candy-canes-and-candles

Thinking ahead to the December holidays, here’s a question that was sent to my Mixed and Matched column in the Jweekly:

My boyfriend is Jewish and I’m not. I really love Christmas and he doesn’t want to have it in our apartment. I’m not religious; I just love all the fun things about Christmas. A friend of mine suggested that I just start small and gradually introduce Christmassy things each year until I wear him down. I feel awkward doing that on purpose. Is it a good idea or is it kind of sneaky?
— Loving Christmas

My reply.

Dear Loving: I’m with you; it’s not a good idea. You’d be surprised how many non-Jewish partners use that very phrase, “I’ll wear him/her down.” What that, in fact, involves is deception. It is an attempt to gradually change the dynamics of your home, so gradually that presumably your loved one won’t notice. For some people that could work. But for many, the change hits them one day, and they feel tricked.

What can add to the negative reaction at the moment of realization is that a part of them questions whether they have a right to reject Christmas practices when they know full well that last year they went along with the big tree and the year before that they went along with the party on Christmas Eve. They feel sort of guilty and ask themselves, when did I accept all this because clearly I did. The guilt leads to increased anger at themselves and at their partner.

Additionally, the Christian or secular person can feel like, hey, you were fine with this last year. You didn’t say anything about the tree and the caroling, why are you so upset about Christmas wrapping paper? Since the Christian spouse has gotten used to the evolving arrangement too, she may feel surprised and hurt by this sudden shift of emotions. Even worse, the Jewish partner may respond with silent anger and withdrawal. It can turn into a passive-aggressive reaction of, “I’m not mad. It’s just your thing; I’ll be working late.”

If extended family, parents and siblings have become a part of the expanding Christmas, it adds to the awkwardness. You may find yourself saying, “What am I supposed to do? Tell my parents you refuse to attend their Christmas celebration?” The Jewish partner feels trapped and betrayed and the non-Jewish partner feels hurt and misunderstood.

You say you love Christmas, so be honest with your boyfriend. Tell him you know he doesn’t want to have the holiday in your home. Discuss which aspects of the holiday are particularly meaningful to each of you. You may love being with your family, making your grandmother’s special gingerbread and trimming the tree. He may feel that he is drowning in a culture not his own and that the world really doesn’t understand what it means to be a Jew, especially at this time of year. Try to hear what each other is feeling and to understand how this holiday elicits these emotions.

At a workshop I ran, there were two non-Jewish wives. One told the group that she did “everything Jewish,” but she wanted Christmas to be the one concession to her upbringing. So she and her husband celebrated it in their home.

The other wife said that her husband felt overwhelmed by the Christmas season, which permeated everywhere. She said that her husband needed for their home to be a sanctuary where he could escape from the onslaught of Christmas, so they did not observe Christmas.

You and your boyfriend need to find your place in that continuum. There are so many options that I can’t list them all. But here are some things to consider:

• What are the strong feelings that each of you have — positive and negative?

• Who will be impacted by your decisions — extended family, your spiritual communities, children, whether current or future.

• Are there elements of Hanukkah that can meet your need to celebrate? A party, seeing friends, baking?

• Don’t let the commercialism of Christmas define your activities. Look for actions that hold deeper meaning than a mere material item.

• Ask your boyfriend what he is doing that is Jewish? He may need to get Jewishly active.

Posted by admin under Christmas, Relationships
No Comments

jewsandchristmas

You may want to decorate a Christmas tree while your partner wants to make latkes. What will work for you as a family? Whether December is your favorite month – full of Christmas cookies and chocolate gelt – or your most dreaded month – material surfeit and cultural overwhelm – you are invited to join this open and supportive discussion on how to handle the December dash.

This year will be especially interesting because the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 4
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
Cost: Free to Beth Emek members, $8 public. No one turned away!
Sign up here or just show up.
www.bethemek.org

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Children, Christmas, Holidays, Parenting
No Comments

emanu-els-dome-horizontal

Here’s autumn! Time to consider what we want to do in the upcoming Jewish year of 5777. Here are all the workshops and classes scheduled from Building Jewish Bridges. I hope you’ll find something you like. As always, feel free to email me (dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org) if you have a topic that you’d like to see offered.

Dawn

The High Holidays…
Do I Want to or Do I Have to?

