Kim Carter Martinez

Kim Carter Martinez

Being Black, Asian, Danish…and Jewish — Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity
Adults from interfaith families often have their Jewish identity challenged by both Jews and non-Jews. Having a name that is not perceived as Jewish, like Anderson, Christiansen, O’Toole, or Wong, can lead to questions like, “How did you get to be Jewish?” For biracial Jews the question stems from their appearance, “You don’t look Jewish.”
There are a number of ways that an adult from a biracial or interfaith family can arm themselves for these micro-aggressions. Join Kim Carter Martinez, the biracial daughter of an African American father and a white Ashkenazi mother. Kim has spent years honing her skills and is pleased to teach others how to own your identity in spite of the doubts of others.

Date: Sunday, October 9
Time: 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland

Space is limited so please sign up if you want to participate.

Panelists discuss their interfaith upbringings

Panelists discuss their interfaith upbringings

Adults from Interfaith Families: A Roundtable Discussion
Join other adults who grew up in an interfaith family to discuss how that went for you and to consider challenges and desires. Do you think of yourself as Jewish? Half Jewish? Jew-ish? Does it annoy you that other Jews want to put their own label on you? Do you have a comfortable relationship with your Jewish community or not? Come share your insights and suggestions with others who have dealt with similar life situations.

Date: Thursday, Sept. 22
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
FREE, but please register here to assure a place.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Jews of Color, LGBT, Programs archive
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Kim Carter Martinez

Kim Carter Martinez

Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity
Being Black, Asian, Danish… and Jewish

Adults from interfaith families often have their Jewish identity challenged by both Jews and non-Jews. Having a name that is not perceived as Jewish, like Anderson, Christiansen, O’Toole, or Wong, can lead to questions like, “How did you get to be Jewish?” For biracial Jews the question stems from their appearance, “You don’t look Jewish.”

There are a number of ways that an adult from a biracial or interfaith family can arm themselves for these micro-aggressions. Join Kim Carter Martinez, the biracial daughter of an African American father and a white Ashkenazi mother. Kim has spent years honing her skills and is pleased to teach others how to own your identity in spite of the doubts of others.

Sunday, October 9
3:00 – 4:30 pm
Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit Street, Oakland
Free, but please sign up here as we must limit participation to 30. Sign up here.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Programs archive
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When a Jew Celebrates large

The following message was sent to me via my monthly column, Mixed and Matched

My dad is Jewish, but my parents raised me with no religion at all. I’ve always been spiritually minded and wanted a connection to God. I found a rabbi who was very kind and sympathetic. I told her that I didn’t want to convert just to convert, I want to believe in what I’m getting into. The rabbi guided me to a yearlong class on Judaism and also met with me privately. When I felt I was ready, she took me to the mikvah. I’m still learning, and I so very much wish I had learned about Judaism growing up. Is there no way for interfaith couples to give their children a Jewish education without committing themselves to being Jewish? I would have loved to have grown up around other Jewish kids. It was hard to do this all by myself. — Jewish Now and Forever

I answered:

Dear Jewish Now and Forever: I can’t tell you how delighted I am to hear of your kind and insightful rabbi! She is truly a blessing. I hope all rabbis will sit and listen to the adults from interfaith families, hear what they are seeking, teach them and help them find their own place.

To your question: Yes, there are ways for interfaith couples to give their children a Jewish education without deciding to practice Judaism. But I say this with caveats. Let’s begin with the “yes” part. Many synagogues allow members to enroll their children in Hebrew school while they are deciding what to do. Interfaith couples can meet with the rabbi and discuss their situation. Rabbis will not faint. They are used to the interfaith phenomenon. A local Orthodox rabbi told me that he believes that in order for a child to make a choice about which religion to choose, he or she must be knowledgeable about Judaism, which is a subordinate tradition in America.

Personally, I am one of many Jewish professionals who do not advocate a halfhearted attempt to send your child off to be educated without the parents doing anything themselves. This is disorienting for the child. So the “no” part would be that few rabbis are going to say, “Sure. Drop your child off and we’ll take care of everything. You just go shopping.” Couples are not surrendering their parental responsibilities.

Each synagogue has its own policies, so it is important to learn what they are. I have heard of some that give you a year to determine what you choose for your home. Others will educate a child right up until bar or bat mitzvah age and then ask the family to resolve the religious identity of the child.

