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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

How not to welcome interfaith families

It begins to happen at the beginning of December, the invitations to cool Jewish events that happen on December 24th and 25th. The Alternative to Christmas programming. From casual outings to China town, to Matzah Balls to the mega-learning event in London called Limmud, Jews organize things to do on Christmas.

And all of those things to do on Christmas exclude people in interfaith families who have Christmas responsibilities. People like me – a Jew By Choice with a Christmas celebrating family of origin. It is the only big family tradition that we have and so I go home.

I watch tweets from Limmud in London and wish I could be there, until my nephew asks if we can play dreidel, build with Lego and talk about what Santa might be bringing to town. We light the menorah (if Christmas and Hanukah overlap) before bedtime and have latkes for breakfast.

I bring this up to challenge the greater Jewish community. Fifty percent of our families are interfaith families. Jews by Choice with Christmas-time obligations with their beloved family of origin. Jews married to non-Jews who choose to honor their in-laws and spouses by going home for Christmas. Children of interfaith couples, who celebrate with cousins and grandparents from the non-Jewish side of the family. Your Christmas programming excludes us.

It sometimes feels like the last secret club in the Jewish world — the things Jews from 100% Jewish families do on Christmas. And when our synagogues and organizations plan lots of extra events, it’s hard not to feel left out.

I’m not saying you need to cancel all your Christmas programming and plans. I know that to be Jewish at Christmas in the US is to feel left out of the greater world and that if you aren’t covering at the hospital or newspaper, you want to do something, too. But if your organization serves a largely interfaith population, why not host a New Year’s program instead of a Christmas program – so your interfaith families don’t feel excluded from the families made entirely of Jews.

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