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The “Half-Jewish” Glass: Half-Full Or Half-Empty?

The “Half-Jewish” Glass: Half-Full Or Half-Empty?

Jews in All Hues, a new-ish “peer-led program that provides a safe space for people from interfaith families to explore their identities as mixed heritage Jews,” is holding a conference in San Francisco on Sunday, May 30.

I attended their conference last year in Philadelphia and came away with mixed feelings, a no doubt appropriate emotion for an event focusing on the state of being mixed!

For a full report, check out the column I wrote about it last June. (Due to problems related to revamping The Jewish Week website, the only online version I can find of it right now is on the Franco-American News and Events blog, which I guess took an interest in it because I mentioned my husband’s French-Canadian ancestry.)

In theory I applaud the idea of bringing together people who’ve grown up in interfaith families. After all, my own children and many of my friends (and their children) fit that profile.

But by definition, “half-Jews” (yes, I know this is a controversial term) are such a diverse and varied group — whether raised Jewish, nothing or something else and with vastly different experiences depending on what that something else is — that I’m not 100 percent sure if they have enough common ground to spark productive conversation.

On the one hand, it’s great to have a safe space to meet with people who, if nothing else, share feelings of not fully belonging in mainstream Jewish life. But are shared feelings of being excluded enough upon which to build a community? I wonder if, rather than ghettoizing themselves in a group exclusively for half-Jews (Jews in All Hues only allowed me in last year because I grew up with a gentile stepfather), those searching for Jewish connections might find more meaning in simply approaching the growing numbers of Jewish venues that actually are open and welcoming?

With intermarriage increasingly common and accepted in the liberal Jewish community, my sense is that the half-glass is quickly becoming more full than empty.

In any event, I’m eager to hear what others think — and will be interested to learn more about Jews in All Hues as it develops further.

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