Intermarriage

Laurel Snyder writes in the Chicago SunTimes:

… Real Jews didn’t have to wait until Passover was over to eat their robin’s eggs, because real Jews didn’t get robin’s eggs. I couldn’t undo the reality of my antecedents, and so instead I just tried to censor out all the non-Jewish parts of my identity as I proceeded through college and into the adult world.…

… I’ve met other half-Jews, not to mention half-Arabs, half-blacks, half-Italians, half-southerners, bisexuals — all manner of people who’ve accepted their hybrid selves, accepted their mixed identities. And it has made me feel more myself. Meeting other people who’ve resisted the impulse to deny either half of themselves has made me feel better, less alone.

Whereas before I thought that everyone else in the world had a real cultural identity, and I just had this muddled mixture, now I realize that I was born into myself too, but that the self I was born into was not yet named. And so I began to claim my half-ness.

Yesterday I called my dad — who now keeps a strictly kosher kitchen and sometimes attends an Orthodox synagogue — to confess to him that I’m trying to figure out some kosher-for-Passover Easter recipes. Because last fall I gave birth to my first child — a son — and I’m aware that the burden of choice is now sitting heavy on my intermarried shoulders. (My husband was raised Catholic.) Because I don’t want my son to have to sort out his candy.…

… [A]s much as my father comes close to understanding, he’s not a half-Jew. He’s not conflicted in quite the way I am. He didn’t get teased at Hebrew school, and so he never knew, when he packed me off to learn my letters, what I might be heading into.

But after I got off the phone with him, I realized that there is something that makes me feel better, eases the conflict. And that’s the simple fact that Mose — my son — will have a mother who was born into the same complicated religious identity he’s got. I realized that I’m the bridge — between a made-up culture and a tradition.



However much Mose will be a child of intermarriage, my son is the second generation of that trend, so there will be a tradition for him to follow, some kind of history in place, complete with pastel-colored matzo-toffee.

And that’s an identity, however new it may be.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Advertisements

22 Comments

Filed under Religion

22 responses to “Intermarriage

  1. Anonymous

    Does Miss Snyder want some cheese with her whine?

  2. No thanks! I had a meat dinner…

  3. Marc

    “… I’ve met other half-Jews, not to mention half-Arabs, half-blacks, half-Italians, half-southerners, bisexuals — all manner of people who’ve accepted their hybrid selves, accepted their mixed identities.”

    Half-southerners? One of these things is not like the others…

    Seriously, though- how much “psychic trauma” can one possibly claim as a half-Jew? This seems a bit over the top.

  4. I was never particularly concerned about when to eat my Easter candy, since an awful lot of it came with a hescher. The irony of eating a choclatey Jesus…it was like killing him all over again.

    Maybe the psychic trauma comes from having a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother? The opposite is true in my case, and all it has spawned is an impatience for Guinness during Passover.

  5. Isa

    Some of this ‘feeling’ come from a perception that one is not firmly rooted in either world.
    One has to choose what world one wants to be in or creat their own.
    Didja ever see that anti-communist series in the 1950s called “I Led Three Lives” well one can be in such a situation. One cannot whine but one has to decide.

  6. Nigritude Ultramarine

    Seriously, though- how much “psychic trauma” can one possibly claim as a half-Jew? This seems a bit over the top.

    But, people made fun of her in “Hebrew School” — oh, the humanity!

  7. Neo-Conservaguy

    To abuse a classic expression, being half-Jewish is like being half-pregnant. No Jew celebrates X-mas; you can enjoy the pretty lights on the trees on all of the town greens, though. Despite all of the nice talk about the “Judeo-Christian tradition”, the religions are not compatible. That’s why we reject “Messianic Jews” as real Jews.

