Black Jews, including Karen from The Office


We talked about Lacey Schwartz and David Matthews, two children of black-Jewish relationships, a couple weeks ago, but I only just realized that both were featured as part of an entire issue on black Jews in American Jewish Life magazine. Six of the 10 black Jews featured are children of interfaith relationships, including: Rashida Jones, who plays Karen on The Office, and is the daughter of musical legend Quincy Jones; Rain Pryor, the daughter of Richard Pryor and a moderately successful stand-up comedian herself; Raymond Roker, the editor of the hip alternative magazine URB; and Mischa Van Schet, a Dutch soap opera star who is now living as an Orthodox Jew in New York.

While their stories are unquestionably fascinating, they also serve as confirmation of the observation that mothers have a much stronger influence over their child’s religious upbringing than fathers. In all of the aforementioned features, the mother was Jewish and the child now identifies as Jewish. The only exception is Matthews, whose mother was Jewish but left her father at a young age; today being Jewish is only a small piece of his identity.

Compare their experiences to that of Alexandra Rosenfeld, who was crowned Miss Europe in October. A Frenchwoman, she was raised by a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. While she supports some Jewish causes, she does not practice Judaism.

There’s no denying that Jewish moms in interfaith relationships raise their children Jewish more frequently than non-Jewish moms. But IFF supports any parent–mom or dad–in an interfaith relationship who wants to raise their child Jewish, and we support more programming targeting both non-Jewish mothers AND non-Jewish fathers.

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