jewish regardless of which parent was Jewish.

  417. Barb

    Hi Cindy – I was raised in a Reform congregation – I remember that people there were pretty relaxed about the whole mixed marriage thing vis a vis us kids. (My mother, on the other hand, did not feel she fit in.) There is a pretty cool Reconstructionist synagogue not far from where I live – I may join that congregation.

    However, the point of my email was to explain to one of the posters why these issues matter so much to some of us beyond questions of religious membership. I believe that there are both personal and social reasons involved.

    I agree with Seren about choices made for our children – for some very practical reasons. I imagine for some folks, it may be a sad choice to have to make – easier if your child(ren) is/are only 25% ‘Jewish’.

    However, we live in a increasingly ‘globalized’ world and what happens half-way around the world most definitely affects us here today. And, there is no question in my mind that what happens in or with Israel greatly influences how Jews are perceived in general. As such, the direction Israel takes does matter to us here in the US (as Israel’s top supporter historically) and in many other countries. Hence my interest is more than personal.

  418. Raphael

    Hi Cindy:

    I was in Jerusalem for two weeks last year; I interviewed a few Orthodox Jews at length. I’m a Catholic Jew; so for me as a Catholic Jew having a Jewish father means that; I’m Jewish, by reason of my being elected by God to be a a Israelite, Hebrew…sometimes translated as Jew.

    Paul that “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew,” for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29)

    And, also, I personally think it may be possible, I’m of the elect, being born as a descendant of King David; which I thought to myself was quite interesting. But, the Orthodox Jews I interviewed found that topic too be boring.

    Well, anyway they gave me a book by Rabbi David Lau; which, I had thought, well… some, perhaps half of it seems fascinating; but the other half does not apply to me. Well, it seems they believe that Rabbi Lau, is what most Israelis use, as a source to define their Jewishness.

    I eventually left Jerusalem, and Israel, and am back in the US.

    Without knowing Hebrew; or having a good translator, , it seemed as though it would be difficult to figure out; if it was simply lip service, or was actually their ways as Israelis.

    And, how does one find a translator; that has the courage to get into a discussion between a half Jew Catholic in Israel, and Orthodox Jewish Israelis?

  419. Cindy

    My husband and I are Episcopalian and we raised our kids Episcopalian (and they identify as such) even though they are Jewish on both sides of their family. They get Hanukkah presents from Grandma and Christmas presents from us. Now that they are both in their mid twenties, they have decided to remain Christian. However, the cultural aspect of their Jewish heritage should be nurtured, imho. My concern is that they not be rejected by other Jews as not being a member of the “tribe” so to speak. That is their ancestry, and it is important to me personally, even if they don’t care right now. That may change when they have kids of their own, I don’t know. If they ever wish to become Jewish religiously and marry a Jewish person, they will have a hard time – unless things change. I broke up with a guy before I met my husband because I didn’t want to face a lifetime of rejection from his orthodox parents.

    Barb writes: “we live in a increasingly ‘globalized’ world and what happens half-way around the world most definitely affects us here today. And, there is no question in my mind that what happens in or with Israel greatly influences how Jews are perceived in general. As such, the direction Israel takes does matter to us here in the US (as Israel’s top supporter historically) and in many other countries. Hence my interest is more than personal.”

    I agree. That was the point I was trying to make earlier. Sorry if I was unclear…..

  420. Seren

    Barb, I am so incredibly sorry to read of your experiences with your grandmother and mother- I find it heartbreaking that at a time when you were still a child who had lost their mother that your grandmother would not step up because your mother was not born Jewish. My father’s mother died very suddenly quite young- his little sister was still a teenager and due to a rift in the family my grandmother’s sisters did not come to comfort her either. On a slightly different note, one of my grandma’s sisters and her husband sat shiva for my father when he married my mother. The same couple introduced my grandpa’s next wife to my grandpa after my grandma had passed- my step grandma was a holocaust survivor, lost both parents. But later in her relationship with my grandpa she could not produce papers ‘proving’ her Jewishness. So that same sister who had introduced them then cut my grandpa off as well! How lovely!

    She’s old now and alone. She has actually been calling my dad out of the blue recently for the first time in decades for help and has met my mum too. It’s just really sad. What a waste of all those years where people could have been happier. The things we do to ourselves eh?

    I see things like that and think you just have to take all the happiness that’s out there for you, appreciate it and truly enjoy everything you can. So silly to push the good things away merely out of ‘conviction’. What kind of worthwhile conviction would expect you to sacrifice kindness to others- especially when they may need help and you are in the exact position to give it?

    You know what really illustrates the more objective, overarching mess to me: Orthodox Jews say I and my children are not Jewish at all, 0%. People who aren’t Jewish, or who are and are totally secular, think I am 50% Jewish and my kids are 25% Jewish. And people in the UK Reform movement ( who still go through the mother) as my mother converted believe I am 100% Jewish, and as I am the mother, my kids are 100% Jewish as well, and as my kids are girls, their children will also be 100% Jewish.

    It is such a palava. I think in truth, if the Reform ruled the roost I would bring my children up with at least some sense of a Jewish identity. I imagine as they love getting involved in clubs and groups, and forever make up stories contemplating the meaning of life, they’d take it right on board. But in the countries that are relevant to me ( UK, Europe, and Israel), they do not. So my choices for my kids have to look at the reality as their little memories and ‘sense of self’ is being formed now- these childhood years ARE it.

    So I have to work with what is real, here and now. Luckily they are both v v happy and I KNOW given the circumstances that I have made the right choice. There is a small part of me regardless however, who sees the Reform movement’s definition of things and am rather sad and also oddly guilty about it all. But ultimately all my experiences combined tell me there are too many problems, which will persist for a long long time for me to do anything else. Not if I want my kids to remain as happy and secure in themselves as they are now.

  421. Raphael

    Hi Moshe:

    Thanks; I still consider myself to be Catholic, so, it is interesting to me that when I was in Jerusalem; the Orthodox Jews, I meet were obviously not racist; because they were the ones that found me a apartment.

    I had gone to Jerusalem when the conflict was going on in Gaza.; so they helped me to get out of a high conflict area which was a hotel I was staying, at the 67 border there.

    Next time I go back there; I will tell them, I need to be in a apartment that is not run by ultra-Orthodox Jews.

  422. Raphael

    Hi Barb:

    I was rejected by my father; at a similar age. I think most of it had to do, with his feeling of being rejected by Americans. I think this was the period of time, when protestant Americans viewed Jews as blacks; but, somehow that stereotype stopped, when they got some money in the bank.

    When he married my mother, a non Jew…I’m guessing…he was then rejected by the tribe of Jewish people that were surrounding him. He had no individual survival skills; because he was sheltered, so to speak, from the day he was born…so, he, shortly, after the marriage with my mother, divorced.

    When, I looked at the whole thing years later; it turned into a fascinating, adventure for me, it was not easy though…. because, I had to relive the rejection in my mind, from my father years ago, and the rejection, I was experiencing by the people I was seeking answers from….such as other Jews, etc.

    For me to cope: I had to go back as far as possible; I went as far back in my Jewish history,as I could learning as much as I can, and it seems that, in my opinion, most of the American Jews..it seemed to me rejected even their own Judaism; to get into the club.

    I was never in the club, nor did I ever want to be.

    It seems as even King David went through a similar experience as me; he was despised by his own family; he was not even allowed to eat with them; so he had to figure out how to literally survive; using his own skills because his own family wished he was dead.

  423. Seren

    These stories really hit home why the elements in the Jewish community who try to pretend their rejection doesn’t have inexcusably damaging consequences, are just self-deluded, exceptionally callous morons. I find it really really unnecessary and sad.

    But I think precisely because those elements are so brazenly self interested and unkind, it makes it easier to move on. When the actions of a group makes it impossible to trust, or admire that group anymore it makes it easier to let them go. And recognise people who are worth trusting and admiring instead.

    And of course, aside from the elements described above, loads of individual Jewish people and some movements aren’t like that- and those movements are trying to raise their profiles. It’s just a big shame that the other type have such foghorn voices.

  424. Barb

    Seren and Raphael – thanks for sharing your stories! Not happy you went through some similar stuff, but it does help to be reminded that one is not alone w/ such experiences. I didn’t realize K. David was ‘only’ half Jewish. I’ll need to look into his story more!

  425. Cindy

    King David was actually Jewish. His great grandmother, Ruth, on his father’s side converted to Judiaism. There is no mention in the bible that David’s father married a non Jewish woman. 🙂

  426. Barb

    Thanks for the correction! BTW, my mother’s name was Ruth – she converted to Judiasm when she married, but unfortunately it was not quite enough. I think she came to miss her own church greatly.

  427. Raphael

    There is a book by a Jewish Christian scholar, that talks about much of the historical situation of Israel; that is sympathetic to half Jews.

