I have decided to start sharing some of the comments from individuals who grew up in an interfaith family. I am including those whose mothers converted and who have been hurt by people’s discrediting their Jewish identity based on that and that alone.
All quotes are posted WITH THE PERMISSION of the individual who shared them.
From a young Jewish woman living in the East Bay —
My dad’s family is Jewish but my mom’s family is Southern Baptist. She converted before I was born. They divorced when I was 2-1/2 and I lived with my mom so while I didn’t grow up in say a “100% Jewish or observant home,” I did go to Sunday School, had a bat mitzvah and celebrated Jewish holidays with my dad’s side. My mom wasn’t observant but she didn’t push me in any way towards Christianity.
A main thing I have noticed growing up is people’s need to question my “Jewishness creds.” When it works into a conversation that forces me to offer up that my mom converted, the reply I inevitably get is “oh, so you’re not really Jewish,” or “you’re only half Jewish.” This especially comes up when they learn that I’m Scottish on my mom’s side, not just married to one (even though there are Jews in Scotland!) or that my mom’s family does Christmas.
Why people need to discredit that I am a Jewish person because my mom was born Baptist and converted is not necessary and hurtful. I actually haven’t been to Israel because for such a long time I was told by others that Israeli’s wouldn’t consider me Jewish. I shouldn’t have to defend my Jewishness but there are times when I do simply because my mom converted. I know I’m not alone.
Now I am married to a man who is from a Catholic family. He does not consider himself Catholic and doesn’t feel the need to convert even though he loves the Jewish holidays and is learning to read Hebrew. Neither of us would consider our daughter anything but Jewish and she proudly tells people she is Jewish. Based on my experience, I do wonder if she will have similar comments from people that she is “not really Jewish” or something equally insensitive, whether or not her father ever converts. I naturally don’t want her to be hurt or confused by those comments like I was.