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.
Our December Holidays survey was also cited in a story in the (Long Beach, Calif.) Press-Telegram that focused more on couples who try to blend the holidays. Barbara Correa’s piece adds a new term to the “Chrismukkah/Hanuklaus/Chrismawanaakah” lexicon: the “Challadays.” (Which is kind of cute, although I’m not sure what challah has to do with Hanukkah–unless it’s fried.)
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle has two wonderful first-person takes on Christmas and Hanukkah. In A Jewish Look at Christmas: A convert appreciates it even more now, Jannie M. Dresser talks about growing up as a Christian in an alcoholic family:
My parents struggled to rise above their problems at Christmastime, but seasonal festivities meant extra opportunities for my father to drink and additional financial pressures on my mother. Christmas frequently erupted into feverish crescendos that rivaled those in Handel’s “Messiah.”
But since she converted to Judaism 20 years ago, she has been able to appreciate Christmas without the dysfunctional family baggage. Now Christmas is not a time of “foreboding and hopelessness” but an opportunity to perform a “mitzvah” “help[ing] others celebrate their season of joy.”
The other piece is by the daughter of a an Irish Catholic mom and a Jewish dad. For Sarah Adler, childhood was a mix of Quaker camp, Unitarian Sunday school and non-religious celebrations of Jewish holidays. “Basically we ate a lot, but no one pulled out a prayer book,” she says. But now that she lives in the Haight neighborhood of San Francisco, where any kind of personal expression goes, she has begun to embrace her Jewishness, through one of her passions: cooking. Her Hanukkah party will include latkes made from hand-grated potatoes, Venetian tea cookies and applesauce made “from a mixture of Napa varietals gathered during outings this fall.”
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