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Nov 28 2013

Hanukkah and Christmas Mash-up Items

By at 7:44 am

This holiday season we are spotting some pretty crazy Hanukkah/Christmas mash-up items. We know how you reacted to the Hanukkah Christmas tree topper (you were not big fans) or the Santa Dreidel (ditto). Basically, it seems that most families–including those who practice more than one religion–like to keep their holidays separate.

And with that, we bring you the hottest Hanukkah/Christmas Mash-up items of 2013. Let us know what you think of these in the comments below!

1. Santa Clause speaks Yiddish.

cards

2. Santa and Jewish star ornament. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 27 2013

For the First Time, Both Our Families Will Be Together for an Interfaith Thanksgiving

By at 10:01 am

thanksgiving table

A few months ago my husband and I returned to the Midwest, where we both grew up, after seven years of living in Los Angeles. Out in LA, we were far away from family, which meant that we often celebrated holidays on our own. Sure, it may sound sad, celebrating holidays alone, on the other side of the country. But there was a comfort in celebrating on our own, especially as an interfaith couple. We could observe the way we wanted, out of view of the watchful eyes of our family members–no one to check in and see how we were living out our respective traditions.

But this year is different. Not only are we back in the Midwest, and not only do we now have a 1-year-old, and not only will we have members from both sides of our families together, but for the first and last time in our lives, Thanksgiving and the second night of Hanukkah will also fall on the same day. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 26 2013

The True Meaning of Thanksgivukkah

By at 10:44 pm

dreidelzz

As you may have heard, Thanksgivukkah is coming. It is the perfect combination of Thanksgiving gratitude and Hanukkah miracles. Visions of latke-stuffed turkeys dance in my head. Yet as American Jews prepare for this once in a lifetime season of starchy gluttony, I am struggling with the sharp contrast of how much we have in the face of how many have so little.

Indeed, the ability to put food on a table nowadays seems, in and of itself, something of a miracle. Who has a job, who keeps their job, or whose partner suddenly falls ill seems arbitrarily determined. And from this randomness the thin line is drawn between those who know where their next meal is coming from, and those who do not.

In many ways, it reminds me of that favorite Hanukkah game we play each year. With each spin, the dreidel arbitrarily determines the haves and have nots. In real life, there is slightly more control over our fates and fortunes and yet often, you can make all of the best choices, play all of the best cards dealt to you, and still get the wrong roll of the dice, the bad spin of the dreidel. You could end up with none. This year, the number of children and families struggling with little or no food is at critical levels, and the need to share seems more imperative than ever. Read the rest of this entry →

8 Things This Military Family is Thankful For This Thanksgivukkah

By at 10:16 am

shutterstock_161837774

After the military moved our family seven times over the last seven years, I can say with confidence that I’m more grateful than ever to live in a place with a Jewish community. While criss-crossing the country, trying to forge a Jewish family and maintaining our identities, I’ve learned to appreciate several facets of American Jewish life.

In the spirit of Thanksgivukkah, I’m especially grateful for:

1) A welcoming spirit. The kind-hearted, slow speaking congregation in Pensacola who made my non-Jewish boyfriend feel at home. They led us to the rabbi who agreed to marry us–a Jew and a non-Jew–when we were having trouble finding one who would.

2) A thoughtful mensch. The group of Jews on vacation who met every night on Hanukkah on the bottom deck of the cruise ship we took for our honeymoon in the Gulf of Mexico. They found out that my new husband was on active duty, and one passenger took his name to her congregation, and to this day still sends him care packages when he’s deployed.

3) A powerful ritual. The hometown rabbi in San Antonio who gave us hugs and held our hands while we sobbed and sobbed during Kaddish for our dearly departed young friend. We had both driven from separate cities to be there to sit shiva as best we could.

4) An enduring gathering place. The tiny congregation in West Texas that meets in the seventies-style home downtown with shag carpeting. They only have enough sustaining interest to meet once a month, but they are determined and forward thinking and proud to do so.

5) A nosy friend. The self-styled “Frozen Chosen” Jews of South Dakota who meet in a retro-fitted two story home on the edge of town. Especially to the friend who whispered “Is that a mazel tov?” when she noticed I wasn’t drinking the wine at our mini-seder with mostly non-Jews. She was the first person besides my husband to learn I was pregnant.

6) A homecoming. The same kind-hearted, slow speaking Pensacola congregants who welcomed us all those years ago. They held our son, named for our friend who died, and showed him the memorial garden they planted for her.

7) An accommodating stranger. The well meaning chaplains in rural northwest Oklahoma who included us on the interfaith panel as they diligently tried to help us overcome the reality that being a Jewish family in remote locations often meant being alone.

8) A fresh start. The vibrant, casual southwest Tucsonians who welcomed us into their folds and overwhelmed us with organizations, temple options, playgroups, and party invites.

You see, even though our ties to Judaism were constantly severed with every move we made, there was always another well meaning person or place ready to pick up the slack. Call it continuity or community, fate or fumble, but it was there for us when we learned to look for it.

I imagined the road to maintaining our Judaism would be rough. Between our minority religious status, passive anti-Semitic remarks, simple misunderstandings, and year-to-year geographic uncertainty, how could it not be?

Looking back at Hanukkahs past, I see now that my worries were overblown. The saying “though she be tiny, she be fierce?” That’s our American Judaism how I see it. Those places with more, do more. Those places without, do just fine. It comes down to people. I am grateful to the many of them who have been part of our journey.

Oh, and I don’t have to throw the Hanukkah party this year. Another reason to be grateful.

Like this post? Check out the rest of our interfaith pieces here.

 

Nov 19 2013

Forget Thanksgivukkah–I’m Dealing with Birthdaykah

By at 11:49 am

birthday

Over the past several weeks, my inbox and newsfeed have been filled with various reminders that we are approaching a once-in-70,000-years event: the overlap of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, endearingly named Thanksgivukkah. While I am very much looking forward to cranberry-sauce-stuffed latkes and turkey menorahs, I am having misgivings about another far less public overlap that will be happening in my home this year; that of Hanukkah and my son’s birthday.

I am excited to celebrate both of these happy occasions, but am a little nervous about what will happen with gift-giving squared. Don’t get me wrong; I relish seeing the happiness in my children’s faces when they rip open wrapping paper to find the items that have been topping their wish-list. Yet, I also find that there is an inverse relationship (and I thought I would never again use high-school math) between the number of gifts they receive and their level of appreciation.

I am sure that I cannot be the only mother (at least I hope I am not the only one) who has had a child open a gift in front of the giver and blurt out a particularly inappropriate remark. Something along the lines of, “Is that all?” or, “That’s not the one I wanted,” or, “But my brother’s present is better,” or a similar comment that makes you want to invent a machine that would filter your children’s thoughts somewhere between their brains and their mouths. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 7 2013

Hanukkah Gift Guide: Thanksgivukkah Goodies

By at 5:05 pm

Unless you plan to live for another 80,000 years, this is the only Thanksgivukkah we’ll see in our lifetime–all the more reason to get as festive as possible for this mash-up holiday. Below you’ll find our tricked out gift guide for the Gelturkey lover in you.

1. Menurkey Menorah: Plaster Edition ($50). It’s the official menorah of Thanksgivukkah, and your kids can make it their own with acrylic paints!

menurkey thanksgivukkah

2. Thanksgivukkah Kids T-shirt ($29) Every once-in-a-lifetime occasion should be marked with a t-shirt, no? Celebrate eight days of light, liberty, and latkes with the official Thanksgivukkah t-shirt (and they make them for adults, too!). Read the rest of this entry →

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