Then there are the Jewish summer camps. Most of our local Jewish camps accept children of interfaith couples. At camp the child will have a fun, immersive Jewish experience and will learn Jewish songs, blessings, values and practices.

There are also Jewish community centers, which offer a wide array of Jewish activities and holiday celebrations, as well as preschool and summer programs for kids and families.

And let us not forget the many independent Jewish organizations that offer Jewish experiences. Locally there are organizations like Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah, The Kitchen, Jewish Gateways, EcoJews of the Bay and Edah. A number of Jewish concierge programs have a professional who will help couples find the Jewish environment that works for them.

As you say, it would have been nice for you to have been around other Jewish kids. Children get a feeling of being “normal” when they have friends who celebrate the same holidays and are familiar with the same foods, music and cultural references. If an interfaith family is able to find another family, interfaith or Jewish, it is great for the children to have playmates who can share these ideas and experiences with them. Children like to be similar to their family and friends and they like having it pointed out. It gives them a sense of belonging. Children don’t have to be raised as Jews to understand elements of their Jewish heritage and enjoy being included.

Finally, I want to commend you on your personal tenacity. You found what you wanted and you worked hard to get it. You are a blessing to the Jewish people. Having lived on both sides of the Jewish identity, you have much to share.

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Shabbat Table3

In the June 2016 column of Mixed and Matched, I responded to a comment from a woman who had experienced what was described in the previous month’s column – having her Jewish authenticity questioned.

I can relate to your May 20 column “My father is Jewish and my mother is not.” My mother and I both had Conservative conversions when I was 9 years old. Still, all my life I’ve heard “You’re really not Jewish since your mother isn’t Jewish.”

I have always led a Jewish life. As an adult, I married and had children with a Muslim man, and both of my girls were raised Jewish. When I taught Hebrew school at my Reform synagogue, the director asked if I felt conflicted about the occupation of Gaza since my husband was Muslim. I told her that I felt conflicted because I am Jewish. She didn’t get it.

I have been divorced for over a decade. My daughters get comments all the time, saying “How strange to have a Jewish mother and a Muslim father.” Since my mother wasn’t born Jewish, I guess it makes my children not Jewish. We just keep living as Jews.
Oh well


Dear Oh well: Where to begin? I’m sorry that my column speaks to your life. I hope the day comes when this attitude goes the way of the woolly mammoth. You are a Jew, as is your mother, as are your daughters. Are there some who do not accept Conservative conversion? Yes. There are also people who are vegetarians and others who are carnivores. We are all free to believe what makes sense to us.

However, I find it disturbing that members of your synagogue, including the Hebrew school director, are so ill-informed about the Reform movement’s policies regarding both conversion and patrilineal descent. I am confident that your rabbis would not approve of these remarks. Sadly, many self-identified liberal Jews are not as open as they believe themselves to be.

In regard to the comment made to your daughters, many people are surprised that a Jew and Muslim would marry. But it does happen, even in Israel, and I wish others would stop feeling the need to say something about it. From what you tell me, your girls are happy as Jews and have been able to brush aside the questions and remarks. Good for them!

You raise the issue of “What is a Jewish name?” Two quick points on this challenging matter: Jews have all sorts of names in modern America; we are no longer just Goldsteins and Levines. And when you encounter a Jew whose last name shouts not Jewish, like Christensen or Church, that individual is likely the child of a non-Jewish father and a Jewish mother. This makes the individual halachically Jewish.

Many have said to me, “But I’m just curious, not malicious.” If you learned of a person whose child had died, would curiosity be a sufficient reason to ask the parent about the circumstances? No. Do not raise topics that are going to cause pain. If you are uncertain of whether a topic is appropriate, err on the side of kindness and don’t.

I brought your concerns to my friend and colleague at Lehrhaus Judaica, Reform Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan, who reflected that Jewish tradition teaches the concept of tzniut, usually translated as modesty. He pointed out that it also means privacy and said all Jews could benefit from observing this mitzvah by respecting the privacy of others.

I would encourage you and your daughters to answer invasive questions this way: “I observe the mitzvah of tzniut, so I can’t respond to that.” If your inquisitor is baffled, suggest they query a rabbi who can explain more fully what this means.

I have no quarrel with traditionally observant Jews who believe that only a person born of a Jewish mother or converted by an Orthodox court is halachically Jewish. Within their community they should live and be well. They should also observe tzniut and refrain from talking about the identity of others.

