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.