Hodgepodge Triad


Time for another roundup of recent articles pertaining directly (or less so) to intermarriage and interfaith families. Take a read and let us know what you think…


Writing about a recent retreat organized by The Jewish Week and the UJA-Federation of New York, Sheila Gordon wrote,

In all of this discussion about being Jewish in New York, I was powerfully struck by the relative absence of attention to interfaith families. The increase in interfaith marriage — in large part a product of the swirl of societal changes — is viewed as a major challenge to sustainability. Yet it seemed that the reality of these families was missing from our conversation. I was the only one who raised the topic — and my comments seemed to gain little traction.

Was I the only one of the 50 participants who had non-Jews in my family? In the course of the conference, I gradually discovered that many of the participants did in fact have interfaith stories of their own. Some were themselves the children of a mixed marriage; others had siblings who were intermarried, or themselves had a non-Jewish spouse.

Whether or not they are always acknowledged, interfaith families are a growing piece of the bigger picture. And they are alive, well and interested in things Jewish. Interfaith families can, and should, be part of the Jewish future.

Today’s interfaith families, unlike those of 20 or even 10 years ago, are typically comfortable in their identity, and proud of their non-Jewish spouses and extended family.

She makes some good points. At a retreat on the subject of being Jewish in New York, how could the topic of interfaith families and intermarriage not be brought up? And not be mentioned while focusing on how it’s “a kaleidoscope of diversity at a watershed moment. At this moment, the shifting array of Jewish ‘communities’ faces challenges as transformative as those at the time of the Second Temple, or the invention of the printing press, or the emancipation of the Jews in Europe” seems all the more bizarre.


I’d love to learn more about what was otherwise an aside in this article about a recent Orthodox wedding in Russia:

Ironically, those who left [Russia before the 1991 revolution] assimilated abroad, and those who stayed — often intermarried couples — soon found more and more opportunities to be Jewish and live Jewishly in a country that also was undergoing a Christian revival.

Does that mean that Russia has a high inclusion rate, a high percentage of intermarried families raising their kids as Jew and “doing” Jewish?


There was an interesting article in The Jewish Week yesterday, looking at the history of different Jewish ethnic groups in America. From Jews of Many Colors:

For Jews who may be uncertain or ambivalent about the ways in which Jews of color will reshape what it means to be Jewish in America, I offer the following observation based on my larger study of Jews and American racial identity: such changes are “good for the Jews.” European Jewish immigrants and their descendants certainly benefited from the privileges that came to them in American society by being seen as white, but those privileges came with significant costs for Jewish group identity because they placed limits on the expression of Jewish distinctiveness. Today, an American Jewish community that increasingly includes people of color has the opportunity to re-imagine Jewishness in ways that will make it more distinctive, vibrant and less limited by the need to conform to the expectations of white America.

I’d like to see more about how Jewish, mixed heritage families are playing a role in this reshaping.

2 thoughts on “Hodgepodge Triad”

  • Dear Benjamin:

    With regard to the UJA-Federation of NYC retreat not discussing interfaith families, even though adult children of intermarriage are present —

    I have spent years asking Jewish communal gatherings to discuss interfaith families and much of the time they just won’t do it.

    When I’ve asked adult children of intermarriage who are mostly young professionals on the lower rungs of careers within the Jewish communal world why they don’t speak up, they fall silent or admit that they are afraid of harming their careers. Many are in the closet about being half-Jewish and don’t want other Jews to know, never mind telling communal leaders that they need to discuss interfaith families.

    I wrote an essay on Jewcy.com about this titled “Why Many Jewish Outreach Workers Ignore Half-Jewish People,” which explains the history of this truly counter-productive policy:

    http://www.jewcy.com/religion-and-belie … ish_people

    Robin Margolis

  • I come from a multi-ethnic Jewish family.  My mother is Mexican-American.  My cousin’s husband is Vietnamese-born.  My other cousin’s wife is from India, raised in Hong Kong.  This has made for beautiful weddings and multi-lingual Seders.  We all have wonderful and rich cultural experiences to share and learn from.

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