The sharpest insults attack not their intended recipient but a loved one. I can forgive an insult to me but am prevented by my obligation to defend my friends and family from easily forgiving their offense. Who am I to allow their honor to be diminished? This is part of the sting of classic “Yo Mama” insults. It is worse to disparage someone’s mother than him directly. This can be found, in a sense, in the Gemara (Kiddushin 32a-b), where a Torah scholar is allowed to forgo his honor. But is it not the Torah’s and therefore God’s honor, and not the scholar’s to forgive?

Half Jewish

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I. Who Are You Insulting?

The sharpest insults attack not their intended recipient but a loved one. I can forgive an insult to me but am prevented by my obligation to defend my friends and family from easily forgiving their offense. Who am I to allow their honor to be diminished? This is part of the sting of classic “Yo Mama” insults. It is worse to disparage someone’s mother than him directly.

This can be found, in a sense, in the Gemara (Kiddushin 32a-b), where a Torah scholar is allowed to forgo his honor. But is it not the Torah’s and therefore God’s honor, and not the scholar’s to forgive? No, answers the Gemara, it is the scholar’s. The implication of this passage on the relationship between a scholar and the Torah he studies is amply explored in a rich literature. I find additional significance in the implication that if the Torah scholar’s honor were not his own, he would not be allowed to forgive it. If insulting him was equivalent to insulting his God, he would have no right to forgive such a slight. When the Torah is insulted, or even distorted, the scholar lacks the prerogative to let it slide.

II. Who Is A Jew?

In a recent editorial (link), the Forward notes the difficulties inherent in the reception of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the Jewish community. After her horrific attack, this woman, whose father is Jewish and who embraced her Jewish identity as an adult, was seized by many segments of the Jewish community as one of their own. But, the Forward points out, her success at claiming her Jewish identity despite being halakhically non-Jewish are an exception that masks a large communal problem and her acceptance leads to a greater divide between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox worlds.

From our Orthodox perspective, we are faced with a dilemma when speaking about such people. On the one hand, how can we insult someone by denying something as personal as his self-identity? Many people in such circumstances were raised since birth as Jews, an identity that is part of their very being. However, this decision is not ours to make and a responsum from 130 years ago makes it very clear.

III. Not Our Decision

The Orthodox community of Berlin negotiated for a number of years with the Reform majority to find a compromise that would allow for a single Jewish cemetery serving the greater community. When those talks failed around 1880, R. David Zvi Hoffmann penned a responsum explaining the most important reason to secede — the unacceptable burial as Jews of the children of Gentile mothers (Melamed Le-Ho’il 2:127; see Adam Ferziger, Exclusion and Hierarchy, p. 152).

Aside from the prohibition of burying Gentiles in a Jewish cemetery, which I plan to discuss in another post, another issue is even more important. When the community excludes regular Gentiles from the Jewish cemetery but allows the children of Jewish fathers and Gentile mothers, it implies that these people are Jewish, contrary to the unequivocal halakhic rule. Creating such an impression is a public rejection of the Torah, an act more serious than almost any other transgression.

We can forgo our own honor but we cannot ignore the Torah’s. We lack the power to implicitly reject the Torah by improperly labeling Gentiles as Jews, even if they were raised as Jews.

IV. The Problem Today

I am not denying that people with such backgrounds have a unique connection to the Jewish people and may have given much to the community. They deserve recognition for that. According to some, they fall into a unique category of “Zera Yisrael, the seed of Israel,” people with Jewish ancestry. But they are not Jews. Some have suggested that we should ease their conversions but be that as it may, until they convert halakhically we face this predicament.

I am also not saying that we should insult them publicly by denying their self-identification as Jews. No glory redounds to the Torah through rudeness. We need to sensitively recognize their identifications and connections while remaining faithful to the Torah.

How do we do this? One-on-one situations more easily allow for polite ambiguities than the written word, which demands greater precision. The term “Half Jewish” is genealogically accurate but halakhically misleading — you are either Jewish or not. Calling someone Jewish* with an asterisk, like a baseball record under changed conditions, is insufficient because it still implies Jewish and is offensive. It will satisfy no one. Perhaps terms like “of Jewish descent” or “whose father is Jewish” are better. I welcome other suggestions.