    “Come Out My People!”: God’s Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond

    By Wes Howard-Brook

  428. Raphael

    Rahab, was the mother of Boaz, and of Canaanite ethnicity; Boaz, was the husband of Ruth, a Moabite.

  429. Raphael

    Legend, in the Aggadah, says Jessie (David’s father) had a father-in-law named Ithra… and that he was of the Ismaelite race.

    The talmud says Nitzevet is the mother of David..a modern day biblical scholar (Wes Howard-Brook) says David is half-Moabite.

  430. Raphael

    I have been thinking much of the questions and answers, here.

    Before, I traveled to Israel, I interviewed many Jews from Reform to Orthodox; because in preparing for Aliyah; the Jewish Agency required that I have a letter from a Rabbi stating that my father was Jewish.

    I did finally get a letter; but after much rejection, ironically, from American Jews. I have Jewish friends; but, when I contacted Orthodox Rabbis to Reform Rabbis; most it was a very negative experience, with a few exceptions though, even that has improved, after I got back from Israel.

    When I went to Israel; the Orthodox Jews were much more caring, and helpful for just about anything.

    I was wondering, why, I used the word race in my experiences; with Orthodox Jews… or other Jews, in Israel, during the question and answers here.

    Part of the reason I left Israel, is I felt like I was being turned into a slave.

    Though, I’m white here; is there some sort of historical protestant stereotype that conservative Jews have (perhaps even subconsciously) that see half Jews, as black?

    Was it a slave to the militarist mindset, to Zionism gone in a direction that is directed by God only knows, etc.; I don’t know why, but before I decide, if I want, to be a citizen there, I will find out the answer to that question.

    When, I looked back at the history of how this feeling may have come about it seems as; if even the Jews historically had slaves; and I think they called them Hebrews, way back in the history of Israel.

    When, I started to have this feeling; I simply, flew back to the US, my friend that is Jewish said that it was a good decision.

    It will probably be many years; before I actually decide, again, if I want to do Aliyah. But, I still think Israel is a wonderful place. I’m trying to learn Hebrew. For me if I do decide to do Aliyah is that I would like to understand Hebrew well; or have a Hebrew interpreter, there… before I actually move there.

  431. Seren

    To the elements to whom you’re not jewish when being Jewish is more important than anything to them , well that’s that. You’re simply not jewish and no more analysis goes into it. So they’ll be nice up to a point. And after that point those elements of the Jewish community will be dismissive no matter how much you want to connect or give, or even if you want to convert.

    I don’t think they think about people like you and me that much at all I’m afraid, let alone see us in such an extreme way as you consider in your post- I think they quite simply couldn’t care less.

    And unfortunately someone you care for’s indifference can sometimes be harder to live with than their hate.

    They don’t see anyone as slaves I think.
    They just don’t really give a damn. Which does in all honesty provoke quite painful feelings of worthlessness on the other side. Possibly that’s one of the reasons people feel the urge to share some of their less pleasant experiences.
    Because those experiences are usually where the community they are DNA descended from ( regardless of whether they are halachically jewish or not) have sent them the message that they are not worth caring about. And that is incredibly painful.

    Yet underneath it all, most people know that they ARE worth caring about. And that’s possibly why people try and reach out to each other and discuss things.

    Once again of course not everyone Jewish behaves in the way described above.

  432. Seren

    Raphael hope you get a good hebrew teacher or find some good resources if you want to learn. I’ve found i’ve picked up bits and bobs and accidentally got better at reading from regularly trying to find the work of a couple of my favourite Israeli musicians on youtube. Forced to read Hebrew because otherwise you can’t find the clip you’re looking for. If i were intentionally trying to learn, now i think i’d just watch LOADS of films but with hebrew and english subtitles! 🙂

  433. Canis

    Dear half-jewish community,

    I am afraid I am repeating myself but you should really go to Israel yourself and find out what is going on … I can imagine that the Jewish people in the US are MUCH more conservative than the mainstream modern Jews in Israel. Of course I know I have a selection bias in that the people I meet are all saecular, tolerant, liberal … and for them it doesn’t matter at all if you are half jewish or not … of course I admit that from a legal perspective there is some discrimination that should be stopped immediately but it’s easier to stop wrong legislations than mentalities hence the good news that the mentality of those people that you should be mainly interested in is not at all discriminating … of course if you are looking for the friendship of ultra orthodox jews you will probably not get what you are looking for (apologies to the ultra orthodox community if I am wrong because honestly I simply have no experience with them ….) but I am anyway not looking to get in touch with extreme religious people no matter what religion they have …
    I have talked to a Russian half jewish girl (father is jewish) as she lives in Israel, married to a jew, if she faces any discrimination and she stated that apart from the fact that she had to marry abroad being jewish or not simply is no topic in her daily life … and why I would be so much interested in it …
    I am sure there is people with different experiences and I don’t want to say that there is no discrimination … my point is you select the people that you will spend time with … so why waste your time with those that are discriminating other people?
    All the best C.

  434. Raphael

    I met many Jews in the US; for a time I even visited my father during the summers after my parents divorced. I agree with you; that US Jews are more conservative, in some ways, sort of. It seems to me, that Jewish people in Israel are conservative, and more liberal, in other ways, though.

    US Jews, are basically practicing Jews, those in between, and those that don’t practice. American Jews… on a, day to day, basis outside of the synagogue… always identify with me regardless of my religion; I think, because I look Jewish; and I never changed my Jewish name to renounce my membership to the tribe.

    On a personal level; I don’t care what the Orthodox, think, though they like me, probably even more then the Reform Jews.

    The Orthodox Jews; American, or Israeli are generally much more friendly to me.

    I think my grandfather was a orthodox Jew; I know my great grandfather was the president of a Orthodox synagogue; and a millionaire; and by and large, they were Haskalah Jews, which goes against the common understanding… for example, one of the brothers of my relatives (another millionaire) was a member of three synagogues one Orthodox, the other Conservative, and the other Reform.

    I asked about this to my Orthodox Jewish friends in Israel, and they said that being a member of three, like that, never happens in Israel.

    I think; the Jews that I met from the practicing Jewish community in synagogues… relatively recently…. when I was required to get a letter from a Rabbi, were definitely (generally) more conservative then; the conservative Orthodox Jews I knew in Israel.

  435. Seren

    Canis: a month in an Israeli jail for a convert who was partially jewish anyway. that’s why it matters.

  436. Seren

    I agree it’s a shame to be negative about everything. Though pretending the problems that do exist don’t, or have no relevance because they do not happen to affect you personally, is a bit short sighted.
    I am truly glad that you personally are having such a positive experience though.

  437. Seren

    And to a certain extent I agree that life is what you make it and what you choose to focus on. It’s just that in reality the ‘extent’ matters: the amount you can ignore the problems is limited when someone else has the power to negate your identity on a whim, and regularly do so to many people.

    Still you sound like you are completely content with your own situation and that is great. Each to their own and it is good to hear of positive experiences too.

  438. Barb

    Canis – feedback from, and connection with, others who have had similar experiences is how some of us turn this type of problem into a positive experience.

    Moreover, anti-semitism is a concern for many of us. I do recognize that not everyone experiences that all that much. I also recognize that some mixed families & communities are quite open-minded and progressive when it comes to these matters, and that this is true in Israel just as it is in other places.

    However, the national policies and legislation of Israel negatively affect how Israel, and the Jews, are perceived world-wide by many. Moreover, these policies affect many groups in Israel, not just half-Jews.

    As a (U.S.) American, I can honestly say that while I feel many European Americans do not or have not actively discriminated against African Americans, I sure am glad that racial policies are not what they were fifty years ago.

    Expressing concerns is one of the reasons this board exists! ; – )

  439. Barb

    I did see the video of Israeli responses to the ‘half Jewish’ issue. Was not terrible impressed with the level of openess to half Jews overall. I suspect a lot of folks like the older orthodox mothers do support current policies in Israel and would not be supportive of change. I agree that here or abroad it is not necessary for me to hobnob with those folks! However, being able to hobnob with them is not my concern at all and, I suspect, not what folks on this board are generally striving for! : – )

  440. Raphael


    I have been going though a similar thought process; with the rise of anti-Semitism… and, myself looking Jewish, and with a Jewish name …I really did not understand the importance of it until, I returned from Israel… when I thought I would go there to see if Aliyah was for me.

    For example, when I got backed from Israeli, probably with a sort of Israeli accent because I had conversed with many Israeli Jews while there for quite some time…. A Muslim women, while was taking my order at the restaurant reminded me, that the thing I was ordering was not kosher.

    Fortunately, I prepared myself for these conflicting cultural exchanges, before I decided to look into my Jewish historical family history.

    I, basically, have decided that I will not being doing Aliyah; unless, I learn the language well; perhaps a few years, if I do decide to move to Israel.

