Interfaith families use Christmas as a time for chinuch

Jewish-ChristmasAs Interfaith families are welcomes by more and more Jewish communities, many wonder what to do about Christmas and erev Christmas. Does it just remain the holiday where kids wonder why they always go to one side of the family and not the other, or can it become more meaningful by using it as an opportunity for interfaith chinuch? Many Jews within the interfaith community have celebrated Christmas in one way or another for years. Either by the classic Chinese food and a movie, or by actually having a tree and stocking stuffers. It’s a shame that so many Interfaith families don’t use goyishe yomim tovim as a chance to educate their children about the duality of religions in their lives and luckily many of those who congregations who welcome Interfaith families into their sanctuaries have begun to have Christmas celebrations to show how welcoming they may be.

We are well past the days where intermarriage is a shock, in fact, many areas of the country boast more intermarried families than those where both partners are Jewish. Here in the Bay Area, it’s almost shocking to find someone with two Jewish parents. Many Jews used to have an inborn fear of marrying “out of the tribe”, but that fear is gone. With most of the “traditional” grandparents dead, many folks are finding themselves asking the question “why do I have to marry Jewish” and deciding that marrying within Judaism is just too old fashioned for their senses. Luckily, the vast majority of the Jewish community has readily accepted this fact of Jewish life and many congregations are willing to adjust their minhagim to be more inclusive.

It almost seems ignorant to not have a Christmas tree in your shul, since many rabbis have paskened that the tree shouldn’t be placed in the sanctuary, lest someone unfamiliar with the shuls minhagim succumb to maris ayin. Of course, children may ask why the Menorah gets front and center, while the tree just graces the lobby and just like we do on Pesach and Easter, we utilize this as a chance to answer the Interfaith child’s question.

The best way to be mechanech our children is by example. If we welcome Interfaith families as equals, celebrate their yomim tovim as equals, and explain to our children why they are different, but not any less Jewish, I hope we can be zoche to receive moshiach tzidkeinu.

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  • #ChristmasShailos

    You need to be able to see the stars outside the window through the branches of the tree, or it’s posul. I’m trying to find a source for how tall the tree has to be though, any mefarshim on this?

    • Heshy Fried

      The trees has to be 30 tefachim tall, because it has to be taller than the lowest kosher mechitza.
      The chazon ish paskened that you could say a bracha on electric menorahs. kal vachomer, a fake tree would work.

      • Talia bat Pessi

        Don’t forget how important the ornaments are, you know, for hiddur mitzvah.

      • Hystorian

        Chazon Ish said no so thing. He and Rabbi Shlomo Auerbach disagreed on the issue of electricity and fire. So, Heshy, you are just making stuff up. Which is what everyone does when it comes to dead gedolim. I guess the Chazon Ish spoke out against bloggers too.

  • A. Nuran

    Go down to the warehouse on December 25th. Look at the empty shelves. Sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

    • OfftheDwannaB


  • Dave

    I guess that’s why treif Chinese restaurants are open in Xmas.

    • BT

      I have on multiple occassion been invited to join non-frum family at treif Chinese restaurants on Xmas and every time they are surprised that I say I can’t come because it is treif. It’s like they think the minhag of Chinese on the 25 overides kashrus!

      • Minucha

        Reminds me of when one of my non-observant Jewish friends asked me if I had hot dogs on the 4th of July. I told her I couldn’t make them because that date fell on Shabbat. Did she think 4th of July overrode Shabbat!

  • Alter Cocker

    “It almost seems ignorant to not have a Christmas tree in your shul”

    Supposed to be funny?

    • Anonymous

      Yes……and it is!

    • Hystorian

      There was a reform shul in Berlin in the late 19th century that would set up what could only be described as Christmas Trees on Shavuos. Many shuls nowadays use flowers, some used small bushes. I have a picture in a history book of the two tall, decorated spruce trees near the aron hakodesh.

  • Nice

    We all know Christmas is Jewish at its roots. Let’s examine: Your Christmas tree isn’t kosher if the needles fall off before the chag. It’s an Ashkenazi minhag to cover it with gingerbread cookies shaped like stars (ginger was a spice easily grown and preserved in the shtetl) whereas Sephardim adorn their trees with boiled mint candies in the shape of the crooked staffs used by goat herders (goat as a staple kosher protein in the Sephardic world). It is traditional to give gefilte socks, eg socks stuffed with small toys and candy. It starts the night before the day (eruv Christmas), has a huge blowout midday lunch, and everyone is antsy and over it by the time night falls again.

    • Alter Cocker

      Christmas is actually a pagan holiday.

      Nothing to do with Judaism and very little to do with Christianity.

    • Anonymous

      Who cares?

    • A. Nuran

      I know. I know. It’s satire. Can you imagine trying to grow ginger in Eastern Europe?

      • Alter Cocker

        I’m very confused. I don’t really see the humor.

  • Minucha

    LOL. Finally a satirical piece that few people take seriously. :-D