One thing is clear, though, from the Forward editorial. Not only is this principled stance required by the Torah, it has influence beyond our community.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student recently served on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

48 comments

  1. It should be pointed out that secession from the broader Jewish community of Berlin implies that the Orthodox would need a new cemetery. That means that all previous generations of Jews in Berlin were in the cemetery being abandoned to the Reform (and therefore multi-generational Jewish Berlin families would have Orthodox descendants not allowed to be buried with their ancestors if they secede).

  2. The term that I have seen used for this situation is “non-halachic Jew”.

  3. Is this, perhaps, an explanation for the controversial “boundary-marking” posts of late?

  4. Maybe my kehuna causes me to have a more blase attitude toward these matters (indeed, many have suggested that that is the whole point), but I’ve never really gotten why burying non-Jews in a Jewish cemetery should be an issue.

  5. This post delineates the complexities and ambiguities involved in drawing the boundry between those who are and are not halachicaly jewish. Similar sophisitication needs to be used in dealing with the problem of define who is and is not properly practicing halacha.

  6. I find additional significance in the implication that if the Torah scholar’s honor were not his own, he would not be allowed to forgive it. If insulting him was equivalent to insulting his God, he would have no right to forgive such a slight. When the Torah is insulted, or even distorted, the scholar lacks the prerogative to let it slide.

    Yet the gemara relates multiple instances of Tannaim and Amoraim strongly defending, as they see it, the honor of the Torah in ways that end very badly for all concerned. Think of R. Meir in “Ma’aseh d’Bruria” as described by Rashi on Avodah Zara 18, or Rav Yochanon and Resh Lakish in Baba Metzia 84 (esp. as understood by Maharsh”a.) Or the unpleasantness between R. Gamliel and R. Yehoshua. Surely there is a warning here for the scholar to be careful that the Torah is really being insulted before taking strong measures, and not to overreact to disagreement.

  7. Perhaps we need to register an internal but otherwise nondescript “code” to distinguish – similar to the way that RMF in his responsa distinguished “rabbonim” from “rabbis.”

  8. Where I live there are mechalel shabbos buried in the same cemetery as chasidish rebbes. Hardly yards from each other with no fence in between. There are also men next to women which RMF prohibits. It seems they are a law unto themselves and only interested in making huge profits.

  9. If we can create a huge urban or suburban Eruv and say that it is akin to a home or camp, we can surely create a cemetery where specific ground is a “jewish cemetery” according to halacha and near by is a non-jewish cemetery. The very fact that their were negotiations around this point in 1880 suggest that at least in the mind of the Orthodox a solution to the problem worth pursuing.

    Frankly this border creation does nothing to stem the tide. People who disagree will be pushed further away from orthodoxy but may embrace some other portion of the Jewish people. The other part will become more and more insular, xenophobic and suspicious and damage itself by the result.

  10. “Frankly this border creation does nothing to stem the tide. People who disagree will be pushed further away from orthodoxy but may embrace some other portion of the Jewish people. The other part will become more and more insular, xenophobic and suspicious and damage itself by the result.”

    So what would you propose, David, erasing all the red lines? Adopting a “Judaism is whatever Jews, by the sociological definition, do” attitude? If that’s the case then why even bother educating for halachic observance or even theist belief? Why bother having halacha/mitzvot &c at all? After all, it doesn’t make a difference either way?

  11. I do not propose erasing red lines for oneself and ones family. I simply suggest that there is no need to create red lines that push people farther from observance. Do you not see that telling someone that they are not a Jew at all gives them license not to do any mitzvot? In any case, before OJ presumes to tell anyone how to behave, it should clean up the huge mess in its own community.

  12. “Do you not see that telling someone that they are not a Jew at all gives them license not to do any mitzvot?”

    David,

    If they are not halachically Jewish, then I cannot consider them such. There are no “half-measures” here. I will not, of course tell such a person out loud or to their face, h”v. I will not, however, lie if put against the wall for my opinion.

    If there existed a “middle ground” halachic option (not just a status but also rules and modus operandi) for people who are not halachically Jewish but embrace a Jewish identity and some form of observance/belief (Conservative/Reform/Reconstructionist/Traditional etc), then I would happily embrace it.

    I am not, h”v out to “get” anyone or drive people away. I am very much in favor of a “big tent” social attitude towards non-fully observant Jews (including secular Jews). However, there is a world of difference between shutting ones eyes in the name of unity and goodwill, and openly saying that we don’t care, even internally, because, heck, it’s all a matter of personal taste and who gave anyone the right to condemn any action, ever.

