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â€śLetâ€™s send out holiday cards!â€ť I said to Wendy and Robin, my co-workers at InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia. We have so many people whoâ€™ve supported our work in the past yearâ€”our Advisory Council, donors, class and workshop alumni and othersâ€”that Wendy and Robin agreed that it would be a great idea to send each of them a card thanking them for their support and wishing them a happy holiday season. It would be a nice thing to do. AND EASY! Or so we thoughtâ€¦
Just picking a graphic for the front of the cardâ€”not to mention the language for the insideâ€”was anything but easy.
Should we have a picture of a Hanukkiyah (Hanukkah menorah) on the front? Considering that many of the recipients of the card would be interfaith couples, that seemed insensitive. Only acknowledging the holiday that was from one partnerâ€™s religious tradition didnâ€™t feel like the right thing to do.
We all agreed that weâ€™re not into the â€śChristmakkuhâ€ť mash-up of Christmas and Hanukkah. An image of a reindeer with antlers that look like a Hanukkiyah or Santa playing dreidel wasnâ€™t the way we wanted to go.
We also knew that we didnâ€™t want to go the route of last yearâ€™s (admittedly creative) half Hanukkah-half Christmas card (you can read Rabbi Ari Mofficâ€™s comments on it here).
Aside from a bifurcated card not feeling quite right, we didnâ€™t want to send the message that we think every Jewish person in an interfaith relationship has a Christian partner. What about Jewish-Hindu, Jewish-Buddhist, Jewish-Muslim, etc., couples?
So we decided to stay away from images directly associated with any particular faith traditionâ€”Jewish or otherwiseâ€”whether those symbols were â€śreligiousâ€ť or â€śsecular.â€ť No Jewish stars; no Hanukkiyah; no latkes; no dreidels; and no Hanukkah gelt. No nativity scenes; no Christmas trees or ornaments; no Santa Claus; and no reindeer.
IT WOULD BE EASY! Or so we thoughtâ€¦
What about a snowman? Snowmen arenâ€™t associated with any religious tradition, are they? But for some reason, when I think of pictures of snowmen, Christmas cards come to my mind. So I veto-ed the snowman.
What about snowflakes, theyâ€™re neutral, right? But I couldnâ€™t help thinking of all of the Christmas cards Iâ€™d seen over the years with snowflakes on them.
So, whether or not I was being rational, snowmen and snowflakes were now removed the discussion. Surely NOW IT WOULD BE EASY. Or so we thoughtâ€¦
Robin then suggested that we find a picture of candles. After all, for many of us the winter holidays are a time to celebrate light amidst the darkness. Candles are used in lots of religious traditions, and non-religious ones as well. So why did I suddenly feel like candlesâ€”which are lighted every night of Hanukkahâ€”reminded me of a Christmas card? Embarrassed to critique yet another seemingly-neutral idea as â€śtoo Christmas card-yâ€ť I suggested: â€śHow about blue candles?â€ť (Blue and white being â€śJewish colors.â€ť) And â€śHow about nine candles?â€ť (Since there are nine candles in a Hanukkiyah.)
Robin actually found a beautiful picture that had nine blue candles and they werenâ€™t in a Hanukkiyah, just nine small blue candles all with shining flames. We all agreed that the image didnâ€™t look â€śtoo Jewishâ€ť or â€śtoo Christianâ€ť (or â€śtoo anything elseâ€ť) but yet it had a nice winter holiday feel. We had it!Â Or so we thoughtâ€¦ Turns out that image wasnâ€™t available for reproduction.
Finally, after I rejected a few more images that just didnâ€™t â€śfeel rightâ€ť for various reasons, Wendy came up with a card that we all agreed upon.
I liked it! It didnâ€™t seem to represent just one religious tradition. I was pretty sure that nobody receiving it would feel excluded by the image (because in the end, we left the image off) or the language. EASY! Or was it? Now Iâ€™m left wondering, by making it so â€śneutralâ€ťâ€¦by being so careful to try to ensure that nobody who received it would feel left outâ€¦by being so sensitive to not â€śexcludeâ€ť anyone, were we â€śincludingâ€ť anyone?
Hopefully, everyone who receives our card in the mail will recognize that our intentions are good and that we are grateful to them and want them to have a happy holiday seasonâ€”no matter what holidays they do, or do not, celebrate.
Iâ€™d love to hear from all of you. For those of you in interfaith families, do you send holiday cards? Are they for a particular holiday, more than one holiday, or just general holiday greetings? Please share what you do as well as the thought process behind it.