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The Christmas Dilemma for a New Jew

27 Nov 2023 2:35 PM | Franklin Jester (Administrator)

By Anthony Arnello

Wreaths hang in the mall. The local radio station becomes “Your Home for the Holidays." Wherever we go, we hear people say “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Yet, amidst the Christmas-centered festivity, finding a place for our Jewish identity can be far from wonderful. When December rolled around after my conversion, I was excited for my favorite season, but I was also conflicted. I had devoted so much energy to the exploration of Jewish holidays, theology, and history; so much that was new. When a familiar time came around, I wasn’t sure how to handle it. After all, this year, for the first time, I was a real Jew for Christmas. 

My family supported me in my journey, but they also celebrated Christmas. They wanted me to feel seen, but their traditions, decorations, and music weren’t going to change. And, to be honest, I didn’t want them to! They were comfortable, familiar, and fun. Thus, I found myself in a two-part December Dilemma. I felt unsure of how to handle Christmas-centered events without feeling uncomfortable or guilty for “wavering” from my Judaism. I wondered how I was going to incorporate my new Jewish identity into the traditions and gatherings already formed in our family holiday schedule. Flustered and a little defeated, I moved on and started planning December, trusting that my pathway through the holidays would become clear.

As we decided on party dates and menu items, I began to separate Christmas as a religious experience and Christmas as time with my family and friends. I saw that the focus of these parties wasn’t so different from the Jewish holidays I had worked so hard to grow accustomed to. Food and family– It was as simple as that! 

It’s a mitzvah to honor our parents, and by extension our family. Becoming a Jew, we enter The Tribe, but we cannot forget our own tribe. We bring with us traditions, food, and family. While our family may not become Jews alongside us, those who support us are a part of our tribe and in that, they become a part of the Jewish story. In honoring where we come from and where we have chosen to go, we honor our heritage and our truth. So dare to dreidel with Dasher and Dancer! Incorporate Jewish traditions and Hanukkah into your family events and establish yourself as a new Jew.

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