IFF in the NY Times


It’s the first week of December which means only one thing: TV shows and newspapers are flooded with stories on the “December dilemma.”

Yesterday morning, the Today Show had a segment featuring Jewish-Christian couples and advice from Rev. Sherri Hauser, of Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, and Rabbi Irwin Kula, best known for his recent book Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life. One of the couples was Mark and Helena McMahon, who we know well from her great work as manager of the Interfaith Connection at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center, an outreach program for interfaith couples. Interestingly, the segment made no mention of that fact. Among the few nuggets of wisdom: “Relationships and faith are living things, so expect them to change” (Hauser) and “Conflict is always an invitation to growing” (Kula).

In today’s New York Times, I was quoted in Julie Scelfo’s A Holiday Medley, Off Key. The article looks at the push-and-pull of holiday celebrations in interfaith couples, paying particular attention to ways in which the holidays can become a competition between partners. Continue reading

Do You Miss the Mistletoe?


In today’s The Virginian-Pilot, Steven G. Vegh has a smart little article about converts to Judaism who miss Christmas.

Interestingly, though, our recent 2007 December Holidays Survey showed that 63 percent of conversionary families plan on participating in Christmas celebrations in some way, although only six percent plan on celebrating in their own home. Half plan to celebrate at the home of relatives. While many converts may miss having Christmas at home, they often continue to celebrate at the home of relatives.

While skeptics may see this as a sign that even conversionary families are “infected” by the Christmas bug, even born-Jewish families are not immune to participating in Christmas. The survey also found that a third of born-Jewish families plan to participate in Christmas celebrations in some way, be it at the home of relatives or friends, at a work function or as part of a public activity. And for what it’s worth, 31 percent plan on watching It’s A Wonderful Life.

Dylan the Jew


In Friday’s post, I said Bob Dylan “grew up as a non-participating Jew.”

Leave it to my friend, the sage of Jewish celebrity trivia, Nate Bloom, to correct my error. Turns out Dylan was quite a bit more Jewishly involved than I thought, according to this email message from Bloom:

Bob’s parents were practicing Jews. A rabbi was brought in at his parents’ expense to the cold “Iron Range” to tutor him for his bar mitzvah. He had a bar mitzvah. He was sent to Jewish summer camp in Wisconsin (Camp Herzl)Bob’s kids with his Jewish ex-wife were all bar/bat mitzvah–with one exception. That’s a lot more practicing than half of American Jews.

The one exception is a child he fathered with a black back-up singer, a religious Christian, he secretly married and stayed married to for a few years in the ’80s.

His Chabad thing, in terms of close contact, ended in the late ’80s–although each year he goes to a Chabad synagogue near where he is on Yom Kippur and goes to the service.

Bottom line on Bob’s beliefs: he is clearly somewhat obsessed by religion. Some people make a plausible case that he has never given up being a Christian–based on the songs he plays–etc. But that he got turned off to organized Christianity. The bottom line is that nobody will probably ever know–he’ll probably go to his grave keeping his innermost beliefs to himself. And I don’t think he will really care if a rabbi presides at his funeral–no matter what he thinks about Jesus on his deathbed.