    For me, to do the latter is to betray what I believe in and live by and argue that it makes no difference to me whether you keep Shabbat or not, whether you are halachically Jewish or not &c. This I will not do, not for anyone. To Jews (or “near-Jews”)I say: I will open my door for you – both at home and in shul, but I will not throw my beliefs and identity on the ground for you to stomp on in the name of pluralism. We can agree to strongly disagree; you cannot ask me to say it’s all meaningless.

  13. This post would not convince anyone outside of the bubble of Orthodox and Conservative insiders. You should find a way to speak to a broader audience — but then you’d have to do more than just appeal to authorities.

  14. MiMedinat HaYam

    1. burying men and women together is permitted in many O cemeteries. though litvaks would prob oppose, per RMF.

    2. after the last olympics, the forward had a n article praising jews who won medals. i pointed out that one of the skaters whom the article pointed out had only a jewish father, skated to “ave maria” (thus negating any jewish identification); the writer emailed back another song that i was wrong, till i emailed back a linked article confirming ave maria. they (the forward; and the secular jewish community as a whole) are in denial.

    even for “ave maria”.

  15. “This post would not convince anyone outside of the bubble of Orthodox and Conservative insiders. You should find a way to speak to a broader audience — but then you’d have to do more than just appeal to authorities.”

    Perhaps you could suggest an argument?

  16. “Do you not see that telling someone that they are not a Jew at all gives them license not to do any mitzvot? ”

    Well…hmmm….let’s see here…… if the guy isn’t Jewish, he already has license from G-d not to do any mitzvot! (except for the seven Noahide laws).

    I’m surprised nobody else picked up on this in the comment thread. It’s like saying “If you tell a non-U.S. citizen that he isn’t a U.S. citizen, he will never show up for jury duty!”

  17. “If they are not halachically Jewish, then I cannot consider them such. There are no “half-measures” here.”

    Actually there are many half measures if you are willing to look for leniencies instead of stringencies. The whole idea of Zera Israel has not been explored, in any meaningful way by the broad halachic authorities and provides an avenue for moving forward. Yes, the definition of Judaism according to halacha is what it is. However, it is inaccurate to say that someone with some connection to Judaism is simply not Jewish. They have a connection. The connection is NOT unimportant. For many it is the most vitally important part of their identity. Is there not a possible intermediate step, a new classification that recognizes that they have not fully taken on the yoke of heaven but that also recognizes that they kindred people who might in time?

    The whole point is that there is a focus on putting up gates and defining who is IN and who is OUT. It is petty and does absolutely nothing to advance Hashem’s agenda on earth.

  18. One of my rebbeim told us that R Aharons Lichtenstein suggested that non-Halakhic Jews have some aspect of Jewishness to their identities. If I get a chance I’ll double check what the specific wording used was.

  19. David, it’s not that simple. There are a whole panoply of issues, from teaching Torah to eating in their house. This is to say nothing about the dichotomy between opening the doors and unintentionally signalling your kids that it’s OK to marry outside the faith. Worrying about the halachic ramifications of such things is only “petty” if you don’t care about halacha.

    Also, recognizing an intermediate position will never satisfy the puritan pluralists in the media and academia for whom anyone who declares themselves to be Jewish should be considered a full-fledged Jew by all, no questions asked. So my real question is whether an intermediate solution, however broadly defined, will actually satisfy anyone and accomplish something, or just leave everyone offended.

  20. OTOH, historically there have always been groups who were “close to Jews” but never quite so, and who were given different halachic treatment than the rest of the non-Jewish world: e.g. Samaritans. I seem to recall that there were groups of people in the second Temple era and the Mishna/Talmud era (esp. in Turkey) who kept some Mitzvot and called themselves “fearful of Hashem”. There was even a kingdom in the Yemen region in the Talmudic period whose king and elite adopted some form of Judaism (though they did not know or accept halachic Judaism in its entirety).

    Perhaps a scholarly study of groups such as these and the attitude of “normative Judaism” towards them, could give us some clue as how to relate to non-halachic Jews today…

  21. “Worrying about the halachic ramifications of such things is only “petty” if you don’t care about halacha.”