For the rest of us, it’s important to examine our beliefs and be honest about what we think. Do we accept non-Orthodox conversions? Do we accept patrilineal descent? Hillel taught, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah.” It is hard to do, but we need to anyway.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Children, Conversion, Mixed & Matched
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couple's shoes

In my May Mixed and Matched column in the Jweekly I chose to address a question I hear regularly: “My father is Jewish and my mother is not. Where will I be accepted? Where can I go that they won’t quiz me?”


Ever since the Reform movement refined its views on so-called patrilineal Jews three decades ago, this has been a pervasive issue, in the liberal movements in particular — how do Jews with one Jewish parent fit into the community? Because Judaism traditionally is passed through the mother, the issue is particularly sharp for those with a Jewish father.

Not so, say many Reform Jews, who rush to tell me what patrilineal Jews should think or do. They say that people with a Jewish father shouldn’t care what others think; they should join a Reform or other non-halachic congregation. These individuals state adamantly and angrily that Jews who don’t accept patrilineal descent must change, must see the future and accept it or die out. They loudly support a person’s right to self-define and to choose how to be Jewish, except, of course, those Jews who choose to self-define and practice differently than they do. In other words: traditionally observant Jews. This derails the entire conversation, while ignoring the feelings of the patrilineals.

What have patrilineal Jews experienced? What do they want? Do they have a sense of what would reassure them? No one has asked about their feelings at all. How sad. We liberal Jews, and I include myself as a Reform affiliated Jew, need to stop lecturing and start listening, really listening — without judgment.

A number of patrilineal Jews have told me they chose to convert. Others told me, “I wish someone had offered to teach me, to guide me, to just tell me about conversion, just say it was an option.” Others have said that they went through a period of worry and reflection before deciding not to convert.

Yet, others have said that they have been hurt even in synagogues that purport to accept patrilineal Jews. “When I say I have one Jewish parent, people immediately ask me which one, and that makes it clear that it matters or they wouldn’t ask.” Several others said that Jews, affiliated and not, upon learning that the Jewish parent is their father, have said, “So you’re not really Jewish.” One individual who had chosen a Reform conversion because she’d been raised Christian had a fellow congregant say, “Wow, you’re so active, even though you’re not really Jewish.”

This Sunday I am moderating a conference in Oakland called “Growing Up Interfaith.” When I asked individuals who had shared their life stories with me to participate, one replied, “I don’t want to speak publicly, because members of my synagogue won’t think I’m really Jewish.”

On the other hand, one might think that at least the matrilineal Jews are fine; having a Jewish mother has given them clear passage into their Jewish identity. Sadly, that is not always the case. For some it’s been relatively easy. But for others, having a last name like Christianson or O’Malley has meant constant questioning.

And then there are ethnic and racial intermarriage issues. Between 15 and 20 percent of Bay Area Jewish families are multiracial. Many of them don’t “look Ashkenazi.” They too face constant questioning.

I’ve interviewed more than 50 adult children of intermarriage over the past four years. Many don’t know where to start the conversation. They talk about the barriers they face and try to sort out just where they want to engage. What would make them feel authentic? There is not one size fits all. Each person has to find his or her community. I encourage them to speak up and tell their rabbi the kinds of messages they are getting.

We can help. We can listen. We can show compassion and sympathy. We can ask how they want to handle their identity and how they want to engage. Then we need to speak up when fellow Jews are insulting — intentionally or unintentionally. Not with words of bitterness, but with calm, firm words that hold a mirror to the speaker. Let’s all become allies, no matter what Jewish movement we claim.

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Growing Up Interfaith Panel

Growing Up Interfaith Panel

The speakers were fantastic and voices of adults raised in interfaith families were HEARD. So goal accomplished.

Some comments:

*It was therapeutic. It was interesting to hear a variety of people’s experiences in a safe place. Usually there’s one person that tries to give explanations or invalidate others experiences but in this setting, people can state the facts and uplift each other.

*I found the panelists’ stories familiar and I felt empathy, camaraderie, and a wish to explore further with other people in the same boat (one Jewish parent).

*I was surprised to learn about the challenge of not knowing about Judaism and looking to learn, and knowing so little that you don’t feel comfortable in a Jewish environment.

