Why walk away from one’s Jewish heritage?

Elizabeth Hersh is Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel (TE), and a blogger on the Jewish Light’s website (stljewishlight.com).   Joel Iskiwitch and John DeMott, authors of the  “What can you do?”  sidebar, are congregants at TE.


I heard the recent news that Caroline Kennedy was confirmed as the American Ambassador to Japan. As you know she is the first female ambassador to Japan. Since she is a Kennedy the news story could not end here. There is renewed speculation about the status of her marriage to Ed Schlossberg.

When I was a rabbinical student in Cincinnati, Ohio, I served as an intern at The Valley Temple. There was a wonderful woman we called “Tidg” who worked in the office part-time. I remember her saying that it was a shame and disgrace that Mr. Schlossberg had been seen kneeling during a Catholic service as he was Jewish.

Whether or not that was accurate, it lead me to google his Jewish ancestry. All four grandparents were Jewish and Mr. Schlossberg had a Jewish upbringing (Modern Orthodox, I believe) including a bar mitzvah. One of the people quoted asked if his three children had any knowledge of their Jewish heritage.

It seemed a little early in the morning for these thoughts, but I wondered what makes someone leave their heritage? I suppose the PEW study is still on my mind. Also, how many people have absolutely no idea that they have Jewish ancestry? Is this part of their lives closed off and never to be examined?


What can we do? Why are kids and adults comfortable abandoning their Jewish heritage? How can they walk away from the treasure of history, ritual and meaning behind our theology? What are we missing? We had better start searching.