    Nobody said that there are not concerns. However, OJ has a lot more important issues than looking outside of itself and saying “those people are treif”. Frankly, if “halachic” Jews spent more time looking at themselves and their own flaws, they would not have any time to spend defining the deficiencies of others. Someone whose insensitivity and self righteousness shames others is just much of a sinner as someone who violates other more red line mitzvot.

  22. It is apparent to me that David S. has more of a problem with “halachic” Jews of the OJ camp than with those who claim to be Jewish without proper credentials. If you think I’m wrong, re-read the string up to now.

    Just because I claim to be a Rockefeller, because I feel like a Rockefeller, or even live in their neighborhood, does not make me a Rockefeller. Proof? Just ask a Rockefeller!

    And if I put a tutu on an elephant, it is still an elephant.

    And when David Cone pitched for the Mets, all those invitations to Friday night Shabbos meals offered by well-meaning yidden still did not make him Jewish.

    We have known the principle of matrilineal descent since Matan Torah at Sinai. Just because we now live in a world that has used language and euphamism to alter the general mindset about much that used to be taboo should not affect the halachic Jewish mindset. Perhaps this is one of the great challenges that OJ faces in our time – the Nisayon to not accept everything that the secular world has come to accept and embrace. Just because they call it “alternative lifestyle” does not mean that it is ok to be a homosexual.

    The real interesting thing about this conversation is how we turn ourselves into pretzels to bend the plain truth that we see with our own lyin’ eyes. So here’s a true story that I heard first hand. An Orthodox Jewish woman took a job in a small company. There were no other Jews working there, and the co-workers found her to be a curiosity, having never encountered a practising Jew so close-up and personal. It turns out that one of the co-owners, call her Kate, a non-Jew, is married to a Jewish man and they have three children. For a few years, these kids were even enrolled in a Jewish parochial school (reform) until they decided it was too costly. This family celebrates xmas, but with an electric menorah too.

    The bookkeeper of the company, a Catholic woman, goes over to the Orthodox Jewess and starts bombarding her with all sorts of questions about Jews and Judaism (in a very respectful and earnest fashion). It turns out that she has a brother who married a Jewish girl and they have two kids, who are being raised Jewish (though not Orthodox, but whatever). So Catholic woman turns to our Orthodox friend and says, “My brother’s kids are really Jewish, but Kate’s are not”.

    So if this Catholic woman can up and blurt out the truth, why can’t we? I am sorry for Rep. Giffords and I honestly, from the bottom of my heart, wish her a refuah shelaimah, but she is not Jewish. The left wing Jewish media, looking for space to fill, cannot make her Jewish. She is not zera yehudi or even non-halachic. She is a NON-JEW.

  23. How about “Jewish with an explanation”? (Woody Allen)

  24. “It is apparent to me that David S. has more of a problem with “halachic” Jews of the OJ camp than with those who claim to be Jewish without proper credentials. If you think I’m wrong, re-read the string up to now.”

    You are right. I don’t care if someone aspires to be Jewish and believes that they have some claim on their Jewish heritage in spite of not being Halachically Jewish. I have no probelm with that at all. I absolutely have a problem with Jews who turn the cold shoulder to other people seeking a relationship with God. Nobody is asking you to agree to their approach and nobody is asking you to marry them or to have your children do the same. If the person doesnt live up to your level of observance, you should not marry them anyway, its a guarantee of failure. And dont tell me that you wont be able to tell. The fact is that this constant effort to set up boundaries in order to keep people out implies a lack of faith that Hashem will be able to judge these things and that he is the proper judge. It implies an arrogance that is sickening to me.

  25. David,

    There is no “constant effort” to draw boundaries. They’re already drawn, at least since the time of TSBP (boundaries from Torah are no longer effective; Edomites, Moabites &c no longer exist, and Mamzerim are not recognized). Maybe there is too much re-emphasizing, but that’s another matter.

    Besides, boundary-drawing is a perfectly natural, human method of identity marking which has been around since time immemorial. Every human group does it – religious or secular, conservative or liberal &c. Unless you’re a full-on misanthrope, I doubt you find the very act of boundary-drawing “sickening”.

    I get the feeling you’re problem is less with the boundaries, and more with the social treatment of those outside of them. You would like to see more patient and empathetic treatment of those who do not follow halacha/believe in God/are not halachically Jewish. I certainly sympathize, but at the same time I do not agree that the rules should be abolished. All the empathy in the world can not override unequivocal issurim.