    There are a number of authors; that I have read, that go into the whole historical reasons of why politics is the way it is in Israel. Hannah Arendt, is very pro Half Jew; especially in her works that have been recently published. …The Jewish Writings – February 26, 2008

    And, a excellent writing by Bernard Lazare: Antisemitism, Its History and Causes, 1894

    As well as… Arthur Ruppin and the Production of the Modern Hebrew Culture- 1st December, 2008

  441. Barb

    Raphael – thanks for the author recommendations – I will certainly look into them. There is also a book I learned about recently written by James Carroll which seeks to correct some gross misinformation about Jews and their role in the death of Jesus which is certainly misinformation I feel that I’ve had to contend with just a wee bit too much. The book also has recommendations for updates to religious practices in this modern age. I can’t remember the title off-hand but have read a review and will look for it.

    BTW, I took Hebrew for a year as a child many, many years ago. I love to study languages and have a renewed interest in developing decent reading skills in Hebrew. I took a class last spring at a Reconstructionist synagogue nearby and enjoyed it greatly. I hope that you do keep up with your Hebrew and will consider joining a class if one is available near you! I got some excellent tips in my class and am hoping that they will decide to open another one in the near future.

  442. Raphael

    I read some of James Carroll’s book… Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World; and, he said what I have known all along that anti-Semites; don’t consider the who is a Jew Question at all… but, rather he said anti-Semitic people see half Jews as Jews, “univocally” which to me, seems like that is the way it is here, and in Israel.

    When, I was in Israel, before I got my apartment in downtown Jerusalem; I was in a hotel in the Arab section..I told a Arab person there; I was a half-Jew; but he would always define me as a Jew.

    And, when I would try and have a rabbi write a letter for me in the US; saying my father was Jewish…I did not know until, I went through a whole process; that the Orthodox rabbis would never even consider writing a letter to me about that… ironically, the staff of the Reform and Conservative synagogues were much more harsh then the Orthodox…generally, with a few exceptions…they would at least say no, in a polite way.

    But, I have friends that are Jewish; so, I had a basic way to at least start to figure out the politics going on, and being a anarchist helped too.

    Ironically, it’s books like Memories of a Mischling: Becoming an American, Volume 3, by Marianne Gilbert Finnegan; whom was a half Jew, that has helped me the most..It is written by a non scholar, written from the heart of her experience of being a half Jew.

    For example… for me… I had always thought I was a American..my father, though he as Jewish never mentioned next year Israel…so when I experienced anti-Semitism, I was no longer a American; but rather a American Jew.

    Not in ways very different then when the Nuremberg laws of 1933 were made; that made half Jews that were German one day; and the next day after the law was made, they were Jews.

  443. Barb

    The James Carroll book I referred to earlier is:
    Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age
    It is a pretty recent release.

  444. Raphael

    Thanks…I will read it; he seems to discuss Christian anarchism. I very much identify with Simone Weil, another Christian anarchist…she is actually Jewish (Jewish Christian) she never renounced her Jewishness; as many wrongly think, she did.

    When I was in Israel; I asked a Jewish Israeli about Haskala; which I think the way some interpreted it was to be a German in public and a Jew at home…and Jewish enlightenment…he had no idea what it was; even though, there was a Moses Montifore Windmill, right in Jerusalem.

    I said that, to say, I doubt most Israelis even translate into Hebrew; most liberal Jewish writings from the US…so basically when they criticize US liberal Jews; they do it, without, even reading about liberal Jews.

    I think there is a effort to, purposely, even not discuss Haskala in Israel… because when I went to the Moses Montifore Windmill; the name Moses Montifore was crossed out.

  445. Raphael

    Spelling error. Moses Montifore is Moses Montefiore.

  446. halfling

    Just figured i’d post my story here though i’ve posted before can explain more in detail. I was born in a mixed family, mother was a non jew of gentile background who converted and married my dad whom was a Kohen. Unfortunately throughout my life I have never been fully accepted as Jewish or a Gentile. The more I tried to live as a non Jew, others saw me as different and none of them and would claim I was racially a Jew, this lead to many issues throughout my life due to anti-semitism and people having hatred against Jews. At the same time, to other Jews, I was nothing more than an imposter and could never be fully accepted.

    I’ve had issues in synagogues, it seems that when I read from the Torah people do not like the fact I am reading as no one says Amein, at the same time other Jewish groups that normally would accept a paternal Jew such as Karaites do not officially recognize me either in Israel because my dad was a Kohen and see it as prohibited for a Kohen to marry a convert or non Jew therefore I am stuck in a situation where I am between both worlds. Other Jews still expect me to live a Torah life and eat kosher while not accepting me and seeing me equivalent to a second class citizen. It is very depressing to the point even some conservative Rabbis have even said I should convert if I want to be accepted. I feel that the main reason I am viewed as such is due to my father being a Kohen and they do not want to recognize me as a Jew out of fear of being a Mamzer as some do not legitimately see my father as my father due to the fact he married a convert. My mohel is not sure what answer to give me and a orthodox rabbi who did the prayers over my circumcision gives me a variety of different answers and won’t even respond to my emails anymore saying I need to undergo a conversion. It is very depressing to think that my entire life, my name, everything is seen as fake. I’ve been told by non Jews that I can’t be a Jew that I am a Khazar or that people with the last name Kohen changed it in Russia, seems like I’m at a point where I feel I do not want to be recognized by anyone. I’ve defended Israel and Jews for most of my life and I feel that I am viewed as nothing more than a menace.

    I’m not sure how else to explain it but the identity issues make me feel it would have been better to either be born pure Jewish or pure Gentile rather than the product of a mixed marriage and feeling hated by both sides.

  447. Raphael

    I purchased the book you recommended; and have started to read it…my first thoughts, is the utter objectification..the making of me as a half Jew, into a object… has been done to me simply because my father is Jewish.

    The book is extremely useful for putting many things into focus; even with helping me to understand the Boycott movement debates. With all the media attention about the debates; the politicians never mention half Jews; which is basically; there whole argument at its roots forrm everything from Zionism, to Judaism; in Israel. I don’t know if it’s the same with American Jews.

    It seems as if they have been boycotting me and the half Jews all along ; that is the feeling I get.

    Learning Hebrew seems to be natural to me; and, it seems as if it will be a useful skill in surviving in the modern age. For example, a simple question of the Hebrew word Haskalah to a Israeli Jew whom might appear to be progressive, or liberal; and there inability to understand the word, or he simply wanted to evade the discussion… for whatever reasons… is important to me in the US; or even if I move to Israel.

    And, because, simply learning Hebrew as a Anglo American Jew, I will have the ability to frame the debate.

    What is even more helpful; is that I can now.. also…simply write letters, or call in Hebrew with a translator or myself to the Israeli community; that I became a part of; while I’m in the US.

  448. Seren

    Halfling, don’t know if it helps to know but I have also found that there are a fair number of nasty people around ( i really want to swear instead of just say ‘nasty’, but noone else does on this site so i’m holding back). They exist and they are vile. On both sides. I’ve found my awareness of the ‘nasty’ people on both sides in relation to this particular issue overwhelming at times too.

    The only escape I’ve found is to work on disengaging with the issue. Because I felt like I was wasting my life trying to change the people who hold harmful opinions on the matter. Instead, making commitments to other people who don’t care about the issue has been positive. In my case the people in my life who would never contemplate rejecting me over such things are both ‘gentiles’,from a wide array of backgrounds, Jews and dual citizenship Israelis. So my experience has luckily not been one of ultimate non- acceptance- there are enough people dotted all around from all types of backgrounds to make things seem less desperate.

    In quiet moments the issue still emerges despite myself. But at least when it does I have got a few other more positive experiences to counter it with.
    Ultimately I have become more and more comfortable with the idea of rejecting anyone who rejects me.
    My experiences are that you get a really annoying attitude from some Jews for the part of your background that isn’t Jewish and the exact same kind of annoying attitude from people who aren’t Jews for the part of your background that is Jewish- and that attitude manifests as this: without warranting my respect they demand some kind of special status, whilst simultaneously implying that I am somehow a lesser or more malevolent being than them because of the part of my background that is different. I am now so much more comfortable with dumping those people and if it’s not always possible to get away from them to laugh it off ( or hide the ‘offending’ side of my background for fear of getting beaten up- that’s only been relevant few times in my life though- and then laugh about what idiots those people were later when it’s safe!! to be fair that has only ever happened to me with people who weren’t Jewish who hated Jews, rather than the other way round. Though the experience of being told I am not acceptable to a community is far more common amongst the Jewish community, even though it is a less serious experience than fearing the possibility of physical violence).
    I have worked really hard at identifying all the people who I CAN trust instead, so those I can’t don’t have such power any more. It is not easy, but it’s definitely better than it used to be.

    And at least in the quiet moments where the issue pops up in my head even though I don’t want it to, there are now a couple of places I can let off steam about it all ( like this site.)

  449. Raphael


    Interesting… I never compared, like you just did the level of violence toward me by Jews, and non-Jews.

    When, I just did, after reading what you said… it is the same with me; at all times the most violence, to me, was done toward me by non-Jews.