What is it about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that pulls Jews into the synagogue by the droves? Obligation? Faith? Remembrance? What do these holidays mean? What part do they play in our lives? Should our children miss school to observe these holidays? Join us in a discussion of history and meaning.

Date: Sunday, September 18
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
www.bethemek.org
Register here

Adults from Interfaith Families: A Roundtable Discussion
Join other adults who grew up in an interfaith family to discuss how that went for you and to consider challenges and desires. Do you think of yourself as Jewish? Half Jewish? Jew-ish? Does it annoy you that other Jews want to put their own label on you? Do you have a comfortable relationship with your Jewish community or not? Come share your insights and suggestions with others who have dealt with similar life situations.

Thursday, September 22
7:30 – 9:00 pm
Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Free, please sign up here as we have limited space.

Kim Carter Martinez

Kim Carter Martinez

Being Black, Asian, Danish…and Jewish: Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity
Adults from interfaith families often have their Jewish identity challenged by both Jews and non-Jews. Having a name that is not perceived as Jewish, like Anderson, Christiansen, O’Toole, or Wong, can lead to questions like, “How did you get to be Jewish?” For biracial Jews the question stems from their appearance, “You don’t look Jewish.”
There are a number of ways that an adult from a biracial or interfaith family can arm themselves for these micro-aggressions. Join Kim Carter Martinez, the biracial daughter of an African American father and a white Ashkenazi mother. Kim has spent years honing her skills and is pleased to teach others how to own your identity in spite of the doubts of others.

Date: Sunday, October 9
Time: 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free, but space is limited so reserve your spot here.

Making Shabbat Your Own
Would you like to start doing Shabbat? Do you need an easy way to start or do you want to take your current observance up a notch? Come learn easy steps to create “your” Shabbat. We’ll tell you how to have warm, homemade challah even if you work until 6pm. How to engage children of all ages. Ways to approach teens or other skeptics in your family. As a bonus, we’ll tell you how one simple ritual can improve your child’s and your health, happiness and wellbeing. No kidding!

Date: Sunday, October 30
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
www.bethemek.org
Register here.

2gens-cropped

Raising a Confident Child in an Interfaith Family
A child needs happy, loving parents more than anything else. They also deserve to feel comfortable with their own identity. We’ll come together to discuss what parents are currently doing, what they may want to alter and to talk about planning for your child’s religious traditions.

Date: Thursday, November 10
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Cost: $12 per couple, $8 per person
Register here.

Double Roots: A Film and Discussion
A young woman with a Jewish mother and a Christian father was raised religiously “nothing.” She was told that “if the Nazis were here, they’d kill you” and that was the extent of her Jewish education. Decades later she went out to learn what others with one Jewish parent had been taught and how their lives were similar or different from her own. When asked, “Why did you make this film of interviews with adults from interfaith families she replied, “I wanted our voices to be heard.”
Please join us to hear these voices as they were interviewed and to hear from some of the interviewees about their lives today.

Date: Thursday, December 1
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Place: Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont
Free, please sign up here.

To Tree or Not to Tree: What Will We do for the Holidays?
You may want to decorate a Christmas tree while your partner wants to make latkes. What will work for you as a family? Whether December is your favorite month – full of Christmas cookies and chocolate gelt – or your most dreaded month – material surfeit and cultural overwhelm – you are invited to join this open and supportive discussion on how to handle the December dash.

This year will be especially interesting because the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 4
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
www.bethemek.org
Register here

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Chanukah, Children, Christmas, Current Programs, High Holidays, Jewish holidays at home, Jews of Color, Parenting, Shabbat
No Comments

Christmakah

You may have heard me tell this story because it had a deep impact on me – years ago in a workshop a non-Jewish wife told me that she waited all year for Christmas. She described herself as “a pressure cooker waiting to let off steam.” She recounted her love of the rituals of Christmas. She didn’t identify as Christian and she had considered conversion but she felt deeply attached to Christmas and her annual festive BANG.

It didn’t seem to me that she needed to convert; I thought she needed to have more than one day, one season, of celebration. Since she was married to a Jewish man and raising her children Jewish I suggested that she try adding the observance of Jewish holidays. I conjectured that her husband might be more engaged and participatory and that that would improve her celebrations/holidays quota. I even suggested she try Shabbat.