    BTW, if we do as you say, many otherwise tolerant Jews will have no choice but to do yihus background checks on potential spouses to prevent the next generations from becoming non-Jewish a la the halacha.

    Perhaps we may need to discuss the ‘ma shenitma nitma’ (whoever was absorbed was absorbed) policy, which was used to avoid ‘Mamzer hunting’. Perhaps the same can be said for ‘zera yisra’el’?
    See the following article by Rav Yoel Amital:

    http://www.shaalvim.co.il/uploads/files/11-B-8_21-31.pdf

  26. “I absolutely have a problem with Jews who turn the cold shoulder to other people seeking a relationship with God.”

    Non-Jews (should) have a relationship with God also. Pointing out the fact that someone is not Jewish does nothing to negate their relationship with God.

  27. I think we should move from the discussion of borders to one of halachic debate regarding said “zera yisra’el”. It would be much more fruitful. I’ll start with two questions:

    1) Is there halachic historical precedent for “partial Jews” in the near or far past?

    1) Today such people are considered goyim gmurim halachically. Is it halachically possible that their self-identified affinity removes some of the gezerot placed on interaction with non-Jews (pat acu”m, teaching torah, giving certain community honorifics &c)?

    Take the cemetary issue, for instance. Would it be possible to set aside a part of the Jewish cemetary designated as for “zera Yisra’el” and or specifically mention it on the tombstone?

  28. In Israel the question of how to deal wit “half and “quarter” Jews has far reaching ramifications on the future character of the state.
    According to the most conservative estimates there are at least 1/4 million Israelis who are Jews according to th law of return (one Jewish grandparent)but not according to the Halacha. The vast majority are not interested in halachic conversion. Indeed mass conversion by halachic process is not a realistic option. The Dati-Chardali rabbinate wants to integrate this group, called by many “Zera Yisrael” by making the the conversion process more lenient and efficient. R’Ovadia Yosef and Shas have recently agreed to accept conversions performed in the Army and Chief Rabbinate courts. The fact is however that the number of conversions performed in these courts is infinitesimal, no more than a few hundred a year.
    IMHO we must start relating to this group by comparing them to other similar groups in Jewish history.Practically speaking they can be defined as Gerei Toshav (resident aliens).They conform to the Rambam,s definition;not idol worshippers,obeying the seven Noahide laws and completely accepting Jewish sovereignty. In addition they have the “racial” connection (zera Yisrael)
    But perhaps all this is not necessary. Perhaps they are just a modern “Eirev Rav”.Like the eirev rav who joined bnei Yisrael in the Exodus perhaps they will naturally be assimilated into the majority Jewish society. In the Tanach there is no trace of the eirev rav. Within a few generations they married in and disappeared.

  29. David,

    Does this mean you support a policy of ‘ma shenitma nitma’ a la the suggestion of Rav Yoel Amital?

    http://www.shaalvim.co.il/uploads/files/11-B-8_21-31.pdf

  30. “Perhaps they are just a modern “Eirev Rav”.Like the eirev rav who joined bnei Yisrael in the Exodus perhaps they will naturally be assimilated into the majority Jewish society.”

    Great analogy. A definition from a group in the past that had similar characteristics is probably a reasonable way to approach this. I think Ger Toshav to be a bit of a stretch as it does not imply a group that actively identifies itself in any way with the Jewish historic tradition, Tinok shnishba is a modern innovation built on a far older tradition but probably does not work as a classification because it implies a lack of capability of choice (which is partially but not entirely true).

    For those who do not understand the core of this issue, “At least three years ago now, Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo, made the audacious suggestion that we encourage the creation, within Israel, of what he called “non-Jewish Jewish Communities.”
    By non-Jewish Jews, Rabbi Lopes Cardozo is referring to individuals of Jewish descent who are not Jewish, according to Jewish law, and who are not prepared to commit to living according to Jewish law, yet feel connected and are connected to Judaism, Jewish tradition, the Jewish people and Israel.
    These individuals and communities would be free, as Rabbi Lopes Cardozo sees it, to “develop their own brand of Judaism,” adopting and adapting what practices they wish and having their own synagogues, yeshivot and cemeteries. In his view, these people would be part of the broader Jewish community; though not Jewish according to Jewish law, they would not be non-Jews either. Jews and non-Jewish Jews would share something of a sense of Jewishness; as he writes, “They are part of the family, though slightly removed.”