    I have decided that it is not best for me to try and assimilate; in a way that would hide my Jewishness; like many in my family have done.. because, I have no Jewish community to go to for a refuge, in the US or even Israel, to walk me through the process, from the beginning.

    So, I will just tell people I am Jewish; even though I’m a Catholic Jew. Hannah Arendt said something like if I’m attacked as a Jew, then I will defend myself as a Jew.

    And, ironically; I like everything about my Jewish half; I can learn the language, that I enjoy, the history, culture, politics, and at the same time learn useful survival skills, in a world that is shrinking…where borders are not so well defined.

  450. Barb

    O.k. – this is not the correct video. Please go to: “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRtc0XaA5k0&index=5&list=PLE17B8B4BDF50691E” WITHOUT the quotes – the talk I am trying to post is given by Dr. Jon Entine and is called ‘Genetic Research and The Origins of the Jewish People ‘. I have not seen the talk posted above by Gail Insel. I was simply tryng to post the URL for Jon Entine. Apologies!!!!

  451. Barb

    For Halfling:
    Also refer to: “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioYAjdDALqk” – enter without the quotes – for another video clip you might be interested in – ‘The Kohanim Gene and the Lost Tribes of Israel’.

  452. Barb

    Halfling –

    Please see:


    WITHOUT the quotes

  453. Seren

    Barb that’s an interesting video- especially the end!
    Raphael – really cool that you ultimately feel so happy about the Jewish aspect of your background. I’ve been contemplating the impact of those comparative experiences, food for thought.

  454. Raphael


    And interesting additional question; I asked myself about the question…. is what kind answers I would get from various religious authorities…about these questions; from my own Catholic faith, to also, those
    that are Rabbis… or even a Zionist organization.

    To me the question I would have is… hello, I have recently found out I was Jewish; and have been experiencing anti-Semitism…should I assimilate… i.e., get a nose job, change my name from a Jewish name etc.,…or should I join a Zionist community, for support?

    The answer…Are you Jewish? Is your mother Jewish; well you need not try, and assimilate; or join a Zionist group to combat anti-Semitism.

    The answer is absurd.

    Because, there, obviously, is a whole science behind assimilating in the Jewish tradition; but that science is reserved, so to speak for those that had done it in the past… and the way I see assimilation in my family history anyway; is that they joined synagogues; one became a president of a Orthodox synagogue (for social reasons?) starting in the 1920s, on our about, specifically to assimilate in a Jewish context into American culture.

    My other great grandfather helped, on or about 300 Jews become citizens. He did not simply join a Zionist organization to become a a prominent member of the Jewish community; to then have the skills to help people to assimilate.

  455. Halfling

    Thanks for the replies, I guess the reason this has bothered me for so long is in the United States, people build up their identity based on their ancestors. It makes them who they are, the jersey shore girls always see themselves as Sicilian, Irish, Italian, Polish, German, Ukrainian, Czech all pull together as being very proud of their roots. When it comes to other minorities like Romani or circassians, people who have been uprooted from their homes, it gets more complicated and you start to feel like a wandering nomad.

    For me , being a Jew has always been a challenge, for years I tried to prove that jews were a genetic ethnic group and was told by both jews and non jews that’s incorrect, the jews would say we are a nation and a religion which complicated things, so if I wasn’t part of the jewish people, what was I? I must be Russian or Romanian or German, no according to them I am a Jew and can’t be Russian Romanian or German and I am not native to Europe. On the other hand, the non jews don’t see us as middle easterners but some strange mixed race group that are partially khazarian and European but don’t belong in Europe or israel. This has become so popular that in schools I have heard this myth pushed and even some jews like jewishvirtuallibrary now claim Ashkenazis are khazars. When our own people and the people that hate jews agree on the same anti Semitic myth, what are we to do ?

    For me, growing up and having the surname kohen has always been strange to jews and non jews alike, non jews used to ask me if I was Italian or Greek or Sicilian, when I said jewish, they’d claim it’s a religion and I could never claim any of the countries my ancestors came from, I had no cuisine, culture, music, history, architecture or arts I could claim as my own produced by our people, and if I could, it was seen as insignificant or inferior. I don’t think you realize psychologically what this feels like that I feel and see myself as the rootless cosmopolitan wanderer that the anti Semites like to promote.

    It’s not a self serving or defeatist attitude, it’s simply being accepted and not stripped of my basic humanity and identity. I think it’s beautiful someone who’s Japanese can claim so much to the samurai culture, anime, video games, sushi, the Japanese language and identity and technology, martial arts and be very proud that they are intelligent and have a ancient culture and tradition. No one will dispute the Japanese or their history, there’s some conflict in regards to the identity of Ainu and ryuukan but other than that, there is great pride in being Japanese.

    The same applies for Germans, Italians, Spanish all who have a rich culture. As a Jew, if I YouTube israel or jews , it’s full of negative views of jews, there is literally nothing about our culture and our own people reject us. Claims are made against Israel’s very own existence by our own people as these so called revisionist historians are attempting to change anything and everything.

    This has created the feeling of being a exile and not fully accepted or seen as anything, it’s like asking someone what color their hair is and they happen to be bald.

    I hope this puts my view into better perspective.

  456. Seren

    The example of assimilating you give of a family member becoming a president of an Orthodox synagogue ( for social reasons?)- do you mean keep a Jewish identity but only in so much as it enables the person to make inroads into American culture?

    Re comparisons again- For me I have to say even though the experiences of unpleasantness from people who weren’t Jewish were more serious (because they involved the threat of violence), they were VERY rare- whereas the awareness of the rejection from elements in Judaism was a long standing backdrop across my childhood into adulthood. Personally that had a larger impact on my psyche and my choices, than the few threatening incidences I had the other way around.

    However, with hindsight I think it was the combination of the two sets of experiences that made the background awareness of rejection come into focus more- as I realised it wasn’t all sweetness and light on the other side either. The combination of the 2 sets of experiences did make things seem more stark. More bleak. And more urgent than I would have perceived them to be otherwise.

    Luckily these things aren’t defining my perceptions as much as they used to. I offload here on occasion. But in my daily life I don’t find it popping up in my mind with the frequency it did in the past. Which is a welcome relief. Maybe it’s from reading other people’s messages on the topic: it is now less of a solitary, internalised experience

  457. Raphael

    Yes…it seems as with my Jewish family; they were on paper wealthy prominent Jews, but at home they were Americans. For example, I have a Jewish name, and look Jewish, so when I would visit my father’s house during the summer there; many people would assume, I’m Jewish; and, after that many American Jews would assume I’m Jewish… it was always something I enjoyed because American Jews I bond with more then with ordinary Americans.

    But, not institutional Judaism; that is a very different story…I could never imagine myself being a member of a Zionist organization..though I may be a descendant of King David. I more identify with anarchist Zionism, not AIPAC.

    For example, after my father divorced my mother; he was married by a Reform Rabbi, but was never a member of the synagogue.

    They, it seems had to keep some sort of ties to Jewish communities to make their businesses successful.

    t was a large family too, between 20 and 23 brothers and sisters, on my grandfather’s and grandmother’s side of the family. There was even a great grandfather, that came before they came over to the US that was a millionaire, and he helped around 300 Jews become US citizens.

    Most of those 20 to 23 brothers and sisters were millionaires, between 1920s to 1960s; but they seemed to only be interested in the giltz the glamour, the limousines of America, at that time.

  458. Barb

    Dear All –

    Here is an interesting looking book!

    The Half-Jewish Book: A Celebration, by Daniel Klein et al.

  459. Cindy

    I have that book. Very humerous!

  460. Dee

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Joaquin Phoenix, River Phoenix, Emmy Rossum, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Sofia Black D’Elia, Nora Arnezeder, Goldie Hawn, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Peet, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Barnes, Patricia Arquette, Kyra Sedgwick, Dave Annable, Ryan Potter.

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, Nicola Peltz, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Winona Ryder, Michael Douglas, Ben Foster, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz, Paul Newman.

    Oh, and Ansel Elgort’s father is Jewish, though I don’t know how Ansel was raised. Robert Downey, Jr. and Sean Penn were also born to Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers. Armie Hammer and Chris Pine are part Jewish.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism: Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

  461. Dear Dee:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    Now that your first post is approved, you will be able to post in the future without waiting for me as moderator to approve your posts.

    Enjoyed your post!

    Please be advised that I did remove your list of actors with two Jewsih parents from your post. This website is focused on adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage, and we normally don’t post information about Jews with two Jewish parents unless it directly relates to information about people who are half-Jewish.


  462. I have set up a half-Jewish/secular meetup.com group for Northwest Vermont, centered on St. Albans. I have three members, which is more than I expected going in. If you are in the area, take a look and consider joining. The first event is Saturday, October 14. I hope to learn from you and perhaps make some friends.