Two years later I saw her in the lobby of a JCC. She dashed to my side and in glowing terms told me that she had indeed begun observing Jewish holidays including Shabbat. She felt that her needs for ritual, spirituality and celebration were being met at last.

I have never forgotten that image of a pressure cooker. How very hard to have to “save up” your emotions for one holiday. What if this year Christmas doesn’t live up to your expectations and needs? I know that there are lots of people in danger of that happening. If you have set your heart on a bang-up Christmas please identify a few easy to accomplish activities. You might even plan them for after Christmas. You could have:

A games night with your kids & friends
A sing-along
A cookie bake-athon
A volunteer day at an animal shelter
A walk in the woods
A drive through the most Christmas decorated blocks in your town
Go out to dinner and a movie
Watch an old, beloved movie in pjs with popcorn.

Do one or more of these things with people that you love. Being with loved ones perks up any day of the year.

I wish you a Merry Christmas if you celebrate Christmas and to those who don’t, you can still schedule one or more of these activities.

EVENTS
Mu Shu & a Movie, Starring Uncle Yu’s and ‘Deli Man’ (Lafayette)
Chopshticks (Palo Alto)
Chinese Food and a Movie! (San Francisco)
Early Shabbat Service & Vegetarian Chinese Food Dinner (Palo Alto)
New Year’s Eve Stand-Up Comedy Show & After Party (San Rafael)
DIY Jewish Home traditions: Empower Yourself! (San Rafael)
Modern Jewish Literature (Los Altos)
A Walk Through the Many Levels of Tu B’Shevat (San Francisco)
2016 Community-Wide Mitzvah Day (Palo Alto)
Tu B’Shvat in the Redwoods with Wilderness Torah (Oakland)
Jewish Film Series (Los Altos)

Mu Shu & a Movie, Starring Uncle Yu’s and ‘Deli Man’
It’s become a Jewish tradition that almost rivals hot pastrami on rye. While Santa makes his global deliveries on the eve of December 24, deliver yourself, your family, and your appetite to Temple Isaiah for Mu Shu and a Movie!
Feast on a delicious Chinese “take in” buffet by Uncle Yu’s Restaurant in Lafayette, and then savor – what else! – ‘Deli Man’, a sweet, juicy movie about Jewish delicatessens that features Larry King, Jerry Stiller, and plenty of haimishe maykholim (Yiddish for ‘home-style cooking’). Jingle Bells, Fortune Cookies, Corned Beef and Matzah Balls! Bubbe might plotz, but we’re eating it up.
Dinner includes that gourmet buffet, movie snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages. You may bring and share your own wine and beer.

Date: Thursday, December 24
Time: 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Place: Temple Isaiah Adult Lounge, 945 Risa Rd, Lafayette
Cost: Non-Members: $25 (Adults/Teens), $17 (12 & under)
Questions? Please contact Bob Coleman at rccod@comcast.net
Sign up here http://www.temple-isaiah.org/mushu

Chopshticks
Enjoy Chinese food and gut-busting comedy at our annual holiday laugh fest! Our guest comedian this year is Wayne Federman, a comedian, actor, author, comedy writer and musician.

Date: Thursday, December 24
Time: Dinner at 7:45p | Show at 8:45p
Place: Schultz Cultural Arts Hall, Palo Alto JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Cost: In advance: $60 General Public | $55 Member
$65 at the door, space permitting
Contact: Robin Vasilakos | (650) 223-8791 or rvasilakos@paloaltojcc.org
Sign up here http://paloaltojcc.org/Events/chopshticks

Chinese Food and a Movie!
What better way to spend Friday night, December 25th! Plan to join us for Chinese food, an abbreviated Shabbat service, and a movie.
Dinner at 6:30 pm, Erev Shabbat service at 7:30, and a screening of the film, Yentl following the service.