    Again, such a proposal is not necessarily ready for implementation, and some may find it offensive. It remains a compassionate attempt to resolve a problem facing the state of Israel, and without coercing anyone.” The Jewish Voice and Herald

    Rabbi Cardozo speaks eloquently and movingly on this issue on some of his audio shiurim.

  31. I agree even more emphatically than the conclusion of RY Amital’s article. I think that there is a real chance that this assimilation is what will happen. There will of course be many in the Chareidi community who will never accept it. No matter. As R Tzvi once said it is Sar hahistoriya,hester-ya who decides the destiny of clall Yisrael.

  32. “Perhaps they are just a modern “Eirev Rav”.Like the eirev rav who joined bnei Yisrael in the Exodus perhaps they will naturally be assimilated into the majority Jewish society.”

    Yep – after doing a helluva lotta damage, they just moved on. No thanks. I’ll pass on any variation of the Eirev Rav.

    I’ve seen some of NL Cardozo’s work on the subject. Sadly, it’s far from impressive. He misquotes and misunderstands some basic Maamarei Chazal like Esther Karka Olam, a fact which renders his opinions moot. That and the fact that he may have a personal bias related to his own heritage, make him a poor spokesperson for the movement.

  33. MiMedinat HaYam

    i doubt few, if any “zera yisrael”, erev rav, or other such formulation will agree to be half jews. (and i’m not even getting into C and R recognition of them as full jews.; lest you dispute the “c” acceptance, they are often accepted by C rabbis if an R rabbi accepts them.)
    or to be buried half-hazardly (poor pun, maybe should take it back) in a separate section of a jewish cemetery (which i believe is the usual procedure now; just that we dont publicize it as such.)

  34. I was thinking of just adding a hyphen: Jew-ish See the second definition: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ish

    But that is probably too offensive and confusing to please anyone.

  35. “i doubt few, if any “zera yisrael”, erev rav, or other such formulation will agree to be half jews. (and i’m not even getting into C and R recognition of them as full jews.; lest you dispute the “c” acceptance, they are often accepted by C rabbis if an R rabbi accepts them.)
    or to be buried half-hazardly (poor pun, maybe should take it back) in a separate section of a jewish cemetery (which i believe is the usual procedure now; just that we dont publicize it as such.)”

    All of which makes me question the utility or benefit (to anyone) of any halachic measure to ease the status of non-halachic Jews…

  36. One does not need to imply “half” or anything lesser. Non-halachic Jews is just fine.

  37. I think that this article missed the fact that the liberal-left academic/political/cultural worlds attempted to portray the heinous crime as either anti Semitic or rooted in Tea Party ideology, when, in fact, the evidence to date, as opposed to the media prognostications in the liberal/left media, is that the assailant was a loner wwith serious mental health issues who acted alone. In many ways, the rhetoric reminded me of the attempt to tar the Israeli opposition, as well as all of RZ and MO , to a certain degree, for their “responsibility” and/or “moral culpability” in an unwarranted rush to judgment in the assassination of PM Rabin ZL.

  38. David S. wrote: All of which makes me question the utility or benefit (to anyone) of any halachic measure to ease the status of non-halachic Jews…

    Absolutely, there is nothing lesser about them. I suggest we take it one step further: We give them aliyos, but only hosafos, and we give them bris milah, just remove half the foreskin. Anything to ensure that we don’t make them feel bad.

  39. SOrry, that should read:
    David S. wrote: One does not need to imply “half” or anything lesser. Non-halachic Jews is just fine.

    Thatis the comment I was mocking.

  40. As the Coordinator of the Half-Jewish Network, the largest international organization for adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage, I am distressed by unwelcoming discussion threads in the Jewish blogosphere debating whether half-Jewish Rep. Giffords is “Jewish enough” while the woman lies in intensive care from a bullet wound.

    Surely part of bikur cholim (the mitzvah of visiting the sick and showing respect for their needs)would be refraining from debating someone’s Jewishness when they are close to death from severe injuries.

    Regarding the complaints that accepting people like Rep. Giffords — child of a Jewish father and a Christian mother — as Jewish is helping create more division between Orthdoxy and the rest of Judaism — no one is asking any Orthodox shul to accept Rep. Giffords as a Jew or pray for her.

