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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 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 →

May 4 2012

Choosing a Name: Too Goyish vs. Too… Biblical

By at 9:35 am

Figuring out a name took us a while...

Now that we’re nearing the sixth month of our pregnancy, my husband and I finally feel safe enough to try to settle on a name. I had suffered a miscarriage with my last pregnancy and didn’t want to do ANYTHING prematurely this time around. So, around month four, we started thinking about names for both boys and girls.

First came the issue of whether or not we were going to give the baby a Jewish name. We’re an interfaith couple, but my husband has no strong ties to any religion and 99% of the time defers to Judaism when it comes to life law, at least as long as we’ve been together (10+ years). That pretty much means that he’s never been a regular church-goer in his childhood, and always comes with me to High Holy Days, Passover, and the occasional Shabbat service. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 22 2012

Apparently My Interfaith Marriage is Too Happy

By at 3:47 pm

interacial familyDue to past writing I’ve done on Kveller, as well as on InterfaithFamily.com, about my interfaith, interracial, and intercultural family, I am often asked to speak on the subject. I tend to agree because I love to talk about my family. (And I love to talk in general.)

This past week, I was invited to participate in a radio show. As is typical, the producer called me in advance for a pre-interview. And then eventually (politely) dis-invited me from appearing on the show. Because my marriage was too, well, happy. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 5 2011

How is a Racist Kentucky Church like a Conservative Synagogue?

By at 1:45 pm

Stella Harville / AP via TIME. The Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church, voted to ban interracial couples after this couple sang a song there.

This past week, a pastor from a Baptist church in Pike County, Kentucky instituted a ban against interracial couples from either joining his congregation or taking part in select church activities.

And I’m okay with that.

(I know, easy for me to say. I live a few hundred miles away in New York City, and, at this time, have no interest in ever joining a Baptist church, either with my African-American husband, or without him.)

Like Evelyn Beatrice Hall (and not Voltaire; although it’s a common misattribution) wrote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” I heartily and wholly disapprove of the sentiment – but I insist that the pastor had the right to express it.

A church is a private organization, and a private organization can pick and choose its membership based on any criteria they desire. It is then up to the current members to decide if this is an organization with which they can, should, and will continue to identify. (They can also, presumably, vote to change those aspects with which they do not agree – if the association is structured in such a manner, and current news reports suggest that may soon be the case in Pike County, either from the general membership or from higher-up in the church’s hierarchy.)

Obviously, my husband and I would not – even if we could – remain members of a church which did not allow White/Black (or any other combination) of couples.

On the other hand – before anybody gets to feeling too superior – we are currently members of a Conservative Jewish congregation which allows us to pay the family membership rate – but does not consider my non-Jewish husband a member, and does not extend him voting rights.

When we got married 13 years ago, there were rabbis who refused to perform the wedding ceremony. And when we had our first son (and our second), there were mohels who similarly would not do the bris.

And I was – still am – okay with that. Read the rest of this entry →

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