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Shedding Assumptions About Intermarriage and Assimilation

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Julie Wiener, a writer and editor for the [New York] Jewish Week, recently brought to light an experience of many intermarried families, one that gives hope to those of us who advocate for their inclusion in Jewish life. In writing about the tragic death of Michael Kellogg, a young Jewish man from Greensboro, N.C., Wiener points out that over the past few years he had been participating more in Jewish life – with the support and encouragement of his non-Jewish fiancé. This story is “yet another example of how outdated and inaccurate much of the old conventional wisdom about intermarriage” can be.

Wiener traces Kellogg’s Jewish engagement, noting that he and his fiancé regularly went to synagogue, donated to Jewish causes, and that he proudly displayed images of his heritage (an Israeli flag in their apartment, a Jewish star around his neck). Not only did this happen in the context of an interfaith relationship, Wiener writes, but Kellogg was also the child of intermarriage. Two of the most common arguments for intermarriage leading to assimilation are easily shattered by the life Kellogg led.

Kellogg’s experience “may not be the rule when it comes to interfaith relationships,” Wiener writes, but neither was it an exception. Just look around at synagogues or other Jewish institutions – many of the people you’ll meet are intermarried or the children of intermarriage. The fact they are participating speaks volumes. And look at the thousands of women who have participated in our Mothers Circle program, for women of other backgrounds who have agreed to raise Jewish children. They and their Jewish partners buck the trend every day by ensuring that their children are raised with a strong Jewish identity.

Of course, this only happens when we lay out the “communal welcome mat.” Even though we frequently hear about intermarried couples or children of intermarriage who find a welcoming home in the Jewish community, we also hear just the opposite. We need to shed these outmoded assumptions that intermarriage means a person has lost interest in Judaism. As Wiener puts it, sometimes getting engaged to someone of another background “leads to greater Jewish engagement.”



11 Comments

  1. What’s a ‘Jewish star’?. I’ve never had any star around my neck anyways. And I’ve never been in a home with an Israeli flag ever.

    Instead of refuting the arguments of the anti-intermarried crowd, this article backs us up.

    Apparently superficial connections to Judaism is what intermarriage promotes. If that.

    Comment by Dave — November 20, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

  2. A “Jewish star” is a colloquialism for the Star of David, a common symbol of Jewish identity. Often times, such symbols as this and the Israeli flag are displayed in Jewish homes, such as my classmates here at college, much like Italian Americans may fly the Italian flag or likewise Irish or English Americans.

    Instead of refuting the arguments of those who tolerate intermarriage, this comment backs us up.

    Apparently half baked ideology is what intolerance promotes, if that.

    Comment by Ezra — November 22, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  3. @Dave and Ezra- it’s called a Magen David, which is a star of David. My fiance, Michael Kellogg, wore that around his neck every single day. He also proudly displayed the Israeli flag in our home. Please do not attempt to make assertions about Michael’s beliefs, or mine.

    I can assure you, along with everyone else who reads this article that Michael’s passion for Israel was true and a life long journey. It was a gift, and a true joy for him to go on this trip. His connection was in no way superficial, and your antics are unfounded at having never met him or knowing his stance. If anything, it was soul stirring and inspiring for people like him in his position of intermarriage.

    Michael promoted love, equality and understanding of Israel. I was there to support him in his journey.

    If you have any questions, you can certainly email me at ghfargis@gmail.com.

    Comment by Hope Fargis — December 6, 2010 @ 1:11 am

  4. This is all pr. The engagement was not formalized or announced. His death has unleashed a pr program, featuring obituaries starring the girlfriend, complete with her pictures.

    Comment by Susan robinnowitz — December 7, 2010 @ 11:15 am

  5. If this man were so devout he would not have a topology report. This is a disgust g use of the dead.

    Comment by Susan robinnowitz — December 7, 2010 @ 11:30 am

  6. Sorry, toxology report

    Comment by Susan robinnowitz — December 7, 2010 @ 11:31 am

  7. When are you planning to follow through with your conversion, Hope.

    Comment by Susan robinnowitz — December 7, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

  8. Susan, I’m very sorry for you that you seem to take such pleasure in attacking the memory of a man who passed away far too young. I was raised to not speak ill of the dead. It appears that you were raised to make assumptions about a person you don’t know and to spread hateful words. You must be a truly miserable person that you could be so cold to write what you did without any regard for the feelings of the parents, siblings and friends he leaves behind.

