Prejudice Insults My Intelligence

Notice to readers:

Today’s post veers far from the humorous tone you’re used to.

The following question came up today:

If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?

That’s simple.  They’d probably start screaming “What do you mean they’re not Jewish?”

Ah yes, the joys of mixed marriages.  I still have the Jewish family name but I’m not considered Jewish because Mom isn’t and I was raised Catholic.  (In Judaism, Dad doesn’t matter.  Jews traditionally allow the children of Jewish mothers to be considered Jewish because antisemitic sexual violence was so often committed by outsiders.  The resulting children would be born into the Jewish community and it was felt that these kids should not be ostracized.)

As you can imagine, many members of a group that has often been persecuted grow to take stands on behalf of other persecuted groups.  (The Arab-Israeli conflict is too complicated to deal with as a possible exception.)  And “the Jews” themselves are a lot like Christians.  Imagine taking a bunch of Southern Baptists, pro-gay-marriage Episcopals, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and Amish from around the world and cramming them all into a tiny slice of land about the size of Israel.  Do you think they’d get along?  Jews are about the same, but there’s fewer of them.

Talking about “The Jews” is about as meaningful as talking about “The Christians.”

But back to the topic.  The Jews are a diverse people who tend to be among the most open and tolerant of other cultures and traditions.  Not all Jews, of course, but it seems to be true as a general tendency.

However, there seems to be one exception… and I don’t mean Muslims.  The non-Jewish children of mixed marriages aren’t treated very well, at least in my own personal experience.  It’s only a fraction of Jews who behave this way, but it’s a tendency I’ve noticed in how they behave towards me.

I’ve been offered help on my job search until I informed the person I’m not Jewish.  Then, bye-bye.  And I’ve seen a look of fear in their eyes when I tell them this and I’ve heard sneers (when I mention my brother) that “oh, there’s another one of you.”  And I’ve seen my knowledge disregarded from that point on.  Remember, I have a Ph.D.

I understand one fear that many Jews have.  Marrying outside the religion means the children may not be raised Jewish.  For a group that’s so small, extensive intermarriage threatens their continued existence.  But that’s no excuse for bigotry against human beings who came into existence after an interfaith marriage took place.

29 thoughts on “Prejudice Insults My Intelligence

  1. Interesting. I grew up in the East End of London, Bethnal Green, just around the corner to Whitechapel which was to my time, very much jewish. Our school was half jewish, a grammar school, and we just grew up with synagogues and churches and jewish youth clubs. I was not jewish, although this did not matter. We all lived in the same area, shared the same surroundings and it was part of life. Of course we relised “they” were jewish and we were “gentiles” as mum said, but this made no difference. We were all friends and some of us still are, 55 years later.


  3. What a great insight. I have a friend that is half-Italian (father) and half-Jewish (mother). He is Jewish (as you say, it is dependant on the mother), but has said that many times, he is not considered to be a “real Jew” because of his WOP father (his words).
    I could see that this hurt him and he spent a lot of effort in supporting and trying to be accepted in the Jewish community of Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, most of his good friends are Jewish and there were many that loved him, but it was the ones that made him feel like an outsider that affected his self-security and self-identity.

    • I’ve never witnessed that when the parental identities were reversed. But then again, my life has usually kept me in farther proximity from the Jewish community than your friend’s.

      • I think that his issue was more with his own misgivings in that he was an A-type personality that sought perfection. Perfect to him was being wholely Jewish, without which, he never felt whole. I really don’t think that it was the community as a whole.

    • Well, it’s hard to think of a boring heritage. A family that stays linked to something will inevitably have something interesting in its cultural background. Being adopted, all you got was a skin color for your genealogy.

      And you do know they can run DNA tests for that, right? At least I think they can…

  4. I can’t remember this book I read a few years ago. It’s a true story. This Jewish lady had an affair with a black man in the south. She became pregnant and her father put her out and disowned her. I don’t remember what they called it. She ended up having several mixed raced children and her husband became a preacher. Her children didn’t know she was Jewish they were amazed that she could talk Yiddish to the shop owners.

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  8. There is no excuse for bigotry, ever. But hiding it under the carpet as the US is trying to do doesn’t work either. And religion does it’s damndest to raise boundaries (false ones).

  9. Coming from a third world country like India I completely understand. I never understood prejudice at any level. In India its not only religion, but also caste, inter state, economic, colour, etc. Its funny when someone is dying in the hospital and need blood, nobody cares where the blood come from but it takes a second to discriminate .. Well world is a weird place and we humans are weirdest creatures.. Don’t know if it will ever make sense or maybe I should stop trying make

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