*Heartfelt, informative, and no punches pulled. Really valuable.

*Found it interesting how many different people had their identity questioned just by appearance.

*It helped to hear what others in the room shared about their experiences. The need to really think about/work out how to raise kids. Belonging vs. fitting in.

*I felt that the people who grew up in a liberal synagogue had received nurturing but were not prepared for the rest of the Jewish world. Putting a face to the struggles that people who are plainly, if not halachically, Jewish, is very powerful.

*I appreciate your advocacy in giving adult children a voice. Especially when it has been an uphill battle. The afternoon brought together interesting and diverse perspectives and the panel was stunning. The depth and quality of their reflection was very moving.

*As a whole, the community is a large family and we all have an obligation to take care of one another.

*I very much appreciated Dawn Kepler’s call to action, for kind, respectful communication to and about the adult children of interfaith families.

I end with the quote about my message because I was truly surprised by how many people mentioned it to me. It seems so common sense – be polite – it’s what your parents, teachers, aunties, coaches, etc. always told you. But it’s clearly not happening. Three adults from interfaith families were in a circle with me in the parking lot – you know the phenomenon. One of them said, “We would have to get everyone to change the way they talk.” A second said, “That would be so huge.” I replied, “So we better get started right away.” They all smiled and immediately agreed. Now I am enlisting ALL of you:

You have a right to demand courteous treatment. You are obligated to give it.

Let’s get going! Contact me if you need help.

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Jew-ish horizontal

A couple years ago I heard a mother interviewed on NPR. She was talking about her son, now a young adult, who had overcome serious learning disabilities. She said that her son had told her that despite all that he had gone through he would not wish away his condition because it had made him who he was. But, she said, as his mother, “I would wish he had not had these difficulties. I believe that he would still be a terrific person without the suffering.”

Often when I read stories written by young people about overcoming adversity, I think of that mother. Would the parents of these individuals want them to have endured their hard times? Are there not enough difficulties in life already, so that one need not add another “special” thing?

I felt this again when I hear some of the stories of adults of interfaith families. They had taken long and sometimes, trying, journeys to find their Jewish identities. In fact, some are still at it.

There are two groups that can make a difference to these individuals.

One is their own parents. Parents can shoulder the lion’s share of sorting out what a child will be taught, choosing an identity and giving it freely to the child, developing a spiritual community that will support that identity, sacrifice personal wants in order to give the child a strong foundation. The parents can be willing to hear hard questions, make tough decisions, determine when it is time for a course correction. They can tell the truth, admit error, try again. They can demonstrate strength, commitment, faith in the child, and an equilibrium in the family choices. They can be ready to change what isn’t working and they can be firm about parental responsibilities that don’t please a child’s passing whim.

Two is the Jewish community. Jews in every part of the community can be willing to accept a seeking child/young adult. We can have no age limit, a seeker may be 70 and still be a beginner at Judaism. We can be willing to teach, to befriend, to answer. Slow to judge. Ready to embrace. Jews can, as one rabbi put it, “cross the bridge into their world to be with them for a moment as a person.” We can be patient, we can believe in a process over an instant fix. We can allow time for these individuals to figure out what they want. We can remember that, “It is not our task to complete the work, nor are we free to desist from it.”

What have we got to lose? Our angst or our children?

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In her own words

One of the speakers at this Sunday’s Growing Up Interfaith Conference is Zoe Francesca. Zoe agreed to write an op-ed for the Jweekly. Here is her beautiful, heartfelt article.

I’m looking forward to the “Growing Up Interfaith” conference coming up this weekend in Oakland. It’s still a bit uncomfortable to reveal that I am a so-called patrilineal Jew, but maybe it’s time for more of us to come out. I’m turning 50 this year, and it took about 40 years for me to comfortably identify as Jewish. I know what it means to wander the desert for 40 years.