  463. Barb

    Matthew – I wish I were in St. albans! However, I am thinking about trying to set up such a group in Philadelphia. If anyone on the list lives in Philly, and might be interested in this, please do let me know. Matthew, please post to later to let us know how it goes!

  464. Dear Matthew and Barbara:

    Good luck! Please keep us posted on how the group meetings go.

    If the groups meet successfully for three months, please contact me and I will list them under “Half-Jewish Groups” on this website.

    Robin M.

  465. Dear Matthew and Barbara:
    Regarding listing your groups on this website — all I need is information from you that the groups have lasted three months, and a link to a website you’ve created for them.

    They don’t have to have hundreds of members — two or three is fine.

    Robin M.

  466. Dear Friends:
    I’ve just posted the first Half-Jewish newsletter in a long time. It’s here:


    Here are instructions on how to get these free email newsletters:


    Robin M.

  467. Dear Friends:

    I know that some of you haven’t yet subscribed to our free newsletter (blog post), so I’d like to post a prayer request on the Message Board, as well as in our blog post.

    Some of you have asked why I’ve posted less on the Message Board and been slower in responding to email 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.

    Robin M.

  468. Barb

    You are certainly in my (non-denominational) prayers and in my thoughts. I wish you a speedy recovery!

  469. Dear Barb;
    I very much appreciate your continuing prayers for my recovery! They are definitely needed.

    Robin M.

  470. Dear Friends:
    I have posted a new page on what is known about the “Ten Lost Tribes,” as I am repeatedly asked questions about them. There are many misunderstandings and myths about them, including claims of Jewish descent from them which may or may not be true.

    Robin M.

  471. Jennifer/ Ruth

    I would love more information about patrilineal Jews. I am 45 and I’m considering converting because I’ve always felt second-class despite my mother’s active participation in Jewish life since she doesn’t have Jewish heritage.

    There is a part of me that resents having to convert to be ‘legit’ because I feel I have had the same cultural experiences as someone who is matrilineally Jewish, but ultimately I think the conversion would help ME to feel legit; I’m not doing it for others.

    Are there other patrilineal Jews out there who feel this way? Have they been through the conversion process and did it help them?

    Thank you for this site. I kind of loved that only half – Jews can post… This is the first time in my life my half-Jewish heritage has enabled me to do something instead of preventing me from something!

    Jennifer (Jewish name given at birth: Ruth)

  472. Dear Jennifer:

    Welcome to the Half-Jewish Network!

    I hope other patrilineals will respond to your inquiry with accounts of their own decisions to convert (or not).

    Now, some members of the Half-Jewish Network have had very positive Jewish conversion experiences, and I hope they will chime in. They found supportive synagogues, and felt that conversion did make a positive difference.

    Glad you like the website. We try to collect every scrap of information about patrilineals and matrilineals that we can find.

    In addition to the information on this website, You may find the 2013 Pew Report interesting:


    I am glad that you like the “half-Jewish people only” posting rule. I wanted at least one space on the internet where half-Jewish people came first.

    I should tell you that many matrilineals report discrimination within the Jewish community, so acceptance of matrilineal descent is not uniform.

    For example, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism will not accept half-Jewish people as Jews, whether patrilineal or matrilineal, unless they are raised as Jews. If they are raised in other faiths, they must convert.

    So the shoe sometimes pinches the other foot.

    I believe that change is slowly coming within the Jewish community. I recently read a Jewish continuity statement that upset me tremendously — basically, it argued for more Jewish summer camps, day schools and Israel trips to help born Jews meet and marry each other to stem the tide of intermarriage — but I was heartened to see many rabbis and other Jews flood the comment sections to express disapproval of the statement as old-fashioned and expressing outdated antii-iintermarriage attitudes.

    So change is coming, though its very slow.

    Robin M.

  473. Jennifer

    Thank you for your response! I *was* raised Jewish, just to be clear 🙂 . There are people who consider me Jewish but others don’t. I am thinking of conversion because I want to eliminate the ambiguity.

    I will look forward to hearing others’ experiences!

  474. Barb

    Jennifer –

    It sounds like you may have been raised Jewish? I am also a patrilineal half Jew who was raised Jewish. I won’t join any synagogue that I would have to convert to be a member of, but that’s just me. On the other hand, if I wanted to join a church, I would agree to a conversion since I wasn’t raised in that faith. (Also, my mother, though never wholly accepted as Jewish by some members of the family, did undergo a conversion when she married. So, the situation may be a little different from yours.)

    In any event, welcome! Since in the West, the culture and religion of fathers has traditionally prevailed, and people are often known by their fathers surnames, I feel that the plight of patrilineals is particularly difficult.

    P.S. I did not realize that only ‘half-Jews’ can post here!

  475. Dear Barb:

    Yes, the “only half-Jewish people can post on the Message Board” rule is listed in the rules posted at the top of this Message Board page:

    “The message board is reserved for postings by people who are half-Jewish. People who are not half-Jewish — members of interfaith couples who are born Jews, Christians and members of other faith-based cultures, outreach professionals, researchers, media, writers, journalists, reporters and people selling commercial products — see our “People Who Are Not Half-Jewish” guidelines below.”

    Here’s the reasons why:

    1. I noticed that any time half-Jewish people tried to discuss their issues within threads on on Jewish-identified message boards, they were sometimes — not always — quickly overrun by born Jewish people saying they “weren’t Jewish” and getting very snarky towards them, including verbal abuse.

    2. Christianity had a different problem — half-Jewish people were mostly cordially welcomed, but were often immediately met with suggestions that they convert to Messianic Judaism or to a form of “Hebrew Christianity” sponsored by a segment of the Catholic church.

    There is no problem with these groups offering welcome and conversions — that’s the Christian package. But it made discussions between half-Jewish people difficult — they were always getting admonished to “give up your struggle with your Jewish community and your Jewish half. Convert!” We couldn’t convince our well-meaning Christian friends that those of us who are Christian-identified still have identity questions that conversions don’t resolve.

    3. I finally got so exasperated that I started the Half-Jewish Network in 2005, establishing a website through an internet hosting company that allowed me full control of the site. It was a primitive website by today’s standards, but I did have the power to remove abusive commenters.

    I continued to allow anyone who wanted to post on that message board, hoping that visitors who were not half-Jewish would learn from interactions with us. Unfortunately, most of the visitors who were not half-Jewish and posted in the first Half-Jewish Network forum were not interested in dialogue. They were interested in telling us the same things that they told us when we visited their message boards.

    So when we moved our website to a new internet host a few years ago, and I had to start a new Message Board, I finally put my foot down. Only half-Jewish people can post here. Now, I haven’t been hardline about it. Once in a while someone posts who isn’t half-Jewish and has a sincere question. I usually remind the person about our rules, but I don’t interrupt productive discussions.

    I usually remove postings by people who aren’t half-Jewish. I invite them to discuss their goals with me privately to see if there is any way we can work with them that will benefit half-Jewish people.

    Sometimes their projects do have some way of benefiting half-Jewish people, in which case I post an announcement about their work on the Message Board and in our email newsletter and encourage half-Jewish people to contact these projects.. I will list them under “Jewish Resources,” Christian Resources,” etc.

    But about 50 percent of these posters want to recruit half-Jewish people for goals that have nothing to do with our needs.

    Now we do encourage people who are not half-Jewish — rabbis, Jewish communal workers, Christian outreach folks, interfaith couples, Jewish, Christian and other spiritual groups, and interested people of all types — to subscribe to our free email newsletter. And the website is completely open to the general public, so that interested people who aren’t half-Jewish can learn about how we think and our varied experiences.

    I would have preferred to allow people who aren’t half-Jewish to post freely on this Message Board, but past unfortunate experiences convinced me that half-Jewish people need a space of their own.

    I know this is an exceptionally long post, but regretfully, there was no quick way to explain a rule that may seem excluding.


  476. Barb

    Robin 0 thanks for explaining the background of the listserv restrictions. I don’t have any problem with the rule – I was just surprised! I do think that there is something really nice about having something ‘just for us’ since we are most likely the ones who struggle the most with identity and cultural issues and issues of ‘belonging’. Since the rest of the site is open to many other folks, they can still benefit from the site.

  477. Cindy

    Although I don’t post often, I read everything. I am extremely thankful to you, Robin, for starting this website. My husband and children are all in the same boat as I – half Jews!

    I am also praying for a quick recovery for you. Feel better!


  478. Dear Barb and Cindy:

    Barb: Glad you understand! I do want us to be able to talk undisturbed, but I also want other viewers who may not be half-Jewish to benefit from our experiences. This is the best I can do.

    Cindy: Thank you for your kind words about the website. I am very pleased it has been useful to you and your family. I hope you will keep me in your prayers, as my recovery is taking a very long time.


  479. Cindy

    Seren, that article is infuriating. I don’t understand how, if one embraces a religion and follows it for many years, others can come along one day and deny your faith. There are many Jewish people who know absolutely nothing about the religion (my aunt is one), and who don’t practice it at all, who are still considered Jews just because they have Jewish-by-blood parents.

