Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Different View

Can you imagine being a test rat in a lab? Fluorescent lights beating onto your back, goggle-eyed scientists poking and prodding at you. It sounds like a dehumanizing experience, and I'm sure it is. Yet today I had a flash of this feeling when a group of teenagers sat in a circle in a small Beit C'neset in the middle of the Negev, analyzing their Jewish identifies. When we tackled the subject of intermarriage, I immediately tensed up and prepared for battle.

I'm used to being told that I'm not a "real Jew". With my non-Jewish father and Reform/Reconstructionist practice, many of my Orthodox friends have told me (both jokingly and non-jokingly) that I'm a "sortof Jew". I was ready for mainly negative opinions and people saying that there was no way that an intermarried family could produce children with strong Jewish identities (this is false, by the way). However, the opinions were pretty mixed. I felt as if since most of the teens haven't experienced intermarriage personally, they were relying only on stories from their friends and families. They hadn't exactly formed strong or clear opinions on the issue, because it hasn't been a part of their consciousness like it has always been a part of mine. Some of the opinions were quite harsh and offensive, but I couldn't exactly blame my peers for this.

What people need to understand is that a child with a multicultural background can connect completely to one of those cultures, while still respecting and honoring the other part of themselves. I am in Israel, experiencing the same feelings of love and awe for this country and for the Jewish people that all of my peers are feeling, if not more. Intermarried families have an inherent sense of tolerance and open-mindedness, and the children grow up appreciating both of their cultures and heritages. They learn from birth to love people no matter race or religion, because their families are composed of so many colors. I consider myself 100% Jewish, and I know that if not for my fathers' commitment to raising my sister and I as Jews, I could've had a much more confused and less concrete identity. I'm lucky, and I wouldn't trade my family for anything. By choosing to preserve through the difficulties that an intermarriage presents, my mother and father taught me valuable lessons about tolerance, appreciation, and love of ones culture.

- Lily Greenberg Call, 16, San Diego

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