First came the half-and-half identity: half-Jewish on my father’s side, half-ex-Catholic on my mother’s side. But this, I was told by my peers, meant I was really nothing, because Judaism holds that the mother must be Jewish. (I was also repeatedly told that Hitler would have killed me anyway, an interesting, but not unheard of, way to be included.) My parents were fine with nothing because they had both decided to reject religion in light of the fact that “there is no God,” and “religion is the root cause of all wars” — and probably some other factors. My grandparents on both sides wished their son and daughter had married in, not out — causing another type of war.
But I wasn’t OK with nothing. I wanted to be something. I was a spiritual soul. I reached out again and again. My greatest sorrow and stumbling block to joining a church or synagogue service was that I didn’t know what to do in those services.
One time, my mother agreed to let me accompany a classmate to religious school. It happened to be near Rosh Hashanah, and the teacher was comparing the Jewish New Year to the Christian one. “The difference is,” he said, “the Christians have a party and get drunk on New Year’s Eve. We Jews fast and ask forgiveness for our mistakes.” It made me feel like if I chose Judaism, it would be tantamount to denigrating my Christian heritage. I never wanted to disparage my mother’s cultural gifts that way. I didn’t want to be a football between two religions, the same way children of divorce don’t want to be a football between their two parents. I didn’t go back to the religious school.
Each time I made a tentative step toward Judaism, I was told by various Israelis, rabbis and Jewish teachers that I wasn’t Jewish.
I sat before them, asking to be validated and accepted as a Jew-in-training. Why didn’t those rabbis and teachers explain the semantics to me? Offer conversion? Discuss halachah? Explain my options? I’ll never know. Each time, I walked away feeling rejected.
My mother taught me that churches could be sanctuaries of peace and beauty — though she never brought me to a church service, she sometimes brought me to sit in empty churches when no one was there — and that Christmas could be the same. My Jewish grandmother taught me that Israel was a place of profound hope for the Jewish people, and she nurtured my Jewish soul with her food, her Yiddish expressions and her humor. I could have gone either way, but I fell in love with the Hebrew language, the land of Israel/Palestine, and I even lived in Israel for a while.
I joined first one synagogue and then another. And still I would go to the rabbis and teachers with the speech about “Am I Jewish?” Then, finally, on my 35th birthday, I gave myself permission to start practicing Judaism as a religion. Soon afterward, my husband and I decided to raise our newborn children Jewish. After 35 years on this earth, I decided that I was a Jew, and that was that. Even if you still think I’m not really Jewish, I do.
Please don’t let my story scare you away from marrying a non-Jewish person that you love. Don’t let it stop you from giving your children your blessing if they marry a non-Jew. Instead, embrace patrilineal Jews and anyone who comes to you asking, “Can I join your tribe?” Find out what to do in a synagogue, and make sure your children know what to do. If your children ask for a spiritual education, please give it to them. It will save them from wandering in the desert for too many years.

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My parents (especially my mother) thought it important to raise me as a member of “the human religion.” The mantra: “I am not a this or a that – I am a human” rings as a distant memory in my ears when recalling that fundamental message.

I think my father, a child prodigy violinist raised in a first-generation immigrant Jewish home, came to view Judaism as a narrow-minded and limited world view. He would hold up his hands to the sides of his head when describing how their Judaism was worn by his parents like “blinders on a horse.”

My mother, raised as a southern Baptist during the depression, developed an early disgust for the bigotry, prejudice and negativism she observed in her environment and in her church. She often recalled her distress witnessing unfair actions against neighbors of color, of “fire and brimstone” sermons and of the shaming and humiliation of church congregants – with the preacher banging a loud gavel while admonishing: “you sinners, you’re going to hell!”

With the benefit of 9 years of parental experience considering the question of what religious upbringing or exposure they want for their kids prior to my arrival, my parents basically decided they would let nature take its course with me – to not try to provide me any specific religious exposure or training as they had done with my older siblings. An interesting side note is that neither of my siblings has chosen the “Jewish” path, as I have.

I’ve always embraced my parents’ humanistic view pretty deeply, but I also envied that sense of “belonging” and “rooted-ness” I perceived my Jewish friends as having. That feeling grew, and upon entering college I joined a Jewish fraternity, developed an interest in Zionism, enrolled in some courses in Hebrew and Jewish studies at UCLA and the University of Judaism (including a Reconstructionist conversion program there that I did not go through with), and generally began to surround myself in a Jewish environment.

Several years later, I made good on a suggestion I saw on the cover of my fraternity’s newsletter, which read: “if you’ve been waiting for an invitation to visit Israel, you’ve got it!”, and signed up for the WUJS (World Union of Jewish Students) – a year abroad program in the Negev desert. I loved it so much that I stayed another 7 years in Israel, working in my field (software development)! While there, I met someone who told me about a cheap way to learn about Judaism more deeply, sponsored by the rabbinate: the conversion program. I entered it, specifically not committing to convert, although at the end it felt like the right thing to do, so I moved through it becoming officially Jewish.