    It is time the Jewish leaders decide whether they are a religion or an ethnic group. A religion doesn’t kick out faithful, upstanding members, who are devoted to their faith.

  480. Barb

    Hear, hear! Could not agree with this more! And if an ethnic group, utter frankness about this is needed.

  481. Meir

    It appears the Egyptian Karaite hakham or the leadership does not accept paternal jewish ancestry if one was not raised jewish. I will assume the same for both parents as i was told i needed to convert.

  482. judenpower

    Barb thank you, i have seen that video and I now know no one can take my kohen ancestry away as much as some would like to.

    I have done the DNA tests and match other kohens and carry the kohen gene as well as the j1 haplogroup.

    I remember when i was a young boy my father told me our history, i think he deliberately sheltered me from the religious world to prevent feeling hurt. Understand my situation is unique in the sense my mother is ethnically german but a convert via the conservative movement. The issue however is a kohen is forbidden to marry a convert and so the orthodox movements consider me chalal or a mamzer. To prevent this status they declare me a non jew and tell me i need to undergo a conversion and my mothers was invalid. She spent 2 years of her life going through a conversion that isnt valid. To complicate matters i am not fully accepted as a jew or a kohen even in the conservative movement and was asked by a rabbi to convert to remove doubt.

    Perhaps the most offensive gesture is that if i converted, i would be forced to become ben avraham avinu because under halacha i would have no father. I find this a slap in the face. My dad, my grandparents, and my great grandparents were all buried in a jewish cemetary and to be told they arent even my ancestors is beyond disgusting.

    Apparently as if that isnt enough, i have had demeaning responses from other jews who have said my dad knew what the consequences were as if i am the problem that caused my father to become a defiled kohen. Further investigation and the orthodox mohel now says he takes the opinion of the rabbinic beth din under orthodoxy which ultimately says i would not be jewish.

    The karaite movement has now confirmed they wont recognize me as a jew because my father being a cohen and my cohen status is a problem. How orthodox are invalidating the conversion of my mom is claiming she knowingly violated a mitzvah that she cannot marry a kohen.

    Anyways, i feel pretty much alone in the struggle to be seen as a jew. My wife feels upset how i have been treated and even other karaites and peshat jews including many sephardic modern orthodox and bnei anusim sympathize with me.

    My dad taught me at a young age to be proud of my hebrew surname and our lineage went back to the high priests. Seeing the dna results to prove it after he died touched me to know our story was real. As a kid i always struggled for a identity and i was seen as the outsider. My identity was crushed when other jews said i am misleading people with my surname and i should change it. I was even told in Israel it is illegal for non kohanim to use kohen or its derivatives.

    I can only imagine and hope this is all temporary and this insanity changes to where we can be recognized as equals.

  483. Barb

    Dear All – Have you ever argued with friends over the whole half-Jewish/who is a jew? question. I am afraid that I am no longer on speaking terms with someone (their choice) b/c I finally argued back with her about this. (She was not raised Jewish but has a Jewish mother – dads and being raised Jewish do not in and of themselves count.) Finally, the most very sensitive question of Israel and its politics came into play.

  484. Barb

    Judenpower – Do you think that you might be willing to join a Reform or Conservative congregation? I believe that you would be 100% accepted as a Jewish member and congregant by either! (P.S. My mother went through the same kind of conversion that yours did.)

  485. Barb

    Robin – I hope you are doing well! Best wishes as always!

  486. Raphael

    I’m writing from Israel. I’m officially a citizen of Israel, as a half Jew. My father was Jewish. I do recommend other half Jews; to make Aliyah.

    Well in my case; it has been “enlightening” to me. My parents were divorced, when I was around age three. My mother being Catholic, and my father being Jewish. My father; I’m guessing, was simply doing the family value thing, when he mistakenly got my mother pregnant, and married my mother.

    When he had told his current, wife that he met my mother at a party…perhaps in NYC…and had an affair; his current wife kicked him out.

    Well, it has been enlightening to me; because, pretty much as soon as I landed in Israel; I felt welcome by God; but not by man. After, being in Israel for over ninety days; I’m starring to love the country more and more everyday.

    The part of Israel; I’m in is like the Manhattan of Israel. In fact, I use to live in Manhattan for many years, so the comparisons should help if other half Jews ever move here. Simply, imagine your moving to Manhattan, if you ever decide to move here.

    I went into psychotherapy, shortly, before I came here; not in the Freudian type; but, Gestalt. Which I strongly recommend to any half Jewish person; before, they actually move here; as well as, a pilot trip.

    It has been enlightening, though, not in a celebratory way; but more in a existential manner. The alienation of my being, in that, where is there any humanity in the world? Well, for me that means a dysfunctional family, too, that basically made me even more naturally able to survive in the Middle East.

    And, Israel is a dysfunctional family, to say the least. So, I sort of feel, like many are in the same boat as me. It is, because I was born Jewish; that makes me a part of Israel; just as much as any ideal Israeli, from Orthodox Jew, to Sabra Israeli.

    But, it will be extremely difficult; in fact “ten times” more difficult then it would be for a Jewish religious person from the US…there are enormous pressures by religious groups; and the state of Israel, to convert to Judaism or Zionism. That is why I recommend psychotherapy, before; and even better if it can be arranged while in Israel too.

  487. Raphael


    A Cohen is in my family tree. I constantly attempt to understand as a half-Jew with a Jewish name; how, I fit in with the Jewish community. When, I went into psychotherapy, shortly, before I moved to Israel; my therapist said something that clarified similar questions as yours.

    It was a while back; so I can’t recall, word for word; but the gist of the advice was I would never live up to their high ideals; so for my mental health, it is best to literally ignore them, walk away, if possible, if they attempt to engage me in a conversation; things like that.

    I have no intention of ever being a Jew as they define it; or how any official domination defines me, so it might not apply to you, though.

    When I went to a synagogue here in Israel though (this might apply to you) it seems to be once you are a Jew; they do not care about some of the things you are worrying about. Have you ever gone to any synagogues in Israel?

  488. Raphael


    I think the religious radicalization in Israel is already deeply a part of Israeli culture. I recently became a citizen of Israel; so as to, actually have my opinions, myself, about Israel.

    But, I think the way to counter it is for half-Jews, to make aliyah. After going through, Nefesh B’ Nefesh, here in the US, and living in Israel for only ninety days; then one automatically becomes a citizen. It is relatively simple to fill out the application, and they, I think accept everybody that can prove they have at least one Jewish grandparent from the US. Other countries might be different, I don’t know. And, I still get to keep my US citizenship.

    Some, were even shocked when I told them I wrote Catholic on my application, and was accepted as a citizen. They do pay benefits, such as health insurance, and, other things like lump sum payments of shekels, as well.

    But, the old world mentality is quite common. Hebrew, is basically the official language, and it is quite often used as a tool to keep out the “other” the stranger, the foreigner, away.

    In the Russian communities were other half Jews are Russian Jews; they speak Hebrew in public; but, Russian in the home… and, among other Russian Jews, speak Russian. Most of the American Jews that move to Israel are orthodox Jews; that don’t want to have anything to do with liberals, or liberal Jews, same, as in the US. So the Russian Jews, that come to Israel only learn from what they know from the American orthodox Jews, about the US; so, Israel will more then likely shift to to a shtetl old world mentality like in Russia around 1905; and, even more so in the future.

  489. Barb


    Have you met many liberal Israelis? What is your social and religious life like there now on a personal level? Why do you think that Israel will shift more to a ‘shetl old world mentality’? Are the US Orthodox there that influential on the Russians? I had heard that a large portion of the Russian Jews were quite secular. Which city do you live in? Can you look up a 2nd cousin for me? If so, can I contact you privately?

  490. Barb

    JP and Raphael –

    Same name on father’s side. I liked Raphael’s comment about constantly attempting to understand fit. One issue is that a name can cause you a lot of trouble depending upon where you live and who is around you. This is the irony of western culture for folks in our situation as, at least in the US, names traditionally pass down in a patrilineal fashion. But, I wonder if this is less of an issue now in many places here in the US – even small towns. I’ve noticed people adding back in their father’s names, along with married names, in recent years even in small towns – people who had never used these names before and whom you would not realize were Jewish or half Jewish or whatever!

  491. Raphael


    I was not in a Russian community for long. I seem to think that the Israeli government has an influence; in the languages people speak. I looked at the thoughts of people around Ulpan. During, the first Ulpan class when the Hebrew instructor read out the names of people attending the class; she read out all Russian and French names.

    I think I had the only Jewish sounding name. My name may even be a Hebrew name; because, it is a name listed on storefronts in Israel. When I got my Israeli ID card someone wanted his name changed to a Hebrew name on his ID. I think years ago people wanted to give up there exile name when they moved to Israel to that of a Hebrew name, to reflect their new identity, as and Israeli Jew.

