Sarah Kelman and Joanna Schochet are friends who are half-Jewish on their fathers’ sides. “We’re both halfies,” they say. “By the book I don’t count,” says Joanna.
When Joanna says she doesn’t count, she’s referring to the principle of matrilineal descent in Judaism where Jewishness is passed down through the mother. Not all denominations in Judaism observe this law, but it’s still a very real issue that Sarah and Joanna seem to have wrestled with throughout their lives.
In our latest show, "Curiosity Over Assumptions," Krista explores the notion that interfaith engagement isn’t just about encountering “the other.” Along the way, people may come to know themselves and their faith traditions differently.
Earlier this year Sarah and Joanna interviewed each other about their experiences as NewGround fellows. Listening to the conversation, I’m struck by how their Jewish identities are still evolving — and how they seem to find connection and comfort in each other stories. Joanna reflects on how her brother (who himself decided to formally convert) once told her that she didn’t “count” as Jewish. Sarah asks, “Do I consider myself Jewish and why and who is it good enough for…and what do I think about that?”
Find more stories from other NewGround fellows here. Special thanks to StoryCorps, who recorded these stories in Los Angeles in 2009.