Robin Margolis, coordinator of the Half-Jewish Network, has long been advocating for greater acceptance of children and grandchildren of intermarriage in the Jewish community. In a post on Jewcy.com, she attempts to answer the one question she is usually presented with: “So what do half-Jewish people really want, anyway?”
The short answer is easy, she says. “We want the same resources and help that are given to interfaith couples and Jews by Choice (converts).” The difficulty, though, is convincing the mainstream Jewish community that children and grandchildren of intermarriage are worth the outreach effort. She notes that in the eyes of many, this is a population already lost, and this attitude is remarkably detrimental.
The stigma attached to those with interfaith backgrounds – that they are not “fully” Jewish – has created in these folks feelings of abandonment, Margolis writes. What complicates matters, she says, is “we see Jews with two Jewish parents who were raised in other faiths or as ‘nothing’ being welcomed back into Jewish communities with no demands for conversion.” This can be especially hurtful for children of intermarriage who were raised Jewish but still have to navigate exclusionary Jewish communal policies, “such as our exclusion from a teen summer camp.”
What can we do? What steps can institutions and organizations take to better reach this population? Margolis writes:
We’d like pamphlets welcoming us. How about some video documentaries on our issues? It wouldn’t hurt to see more books written for us. Podcasts would be nice. We need one person, preferably the child or grandchild of intermarriage themselves, to be designated as our contact person in every Jewish institution. Jewish communal professionals need training on how to outreach us. We want discussion groups for us in synagogues, just like the interfaith couples and Jews by Choice have. Most importantly, we need to be listed as a specific demographic in every discussion of Jewish outreach.
We agree, and we are proud to say that we have devoted countless hours and resources trying to identify and better meet the needs of children of intermarriage, both young and adult. And we actively promote those who are doing more to speak out for this group – such as the “Half-Jewish” meetup group in Seattle, or the new website FiftyPercenters.com.
The stronger the voice for this community, the greater the reaction will be among the mainstream. As intermarriage rates continue to hover around 50%, we understand the conversation over how to best welcome in children and grandchildren of intermarriage will only become increasingly necessary. We will continue to do our part in advocating for their greater inclusion and participation in the Jewish community.