    Netanyahu’s last name was Mileikowsky was changed from Netanyahu to sound more Hebrew. I did not even have to ask perhaps, for a Hebrew sounding name on my Israeli ID. Think of all the famous Jewish actors that changed their names, to non Jewish sounding names to not be typecasted.

    I even read that Herzl’s relatives manufactured a Sephardic sounding family tree. I did not have to manufacture my family or Jewish family tree. I was born with a a Jewish name.

    I think it is already a sort of shtetl mentality in Israel; even with the high technology, the mentality is still old world. A “liberal” basically is open to new ideas. Israelis seem to be very sensitive to outsiders, second guessing them. If one in Israel wants to read about the history, and culture of Judaism; and goes to any bookstore in Israel, it is very limited collection. Hardly any Jewish biblical scholars, if any are on the bookshelf from the US.

    The synagogue I went to was supposed to be progressive, a sort of reform synagogue open to all. But, women were seated separately.

    Yes, we could talk privately.

  492. Raphael

    Herzl’s family genealogy was mentioned by two Jewish history scholars:

    Some families, including Theodor Herzl’s went so far to invent a distant Sephardic genealogy.

    Amos Elon, The Pity of it All; a Portrait of the German Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933, 260

    Fredrick S. Roden, Recovering Jewishness, Modern Identities Reclaimed, 2016, 18

  493. Raphael


    I think I met one liberal Jew. My social and religious life; is more meaningful here then in the US. I’m estimating around 8 or 9 months; before, I’m comfortable here.

    It could be so; that a large number of Russian Jews; are secular with no affiliation with synagogues, etc.

    I would guess the US orthodox are not that influential; in the private life of a Russian Jew. It might be better, asking a Russian Jewish person, that question.

    Perhaps, on the social, and political level they are influential though; in the customs, language, and in some rituals concerning Jewish spiritual objects that are part of the architecture; or, spiritual objects in homes that give Israel a US orthodox influenced Kosher look.

    Perhaps; a reason why Hebrew is the official language of Israel, is because of the US Orthodox, and Zionist politicians needing to regulate things. Being a good Zionist for example. There is a picture of some mystical US Orthodox Rabbi, all over the place. And, in fashion; some cities women are required to wear dresses; because, of the US Orthodox or orthodox influence, on a secular level, on Russians, as well as others.

    I think I read that Herzl wanted Hebrew to not be the official language of Israel; and, that Israel should be multicultural. It is not multicultural, in that all the different cultures; it seems even within the Jewish communities, have invisible walls separating them from one another.

  494. Raphael


    About, your questions, caused me to ask the same questions, to myself, about my life in Israel.

    The question about will US orthodox Judaism have a influence, on Russians in Israel.

    I think the posters I see all over Israel is a US Orthodox messianic group originating from NYC. I found a excellent article that addresses that question. The author is now the head of the Jewish Agency, that approves applications from people that apply to be a citizen of Israel. It may have been in the past difficult for half Jews to become citizens; but for me it was easy as a half Jew. And, I spoke to other Jews in America, and they said the general “unwritten” policy of the Jewish Agency is that they approve everyone, that puts in a application.

    The Political Legacy of Theodor Herzl
    By Natan Sharansky
    Before the melting pot, a different vision of the Jewish state.


  495. Raphael


    How can I reach you privately?

  496. Barb

    Hi Rafael – I am not actually sure! I was trying to figure it out…

  497. Barb

    Robin – is there a way we can email other members privately?

  498. Barb

    Raphael – sorry about the misspelling of your name…

  499. Dear Barb and Raphael:

    Please excuse the delay in replying to you. I’ve been ill.

    I have not set up a way for members to email each other privately. I had that feature on our previous website, but it led to problems between some members.

    I hope you both can find/have found a way to communicate. Normally, I would offer to pass the messages between you until you arranged a private channel of some sort, but I’m still very ill and have to limit my activities.


  500. Barb

    Thanks, Robin. I am hoping that you will feel better soon.
    Raphael – are you on Facebook?

  501. Raphael


    No, I do not have that.

  502. Raphael


    Thank you for your questions.

    Are you ever coming to Israel? I think the flights are not that expensive round trip.

    I could meet you at the airport.

  503. Raphael


    Have you seen the new poll about Israeli intermarriage?

    Israelis are a religiously diverse people who live in close proximity to one another. But when it comes to marriage, they rarely cross religious lines – not only between Judaism, Islam and Christianity, for example, but also across the country’s four major categories of Jewish identity.

    April 4, 2016
    By Carlyle Murphy


    It is, interesting, that you were forced to have to let only half Jews post here. But, according to this poll, perhaps, it is futile to even reach out to other groups, that may be supportive to half Jews, as well.

    I say that, because, in my experience in Israel, it is actually much worse then what is spoken about in the media; the fear of the other.

    Ironically, they might not even be anymore Jewish then me as a half Jew; they are simply hiding behind a invisible boundary; and, any reaching out to the “other” may be self-serving, for that particular group.

    I say that, because, the majority of people, when, they first moved here, did not have to look into their family trees, to become citizens; they just had to say they were Jewish, (50 percent of German Jews intermarried around 1933) and, they made aliyah after the war; and, recent scholarship, about Jewish history, has stated that Herzl had to make up a family tree to sound more upper class (royal). To have that icon persona, as a modern day king, in the image, and likeness of David. This pattern was also even done by Ezra; the arch enemy of half Jews; who, also made up a family tree; that said he was descended from the biblical Aaron.

    It could be possible, because, most of the records about ancestry were destroyed during the war; perhaps a major portion of the people saying they have more Jewish blood then me, may not be able to prove it. I was able to prove my Jewish family tree, going back many generations; even more then was required, to prove, that I had enough Jewish blood to be a citizen.

    Not being able to reach out to the other is a sort of mental or psychological problem as well; and if people are doing that as a group, that problem will be even more, unchangeable. That is why I think half Jews need to move to Israel. Create a counter story, or, community defining the language, culture and politics of that group, so as to compete with the majority.

  504. Raphael


    Maybe, we could try one of the links on the Blogroll here, to see if they could facilitate it.


  505. Raphael

    One of Israel’s most famous spies (Sylvia Rafael Schjødt) is a half Jew. Her father was Jewish.

    Israel’s legendary spy returns to the European cinematic spotlight – in a documentary about her life.


    “One day when true peace comes, they will write books about her, name streets after her and make movies of her life,” wrote Eitan Haber, former defense correspondent and close associate and adviser to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, in Yediot Aharonot in 2005, following the funeral of top Mossad agent, Sylvia Raphael at Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh.

    Sylvia Rafael Schjødt
    Born near Cape Town in 1937, she was the daughter of a Jewish father. Although her mother was not Jewish, Rafael immigrated to Israel in 1963, where she lived on a kibbutz, later working as a teacher.


  506. Raphael

    One of Israel’s most famous spies (Sylvia Rafael Schjødt) is a half Jew. Her father was Jewish.

    Israel’s legendary spy returns to the European cinematic spotlight – in a documentary about her life.

    “One day when true peace comes, they will write books about her, name streets after her and make movies of her life,” wrote Eitan Haber, former defense correspondent and close associate and adviser to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, in Yediot Aharonot in 2005, following the funeral of top Mossad agent, Sylvia Raphael at Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh.

    Sylvia Rafael Schjødt
    Born near Cape Town in 1937, she was the daughter of a Jewish father. Although her mother was not Jewish, Rafael immigrated to Israel in 1963, where she lived on a kibbutz, later working as a teacher.


  507. Justin (Kanton) Levine

    Hello. I’m still learning the best way to be half Jewish. I hope my mistakes can be forgiven. I am changing my first name from Kanton to Justin. My last name is Levine. I am also changing my middle name from Hart to H. Nothing could get me to change my last name. I am very proud to be Jewish. This site is the only site of its type and there should never be another like it. Some of my ideas are not worth posting here about. I just want people to know that I exist and am changing my first name. I will change my middle name later but never my last name. Does this make me a DNA Jew? I will be changing my email so it reflects the new first name. The DNA Jew faq here would say no because I went to synagogue temple but I am not a Judiast.

  508. Ruth Friedman

    I am really excited by learning about a patrilineal Jewish spy!

    I am still reeling from a meeting with a Chabad rabbi because I wanted to finally put to rest all those negative feelings I have about not being a true Jew bc of my mom (whom I love). Anyway it is pretty clear I will always be a Mischling and never a landsman which makes me sad.

    More power to this lady though; she looked at what needed to be done and didn’t care who said she was eligible or not. That’s inspiring.

  509. Barbara

    I say that Mischlings rock! We can see things with a different, more objective, open and rational outlook than many others stuck completely within one religious or ethnic identity. I feel that we, like other kinds of ‘mixed’ people, have an important and valuable role in this world. I wish there were a way we could organize – not just for support – but also for collaboration on (agreed upon) projects – charitable, political, and otherwise!