    There is no such thing as “cultural Judaism”; it’s an expression that goyim who were born of Jewish parents created to make themselves feel better about no longer participating in Judaism. Teaching you kids to love Bagels and Lox isn’t quite – almost, but not close enough – a substitute for teaching them mitsvoth. This is the big mistake that rabbinic Judaism makes – believing that being born of a Jewish mother should be the defining characteristic of Jewishness. At the time, that definition made sense for various reasons, but it’s not clear to me if it still makes sense. Anyone that wants “in” and will walk the walk should be considered a Jew (after a ritual conversion). A Jew is as a Jew does; a life of trying to perform mitsvoth is Jewish, anything else isn’t.

    No Jew celebrates Easter; our holiday at that time of year is all about things NOT RISING. And any Jew knows that the time to purchase Easter candy – which by my observation was almost 50% kosher certified because Hershey’s makes much of the chocolate – is the day AFTER Easter when the prices are slashed in half. And the think you thought needed a better reason to not keep qitniyoth than the corn syrup in those tasty treats? Mmmmm, Cadbury chocolate eggs…

  8. Neo-Conservaguy

    I should note that one of the biggest problems of “cultural Jews” dropping out of “religious Judaism” is that the remaining “religious Jews” become an increasingly right-wing leaning group. It’s a loss for everyone, and a cause of the diachotomy of madness that has left rational religious Jews feeling more and more alone in the “radical center”.

  9. Nigritude Ultramarine

    our holiday at that time of year is all about things NOT RISING

    Hey, I like that! Good insight.

  10. Neo-Conservaguy

    I stole it shamelessly from a dvar by the rabbi at our Conservative shul; I thought it was a stunning insight.

  11. Marc Gottlieb

    ‘I should note that one of the biggest problems of “cultural Jews” dropping out of “religious Judaism” is that the remaining “religious Jews” become an increasingly right-wing leaning group.’

    I come from a completely Reform background, and indeed, my father left observant Judaism largely because of his experiences at Yeshiva. Of my Jewish friends growing up, and my immediate family, I am -debatably- the most observant. At college, I am just about the only remotely practicing Jew in my group of friends. As a result, I have encountered a surprising amount of resistance to my return to Judaism. If observance comes up, my father rolls his eyes and warns me about “black-hats;” one friend even tried to “sneak” pork into my food.

    Through all of this persecution, as our source author might say, I have remained eminently confident regarding one detail of the alternative. Most “cultural” Jews I know are reform, and talk about finding the Judaism that’s “right for you.” For these people, right means comfortable. Inevitably, this leads them to forego all but the easiest of mitzvot for the sake of pragmatism if not outright laziness.

    Cultural Jews can blame “creepy right-wing fundamentalists” for their actions as much as they please. At the end of the day, it’s all about individual responsibility.

    I mean, a minyan is just 10 people. How hard is that?

  12. Aaron D

    I agree with Marc. Blaming right-wing fundamentalists is stupid. I became more observant during college and through my experiences, by and large, most orthodox Jews are very excepting and would welcome a non-observant Jew with open arms. You simply dont make headlines for being warm and accepting, thats why people get this image that every religous jew is a right wing fundamentalist
    Cultural Judaism has a very short shelf life. Just look and see how Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans became diluted into the melting pot of America like everyone else.
    We need to give people a stronger sense of Jewish identity so they will WANT a Jewish spouse

  13. Aaron D

    I agree with Marc. Blaming right-wing fundamentalists is stupid. I became more observant during college and through my experiences, by and large, most orthodox Jews are very excepting and would welcome a non-observant Jew with open arms. You simply dont make headlines for being warm and accepting, thats why people get this image that every religous jew is a right wing fundamentalist
    Cultural Judaism has a very short shelf life. Just look and see how Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans became diluted into the melting pot of America like everyone else.
    We need to give people a stronger sense of Jewish identity so they will WANT a Jewish spouse

  14. C-Girl

    You guys are missing the point here. Right-wing fundamentalists aren’t to blame for the rise of “cultural Judaism.” They’re the result of it.

    As more and more people drop out of observant Judaism, those who still practice become more and more self-selecting. They form communities that “refine” their practice, their chumrot, and their outlook to the point where they no longer embrace a normative approach to “modern” Orthodoxy, but have become a bastardized version of haredi wanna-be-ism.

