Adults from Interfaith Families

Do you have one Jewish parent? Were you raised with a Jewish identity? Did you get a Jewish education?

Many adults from interfaith families were not given a clear Jewish identity or a Jewish education. Others were raised as Jews in a liberal synagogue and have been told that they are Jewish, but have encountered pushback outside their own community/synagogue. Still others were raised without a religion and are now curious about their heritage.

“Is your mother Jewish?” That’s a common question, and every individual with a non-Jewish mother knows just what the questioner is after. You are about to be defined as JEWISH or NOT JEWISH by someone who may be a complete stranger.

The Reform movement formally accepted patrilineal Jews as Jewish in 1983. In the decades since then, many individuals have grown up in Reform congregations as Jews. The fact that the rest of the Jewish world either doesn’t accept patrilineal descent or is ambivalent about it creates a gray zone for these young people. It has been 30+ years since then, and we now have a large adult population of patrilineal Jews.

For individuals with a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father there may be a last name that stimulates questions. “O’Flinn? That’s not a Jewish name. Are you really Jewish?”

In the Bay Area 25% of the Jewish households have multiracial families. For people who are part Asian, Hispanic, Black, Indian, Native American or another mix, the questions center around their looks. “You don’t look Jewish,” is said to blue eyed blondes, dark skinned people, redheads and others who don’t fit the Ashkenazi profile.

If this sounds familiar and you’d like to talk to others who share your experiences, join us for a discussion.

Programs and discussions address the issues and questions raised participants include:

Patrilineal vs. matrilineal Judaism
The challenge of name and appearance
Building and nurturing your identity
Current research
Parental conflicts
Multi-faceted identity that incorporates race, ethnic identity, gender identity and Judaism

Look at past programs and articles by people who grew up in interfaith families here.