  510. Barbara

    Raphael – I am still thinking about how to communicate with your privately. Would you be willing to open up a Facebook page – just temporarily? You could disable it as soon as we have contact info for one another…

  511. Raphael

    Hi, I returned from Israel to the United States after making Aliyah to Israel. If, I ever return to Israel; I will be political.

    I still recommend making Aliyah for half-Jews; but, after becoming a citizen then returning to the US. Look at it as a birthright trip vacation. The most difficult part of the application, was trying to find a rabbi to say I was born of a Jewish father. I was, finally, able to have a rabbi state it only after a, friend of a friend, knew a rabbi that would write the letter.

    The reason; it seems, why, it was so difficult to find a rabbi is because it seems to me that most reform rabbis, are no longer liberal Jews; but adopting a more traditional “right wing “ point of view.

    As a pacifist, I was able to see Israel, from; not, the perspective of a traditional Jew in America, or in Israel.

    If you look at the news stories about the Israel spy; some, have buried the fact that she was a half Jew. Perhaps, if more Half Jews were citizens we could try, and, make her story as a half Jew front page news.

    Barbara, if you want to can email me at raphael.zion@mail.com

  512. Kohen

    Hello, I have posted here before but it has been a while and I feel that my thoughts are a bit different now than they were at the time I had made the posting.

    Not sure how many remember me but, my story to reiterate is that I have faced many of the same issues as many of you as a “half-Jew”. My mother converted conservative while my dad was born a Jew, like many American Jews who lived in the suburbs, my family was quite secular and we grew up with holidays. When I was younger, I don’t think the topic really came up much other than we were “different” like Jewish somehow was a separate ethnic group regardless of the nation you came from.

    I really knew little about being Jewish until after my dad passed away, I learned some things but my mother wanted to live a different life and my dad seemed to want to shield me from the orthodox world.

    I think the first time I really started to feel attached to my Jewish roots was when I realized I could never call myself a German, a Russian, or a Romanian as my Jewishness separated me. I remember my dads funeral and I didn’t really understand all the traditions other than this is what my dad was and his identity, nothing could take it away, how could someone with the last name Kohen be any less Jewish?

    roughly around 2004, I started to really see what it was like to be rejected…the more I identified as Jewish, i’d run into neo nazi propaganda, i ran into resistance with orthodox jews and full blooded jews and I just felt like everything was a obstacle. It didn’t matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough.

    I tried for years to get in contact with my mohel, a orthodox one at that, I got in contact with the rabbi who signed my brit, I researched my moms conversion she had in the 70’s, and it was just a question game. I realized the more and more I seeked answers, the more it affected my mental health constantly wondering and thinking, it created identity issues on what I was. All this time, I was so worried about a Rabbi’s opinion when the truth was, what says that Rabbi was any more Jewish than I was? How can they prove their great grandparents didn’t convert or someone didn’t mix in at some point?

    I tried finding every possible way to be considered Jewish.

    1) After facing severe rejection from not only Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews, Chabad, Modern Orthodox, even in some cases noticing it even in some of the conservative, I turned to the Sephardic who quietly from a personal aspect did see me as a Jew, but due to restrictions from the OU, RCA, CRC, etc. wouldn’t risk their smicha… they can’t speak out, they can only say on a personal level that they agree without declaring me a halachic Jew.

    2) I thought maybe the more liberal movements would be accepting, reform Jews are split on paternal descent, they see it as more a religious community, and if you weren’t raised Jewish then they don’t see you as a Jew. Conservative Jews do see me as a Jew to a degree, but I feel that I will always be seen as lesser or “descendant of a impure line”. I’ve met some great conservative Jews who are wonderful people, but i have my doubts how well integrated I am in a community and that it will never be enough.

    3) Of all the groups I thought would accept me, the Karaites who go by paternal descent, I was turned down and told that since I wasn’t raised a Jew and my mom converted and married a Kohen that I cannot be a Jew, Karaites generally accept paternal descent but the new Karaite community seems to have taken a completely different stance, at least the Egyptian one in Israel. For a long time, I tried identifying as Karaite and I found out that…it’s the same aspect

    4) Secular Jews to some degree recognize me as a Jew sort of, case by case really, but even many fighting for a case of Jewish genetics and indigenous background from Israel still don’t see eye to eye that I’m “really a Jew”.

    Honestly, having lost sleep over this, worrying, trying to appease men and making myself sick, I figure this isn’t what being a Jew is about. By description, King David, Herod The Great, Ruth, and many others wouldn’t qualify as “Jewish enough”.

    Yes, it hurts like being slapped in the face but I feel that others get some sort of sick satisfaction over putting down others because they feel insecure about their own identity, and what better way than to elevate by putting down someone else and making them feel like garbage.

    When it comes down to it, I will always be seen as “that Jew” by the outsider, it doesn’t matter if they call me something different, the Ashkenazi, the Khazar, to them, I’m different from them whatever it is they see me as, to the Jews, they may not agree what I am, however, what right do they have to define what a Jew is?

    If we go back to the emancipation or Haskalah, Neo Orthodoxy, Conservative, Reform, all of them are new movements born out of Europe and none have a so called 3000 year history, we didn’t have Jews walking around in penguin suits back in Egypt, nor did we have agreement on what the proper Jewish state was, The Kingdom Of Israel and Judea were at war at one point, Jews were also split between each other at various points in time.

    No matter what community, someone is always more Jewish or less Jewish, look at the divide historically with Ashkenazi and Sephardi? The hatred that other Jews have for Ethiopian Jews or Yemenite Jews? Theres even a lot of hate against Ashkenazi, the Syrian Jewish community also openly discriminates in the leadership. No matter what, all communities are insular in their own way.

    I’ve just stopped worrying so much, and if people can’t see me as a Jew, why waste my time trying to convince them?

    I can imagine if my father was still alive the pain and sadness he would feel seeing this and no matter how much someone tries to deny me, no matter how many rabbis try to claim my dad isn’t my legal father or I have no father because I’m a “non Jew” or what they try to take away from me, they can’t take away my last name, my genetic father, my DNA, my history, my culture, because it belongs to me. This new concept of what it is to be a Jew is not Jewish at all, it’s a elitist caste system that has dictated and made the rules come and go.

    I’ve had rabbis who have went back on their word and changed their opinions constantly, all because they don’t want to lose their authority with the rabbinate or whatever other group they are affiliated with.

    The truth is, if we looked back far enough, how pure is pure enough?

  513. Barbara

    Kohen –

    Right on. Moreover, any ‘impure’ lineage of the Ashkenazim is much more from the matrilineal side than the patrilineal. Genetic tests show this, and common sense would tell us this as well. Single ‘Hebrews’ who left the Leviathan and migrated into Europe so many ages ago were almost certainly men and not women.

    I have often wondered if the crazy, furious insistence that it is from the matrilineal side does stem from a deep-routed insecurity as to one’s own ‘blood’ and a deep-seeded yet unconscious fear that one’s ‘blood’ is, in fact, ‘impure’. Personally, I have encountered this attitude *much* more in ‘full-blooded’ women (and even in Half Jewish women with an Orthodox ‘full-blooded’ mother (!)) than I have in men.

    How ironic it is that we are here using such such Nazi sounding language to describe attitudes from some ‘full-blooded’ Jews. It is painful just to type some of these words which cuts against the grain of everything I have been brought up to believe regarding anyone of any ethnicity. Is this just one more ugly legacy of WWII? The ‘racial’ side of Judaism sometimes seems to be much more of an issue for Jews themselves this century and in the late 20th.

    At any rate, I agree that the system seems to have become an elitist caste system rather than a truly religious and spiritual one. I recently read a great book by a ‘full-blooded’ Israeli Jew who wound up disavowing his Jewishness out of similar concerns. I will try to find/remember the title.

    I cannot shake the feeling that the elitism so ingrained in modern, Jewish culture is becoming increasingly dangerous for Half-Jews and Jews alike. ‘Full-blooded’ Jews are often not in a position to see this.

  514. Barbara

    Raphael – thanks and welcome back! Will be in touch!

  515. Raphael


    The prime reason, why, I left Israel, even though I consider it to me my home, is because they do have a sick sub-conscious desire to “lynch” anyone that makes them feel uncomfortable. I would not take it, personally, I generally ignore them. l don’t think though that all think that way; but in this day and age those that don’t think that way are marginalized.

    I called it the lynching mentality, that I sensed in Israel, while I was there; that many Israelis had and were not even aware of it. They subconsciously act violently.

    However, Israel was a wonderful experience for me though, in coming to terms with my Jewishness; knowing, also that it is, basically, not that much different in the US Jewish community. From what I read about Jewish history, it was much more “liberal” before World war 2; but after the war, the way I interpret it, even the Reform became more traditional. Scapegoating, is something that has been around for thousands of years; so it is not likely to be changed, in the near future.

    Read, about René Girard, and the scapegoat mechanism.