Date: Dec. 25
Time: Begins at 6:30p
Place: Sha’ar Zahav, 290 Dolores St, San Francisco
Cost: Adults: $10 and Children under 12 free.
Reservations for dinner will be accepted until 12:00pm on Wednesday, December 23rd.
Please call the Congregation Sha’ar Zahav office at 415-861-6932 for details.
Register here http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07ebzipusm43aa6f5e&llr=l9calgcab

Early Shabbat Service & Vegetarian Chinese Food Dinner
We’ll be mixing things up a little this Shabbat – the service will start at 5:30 followed by a vegetarian Chinese food dinner hosted by Rabbi Chaim. The dinner is free and open to all, but an RSVP by Wednesday, December 23, at noon is required so that we can order appropriate quantities of food. No RSVP is necessary if you are coming to the service but not staying for dinner.

Date: Friday, December 25
Time: 5:30 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma Street, Palo Alto
Free but you must sign up by 12/23
Sign up here https://etzchayim.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=9845

New Year’s Eve Stand-Up Comedy Show & After Party
A New Year’s Eve celebration made easy & funny. The 6th Annual Stand-Up Comedy Celebration is the perfect experience for New Year’s Eve in Marin. Group tables allow folks to bring their Party to a great comedy show with nothing to clean up. The evening is timed with maximum flexibility so attendees can enjoy an early dinner at a favorite restaurant, go elsewhere for the stroke of midnight, or stay for the festive After Party with the Comics, featuring complimentary bubbly and a big-screen countdown!
Smart, funny and clean stand-up comedy from 5 comedians in ONE hilarious show with a rare Bay Area appearance by Kevin Meaney.
Osher Marin

Date: Thursday, December 31
Time: 9:00pm-12:00am
Place: Osher Marin JCC, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael
Register here. http://www.marinjcc.org/events/2015/12/31/performing-arts/the-6th-annual-new-year-s-eve-stand-up-comedy-show-after-party/9282/
www.marinjcc.org

DIY Jewish Home traditions: Empower Yourself!
A Creative Jewish Traditions Series with Rabbi Elana Rosen-Brown
There are so many beautiful Jewish traditions, stories, rituals, recipes and songs that are intended entirely for the home and take place outside the walls of the synagogue. But what are they? Where do they come from? And how can you feel empowered to create these traditions for yourself or your family in a way that is uniquely your own?
If you’re looking for guidance on how to create a meaningful Shabbat experience with your family, celebrate the Jewish holidays in creative ways, or how to incorporate simple Jewish teachings into daily moments then this class is for you! You will leave the class with many tools and resources for creating new Jewish traditions for yourself and your family.

Dates: Second Friday of the month, next date is Jan. 8
Time: 11:30 am – 12:30pm
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
RSVP to Molly atmolly@rodefsholom.org.

Modern Jewish Literature
Taught by Rabbi Marder and Dr. Joyce Penn Moser
This five-session seminar explores fascinating works by American, European and Israeli Jewish writers that illuminate the human condition. Come prepared for a lively discussion!
For book details and/or to register for this course, download and complete the signup form (coming soon) and return with a check to “Congregation Beth Am” attention Sheba Solomon.

Dates: Sundays, January 10, January 31, February 28, March 13 and April 17
Time: 9:00-11:00am
Place: Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
Suggested donation: $36 per person (includes bagels, cream cheese, juice and coffee).
Registration required. Find details and sign up for here http://www.betham.org/learning-adult-education/event/modern-jewish-literature-class-1

A Walk Through the Many Levels of Tu B’Shevat
Tu B’Shevat is the first of the four new years in the Jewish calendar and is known as the “new year for the trees.” It celebrates the signs of life returning to earth in the form of green sprouts and blossoms. According to Kabbalah, it is the Tree of Life itself that is the ultimate source of this celebration.

In preparation for Tu B’Shevat seder join congregant Shulamit Sofia for a workshop exploring such Kabbalistic aspects as the four cups of wine, the four species of fruits and nuts, and the overarching context of the Four Worlds. To learn more about Shulamit, visit: www.soulstrengthseminars.com

Date: Tuesday, January 12
Time: 7:00 pm
Place: Temple Emanu-El, Room 56, 2 Lake Street, San Francisco
www.emanuelsf.org

2016 Community-Wide Mitzvah Day:
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
Join hundreds of your neighbors for a community-wide day of “tikkun olam” (“repair of the world”) as part of a National Day of Service to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This inter-generational event will feature a range of hands-on service projects; participants will work in small groups on projects addressing issues of poverty, hunger, housing and homelessness, aging, the environment, and more.
Come on your own or with your family and friends! We ask that any volunteers under the age of 15 be accompanied by a parent. We look forward to working with you to promote Dr. King’s legacy of tolerance, peace, and equality and increase our community’s commitment to service & justice. This fun and inspirational day will leave you feeling accomplished and energized!