Upon returning to the United States, it’s been a struggle for me to find a comfortable convergence of religious practices. I currently hold my “Jewish training” a bit – as my father said – limiting in its proscriptions, although I struggle with it as defining my Jewish identity and understanding. I haven’t lived according to the orthodox interpretations of Halacha for many years now, yet still struggle with a dissonance – of a feeling that the “authenticity” of my Jewish-ness is brought into question, given the tenants of my conversion. Also, I do believe deep down to some extent that “it’s the traditions (law?) which have (has) kept the Jewish people”, which makes me feel a bit of a hypocrite. One thing I’m very happy about and comfortable with is that I have given myself enough of a context to help give my kids a decent chance at feeling a “belonging” and a “rooted-ness” that I never had.

Together with my loving and supportive wife Renee (who grew up in a reform Jewish environment), and with the help of our affiliation and participation in our Conservative synagogue (Netivot Shalom) and a Jewish after-school program named Edah, we are helping to keep the metaphorical leaf from my father’s ancestral branch of the Hebrew tree from falling off.

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Crowned Shin from TS Torah

There are so many nuances to the concerns that patrilineal Jews have. It is VITAL that we listen to them and not get stuck in our own opinion. After receiving four different messages on this topic I merged them into a single letter for my Mixed and Matched column.

I have a Jewish father and non-Jewish mom. I was raised with some Jewish activities at home and when I got into college, I began to explore Judaism. By the time I was 27, I decided to convert. I found a Conservative congregation and converted with the rabbi. A couple of years later when I wanted to go to Israel, someone pointed out that Orthodox Jews wouldn’t consider me Jewish. I went back to my rabbi and asked him about this. He said, “Yes, that’s true. But what do you care what those people think?” I wanted to curse him with unprintable words about his “born-Jewish privilege!” How dare he be so cavalier about my feelings and my identity! I left his synagogue and am now going to an Orthodox shul and converting there. There should be full disclosure by rabbis and someone should tell them to stop leaning on their blind privilege. I’m really angry about this. — Could Have Used an Honest Rabbi

My answer was:

Dear Could Have Used: I can hear the anger in your statement. I am so sorry. I know that anger is one of the ways we react to pain. Clearly, this rabbi hurt you deeply.

Of course, you are right. Yes, every rabbi should clearly articulate the huge range of Jewish views and spell out who will accept what when it comes to conversion. I am surprised that your rabbi failed to do so. I am not minimizing your experience, but I want you to know that you are not alone. There are Orthodox Jews who aren’t accepted by other Orthodox Jews.

Second, you are so right, there is born-Jewish privilege and those who have it are often oblivious to how it serves them. Your Conservative rabbi may not be accepted as a rabbi by Orthodox rabbis, but he will certainly be accepted as a Jew. He doesn’t have to study or go before a beit din or go to the mikvah. He was born into that identity and it is his for life.

He can chose to walk away from it, change his name and become a Catholic priest, but the moment he returns to a synagogue, he’s in. Some would roll their eyes, but once a Jew, always a Jew, no matter how they behave.

I venture to say that part of the rabbi’s curt response was not about you; it was about him. He was quick to dismiss what “they” think because from an Orthodox perspective, it is his conversion work that is unacceptable. As you see now, the Orthodox are happy to convert you, using a process that they find kosher, i.e., acceptable and authentic. Sadly, many people are too focused on themselves to get their own ego out of the way in order to listen to the pain being expressed by another. It is also possible that the Conservative rabbi has a twinge of guilt for failing to fully inform you, and he was hastening to cover his embarrassment.

Finally, my friend, there is simply too little information available about conversion — whether for those with Jewish heritage or those with none. I hope that as more adults with a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother seek conversion, the Jewish community will take on the responsibility of providing complete information, making it easily accessible. In doing so, everyone will profit.

Remember that your voice and your experience are important and need to be shared. I can assure you that you are making yourself part of the solution to a challenge that faces the entire Jewish community. You are to be commended for that. Should you want to speak about this publicly, please let me know. I am currently planning a half-day conference for May 22 titled “Growing Up Interfaith.” Your thoughts are welcome.

You can read comments from readers of the J here.

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