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.