Monday, January 18, 2016
Time: 8am to 7pm
Place: Osher Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Details here http://paloaltojcc.org/Events/2016-community-wide-mitzvah-day-martin-luther-king-jr-day-of-service

Tu B’Shvat in the Redwoods with Wilderness Torah
Come to the redwoods to celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the unseen awakening of spring. In the tradition of the Tsfat mystics, we gather in the forest to create an experiential Tu B’Shvat seder that connects us to the trees and the elements. Morning seder, kids program, and afternoon workshops!

Date: Sunday, January 24, 2016
Time: 10 am to 3:30 pm
Place: Roberts Regional Recreation Area, Oakland.

Register here for Festival & Avodah (work exchange)
www.wildernesstorah.org

Jewish Film Series
This month’s Jewish Film Series presents When Comedy Went to School in the Beit Kehillah. Come see this saucy and spirited documentary about this country’s greatest generation of comics — the generation that includes the likes of Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, Mort Sahl and Jerry Stiller, all of whom make appearances in the film, sharing hilarious and personal experiences. With charm and wit, When Comedy Went to School seeks to answer why there are so many Jewish comedians.

This program is free, the community is welcome and refreshments will be served.

Date: Saturday
Time: 3:30p
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills
www.betham.org

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Christmas, Community Activities, Couples, Holidays
No Comments

xmas jumble wikipedia

Christmas is magical. The mystic that has been built around it in America is demonstrated in every store and television special. What we expect to feel – and what many do feel – about the entire Christmas season is a sense of elation.

If you have loved Christmas all your life then there are many reasons that make it remarkable for you. Here are three powerful aspects of Christmas.

1. Family – this is one of the two most family-oriented holidays in America. (The other being Thanksgiving.) Everyone gets together; everyone makes an effort to get along. Even cynical Uncle Fred wears a Santa hat and gets into the spirit of family rituals – games, meals, decorating, etc.

2. Ritual – the repetition of words and actions is tremendously powerful. Even two Christians getting married can have conflict over doing it “my” way vs. “yours.” Buying the tree, making Grandma’s special cookies, decorating together – all the things that you did for year after year are rituals that you simply see as a part of you. What you did as a child has, by this time, become a core part of you.

3. Cultural affirmation – the entire country is doing this together. I remember a woman, not religiously Christian, but what I would call American Folkloric Christian, saying, “I love Christmas; it’s the only time of year that everyone is together.” What she meant was during the Christmas season postal workers, BART riders, retail sales people, courthouse clerks, are all more cheerful, wish you a Merry Christmas, wear a Christmas pin and have a small bowl of peppermints on their desk; these a national sense of togetherness.

If you are the non-Jewish partner you ‘get’ what I am saying here. I hope if you are the Jewish partner you can now better understand why you may feel so threatened by the massive event that is Christmas.

If you do not yet have children, experiment with Christmas. Together, practice some or all of the Christmas activities of the non-Jewish partner. Each of you should make note of what you feel about each of activity. BE HONEST with your self and each other. Don’t make excuses like, the Christmas tree is really pagan. NO ONE is putting up a tree because they are pagan.

With each activity consider these things:
*How do I feel? – Elated? Anxious? I would be embarrassed for my parents/friends/ clergy person to see me doing this.
*How does my partner feel? Listen to each other describing how they feel. Take it in.
*Is this OK for us as a couple but I worry about how a child will perceive this? – I worry that this will make any child turn Christian, or at least less Jewish.
*I’m afraid doing ‘this’ will lead to my giving in about something else.
*How would we explain this to our children? – Write down some possible explanations and feel free to run them by me.

Also consider, how long does Christmas last for us? Is it one week, we dash out get a tree, decorate, shop, and celebrate and take down the tree and clean up all in 7 days? Or does it begin sometime in October and last through early January?

If you don’t have kids, or the kids are pretty young, you can do a lot of experimenting with no need for explanation. Go for it.

