Keeping the (Inter)faith

JVIBE is a Jewish teen magazine that holds a refreshingly inclusive attitude toward intermarried families and the children of intermarriage. A recent JVibe article called “Keeping the (Inter)Faith” (link is a PDF, reprinted with permission) explores the challenges faced by children of intermarriage in being fully accepted into the Jewish community. The piece is written by JVibe co-editor Joelle Asaro Berman who reveals that she, too, is an adult child of intermarriage. She discusses one of her unwelcoming experiences, an unfortunately all-too-common one among Jews of patrilineal descent:

…I went to a public middle school, where I met my first group of Jewish best friends. I attended a youth group meeting with them and somehow found myself in a discussion with one of the adult advisors. When he found out that my mother was not Jewish, he came back with something that alarmed me:

“Well, that means you’re not really Jewish.”

I was 12, and very confused. There I was, studying for my bat mitzvah, and this total stranger dismissed my Jewish identity in about five seconds. Today I would know how to respond to a comment like that, but back then, I had no idea what he was talking about.

Along with intermarriage itself, patrilineal descent is one of the most divisive issues in the organized community. It is terribly sad that some Jews are so quick to discredit another person’s Judaism, under the guise of “just stating the facts” without any consideration of the other person’s feelings. At the same time, it is a failing of the Reform and Reconstructionist movements to not properly prepare their own members and young people with answers for these seemingly inevitable encounters. Those movements’ decision about “Who’s a Jew” is actually based on an understanding of Jewish law, not a rejection of Jewish law, and their adherents should be able to impart that reasoning to those who would question it.

Joelle is in the vanguard of young Jewish communal professionals from interfaith families, yet she is far from alone, and sure to be followed by many more—even as other segments of the same organized community continue to claim that intermarriage is synonymous with assimilation out of Judaism!

JVIBE provides a free three-year subscription for those Jewish families with teenagers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, by completing the form here. For everyone else, you can get a free trial subscription here.

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