Honesty is Usually the Best Policy, But Not Always

The decision whether to speak out ultimately is yours. However, there are a few variables to consider. If the organization focuses on outreach or continuity – particularly if it is Conservative or Orthodox – then this might be an issue, and hiding it might create greater problems down the road. But I suspect, from your description, that you likely work for a Jewish communal organization such as a Federation or social service agency – Jewish communal organizations typically apply the broadest possible definition of Jewishness.

In most cases, being upfront is the best policy. There are certain situations, though, in which you might do otherwise. Years ago, when my wife was beginning her conversion process, I held a senior fundraising position at a large Federation. I chose not to say anything. It wouldn’t have been an issue for them (their staff included intermarrieds, people with Jewish fathers, Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists). But they had a particular agenda on intermarriage (that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with), and I didn’t want to put myself in the position of being anyone’s “poster child.”

Assuming you are not in such a unique position, the best course likely is to tell them, especially since it likely isn’t an issue. It is best to fit it organically into an existing conversation with whomever you feel is relevant, rather than a special meeting. Before doing so, you should look at the backgrounds of other staff members – there may already be more diversity than you think.

Taking a step back, underlying your question I sense there may be a more general feeling of unease with not fitting into the traditional definition of Jewishness, coupled with a growing interest in Judaism. If this is the case, you may wish to explore options such as conversion, which will ensure the maximum number of doors are open to you as your connection to Judaism deepens.

Harold Berman is a veteran Jewish communal professional, and the Director of J-Journey.org, which provides mentoring and support for intermarried families exploring the possibilities of observant Jewish life. Harold is also, with his wife Gayle, the co-author of “Doublelife: One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope,” about their “intermarriage gone Jewish.”

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Honesty is Usually the Best Policy, But Not Always

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