created at: 2013-04-02“Do you have any tips for mixing and mingling if you are only half Jewish?”
—Question from the submission box at The Debrief’s column launch party

You’re going to a bar night. Or giant potluck Shabbat dinner. Or Chanukah party. You’ll see lots of people there—hopefully a few of your friends will show up. Some fun folks you met last time and really liked. And likely lots and lots of new faces.

To complicate it all, it’s a Jewish event, and you, even though you really want to go and claim your part in this community, don’t feel “Jewish enough” somehow. Or you fear, constantly, that the people there won’t think you’re Jewish “enough.”

For some people, feeling not “Jewish enough” comes from having one parent who is Jewish and one who is not. For others, it comes from not knowing the terminology or the Bible or the rituals for all the holidays. For still others, it’s because they’re not observant anymore or they didn’t grow up observant or they don’t want to be observant. Or they don’t look the part. Or they don’t have a Jewish-sounding name. Or they’re just generally in the habit of feeling inadequate.

If you’re mixing and mingling and single, this might have the added complication for you of looking for someone to date. Some people, for lots of reasons, are pretty committed to finding a dating partner who is “Jewish.” But how Jewish is Jewish is totally different from person to person. Anyway, when scoping out your options for a dating partner, your best bet is to be yourself and share what matters to you.

Despite all the ways you think you don’t measure up, remember that the whole point is to be yourself and connect with others. If you want to be there, you deserve to be there. And if you go, be present. Be honest about who you are and lead with your strengths. When you start to falter, remember that you’re not the only one around who doesn’t feel Jewish enough.

For example, are you bi-religious or bi-cultural? Do you have important parts of your life—like a church community or Christian relatives—that you want to be able to share with Jewish people in your life? As you meet people and build relationships, emphasize the size and shape of your Jewish identity. For example, you could say, “I love going to Shabbos dinner at that place, and I also often go to mass at that place,” or, “I went to my mom’s seder and then celebrated Easter with my aunt—I’ve had a wonderful few weeks connecting with my family!” You can also share parts of it that are challenging for you, just as you might share other conflicts you’re facing in your life.

Next week, I’m going to post some very specific suggestions for anyone trying to strategize around these “mixing and mingling” events, whether you’re there to find someone to kiss or date or not.

We also have a lot more to discuss about the “half Jewish” question. Readers—Do you identify as half Jewish, or do you come from a mixed-faith background? I would love to share your stories about mixing, mingling, making friends, and setting off sparks within the Jewish community.