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Baby Brackets

Who cares about March Madness when there are Apgar tests, violin lessons, and a million other things for a Jewish parent to be anxious about? Here’s a bracket for parental anxiety.

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Some of us are getting really bored by all the talk of March Madness, the seemingly interminable college basketball tournament, which, thankfully, ends next week. But what if there was a bracket-to-bracket matchup of something far more engaging, like Jewish parental neuroses and insane overly competitive impulses? It might look something like this (click to enlarge):



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r skeen says:

As the father of three pre-teens that have announced they represent “three of the four Jewish denominations”, this is funny. Only thing scarier than Snooki as a daughter in law: a kid that aspires to be the producer of the “next Jeresey Shore”….

Allison says:

Am I the only one who is wondering why the story is about Jewish moms, but the picture is of a woman with a cross around her neck?

Dan Klein says:

@Allison That’s Snookie! My one true love.

Great! If only there was room for this bracket: Kosher (wants you to buy 2 new sets of dishes after attending Camp Ramah) vs. Treif (annouces gleefully that she’s tried shrimp at the neighbor’s house)

J Carpenter says:

may we step away from the mirror of self-absorbed obsession and look out the window to a hurting, needy world—
(yet cleverly done, Marjorie!)

Garry says:

Mishagas- not March madness-all year round madness. Stop stereotyping please.

susan says:

i would gladly deal with those issues instead of trying to manage a bipolar teen who will probably need to be sent to a residential setting in order to learn and grow.

Tracey says:

How about: 1) Pay for Camp Ramah-You start working nights at Starbucks- Rabbi
beams proudly as all the camp kids lead Ashrei. 2) instead of camp you pay rent, taxes,
1 month of medical insurance, and 2 weeks worth of groceries-congression looks at their
toes when your child says the oneg Kiddish in english-your parents won’t stop telling you
about poor Shlomo’s parents, “Ever since he married that Presbyterian girl…Oey!”

I think if you followed the NCAA Tournament closer you’d be happier. Especially if you had Butler and Virginia Commonwealth in your Final Four.

Otherwise: Relax. Don’t try to be the “perfect parent.”

Virgina Apgar not only developed the eponymous score, she was also an accomplished violin and cello player who built her own instruments, this at a time when few women were even admitted to medical schools.

Alia: Excellent!

Dear Majorie:

I generally enjoy your column, but I have a problem with this one.

As the Coordinator of the Half-Jewish Network for adult children of intermarriage, I was really saddened to see the derision directed at the Christian wives of intermarried men in your column and diagram.

Aren’t we just finished with Purim, which has an intermarriage at the heart of the story?

I know you’re intending to joke, but studies of intermarriage show that the non-Jewish wife in many intermarriages is one who insists on raising the children as Jews, not the Jewish father. The stereotype of Christian women who date and marry Jewish men as stupid bimbos set on raising their children as, say, Catholics, is just that, a unpleasant stereotype.

There is a book about the snide behavior and unkindness within the Jewish community that many of these women encounter entitled “Shiksa: The Gentile Woman in the Jewish World” by Christine Benvenuto.

It is heartbreaking to read. After deriding and insulting these women, the Jewish community then complains that some of them won’t raise the children as Jews.

I’ve interviewed many adult children of intermarriage and poor treatment of Christian and other non-Jewish mothers by the Jewish community is one factor that causes some interfaith couples and their adult children to leave Judaism.

For the patrilineal adult children of intermariage, “Snooki” isn’t a stereotype — she’s their mom, and usually the one who ends up driving them to Hebrew school, because she is more interested in Judaism than their Jewish dad.

Consider: what if a Christian publication depicted young Jewish women who dated teenage Christian boys as the vapid Jewish-American Princesse stereotype? You wouldn’t be pleased, even if it was a joke.

Sincerely,
Robin Margolis

Robin, I really don’t think Marjorie meant to aim her derision at non-Jewish women in general. I think she meant to aim her derision directly at Snooki.

Dear Alia: I know Marjorie is caring, decent person. I’m a fan of her columns.

But I see too many of these stereotypes about intermarried Christian women in the Jewish media as stupid, oversexed bimbos. That’s why I’m not laughing.

I’m sure Marjorie would be very upset if, say, Christianity Today’s website published an April Fool’s issue depicting a Christian boy dating a totally intolerable “JAP” young Jewish woman — depicting her as overdressed, with heavily painted fingernais and credit cards and holding an application to Harvard. The Jewish media wouldn’t think it was funny at all.

The Jewish Outreach Institute maintains a listserve for Christian women married to Jewish men who are struggling to raise their children as Jews in the midst of Jewish communities that are not always supportive. If Majorie sent a link to her column to that listserve, I’m sure she woud get an earful.

I’m told that half of all children in Reform Jewish Sunday Schools are now children of intermarriage. Some of them have Christian mothers. Is the Jewish community going to make these families feel welcome, or is it going to keep deriding them?

