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Dec 20 2012

The Jewish Mother’s Guide to Surviving Santa

By at 5:03 pm

santa clausAs someone who learned English from watching TV, wrote a Master’s Thesis about TV, then worked in TV, I feel I can say with certainty that Christmas specials, be they rip-offs (sorry, homages) of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol,” or “Miracle on 34th Street,” all share a common message: Nonbelievers Snooze, Nonbelievers Lose. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 18 2012

To Tree or Not to Tree? Jewish Answers to Christmas Trees

By at 1:01 pm

As Christmas approaches, many Jewish families, especially interfaith families, confront the question: Do you have a tree? Both married to non-Jews, but raising Jewish children, friends Aliza Worthington and Shoshana Martyniak have two very different answers.

Aliza: So, I have a Christmas tree in my house. Here’s why, not that you asked.

I’m married to a man who was raised Catholic. I was raised in a secular Jewish household by Jewish parents who insisted that the most important requirement for marriage was mutual love (lots of it) and mutual respect (lots of that, too). All other considerations were secondary. So, it surprised no one when my sister married a Catholic. When my grandmother learned my sister and her then-husband were going to have a Christmas tree, she said, “But, it won’t be a Jewish household!” Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 17 2012

How to Lose the Chip on Your Shoulder During Christmas

By at 5:03 pm

barbra steisand chirstmas albumWe Jews have two choices in our approach to the Christmas season: resent it, or embrace it. I for one vote for a big, sloppy embrace. In the name of love thy neighbor and tolerance, I say we hug it out with Christmas already and teach our kids to do the same.

Why? We expect our non-Jewish co-workers, friends, and neighbors to show heaps of interest and concern in all things Jewish. During the High Holy Days we ask our kids’ teachers not to assign big tests after those long days at shul. We offer unsolicited explanations about why Hanukkah is not, despite unfortunate evidence to the contrary, the most important event on our calendar. For the week of Passover we bore everyone we know with the reasons we’re eating matzah and other weird stuff. (Yes, gentile co-worker, that “Kosher for Passover” salad dressing seems over the top to me, too.) Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 11 2012

Celebrating War in a Time of Peace

By at 3:50 pm
maccabees

“Maccabees”

I have a shocking bit of information for TV producers, magazine editors, and greeting card writers everywhere: Hanukkah is not Christmas.

While this may be obvious to some, the subtle differences in the two celebrations appear to have been skimmed over by many in popular culture who have decided that, since both take place in December, and we don’t want to be insensitive to non-Christians, let’s make sure that whenever we talk about “the holiday season” we take great pains to point out how Hanukah and Christmas are each about peace on Earth, goodwill towards men, and universal brotherhood.  Read the rest of this entry →

A Christmas Lesson for My Jewish Son

By at 9:41 am

“…and I tried a new recipe this year, orange zested cranberry sauce. I think it was a hit. And the turkey! You should have seen the turkey we–”

My friend, who I had been catching up with, suddenly stopped mid-sentence. He glanced over at me, an apologetic look taking over his face.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Do you, you know, even celebrate Thanksgiving?”

My raised eyebrow and pointed stare were enough for him to start backpedaling. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 10 2012

Is There a Right Way to Decorate for Hanukkah?

By at 9:59 am

“But why CAN’T we put up blue and white lights?” pleaded Lilly.

It was not the first time that one of our children has asked this question. Nor, as evidenced by the following advice from the 1959 Guide for the Jewish Homemaker, was this the first time a Jewish child had desired to emulate her neighbors:  Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 7 2012

How We Celebrate Both Hanukkah & Christmas

By at 1:16 pm

Each December, I tingle in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season. I savor it all…the songs, the sentiment, the TV specials, the homey smells of cinnamon, apple cider, and cookies, and the spirit of tzedakah.

I’m Jewish, born and raised in New York, married to a South African man who is the son of an Evangelist minister.

In our family, we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 6 2012

I Never Liked Hanukkah, But I Do Like Tzedakah

By at 9:43 am

So–it’s almost Hanukkah, just about everyone’s favorite holiday. Gifts, gelt (Yidd., money), no fasting, no standing in shul for hours, no cooking for big family meals, nice lighting-the-menorah ritual.

Well, I never liked it. Despite the gifts, I didn’t like it even as a kid.

As a first generation American on my father’s side (especially grateful to this country since everyone who was not here were killed by the Nazis,) and a third generation American on my mother’s, I am a very patriotic American with a strong American identity.

But every Hanukkah, I felt like the “other.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 11 2012

Shielding My Kid from Christianity

By at 9:49 am

rudolph the rednosed reindeerWhen E was younger I was determined to treat Christianity as a secret I could keep from him. This would be no small feat in our neck of the woods. Churches abound. Billboards and bumper stickers Praise Jesus! Grocery clerks tell customers to have a blessed day. In the heart of the south, where upon learning your name, the next question many ask is: “Where do you attend church?”

E was born in Boston where I was heavily entrenched in the Jewish community. Six months after his birth, we moved to my hometown of Atlanta and I found the pervasiveness of Christian messages overwhelming. After living in Boston for nearly eight years, I had forgotten just how much Jesus rules the South. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 17 2012

We May Need to Switch to a Jewish Preschool

By at 12:48 pm

little girl with paper snowflakeI love my daughter’s preschool. It’s gentle, the director is an expert at firmly getting kids to do their best while encouraging them to be themselves, and I seriously get a huge charge out of being on-site one afternoon a week to help in the classroom. I get to watch my daughter in action with her friends, and enjoy the cheerful cacophony of a roomful of kids being amazing, curious little creatures.

But the runup to Christmas seriously threw me off, and I don’t know if I’ve done her a disservice by not putting her in the Chabad-run day school nearby.

We’re Reform. Compared to my parents, we’re pretty religious, but compared to Chabad, we’re barely on the radar. Still, their school is beautiful, fun, and well-run. Many families that send their kids there aren’t even Jewish. It’s mostly just a school that has, you know, Shabbat on Fridays and a baracha here and there.

Our school is completely unreligious and, in fact, pretty crunchy-hippie-granola. Our dance teacher is a Burning Man aficionado, we only offer organic snacks, and the kids help us rotate the compost bin. But holy crap, people. In the 24-day runup to Christmas, every single art project, every single story read at story-time, and every single CD played during open-play was Christmas, Santa, Christmas.

Wait, not EVERY one. One time, after like 3 Christmas CDs in a row, the music switched to an awful, shrieking dirge that was, of course, the omnipresent “Oh Hanukkah.” Why does it sound so freaking ominous when they sing “and while we… are playing … the candles are burning low,” as if what we really meant was that while we were playing, bodies are rotting in the shed and the moon is about to crash into the North Pole?

“What the hell is that,” the afternoon teacher muttered. “Oh. I guess someone put the Hanukkah CD in.” Read the rest of this entry →

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