Have many conversations. Be completely honest with your self. If you are the Christmas lover, let it in that Christmas is not a pagan ritual or we wouldn’t be celebrating it in this country. This holiday is Christian at its heart and in the eyes of other religious minorities – Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. That may not be what it means to you, but that is how the others view it. Understand that your Jewish partner has every right to be anxious, unhappy and uncomfortable. He or she may not have the experience of ‘losing’ a family tradition but he has lived in a subordinate culture all his life – frankly, that is hard for a lot of people. Show some sympathy and try to understand what he/she is going through in a Christian country day and especially from October to January.

If you are the Jew, own your discomfort, don’t just act it out. Talk about your feelings; your partner can’t read your mind. If you are having a hard time articulating what you feel, call me and we can sort it out. Notice what it is your partner loves at its core – is it being with family? Creating a fantasy wonderland? Having a buzzing social life? Baking all day? Ask your self, in what ways have I (or could I) offer them Jewishly based activities that would help to meet this need? I’m not saying you will be able to replace Christmas, I am saying that if there is very little fun in your Jewish life you aren’t offering much and shouldn’t expect Judaism to look very attractive to them.

Each of you should mentally step back and try to see Christmas through your partner’s eyes. You don’t have to take on their view, but you should understand it.

Now, Christmas is next week, so embrace whatever it is that the two of you have decided to do. If Christmas is going to be a part of your lives and you want to raise your children Jewish, you have some work ahead of you. But remember, no one said raising children would be easy no matter what you choose for your home observance.

Posted by admin under Christmas, Couples
No Comments

Santa_Claus wikipedia

A mom wrote me with this question: Last year we took our preschool age daughter to celebrate Christmas with the Christian relatives. Everything went smoothly because she was so young and didn’t ask any questions. This year she knows that we are helping to celebrate her cousins’ holiday not ours, but she is asking if Santa will bring her a gift. What should I say?

The first thing to do is to ask your self, what do I feel and believe about this question?

1. Do you wish you could celebrate Christmas and this is a way to break down that wall?
2. Are you afraid this means that Christmas is encroaching on your child’s awareness and about to compromise her Jewish identity?
3. Did you grow up with Santa and consider failure to instill a Santa belief to be a deprivation for your child?
4. Are you worried that your child will ‘spill the beans’ and tell her cousins that there is no Santa if you pursue the truth?
5. Do you not want your child to feel left out when all the other cousins receive gifts from Santa?

For your child this is still just a question. For you it is probably bringing up the baggage of a lifetime – whether you’re Jewish or not. For starters, don’t load your emotional memories or worries onto your child. To prevent that you need to:

Figure out what you are feeling
Find out what your partner and any other parental figures are feeling
Have an adult conversation with them while putting the wellbeing of your child first.

Now let’s walk through the concerns.

If your child’s innocent interest in getting a present feels like a way to get Christmas back then it is time to review your feelings of loss and discuss them with your partner. Is your feeling of loss being honored and is there effort made to provide nurturing experiences for you that meet your needs?

If you are afraid that this question is the advance guard to crush her Jewish identity, you’re feeling hemmed in and isolated as a Jew/Jewish family and you need to enrich and expand your Jewish lives.

If you grew up with Santa and all things Claus and feel that the entire glorious fantasy is as close as it gets to innocent and total joy on earth you need to pause and remember that the Santa extravaganza is a relatively modern and very American commercial invention. The majority of children around the world do not experience it or even necessarily know about it. Not having Santa visit is not at all necessary to a joyful and happy life. However, it has made a huge impact on you and you need to explore your feelings of depravation with your partner.

If your concern is that your child is too young to keep a secret and will tell her cousins that there is no Santa and those presents are all from Mom and Dad, then you could (a) tell her that yes, Santa will bring her a present – and bring along a Santa gift. You’ll tell her the truth in a few years. Or you can (b) tell her that Santa will not bring her a gift because you asked that he now because you are giving/gave her all those Hanukkah presents and that’s enough.

If you are worried that your daughter will feel left out when the others receive a gift from Santa you could do what I mentioned above about kids who are too young to keep the secret or you could say Jewish people don’t get gifts from Santa, (a) you have plenty of presents already or (b) Mom/Dad and I are bringing you a special present for the celebration.

If your particular concern is not addressed here, please feel free to email me. I love to hear from you.

