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Oh Come All Ye Interfaithful

The holiday season doesn’t truly begin until the glimmering menorah ornament is carefully placed on my family’s Christmas tree. It isn’t a Hanukkah bush; it’s a Christmas tree. I’ve been raised following Jewish tradition while also acknowledging Catholic customs, and I’m lucky enough to have grown up in an environment that has encouraged my complex Jewish identity, and helped me build a versatile and sturdy religious foundation.

Los Angeles (especially the private school sphere) has rightfully earned its reputation as a liberal bubble, but I feel that this environment has only affected me positively. Every time I’ve been confronted about my identity— whether that be my Jewish, feminist, or interfaith identity— I’ve engaged in thoughtful conversation in an attempt to understand the other person’s point of view. In almost all cases, I’ve been able to find common ground with the person I’m speaking with, and have largely been treated with acceptance and respect. Considering this, there’s no doubt in my mind I could engage in cordial discourse with someone whose beliefs completely oppose mine, as long as their claims are supported with evidence, and not ignorance.

Sure, I’ve met boys who roll their eyes at Radical Feminism, Christians who are passionately pro-life, and those who claim I can’t “technically” be Jewish because my mother never converted from Catholicism to Judaism. Though these conversations can often be difficult to navigate at first, most of them have resulted in the opposing party finding my viewpoint more interesting than harmful, because of the way I’ve presented it.

I leave these conversations with a sense of validation and pride in my ability to articulate my own beliefs. Whether or not I’ve persuaded the other person to identify as a feminist or to come to my Christmas dinner, I’ve helped them gain a new perspective on topics they’ve only ever viewed one way. I firmly believe that the larger the quantity of diverse perspectives we obtain on any issue, the stronger the bridges we can build together, and the more walls we can tear down.  

At my exceptionally diverse and progressive elementary school, my friend’s dad, a Jew, dressed up as Santa Claus every December for our holiday party. Our class was brought together, not through the biblical significance of Christmas, but through the universal spirit of the holiday season. Similarly, I recall fond memories of Christmas Eves spent with my family in local churches, learning about the Irish Catholic rituals with which my mother grew up. My parents have always believed it’s important to expose their children to the practices of other religions and cultures–to acknowledge my mom’s religious background, to be comfortable around people of different faiths, and to contextualize our Jewish practices. These experiences have shaped who I am, and have significantly influenced my identity as a young Jewish woman.

While I’m dedicated to Judaism and feel most at home in the Jewish community, Christmas will always be my favorite holiday. Just as my other Jewish friends love Passover or Rosh Hashanah because of their families’ traditions, I can’t recall happier moments than the last sixteen Christmas mornings I’ve spent with my Jewish relatives and friends.

I might not believe in Santa Claus anymore, but I do believe in the joy of Christmas and the power it has to bring people of different faiths and backgrounds together. There will always be skeptics and grinches, but when I step out of my intellectually curious and accepting liberal bubble in a year and a half, I know I’ll be ready to take my interfaith identity with me, and spread my own kind of Christmas cheer.

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9 Comments

Dorrit - I’m right there with ya!  Very eloquently put xoxo

its Francesca BTW

Dorrit- this is beautiful.  You are lucky to have been exposed to both traditions.  My Jewish parents only celebrated Christmas.  When Noni married into the Corwin family, she got up to date on Judaism.   I now recognize the Jewish traditions and Holidays, but have never been imersed in them.  My loss!

D you know I have had a similar experience.  As a Catholic who married into a Jewish family we were able to gently (at first) blend the traditions of both families.  Awkward at times but undaunted we persisted until my reluctant MIL started asking in October if she could buy an ornament yet.  My parents listened intently to the cantor explaining the traditions that centered around the loss and burial of Gary's amazing brother....gone too soon.  I still remember when your parents got engaged your Noni and Papa asked me to give them any advice that would help them be inclusive along the way.  When my Dad passed away Gary and my girls made sure they stayed at his grave to shovel the earth into his burial site because although it wasn't a Catholic custom they believed it was a Jewish custom that they were comforted by.  

You are so blessed to have this gift and so wise to know it's imprtance.  

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas! 

xox

Awesome post, Dorrit -- let's broadcast this message to everyone please! 

Dorit, I am so proud of what you wrote and how you expressed your feeling towards Judiasm.  I have had the same experience.  My mother was not raised Jewish but married a Jewish man and choose to imbrance the Jewish religion for her children.  I always thought of myself as Jewish never thinking that my mother was anything else but Jewish. Xmas was the best time  of the year for my family too.  My dad and all his brothers and sisters came to our home to celebrate with us and all my friends since they didn't have a xmas tree loved to come over to help decorate it.

So like you I take my interfaith identity and since my Mother's passing have learned  to appreicate what she did  for her children but not to forget that she was raised in another religion and that my children and grandchildren have a little of her in them too.  

Merry Merry and Happy Holidays

Judie Fenton

 

 

 

 

Dorritt, 
 

 

Dorritt,  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! I love what you said and also how you said it. You are sI’msure your parents are very proud of you. I can’t wait to see what you end up doing with your life as I’m sure it 

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Dorritt,  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! I love what you said and also how you said it. I’m sure your parents are very proud of you. I can’t wait to see what you decide to do with your life because I’m sure it will be something extraordinary!! Love, Aunt Linda

 

 

this is beautiful 

Dorrit Corwin on Christmas
Full image
2017-2018 Rising Voices Fellow Dorrit Corwin on Christmas in 2005.
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How to cite this page

Corwin, Dorrit. "Oh Come All Ye Interfaithful." 21 December 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 25, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/oh-come-all-ye-interfaithful>.

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