General Hospital celebrates the holidays!

I admit it, I watch daytime TV.  I have been watching General Hospital since the 5th grade.  No, I am not going to tell you how long ago that was…

I have been looking for an opportunity to link my General Hospital habit to something Jewish. Finally, it happened last week!   It was both good and bad.

I was tickled to see a scene in which the character of Bernie, the mob lawyer,  speaks to his colleague about how Hanukkah is the celebration of light and symbolizes faith over tyranny.  I even related to his discussion of how he takes comfort in Hanukkah. Even though he is separated from his family, he takes solace in knowing that everyone would be lighting the menorah that night. He encourages his non-Jewish colleague to seek out common traditions with her partner so they could truly enjoy the holidays together.  This entire scene seemed to put the holiday season into perspective.  Continue reading

Jesus and Christmas

It’s our busiest time of year again at InterfaithFamily.com. I’m writing this on December 24th at 9:00 am — and we’ve already broken the record for the highest number of monthly unique visitors to our main website, with 30,831 so far. There is something about Hanukkah and Christmas that stirs up everything about interfaith relationships — and front and center in that swirl is Jesus.

Two weeks ago, Cathy Grossman, USA Today’s terrific religion writer, called about her December holiday story for this year. She said she was writing about the “taking Christ out of Christmas” phenomenon. In addition to the usual theories that Americans are more secular and more materialistic, she wondered if increasing intermarriage was a cause. Continue reading

Art Imitating Life or Beating us to the Punch!

A question that has always boggled my mind is “How popular must a particular cultural phenomenon be before TV producers choose it for sitcoms?”

TelevisionThe CW’s hit series Gossip Girl recently aired an episode with an interfaith wedding, co-officiated by an Episcopal priest and a rabbi. The Forward ran an article about this episode.

The ceremony even had the traditional Hebrew phrase “Ani L’dodi…” “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” from Song of Songs in the Hebrew Bible.

It’s one thing to have a Jewish wedding with an interfaith couple. It’s another to see television writers showing a co-officiated wedding with the clear expectation that the audience to get the cultural jokes made out of playing the stereotypes off each other. And, knowing that TV producers aren’t willing to risk airing a joke no one will get, it is clear that they know that co-officiated weddings are at least normalized enough to get people to pay attention to the jokes and not the be distracted by the scene itself. Continue reading

New leadership and refreshing attitudes!

On December 7th, I was one of the 100 plus Young Jewish Leaders who took part in the PLP SkillsSummit in NYC to develop young talent so the leadership of the Jewish community can be turned over to the next generation. This conference was also designed to give young Jewish leaders the opportunity to network with each other and build partnerships which can help us transform the Jewish community for our generation. I met a lot of great people I am looking forward to seeing at the next PLP event.

Attending as a professional from InterfaithFamily.com was an amazing experience because almost everyone I spoke to told me about how they were in an interfaith relationship themselves or how an interfaith relationship effected their life. Some compared being a Jewish professional in an interfaith relationship like being “gay and in the closet.” When two people used this expression independently of each other, I was shocked, saddened and dismayed how these people who have dedicated their lives to the Jewish community did not feel like they could be themselves within their own community. But there is good news, too. Continue reading

Hanukkah Comes Up From the Minors

I wrote a Guide to Hanukkah for Interfaith Families. Originally, I mentioned in the opening line of the guide that Hanukkah is a minor holiday. Our publisher told me, “To our readers, it’s not minor.”

I think that I have joined the ranks of the people for whom Hanukkah is not minor. Why? Because I am the parent of a school-age child now.

My son, super kindergarten kid, goes to public school, which ends long before my workday here at IFF. After school, he participates in two different afterschool programs: one at his public school for three days a week, and a nifty Hebrew afterschool program for two days. It’s like Hebrew school, only mellow and relaxed, which is good because he’s just a little guy.

All the children at the Hebrew program are excited about Hanukkah. It’s their favorite. Some come from households with two Jewish parents, some from households with one Jewish parent. So?

They are learning to sing some of the songs we sing here at home: “Maoz Tzur,” which I first learned in English as “Rock of Ages,” and Ner Li Ner Li. (“I have a little candle.”) The Israeli teachers got all the children singing “Banu Hoshekh L’Garesh,” We Have Come to Banish the Darkness, an old Israeli song about cooperative action. “Each one of us is a little light and together we are a great light.” I can get behind that! Continue reading

Double Header

It is rare that an event accomplishes two goals at once. The Jewish Family Network helped my family do just that. Last Saturday night, my family headed out to the Children’s Discovery Museum in Acton for a Hanukkah celebration. I am a Jewish professional and my husband is a scientist and our priorities sometimes clash, but last Saturday night they melded beautifully.

Our evening opened with Havadalah and ended with Hanukkah songs and sufganot with Cantor Gaston My 21 month old son was so mesmerized he sat in a chair for 25 minutes clapping along to Hanukkah songs. In between, we spent time in this amazing space where we explored interactive and age-appropriate exhibits focused on scientific inquiry. We also had an opportunity to create our own dreidel.

We liked the way the evening integrated our cultural and scientific exploration and the way it worked for our child and both of his parents.

A Sad Day for Outreach

Two weeks ago, I was eating lunch with employees of the Robert I. Lappin Foundation, as fellow workers in interfaith outreach marveled at the foundation’s programming and sophistication. On Friday, these employees–and everyone else who worked for the foundation–lost their jobs.

The Foundation was the victim of securities fraud, as it saw its entire $8 million in assets frozen–and probably lost–in the fraud investigation into New York investor Bernard Madoff’s hedge fund. On Dec. 11, Madoff was arrested after admitting that his fund was essentially a $50 billion “Ponzi” scheme. 

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More Presents for You, Darling

First of all, I was reading the enormous stack of Jewish newspapers that I surround myself with at my office, when I found this article in the Jewish Journal Boston North about a company that sends “The Intermarriage Holiday Special,” which is Hanukkah gelt, Christmas candle and a half gallon of chicken soup with noodles and/or matzah balls.

I also saw a great new iPhone application, iMenorah. It’s not a free one but they are going to give some of the profit to charity.  I would have embedded the video if they had said which charity. My husband is the one in our family with the iPhone. He’s got the ocarina app. He does sometimes let us use his iPhone, but I don’t think you can fulfill the mitzvah of lighting virtual Hanukkah candles so I’m going to stick with the old wax-and-matches-method.

If you are trying to calm yourself from purchasing all the adorable little tchochkes that are out there, the folks at the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life have suggestions for simplifying Hanukkah. I had never thought of “cheap gift night,” which sounds really fun, but of course in our house “book night” is going to be the most popular.

How Do You Spell That Jewish Holiday in December?

How do you spell Hanukkah?

At InterfaithFamily.com, we spell it H-A-N-U-K-K-A-H. But search our site and you’ll find references to CHANUKAH (157 search results), HANNUKAH (72), HANUKAH (46), CHANUKKAH (13) and HANUKA (5).

HANUKKAH is the spelling of choice at non-Jewish websites like Wikipedia and Blue Mountain and tends to be the preferred spelling of transdenominational or progressive Jewish organizations, like My Jewish Learning, the Conservative movement and the Reconstructionist movement. Meanwhile, more traditional organizations–like Chabad, Aish HaTorah and the Orthodox Union–go with CHANUKAH. But there is one big exception to this division between traditional and progressive: the progressive Reform movement prefers CHANUKAH. Meanwhile, Judaism 101, one of the oldest and most frequently cited Jewish reference sites, goes with CHANUKKAH.

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