Posted by admin under Children, Christmas, Community Activities
No Comments

Christmas_tree_English

Let’s talk about Christmas for the children in an interfaith family. Let me remind you of two truths:

1. Your child is not exactly like anyone else, so you can’t duplicate another parent’s choices.
2. Your child is not so unique that you can’t learn from other parents.

In today’s world there is a bonus, many people have grown up in interfaith homes and can give us personal accounts of things that were successful and things that were not. Guess what? What works for child 1, didn’t work for child 2. So you need to stay tuned in to your child. If your child is normal they will go through the same developmental stages as all children and you can use developmental guidelines to help you with your decisions.

The big question this time of year is, Is it OK to have Christmas in our home? How will it impact our children?

Yes, Christmas matters. So let’s look at how it matters to kids.

First there is how you as parents handle it. Are you both comfortable? No one is unusually quiet or holding their breath? Because if one or both of you are tense, your kids will know that there is something stressful about Christmas. They may love the presents, food etc, but they will also feel bad. Talk to your partner; talk to me. Try to put your children’s needs first. The argument is not about which one of you “wins,” it’s about seeing to it that your child wins. In order for that to happen you have to find a comfortable meeting place.

Are you raising them as Jews? Christmas is a big symbol; even if you don’t believe in Christ and are not religious at all, the world sees observing Christmas as a Christian act. (Christmas stands for Christ’s Mass.) Be aware that the world around your kids may see this as evidence that they aren’t “really” Jewish. Other children may say things like, “You have Christmas so you’re not Jewish.” The kids aren’t saying that to be mean. They are trying to sort out life and its many parts. You need to be ready with a non-defensive, non-angry statement. Something like, “Dad isn’t Jewish and he loves having Christmas because he did it as a child. So we have Christmas now to show how much we love Dad.” Or to the little friend, “Actually, Christopher, we are Jewish. We have a Christmas tree because Adam’s mommy isn’t Jewish and we have Christmas with her because she loves Christmas and we love her.”

There is something else you want to think about. You are developing in your child a love of Christmas. When your child grows up and moves out of your home do you want him/her to continue celebrating Christmas? When the Christian parent who is the “holder” of Christmas eventually pass away, what do you expect your adult child to do about Christmas? Often we think only in the present. But think into the future. Your children may go through some challenging times as they sort out their Christmas celebration questions. I have adult children of interfaith families who are very conflicted about their continued attachment to and/or practice of Christmas. Others are not bothered at all. My point is that you need to be aware. Think about what you’re instilling in your child. Notice what they say about themselves. As they reach the teen years and adulthood, be ready to have them make different choices, possibly even different from their own siblings. Be ready to talk about your choices and about how they see your role in their choices. Most of all, be ready to love them just as they are.

You’ll note that none of this is religious – it’s cultural and familial. Much of Christmas is about family. And frankly, all of Judaism is inextricable tied to family.

Posted by admin under Children, Christmas
No Comments

From the Maggie Semple blog

From the Maggie Semple blog

Here it comes, the holidays! The time that songs tell us is “the happiest time of the year.” Which raises the question, what makes us happy? American capitalist culture has a perpetual campaign to answer that question with THINGS! Things will make you happy! Cars, electronics, toys, whatever they are selling, THAT will make you happy. The trouble is, it doesn’t. Many people feel empty during or shortly after Christmas because it didn’t live up to the hype.

Did you know that there are universities around the country that now study happiness? UC Berkeley has a center, The Greater Good Science Center, that focuses on the things that make us happy – and it turns out much of what makes us happy is how we behave. People who express compassion, gratitude, and empathy are actually happier! People who have relationships – friends, a community – are happier. Being with others, doing things together, creates happiness. That means you are more likely to enjoy and remember serving food at a shelter or ice skating with your kids than what gifts you opened.

Here’s an interesting blog post, A Very Greedy Christmas on a fashion blog of all things, articulating the challenge of unwanted gifts and concluding that it’s those utterly unique gifts that are remembered. True, but we just can’t pull those off every year for everyone we know. So what can we pull off every year? It is possible to create and sustain rituals that make us happy. Like what, you ask. Like having a Games party with good friends or a latke making gathering with your favorite neighbors or cookie making day with your kids. There is something about winter that puts my family in the mood for games. Since they were little the approach of dark evenings signaled game nights galore!