    Comment by Judah — December 7, 2010 @ 8:50 pm

  9. Is it not true? What did you do to get him help? When did the engagement become formalized? Why did you have your picture in all of the obituaries you sent out? What part of this is not true? I take no pleasure in my friend’s death and am sickened by the way you have used it to garner attention for yourself. His friends knew you as a girlfriend, not a fiancé and michael’s death is not a public relations event with you as the star. The only hateful thing going on is your use of this tragic young man’s passing. I have made no assumptions. You know that.

    Comment by Susan robinnowitz — December 7, 2010 @ 9:20 pm

  10. Hi Susan,

    My name is Aaron and I’m Michael’s brother. You say you were his friend and yet strangely enough, I have never heard of you. How did you know him? Forgive my skepticism, but it seems a bit odd to me that his mother, father, brother, and fiance (yes, Hope was his fiance, despite your doubts) would not know of your existence. You don’t exist in his telephone contacts, you are not on his facebook. He has never spoken of you and there seems to be no evidence that the two of you had a relationship of any kind. If you are the friend you claim to be you would realize that Michael loved his mother more than the world and your untrue and outright cruel comments do nothing but cause her pain. You may think you are defending Michael by carrying out your unnecessary and ridiculous attacks on Hope, but you are doing nothing but hurting those who loved him, Hope topping that list. If you are going to continue with your insane words then please prove that you knew him, because I have no reason to believe that you are anything than a nutjob.

    Comment by Aaron — December 7, 2010 @ 9:59 pm

  11. “Susan”, is it Rabinnowitz, Rabinowitz or Robinowitz? Because you’ve managed to spell your own last name incorrectly several times.I think you are a fraud hiding behind a simple email account and a fake name. Congratulations. Are we in kindergarten, because I can play this game better and with more class than is in your pinky fingernail.

    Let me reiterate: Michael Adam Kellogg and Gwendolyn Hope Fargis were engaged. How Michael asked me is no one’s business. It was between Michael and I, and was an extremely beautiful moment meant for he and I to share. Not every little detail of our lives’ together is up for reading pleasure. As everyone could see for themselves, I have a diamond I wear on my left hand on my fourth finger. We were an intensely private couple, and would have already been married, but we decided to wait because Michael wanted to go to Law School to be able to provide for us. He was a good, solid, smart young man, who would have been the best husband and father in the world. I was 1,000% behind him because I had a career of my own as a government contractor. I knew exactly where he was coming from.

    Michael and I shared a home together. I was indeed his fiance, and wife in practice if not yet by law.

    Sharon Udasin from the Jerusalem Post found me on Facebook. She also tried to reach out to Michael’s mother, Beth, but she has stringent blocking on her account because she is a school teacher. Sharon sent me a message that she wanted to write about Michael. Michael’s brother, Aaron Kellogg, and myself chose two wonderful pictures of Michael: One in Israel and one of him dressed nicely in a jacket his father had gotten him. I just happened to be in the picture with him. The Jerusalem Post picked the one of us together to publish- they could have easily cropped me out. As for the other picture of us at Boothe Bay Harbor, that was taken by the media outlet off my Facebook (it was my profile picture). I did not send them. All you have to do is click the picture, press copy and paste. Anyone who can press copy\paste could take that picture. Also, I was not the only one quoted. Sharon Udasin got quotes from Michael’s roommates in Israel, Aaron Brooks being the main one .After that publication I received a slew of Facebook messages asking for comment, only accepting the ones that Michael would have approved of. Most of the publications are based off of Ms. Udasin’s JPost article. This is not “PR”. This was my fiance dying, and me paying tribute to his very special life with words.

    You sound like an angry, bitter person. And honey, let me tell you: I say show your face. You’ve already seen mine right beside of Michael’s. And that’s exactly where it will be for my lifetime.

    Not one of Michael’s friends knows your name. We didn’t see you at his funeral- and I gave the eulogy and saw everyone in attendence, you didn’t send a card and your lies are catching up to you in childish mistakes of your own creation.
    Your words are false, slanderous and if you want to continue this, I can get your IP address and find out exactly who you are.

    You should be ashamed of your behavior. This article is about Michael and his life and wonderful choices he made to be closer to his faith of Judaism. You are taking away from that with your venomous lies.

    Show your face, coward.

    Comment by Hope Fargis — December 8, 2010 @ 8:51 am

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