For those Jews of us under 30 years old, fully half of us have only one Jewish parent. Our identities incorporate differences of perspective due to family ties, shared loyalty, and the dubious benefit of suffering from not only anti-Semitism but anti-whatever-else-we-are.
Previously, someone told me I couldn’t be both religiously Jewish and culturally Catholic. Never was there a clearer moment of “who the hell are you to tell me I can’t be what I am,” and I say that with all respect. But it was an example of the confusion towards us mixed.
But not to rely on my own experience, I put the question of identity to my Catholic university friends. Sitting in a Seattle coffee shop with Mary, David and Joe, I posed the question — “Can you be just culturally Catholic?” Their answers varied: Mary is Catholicly religious in a deep and spiritual way, but doubts the divinity of Jesus. David doesn’t believe he’s Catholic anymore because while his theology and values are Catholic, he doesn’t participate in the Catholic community. Joe is a serious agnostic and has left Catholicism behind entirely but would like to raise his kids with something similar, like in the Episcopal Church. I am a Jew but my father’s family is Catholic.
Each of them agreed, to different extents, that they were “culturally Catholic.” Their values and early religious schooling was in Catholic schools and the four of us attended and were highly influenced by the open theology of our Jesuit Catholic university. For better or for worse, we were influenced by the most severe doctrines yet are inspired not by Jesus’ message and his many saints, but by so many humble and serving adherants and priests.
I am a Jew. But part of me is Catholic: certain values, certain approaches to God, and certain Biblical quotes, not to mention certain aunts and cousins. And whoever wants to rag on Catholics can meet either my hunger to shame the prejudiced or my foot to the face. Nothing is more hypocritical than Jews who like to tell other Jews who is and is not a Jew, or who can’t have what identity. Considering especially how throughout Jewish history, Jews have been outsiders precisely because we suffered dual identities — French and Jewish, German and Jewish. (Not unlike orthodox and modern, Reform and halakhic, I might add…)
So if you’re a half-Jew/whole-Jew from an interfaith, multifaith, mixed, dually-loyal, or other less-than-pure background and want to explore faith, observance, discrimination, and our changing place in the North American Jewish community, then please join us in Philly for a workshop designed by fellow mudbloods below.
Here’s to freedom from those who oppress us, tell us we cannot be Jewish, or have no idea what they’re talking about. Hag Pesach sameach!
Half Jew/Whole Jew
A workshop for adult Jews from interfaith families
Sunday May 17
10 am – 5 pm
Gershman Y, Philadelphia
The Jewish community has a wide range of reactions to intermarriage, and a wide range of programs currently reaching out to interfaith families. But what about us Jews who already did grow up in an interfaith family? Our goal in this workshop is to understand our own and each others’ experiences more fully, and also ultimately to make recommendations to Jewish leaders on issues of intermarriage, interfaith inclusivity, and outreach. This workshop will take place in Philadelphia. There is no cost. Travel stipends may be available.
Contact Rebecca for more details.