Create a ritual, something you do every year; you’ll be surprised how meaningful it will become and how much those who share it with you will come to depend on it.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Chanukah, Children, Christmas, Relationships
No Comments

pile-of-gifts

A friend of mine who is in an interfaith family recently told me, “I’m jealous of Christmas. My kids absolutely know they are Jewish but they LOVE Christmas and no Jewish holiday can touch it.”

It is true that there is nothing we can do about the massive marketing blitz that this country launches for the Christmas season. Garfield becomes Christmas Garfield, cars become Christmas cars, blenders become Christmas blenders. The entire world is transformed into a saleable object or moment. I’m not suggesting that you compete with this. Instead let’s think about what parts of it are good and which are bad.

Massive materialism isn’t good for anyone. Parents tell me that they want to raise their children with values other than greed and conspicuous consumption. So please, don’t go down the slippery slope of Christmas plus Hanukkah means more presents so our children are luckier; they get more! More? More what? More future landfill trinkets?

Studies show that it is human interaction that makes us happy, being with others whom we love or at least enjoy. Our strongest memories are those of experiences that have an emotional charge. So chances are you remember that surprise birthday party your friends gave you ten years ago but you don’t remember the presents they each gave you.

Now what about Christmas envy? Forget about competing in the world of presents, go for experience. There are Jewish holidays that are packed with fun but most Jews don’t know how to access them. In the words of Auntie Mame, “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” Sukkot, which begins tonight, wasn’t just A holiday in ancient times, it was THE holiday.* It was a week of harvest festival, community barbeques, huge communal meals, and I feel confident, some singing, dancing and drinking! What about the kids? We are commanded to build a ‘hut’ a temporary structure in which to live during the week. We are to eat our meals there and to sleep there. How would your kids like to have you build a little wooden structure in the yard, equip it with some chairs, a small table and in the evening, a sleeping bag? You can have a little fire in your patio fire pit and roast marshmallows! Sounds like a blast!

A huge part of the Christmas, and any holiday, is the anticipation and build up. With Sukkot there is the gathering of the building materials, the actual building (more fun when done with friends), and then there’s the decorating! My daughter and I are absolute suckers for crafts and decorations. We also love to add those little strings of lights.

So what to do about Christmas envy? Try offering some awesome Jewish experiences. I’m not saying they will replace Christmas, but you’ll probably feel happier to see your kids’ enthusiasm and anticipating for a Jewish holiday.

As for Christmas, if you celebrate it, work on making it about family over presents.

Note: I found this image (pile of gifts) on the blog of a financial planner writing about the Holiday Madness. Interestingly enough he’s in an interfaith marriage. Read his article here.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Christmas, Jewish Culture, Jewish home celebrations
No Comments

Christmas is just about here and the last big build-up is upon us.

Here’s a good article about the Santa Claus issue — not from a religious standpoint, good for any parent raising kids in America.

A few words of advice
Whatever you do or don’t do for Christmas, make your peace with it now. Put on a happy face and don’t put a damper on your loved ones. If you are celebrating Christmas and it’s making you sad/mad/upset/annoyed or some other negative state of mind, remind yourself that you are doing this because someone you love wants this. Try to focus on the happiness you are providing them. Find good things to fill your thoughts – good food, good company, festive spirits. Remember how much you love these people and determine to make this a happy week for them.

Or maybe you are not having Christmas and that is making you blue. Again, you must be doing this because a person you love doesn’t want to have this event in your shared home. Focus on the love and comfort you are providing. Make a delicious dinner together; bake a winter treat. Light candles and sit in the candle light peacefully. Play some games you don’t usually get around to. Use December 25th to go for a walk in a wilderness area or out for dinner. Read aloud to each other.

Whatever you do, make sure that December 25 focuses on the love you share with your family and friends.

Then call me next week and we can discuss how to use this coming 12 months to retune next year’s December holidays.

I wish you happiness and love all around you. Remember that it is really the people you love that makes you rich. Go give them a long hug.

Shabbat Shalom,
Dawn

p.s. It is not too late to make someone else’s holiday better. You can drop off food or a check at your local food bank.

Posted by admin under Christmas, Community Activities, Couples, Jewish Culture, Non-Jewish family
No Comments

Next Page »