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December 20, 2011 eNewsletter - Chicago

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December 20, 2011

Dear friends,

Only 11 more days! Please help us reach our goal of 1,800 donors by December 31. Your contribution, no matter what amount, will be have a tremendous impact.

  • 563,000: Number of visitors who came to looking for resources and contact information for Jewish professionals in their areas.
  • 172,000: Number of times our Jewish Holidays Cheat Sheet was accessed.
  • 2,040: Number of clergy referrals we made to families for life-cycle events.
  • 1,800: Number of donations we need by the end of the year from people like you to make all of this possible. Please help us reach our goal.


Now that has a direct and local presence in Chicagoland, we've made a change to the eNewsletter. Did you notice, last month, that you received a version of this eNewsletter that highlighted local content? We've started local editions, where we will be focusing on your local community in addition to highlighting the great content from

In between our bi-weekly eNewsletters, feel free to get in touch with Ari Moffic, the Director of InterfaithFamily/Chicago. She's an on-the-ground resource both for couples and families, and for all clergy, Jewish professionals and organizations who want help welcoming interfaith couples and families to Jewish life. She's available to consult, to lead or participate in workshops, and to share resources, studies and best practices as well.

InterfaithFamily/Chicago plans to offer two hybrid online/in-person workshops and classes starting in February: Raising a Child with Judaism in Your Interfaith Family (an eight session class for interfaith families with young children) and Love and Religion (a four session workshop to help interfaith couples who are seriously dating or newly married learn how to communicate about having religion in their lives).

Check out more local content on the Chicagoland Community Page — and get to know your community!

News from IFF

Help us win $500 from JChoice! Show your love for with just two "like" clicks on Facebook. Here are the two easy steps:

  1. Visit and click the button at the top of the page to "like" Jchoice.
  2. Then, visit our logo on their page and "like" our logo photo.

It's THAT simple! And if we get the most "likes," you'll help us win. Every click helps.

Congratulations to Jennifer C. of Michigan, who won the $500 American Express giftcard drawing after responding to our December Holidays survey. Thanks to all of you who helped us out by sharing your family's experiences with us.

And another winner! Anyone who joined the Network and created an organizational listing was added to a drawing for an iPad. Congratulations to Linda Levin whose name was drawn. As she wears two hats in Miami, as Membership and Outreach Coordinator at Temple Israel and URJ Introduction to Judaism Coordinator, we're sure she'll be able to put it to good use!

December Holidays

Hanukkah is almost here! Still preparing for the holiday's first night, next week? Our new Hanukkah booklet can help, as can our Hanukkah and Christmas Resource Page.

Ever wonder how to make the yummy, fried Hanukkah treats? This video teaches you how to make your own latkes (potato pancakes) in a variety of flavors. Read (and watch) more in How To Make Latkes.

On the Parenting Blog, we had three different perspectives on the December Dilemma:

  • SLP described how her family balances Hanukkah and Christmas, including some finessing of schedules. Read more in Calendar Schmalendar.
  • Elana MacGilpin wrote that her family, thankfully, doesn't have a December Dilemma. But that doesn't stop her from asking some important questions, and comparing them to the questions her son asks during the holiday season. Read more in When is December Not A Dilemma?
  • Julie Daneman wants to know if, as the Christian parent in her family, Christmas decorations in her Jewish child's classroom should bother her. Should she request that the "adorable Santa face outside the classroom that has Baby's name on it be replaced with a Star of David or a menorah?" Read more in Santa or Star of David?

"Last December, on a Jewish journey and with my possessions in storage," wrote Mike Doyle of Chicago, "I celebrated my first tree-free holiday season. This year, officially Jewish and back in my own apartment, I'm finally faced with the December Dilemma. Jews don't put up Christmas trees, and there's no such thing as a Chanukah bush. And then I got an idea..." Read more in Fifteen Christmases and a Festival Tree.

Grandparents often face unique challenges this time of year. As grandparents, how can you navigate the December holidays with your grandchildren? How do you balance Hanukkah with Christmas? Sunie Levin offers some practical tips. Read more in Grandparents and the December Dilemma.

Molly Parr, figuring out how to balance her husband's Christmas needs, decided to start a new tradition: she "invited about a dozen friends, all frequent Shabbos dinner guests," to come trim the tree in their home. And, being a foodie, she put as much time into planning the treats as she did the rest. Read more (and enjoy the recipe) in Oy Tannenbaum.

