As is so often the case, another newspaper comment has managed to outdo the article it's appended to. Not in, like, research, nuance, etc., but in discussion-fodder. Susan Katz Miller's essay on raising children as Christians and Jews is plenty thoughtful, if unlikely to convince anyone whose concern is Jewish demography. Meanwhile, commenter "anonymous12," Jewish on her father's side, has this to say:
As the daughter of a Jewish father who was anti-religon and a mother who was from Christian stock but had no practice, I grew up figuring it out on my own. I have always been drawn to Judaism and in my thirties, I reached for it. I have never figured out if the rejection I experienced was because I was a pretty blonde single women who looked like a Swede ("Are you here for a new husband, dear?"). After making attempts to achieve an Orthodox conversion (and being accused of being a "xtian infiltrator"), I tried a Conservative conversion and wasn't welcome, and then Reform (two different Rabbis wanted sex), I gave up and stayed away. I once went into a shul to ask a question and the two women behind the counter actually nearly broke their necks trying to answer my question to my friend who had given me a ride, because she happened to have dark features--so perhaps Jewish people could drop their own stereotypes. Over and over I experienced a complete disregard for my interest, beliefs, heritage and sincerity.
Recently I moved to a new city and made a casual connection with a very mixed congregation that is very open and liberal. The Orthodox may howl, but I promise you that unless you "look Jewish", show up to convert in order to marry a Jew you already know (no shopping), and/or look like a troll, you're not actually very welcome at all.
Every person deserves a faith community and after years of loneliness I have a place to go for the holidays where I am welcome.For those who don't read the block-quotes, the commenter's claim is that her prettiness and blondness prevented her from being welcome in Jewish communities. Well, except that some rabbis wanted to sleep with her. (Wasn't there a "Seinfeld" about this?) She was simply too sexily non-Jewish for all but the most progressive of congregations.
Having never experienced life as a non-Jew, or as a stunning blonde, who am I to say if that's how it might have gone? Conversion to traditionalist forms of Judaism is a notoriously difficult process. And Jews aren't somehow magically immune to broader societal racism, so if someone non-white had a tough time, unfortunately I wouldn't be surprised.
But in this case, allow me some skepticism. The sticklers for Jewish law aren't concerned with your hair color (note the number of blond Hasids! and I don't mean married women with blond wigs), just with your mother's Judaism or lack thereof. Nor do you receive automatic Jewish status if you "look like a troll." (Sheesh!) I don't believe Bar Refaeli, Natalie Portman, etc. have been excommunicated.
There's a lot of particularity out there, and some of it's easy to take personally if you don't see that it applies across the board. A bit like when people will fly to Israel and think that the airport security were sizing up them for insufficient Jewishness, when it's like, no, they do this to everyone. That, and it's so ingrained in the culture that Jewish men would be weird around Swedish-looking women that a woman who fits that description may well attribute any weirdness she does experience to her physical features. Meanwhile, says Science, men are only looking at us from the neck down anyway.