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Jewish Journal

Who is a half-Jew?

by Brad A. Greenberg

July 13, 2007 | 4:07 am

There is a really interesting story in today’s Jewish Journal about the growing number ofhalf-Jews” fighting for acceptance. Jewish denominations differ on conversion requirements and whether the Jewish lineage comes from the mother or father, but each agrees that there is no such thing as a half-Jew—either you are or you aren’t.

You can’t have two identities, they say. But what about Ms. Cohen and the many like her?

Georgiana Cohen, a 27-year-old Web content specialist in Somerville, Mass., was raised by a non-Jewish mother but spent five years at the Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton, Fla. That experience, she says, “legitimized a last name I carried around like a fake ID.”

The split between life at home and at school was stark, she recalls.

“My childhood was all Christmas trees and Easter candy,” Cohen says. “Meanwhile, back in Boca, I sang folk songs like ‘Jerusalem of Gold,’ led weekly minyan services with my best friend and captured Hebrew spelling bee trophies.”

She refers to herself now, somewhat flippantly, as “half-Jewish and half ‘fill-in-the-blank.’ “

The broader question—Who is a Jew?—is one of the most vexing for world Jewry and me personally. Both my grandmothers were Jewish and so was one grandfather; I look like a Jew, walk like a Jew and quack like a Jew—must be a duck—but I believe in Christianity, which is anathema to Judaism. So am I a Jew?

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