Sincerely,
Robin Margolis

Alyssa says:

Robin are you kidding me! Really? As a person that is a product of a mixed marriage I have to tell you, you really need to lighten up. 1. its a joke clearly directed at a TV personality not because she is non-Jewish but because she is materialistic and vapid. 2. I don’t think any child with a mother (Jewish or non) would believe that the author is comparing their mother to Snooki 3. I don’t think a Christian mother would be happy eithor if her son brought home a girl with a see through lace top, fake bake tan and giant puff.

And just to wrap up. The Torah is the Torah, its the law and it is not negotiable to the majority of Kol Israel. Mixed marriages will always be taboo in Judaism because it is a violation of the mitzvots. It is not possible to keep a Torah driven home if the engine of the home, the mother, is a bystander to her kids religion. Driven them to Hebrew school is not teaching them to keep the minhag of their families, it won’t teach them real mussar and it will not instill in them a love and fear of HaShem. Look I’m sure your groups make you and other like you feel better but instead of asking G-d to change the world for you why don’t you change for him and move from a half Jew to a full one.

Margie, I’ve loved your work since your days at Sassy. (oy that makes me sound old) This is a fun read. People don’t always need to be so serious. Thanks for the laugh.

Oh, Robin! Alia has it just right. It was NOT a joke about intermarriage; it was purely a joke about Snooki! (And I feel a bit bad about THAT — I’m told Snooki is actually a lovely person who plays an idiot brawling drunkard on TV.)

In truth, I felt I was walking a fine line with the piece as a whole — I was very aware that there are Jewish parents with real, legitimate worries about their children’s health and well-being. (And indeed, as evidenced by the comments, someone with a child with mental illness did not find this funny at all.) But in terms of intermarriage, I actually was acutely aware of trying NOT to insult interfaith families or very Orthodox families (that’s why the yeshiva joke has the “so I don’t have to work” as the punchline — THAT’s the objectionable part, not the “getting religion” part). And now I have completely killed the humor with explanations; go me.

And Jen, thank you. But you have to call me “Marjorie” now ’cause I’m old.

Pesele says:

The whole intermarriage discussion above is leaving me feeling like saying “a pox on both your houses”! Robin, I sure wish you would lighten up. I understand intermarriage pretty well, both as a participant and as a social scientist, so I don’t take the issue lightly. But the post above reminds of the light-bulb joke about feminists (and yes, I am a proud feminist, too):
“Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: That’s not funny!”
Frankly, by acting as if you have the only correct view of intermarriage, you put down the rest of us who may have other, equally valid approaches.
Alyssa, you generalize much too broadly about the role of non-Jewish women in the synagogue. I refer you to Zipporah, Moses’ wife, who circumcised their sons when Moses dithered about it. I know too many Zipporahs, too many non-Jewish wives who push their Jewish husbands to be Jewish, to do Jewish. They do far more than drive their children to religious school. And some of them formally become Jewish along the way. By the same token, I know too many Jewish men and women who assume that being Jewish by birth gives them a free pass to ignore practice.

Upset of the tournament: Yeshiva over Shalom.

Alyssa says:

To clarify, there is basically two points I am making with the second half of my post. Firstly, that the innate nature of Judaism will always have a conflict with mixed marriage and to ask the institution of Judaism to not have this is to forfeit much larger and more sacred tenet. Mainly the divinity of Torah and our obedience to it. Secondly I by no means think that these woman are ill-meaning. I know their hearts are in the right place and their actions often are meritorious. However, how well can you teach baseball if you have never played baseball? Now as you mentioned some of these woman become Jewish and then it is a non issue, she is a Jew. Some have a vast sensitive knowledge, however some do not and because they are (as Robin mentioned in her argument) on the periphery of our society it is hard to gage and is viewed with suspect.

Perhaps the more interesting question to ask (Marjorie should write an article about this) is why are their thousands of woman in this country that are committed to having their children raised outside of their own value system and if our system is so important to their identity as a family then why don’t these woman adopt it themselves? I don’t have an answers to it, but its interesting.

Snooki’s puff I’m sure has launched many theological debates.

Marjorie — I know that you were trying to write an amusing column — I’ve always enjoyed your columns. You were just trying to get a laugh out of us.

I’m just very weary of all the not-always-complimentary references to Christian women married to Jewish men that I see in the Jewish media — “shiksas are for practice,” etc. in humor contexts. I see this a lot in the Jewish media.

The Jewish media would have a fit and start hollering “anti-Semitism” if Christian publications routinely ran humor stories on “My Christian Son Is Dating A Jewish Woman — Ick!” with a picture, say, of Amy Winehouse illustrating it.

(No offense, Winehouse fans — I like her.)

Alyssa: You’re telling me to lighten up and then state: “Mixed marriages will always be taboo in Judaism because it is a violation of the mitzvots.” Whoa!

If you’re the child of an intermarriage, how about extending a helping hand to the rest of us — and those who have Christian mothers? We already hear a great deal about halacha and how we are not Jewish enough.

By the way, my mother was an Orthodox Jew and my father was Episcopalian, and it has done me no good at all. People talk about halacha, but in practice I am treated just like the children of Jewish fathers and Christian mothers by most Jews, Orthodox and non-Orthodox.

So if halacha is not honored, there is not much point in invoking it.