And I posted a bunch of Hanukkah videos on the blog. Some are purely for entertainment, while others actually attempt to expalin the holiday, its customs and history. Which is your favorite? Read (and watch) more in Watching Hanukkah and Still Watching Hanukkah.

On the Network Blog

Ed Case applauded a new report of the New York Federation's Task Force on Welcoming Interfaith Families, and responded to one of its critics. Read more in An Historic Advance by the UJA-Federation of New York.

Joanna Rothman shared why she'd made her year-end donations to non-profits that matter to her. And asks that you do the same. Read more in This Year Be One of the 1,800.

Ari Moffic wrote about a recent experience she had, navigating models for inclusive classrooms in Hebrew schools and religious schools with Chicagoland's teachers. Read more in How Can a Religious School Teacher Respond?

Looking for something a little different? I shared an opportunity to contribute a six-word memoir to an interesting project. Read more in Six Words: Go!

Guest blogger Kate Bigam responds to an offensive "anti-interfaith" piece on the Forward's Sisterhood blog, in which fears of assimilation trumped acceptance and welcoming of interfaith families. Read more in In Response to an Anti-Interfaith Voice.

And I posted the results of our December Holidays survey, including the press release announcing the results and the full report. Read more in Our December Holiday Survey Results Are In!


With guests from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Thailand and the U.S. present, Nad and Alex's wedding was easily one of the most cosmopolitan that Rabbi David S. Gruber had ever officiated. With a fairly traditional inclusive Jewish ceremony, bookended by Thai Buddhist customs, it was definitely one of the most intercultural. Throw in the fact that he was upstaged by an elephant, and you have the backdrop for a great story! Read more in The Rabbi and the Elephant: How I Officiated a Cosmopolitan Interfaith Wedding in Thailand.

On the Wedding Blog, Arel and Yolanda share their thoughts (and videos) about their first dance, which is being choreographed by Arel's best friend. They're also wondering how "to get the hora going with a mostly non-Jewish crowd," so if you have any tips, let them know! Read (and watch) more in Video 10: the wedding dance and the hora.

Pop Culture

In his regular column, Nate Bloom updates us on two recent intermarriages (Joy Behar and Steve Janowitz; Jillian Gumbel and William Robins), then looks at interfaith basketball players who played in Israel during the NBA lockout. Read more in Interfaith Celebrities.

On the blog, a look at the Karadashians: Scott and Kourtney bicker when Scott wants to get in touch with his Jewish roots and pass his religion onto their son Mason. Read more in Kourtney and Scott's Interfaith Kardashian Feud.

In time for the December holidays, Nate Bloom shared the history of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and the interfaith and Jewish backgrounds of Robert May (the man who created Rudolph) and Johnny Marks(the man who put Rudolph to music). Read more in Shining a Light on the Largely Untold Story of the Origins of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

It's beginning to sound a lot like Christmas. And many of the season's biggest (and most annoying) hits were written by Jewish songwriters. Nate Bloom has the details. Read more in The Jews Who Wrote Christmas Songs.

Are you, or is a family member, Hindu, Muslim, Quaker, Buddhist or of another religion/faith with an interesting story to share about a ritual, spring holiday or life-cycle event with your interfaith family or interfaith relationship? I'd love to hear your story pitches! Contact me!

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Benjamin Maron, Managing Editor





Known in Hebrew as "magen David" (literally," shield of David"), it is more commonly recognized as the star of David, a six-point star. The symbol has origins in the Torah, and has been used as a symbol of Jewish identity and Judaism in Europe since the Middle Ages. Hanukkah (known by many spellings) is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd Century BCE. It is marked by the lighting of a menorah and the eating of fried foods. Hebrew for "candelabrum" or "lamp," it usually refers to the nine-branched candelabrum that is lit for the holiday of Hanukkah. (A seven-branched candelabrum, a symbol of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, is a symbol of Judaism and is included in Israel's coat of arms.) The Jewish Sabbath, from sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday. The Jewish Sabbath, from sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday. A member of the Jewish clergy who leads a congregation in songful prayer. ("Hazzan" in Hebrew.) A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.
Yiddish word for a potato pancake, traditionally eaten during Hanukkah. Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation. Hebrew, derived from the Greek word for "dance," a variety of dances done in a circle, popular in Israel (and the Balkans).
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