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The Interfaith Baby Boom

The Interfaith Baby Boom

We intermarried Jews are breeding like crazy.

The Israel-born actress Natalie (Hershlag) Portman, who is engaged to French dancer Benjamin Millepied, apparently just gave birth to a boy.
Since Portman has said in previous interviews that she planned to raise her children as Jews, I’m assuming this one belongs to the Tribe. Who knows? Maybe she’ll even decide to invite over that Monster Mohel featured recently in the disturbingly anti-Semitic “Foreskin Man” comic circulated by California’s anti-circumcision “intactivists.”

Then there is Anthony Weiner. Among other tidbits to emerge from the past week and a half’s round-the-clock Weinergate is that the congressman’s Muslim wife, Huma Abedin, is in the early stages of pregnancy. And presumably he is the father, unless in some dramatic twist of the whole aggrieved/betrayed wife scenario, he is not.

I’m not expecting this child to be raised Jewish: from what I’ve read, Abedin is more religious than Weiner (he has been known to fast during Ramadan as a way of showing support for her). Plus, after publicly humiliating her with his Twitter antics, and facing the prospect of imminent unemployment, he doesn’t have a whole lot of “we must raise the children in my religion” bargaining power.

I’ve found the intermarriage buzz that’s emerged from Weinergate to be somewhat interesting: a number of people speculating that his decision to marry a Muslim was a sign of Jewish self-hatred or at least Jewish woman hatred. While I have no great sympathy for Weiner, I think that’s a bit of a stretch. Yes, he made an offensive (and, post-Monica Lewinsky, not even particularly resonant) joke in a Twitter direct message implying he does not generally consider Jewish women to be talented practitioners of a certain sexual act. But I think it’s a mistake to read a great deal of meaning into the content of idle (and stupid) flirtatious chatter.

And there’s one other intermarried Jewish parent in the news: Village Voice film editor Allison Benedikt, whose “Life After Zionist Summer Camp” essay on The Awl is getting a lot of attention.

I’m not impressed by the piece — which seems to document her journey from brainwashed American Jewish Zionist (her Wisconsin camp is never named but looks to be Camp Young Judaea Midwest) to brainwashed American Jewish anti-Zionist. It feels more like an unthinking emptying-out of her diary than an actual essay. Some of the images and details she uses are evocative, and there are certainly plenty of troubling things about Israel that she could have grappled with. But the problem is that the piece strings together a lot of details without fully explaining, connecting or analyzing — the author hints at, but doesn’t elucidate or even intelligently articulate, her reasons for turning against Israel, and some segments/critiques don’t even make much sense. (Why is it bad that Israeli soldiers manning a checkpoint are friendly, telling her they are originally from Jersey?)

The funny thing is that while she describes her Young Judaea experience as mindlessly pro-Israel bordering on fascist, most Young Judaeans I’ve encountered over the years have actually emerged quite thoughtful about Israel, many choosing to support and work for progressive causes there.

This being a blog about intermarriage, I suppose it is worth noting that the catalyst for Benedikt’s transformation seems to be her anti-Israel and generally unpleasant-sounding non-Jewish boyfriend-turned-husband John, who picks fights with her parents and, while visiting Benedikt’s sister in Israel, berates her and her husband for the “morally bankrupt decision” to live there.

Indeed, the only positive things John will acknowledge about Israel is that the food is delicious and the women “hot.” (An interesting contrast to Anthony Weiner who is hawkishly pro-Israel yet doesn’t find Jewesses sexy.)

Benedikt says she and John now have two children who they are raising as Jews, but who will “never, ever” get sent to Zionist sleep-away camp.

Don’t worry, Young Judea. Maybe Natalie Portman’s son will come to your camp.

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