Pesele: You state: “Frankly, by acting as if you have the only correct view of intermarriage, you put down the rest of us who may have other, equally valid approaches.”

Excuse me for living, but I didn’t say my views were the “only correct view of intermarriage” anywhere in my comments or “put down” any other views. I referred only to my own views.

If you are a “participant” in a intermarriage — an intermarried Jewish woman? the child of an intermarriage? — tell us your situation and views. I’d welcome more members of interfaith families speaking out.

Pesele says:

A few more comments:
1. Groups identify who belongs in three ways: biology, behavior, and belief. Obviously one influences the other–the rules about biology are determined by beliefs and behavior, for example. We Jews get our knickers all twisted up about biology, equating mother’s blood with “real” Judaism. But when we focus on only on the mother’s biological Jewishness, we make a huge mistake. So I think Robin (and here Robin, I refer to your role in the Half-Jewish Network), Alyssa, and most of the American Jewish community focus on the wrong problem. This is unfortunate; placing the emphasis on biology is destructive for Jewish community and continuity.
2. While non-Jewish partners often convert, they don’t necessarily do so before marriage. But conversion doesn’t solve the problem; Reform conversions are only accepted by Reform Jews. The children of these marriages are, in my mind and in the community, fully Jewish (not half-Jewish and not non-Jewish). Like children of Jewish-Jewish marriages, some are observant; some not at all. Which is main point: if Jewish continuity is the concern, you–and many others–are using the argument of biology as a surrogate answer for observance and belief.
3. Robin, I should have been clearer in saying that I disagreed with your general approach, not just your specific comment. The Half-Jewish approach, as above, places the focus on the wrong element. Yes, I am intermarried. My children consider themselves fully Jewish, fully American, and fully mixed-up European (their father). But my experience extends well beyond the personal. I do research on congregational life and differences between children do not depend on whether they have one or two Jewish parents. What matters most is how engaged in Jewish life and/or congregational life the family chooses to be, as well as how clear the parents are in conveying to their children that Judaism matters.

Dear Pesele:

It’s not fair blaming children of intermarriage like myself and Alyssa for responding to the Jewish community’s focus on biology. We don’t set the terms of the debate — the Jewish community does.

The “Half-Jewish Network” has that name because when I started the group I did research to determine what adult children of intermarriage called themselves. The term that they used most frequently was “half-Jewish.”

Pesele stated: “Reform conversions are only accepted by Reform Jews. The children of these marriages are, in my mind and in the community, fully Jewish (not half-Jewish and not non-Jewish).”

Robin replies: I suggest that is inaccurate. Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal and Humanistic groups do accept Reform conversions.

Now, the children of intermarriage may be fully Jewish in your mind, but not in the mind of the Jewish community.

If you visit the Half-Jewish Network message board, you’ll see messages from half-Jewish people from all over the world reporting discrimination against them within the Jewish community even when they are practicing Jews.

Pesele: “if Jewish continuity is the concern, you–and many others–are using the argument of biology as a surrogate answer for observance and belief.”

Robin: You’re blaming children of intermarriage for focusing on our parentage? Again, that’s not fair. We are not the ones who set the terms of the debate. Many of us are prevented from engaging in observance and belief by Jewish institutions that refuse us admission on the grounds of our parentage.

In the eyes of many Jewish groups, having only one Jewish parent is a fatal handicap. Our personal levels of observance and interest don’t seem to be of any interest to many of those Jewish groups.

Pesele says:

One more try at clarification:
Robin, only a portion of my previous post was directed at you–that part discussing the “Half-Jewish” approach to intermarriage. Point one outlined the general problem, which I stated was shared by the entire Jewish community. You and Alyssa represent different responses to the that problem, but my larger point is that the whole Jewish community is focusing on the wrong issue and that continuing to focus on that issue–biology–while ignoring behavior and belief is self-destructive for the WHOLE community. You ignore that larger point and continue to focus on biology alone. Point two was actually in response to Alyssa’s comments on conversion.
That you can read my words as placing blame on the children of intermarriage for feeling one way or another is…well, moderately insulting. And it also makes my initial point.

Pesele wrote: “Groups identify who belongs in three ways: biology, behavior, and belief. Obviously one influences the other–the rules about biology are determined by beliefs and behavior, for example. We Jews get our knickers all twisted up about biology, equating mother’s blood with “real” Judaism. But when we focus on only on the mother’s biological Jewishness, we make a huge mistake. So I think Robin (and here Robin, I refer to your role in the Half-Jewish Network), Alyssa, and most of the American Jewish community focus on the wrong problem. This is unfortunate; placing the emphasis on biology is destructive for Jewish community and continuity.”

Wonderfully stated. I often hear that I shouldn’t read the comments, but then I stumble upon a generally articulate and not unnecessarily nasty thread debate such as this one. Thanks, all!

Could I be the only one who thinks that Snookie looks like every cookie-cutter JAP on the East Coast? Well she’s a dead-ringer for my niece, who looks like every one of her friends, who all look like every one of their friends (and so on….).

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Baby Brackets

Who cares about March Madness when there are Apgar tests, violin lessons, and a million other things for a Jewish parent to be anxious about? Here’s a bracket for parental anxiety.

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