Feminism | Posted by Julie Z on 07/16/2009

is half-jewish a religion?


Goldie Hawns half jewish. Adam Sandler taught me that.

Goldie Hawn's half jewish. Adam Sandler taught me that.

God, I love Jezebel. Last week, they addressed the hub of my own internal religious debates, by asking what being a “half jew” means.

As a technical “half jew” myself — probably more complicated than half, my Dad was raised Jewish, my Mom was half and half, and raised nothing–I’ve always struggled a little with how to qualify my religious identity. My parents tried to qualify it for me — upon the joyous occasion of my birth (I can’t speak about their feelings of my bother’s birth…I assume they were more than neutral) my parents made the choice. They decided that Judaism was the way to go. 


A synagogue in the Czech Republic. Okay then.

A synagogue in the Czech Republic. Okay then.

 We joined a temple! They unwillingly sent me to Hebrew School! I swore to them they’d rue the day, and I will keep that promise. Not because of Hebrew School on principle but because mine sucked. An hour every week in a room where they taught me about Joseph’s coat for the millionth time – yes its colorful, yes his brothers hated him I get it!!!  It was a reform temple, pretty mild as far as religious dedication goes. But despite my early struggles, if anybody had asked me what religion I was I would have proudly said Jewish. 

Cut to now: I believe the term people use when they don’t actually practice a religion they still identify with is “spiritual.” We don’t belong to a temple. We don’t celebrate the high holy days. Mostly because we found as a family there are other ways to feel and be religious. But I still identify as Jewish, because despite the raging anti-semitism out there, the awareness of which was only heightened as I got older, I’m still proud of it.

So maybe my Mom wasn’t raised a Jew. That doesn’t stop either of us from now identifying as part of the Jew Crew. Beyond that, maybe I don’t belong to a temple, keep kosher, whatever. Why can’t Judaism just be an influence in my life rather than what shapes my whole set of religious beliefs? 

pretty freakin sweet...but not quite my level of dedication

pretty freakin sweet...but not quite my level of dedication

Our world is big now. Where as some of my maternal great-grandparents in Italy and Denmark probably didn’t know much about any religion besides Christianity, didn’t know much about religions that existed outside of their own country, I now have a world of knowledge open to me. I have learned about Buddhism, and I have been exposed to atheism, amongst many others. Religion is going global and our generation is one of the first to truly experience this diversity. 

I understand people who have stuck devoutly to one religion. I understand people who have chosen to eschew religion altogether. I even understand the feminist perspective, with so many religions being rooted in patriarchy. 

What works for me religiously may or may not work for other people. Why can’t we just accept each other’s beliefs, just let people be who they want to be? 

Although, if we could effectively answer and solve that question…well just imagine how this crazy world might change.

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  • Tea @ at 10:36 am, July 16th, 2009

    I come from the same boat, but my parents decided to raise me as a Unitarian Universalist. Despite this, my religious beliefs today seem very similar to yours. Funny how that happens.

  • sri @ at 11:55 am, July 16th, 2009

    my parents, my family and the island i live in practices hindu
    but yea. i kinda hate religions though because it kind of divides people. like a big wall.

  • scott @ at 6:02 pm, July 22nd, 2009

    um, I think you mean Joseph’s coat. I guess they didn’t teach it quite as many times as you suggest…or it didn’t stick.

  • Julie Z @ at 7:47 pm, July 22nd, 2009

    haha i did indeed. i fixed it thanks for pointing that out.

  • To Be or Not to Be…a Half-Jew « On Being Both @ at 1:06 pm, July 24th, 2009

    […] Meanwhile, many of us insist that being half-Jewish is a unique and even positive state, despite widespread disapproval. A spunky website called halfJew.org died an untimely death after vicious flaming shut down the comments section. But in the 21st century, it will be hard to ignore half-Jews as we come into our own. By the year 2030, there will be more half-Jewish children than there will be “full-blooded” Jewish children in America. As Robin Margolis, founder of the Half-Jewish Network points out, “If we’re the majority, we’ll decide who’s a Jew.”  You can read great blog posts just this month about being half-Jewish at jezebel.com and thefbomb.com. […]

  • Sara @ at 1:01 pm, August 4th, 2009

    So great to hear more stories from the half-Jewish contingent. I wish more of us were more vocal. I got the vaguely lapsed Unitarian Universalist experience – my mother fully Jewish, my father fully WASPish, a little Hindu philosophy thrown in – I guess I have a Unitarian ethos but I like Judaism for its detailed practical advice and ritual observances.

  • Craig Nelson Hamilton @ at 1:21 pm, August 19th, 2009

    I believe whomever says that they are a Jew is a Jew. I have several Jewish ancestries, but would not be considered a Jew by Orthodox standards. check out the following:


  • tuscany villa @ at 1:01 pm, January 31st, 2010

    Please google Haiti Emergency Relief Fund and donate..

  • Hermila Sturm @ at 4:30 pm, October 19th, 2010

    hey there this is a tremendous web log, would you consider being a invitee writer on my web log?

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