Jewish Identity for those who Grew up in an Interfaith Family

Getting a good strong grip on your identity can be complicated. For people who have a Jewish mother, Jewish law (halachah) is on your side. No matter how you were raised, if you decide you want to identify as Jewish, the Jewish world accepts you. But it may not be that simple for the individual so viewed. A friend of mine wrote in a recent article about her friend, Rose Black, “According to halacha—Jewish law— Poet Rose Black is Jewish because her mother was a Jew. But Black feels confusion and discomfort when people point this out. ‘Although my mother told me I would always be Jewish,’ she says, ‘I felt I could never be Jewish enough to REALLY be Jewish.’”

As another person with a Jewish mother said to me, “I still don’t know all the secret handshakes.”

For the person with a Jewish father, it is more complicated. Jewish law says that having only a Jewish father is not sufficient to make you Jewish. However, the Reform movement recognizes as Jewish those who have a Jewish father and are raised as a Jew, observing Jewish lifecycle events. But, just to complicate things, this is only true of the Reform movement in the United States. So where you live and where you connect with Jewish community impacts how you are viewed.

This all leaves a lot of room for opinions and positions of all sorts.

If YOU grew up with one Jewish parent I invite you to share your insights and experiences.

There are two ways. You can meet and discuss your thoughts in a group.
Currently I have two gatherings scheduled for adults from interfaith families.
Sunday, March 6 at 11am in Palo Alto at Printer’s Inc. Cafe.
Sunday, March 13 at 11am at Sherith Israel in San Francisco.
Please call or email ( for details. Or just show up.

The other way to share your experiences is to participate in a study currently underway. If you’re willing to be interviewed (interviews take 1 to 1.5 hrs) please call Dawn at 510-845-6420 x11 or email

Feel free to share this information with friends and family members.