    Can the 90 percent of us American Jews who are not Orthodox be allowed to recite refuah shleimah prayers (healing of the sick) for her in peace without being accused of divisiveness or attacks on Orthodoxy while we are doing a mitzvah?

  41. One more thing — I did read with interest the essay’s discussion of the Orthodox objections to burial of patrilineal half-Jewish children in the Berlin cemetery over 150 years ago. I am always searching for historical information about adult children of intermarriage.

    I also found the comments on ways to integrate half-Jewish people into the Jewish community through halachic measns to be of interest.

    But I beg the commenters to please remember that real live half-Jewish people read what you write and can be turned away from Judaism by too much negativity towards us. Statements implying that we don’t exist or that we have no rights can push us away from the Torah permanently.

  42. Dear Robin Margolis

    There is nothing wrong with wishing Rep. Giffords a refuah shelaima, as I did above, even though she is a non-Jew.

    And my point above still stands. Just because you say or think that you are “half-Jewish”, or you are a “co-ordinator” for an organization of “half-Jews” does not mean that there is really such a thing as a “half-Jew”.

    One cannot be a half-Jew just as one cannot be half-pregnant. You either are or you are not. So for those within your organization that have a Jewish mother, I welcome you with open arms. You are not half-Jews – your are full Jews and the Torah belongs to you.

    For those within your organization that have a gentile mother, you are not Jewish and have little relationship to Torah. If being Jewish is important to you, ask yourself why, and if it is because you wish to foster a closer relationship to Hashem by following His Torah, then consider a proper geirus. If it is because you enjoy the Jewish social scene or “culture”, I am already not pushing you away from Torah – it is not part of you anyway.

    Lest you think I have no experience with this, I have a niece (FFB no less) who married a non-Jew. So yes – her kids are FULL JEWS.

    The concept of “half-Jew” is a rejection of 3000+ years of accepted halacha as related to us by our sages in every generation. As such, it is heretical, that is, outside the boundaries of our Torah.

    Just because you think it is different does not make it so. Ever.

    Signed

    Dave

    Co-ordinator of the Half-Rockefeller Network

  43. MiMedinat HaYam

    to miss margolis:

    last week, a gentile customer of mine told me his wife is very sick, i should pray for her.

    i immediately asked him for her name and her mothers name.

    2. my synagogue every week makes a prayer for the missing israeli soldiers, including “omar ben chadra”, a bedouin zahal officer (and “yehonatan ben malka” pollard. problem is the charedi gabbai adds rubashkin to that list.)

    3. so we have no problem praying for congresswoman gifford, and any other non jew.

  44. Dear David and MiMedinat HaYam:

    MiMedinat HaYam — I am very happy to hear that you and your shul members are willing to pray for non-Jews. No matter what you think of Rep. Giffords as a half-Jewish person, please pray for her recovery. She has been a good friend to the Jewish community. I hope that your shul continues doing this.

    David — with regard to your frum, intermarried niece’s children –my mother was an Orthodox Jew. My father was Episcopalian.

    And almost no groups of Jews — perhaps two or three groups at the most — have ever treated as fully Jewish, including the Orthodox, despite the fact that I have been living as a Jew for 26 years.

    Even having an Orthodox Jewish mother does not guarantee that other Jews will treat a half-Jewish person as a Jew. Halachah on this subject is rarely obeyed.

    Many half-Jewish people tell me that the only way that they can stay in the Jewish community is to conceal their parentage.

    I would suggest that you visit the message board of the Half-Jewish Network at http://www.half-jewish.net and ask yourself:

    why are there thousands of posts from half-Jewish people from all over the world, children of Jewish mothers and children of Jewish fathers, complaining that other Jews treat them badly?

    Some of the posted complaints are from the children of intermarried Jewish mothers who now live as frum Jews.

    Example: One young man told me he was warned to drop his Christian father’s surname or he’d have trouble finding a bride. He was furious and asked that I would mention this when I post on Orthodox websites on this subject. So I am honoring my promise to him.

    Finally — whenver you speak to people like myself, I urge you to keep this in mind: we are all your niece’s children. Please treat us as you would want her children to be treated by other Jews. Encourage them to learn about Judaism. Don’t argue with them about whatever labels they have applied to themselves. Reach out.

  45. Robin: I just want to thank you for engaging us in this dialogue. We often live our own bubble and fail to see other perspectives on such important and sensitive issues.

  46. Dear Hirhurim:

    Thank you for listening!

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis

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