    So what happens is, perfectly kosher mechitzas become reasons for contention- “should we raise it 3.256 inches or put some glass on top?”, people stop eating at each others’ houses, and they laud the customs, responsas and teachings, at least theoretically, of people who’d probably spit on them and call them goyim if they ever passed on the street. All because they’re looking for authenticity, for the desire to see themselves as “real” Jews next to their black-hatted cousins.

    Look, if Jews want to assimilate, g’zoy gezundt. It’s a free country, and freedom of religion also means freedom to ignore religion.

    I find Ms. Snyder’s half & half approach disturbing, but that’s her business, as well as her loss.

  15. Neo-Conservaguy

    Marc Gottlieb – don’t give up, you’re on the correct path. It’s your friends that have lost their way. You might try to find a chavurah (group) style prayer minion or a small, friendly Conservative congregation as a “middle ground” between Orthodox and Reform/Nothing. We need you and seekers like you back in the fold to balance the right-wingers.

  16. Neo-Conservaguy

    “Look, if Jews want to assimilate, g’zoy gezundt. It’s a free country, and freedom of religion also means freedom to ignore religion.”

    One might note that’s an American value, not a Jewish one; there is no “freedom” from mitsvoth from the religious Jewish perspective. There is no “opt out” concept; you may choose whether to affiliate with a community/shul, but without exception you are responsible to God.

  17. C-Girl

    “One might note that’s an American value, not a Jewish one; there is no “freedom” from mitsvoth from the religious Jewish perspective.”

    Correct, of course. But when one’s observance of Pesach can be summed up as a determination of which Easter candy can be eaten during those 8 days (or 7, or 3.4, or 6.2 X 10-8, for that matter), it might be time to figure out if you’re maintaining ties to Judaism out of an obligation to someone or something, out of sentimentality, or because you really, really like lox. Because if you’re going to promote feel-good books about how you can be half-Jewish- well, you should see the idea for a guide to half pregnancy I’m floating to Random House (pun intended, BTW).

    Please understand I’m not dissing diversity and respect for one’s background and tradition. You can celebrate all the holidays that promote hollow chocolate candy you want, but please don’t relate it to Judaism unless you really don’t want to be taken seriously by people who’ve made the commitment to 24/7 observance.

    Unlike a nationality, like Irish or Italian or Canadian, Judaism is a religion that, as that Neo guy says, has no “opt out” button. You either is or you isn’t. Don’t believe me? Ask any Jewish guy if it’s possible to have a half-bris.

  18. Neo-Conservaguy

    Was that last comment tsniuth? 😉

  19. C-Girl

    “Unlike a nationality, like Irish or Italian or Canadian, Judaism is a religion that, as that Neo guy says, has no “opt out” button. You either is or you isn’t.”

    Oops- bad edit. Point is, you can be Irish and Jewish, Canadian and Roman Catholic… You can even be Irish and Canadian. But Jewish and Christian at the same time? Not unless you don’t really believe in either.

  20. Yochanan Lavie

    Sorry to join the conversation late. It is stimulating to read. I agree with Neo that many the matrilinear paradigm has had its day. In the tanach, it seems to be patrilinear. Maybe Judaism should be something you opt into. In the free West, we are all Jews by choice.

    (My only caveat is that only matrilinear Jews are universally accepted).

  21. C-Girl

    “Was that last comment tsniuth? ;-)”

    It was half-tsniuth. The other half was definitely not- on the mother’s side 😉

  22. Larry

    But Jewish and Christian at the same time? Not unless you don’t really believe in either.
    Well said C Girl.
    I have to point however the exception in the state of Israel, were many people who considered themselves jewish came to Israel from former communist and agnostic FSU to find that the rabbonus considers them christians for the purpose of burial.
    Forget ki betzelem elokim…..let the gentiles-here the christian church- look after their own, as to us, we, don’t do windows!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s