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Beernut’s December Dilemma

Thursday, 8 December 2005

“Mom, I don’t want to be Jewish anymore.”

Not an uncommon feeling for any of us to have at some point or another. I suppose I always knew that my children might express this sentiment as they made their ways through childhood or adolescence. I just didn’t expect to hear it from a five-year old.

“Why not, sweetheart,” I replied, as calmly as I could be — given the fact that I am a rabbi and this might not really be good for business.

“Because I want to have snow.”

Snow. That’s right. My poor, confused kid doesn’t want to be Jewish because he wants to have snow. Oy vey — you see where political correctedness has gotten us?? We no longer have Christmas Break but Winter Break. We don’t have Christmas concerts with Christmas songs but Holiday concerts filled with “seasonal” music. When used in a predominantly secular setting, the Christmas tree, according to the United States Supreme Court [County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, 492 U.S. 573, 602, 616 (1989)], is a seasonal symbol. So is a menorah for that matter [Id. at 613-14, 618]. So it’s no wonder that this little Jewish kid is confused. Heck, I find this pretty confusing!

What do we say to our children who are growing up in a distinctly Christian culture? How can we help our kids avoid feelings of exclusion or, worse, resent being Jewish?

In Becoming a Jewish Parent, Rabbi Danny Gordis reminds us that “if we have brought Judaism to life all year round, then December will not be a problem.” In other words, it’s a bit late to be addressing this issue! All we can do at this point, if we haven’t been making Judaism an exciting and engaging presence in our homes, is be reactive rather than proactive. Building a sukkah for Sukkot, planting trees for Tu Bish’vat, sending Shalach Manos at Purim, attending a seder at Pesach are just some of the ways to bring Judaism alive. We don’t even have to wait for a holiday — Shabbos gives us FIFTY-TWO opportunities to do Jewish.

And with all that said, “part of what we as parents have to recognize is that raising our kids as Jews in a Christian culture is going to mean feeling left out at times.” (ibid.) How can this not be the case when Christmas completely invades our cultural at this season? And to be honest, much of this season is rather lovely. The twinkling lights brightening our neighbourhoods, the beautiful music on the airwaves, and the general sense of friendliness and kindness — warm-fuzzy stuff, if you ask me. And we, as Jews, can appreciate not just the secular nature of this holiday but truly sense its sacredness as well. For as a religious people, we understand awe and holiness, and can recognize the sanctity and beauty of our friends’ and/or extended families’ celebrations.

As for our children – they’ll be OK. Since they’ll follow our lead, it is up to us to show them how wonderful Judaism can be throughout the year. And to explain that snow really is seasonal…in places other than Orange County!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. PepGiraffe permalink
    Friday, 23 December 2005 5:42 pm

    So his Channukah gift should be snow. Take him to the mountains. God loves us best.


  1. Shver Zu Zein Ein Yid (It’s Hard to be A Jew) « Frume Sarah's World

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