One of the things I cherish the most about the extended family that is Greene Family Camp, is our diversity. As I sat to write this Christmas edition of “Tell Me S’more” I couldn’t help but reflect on the many members of our community are observing Christmas today.
For many in the extended Greene Family Camp family, the Christmas tradition is Chinese food and a movie. It’s a common trope that seems to hold true for so many families. (In fact, the third chapter in Rabbi Dr. Joshua Eli Plaut’s book A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to Be Jewish is titled “We Eat Chinese Food on Christmas.”) While we may not be able to go out for dinner and a movie in 2020, ordering take-out and streaming services ensure that this tradition can continue.
For those of us who come from interfaith or blended families, celebrating Christmas can take many forms. For my sister Elizabeth, in an interfaith marriage with her husband Chris, their Christmas tree includes a blue Star of David ornament.
In a blog post on ReformJudaism.org, Rabbi Danny Burkeman (husband of Micol Zimmerman Burkeman, a GFC alum and gifted Jewish educator in her own right) wrote about his family’s experience decorating a Christmas tree with one of his congregants. The blog is a beautiful testament to the joys of community, but I am particularly drawn to his perspective that his congregation is stronger because of the interfaith families that make up the community. He writes, “Our congregational life has been enriched by Jewish-adjacent members of other religious traditions who have chosen to raise their children in the Jewish community and who have committed to be a part of our synagogue.”
The enrichment that Rabbi Burkeman writes about doesn’t just impact Jews. Did you know that Jews helped create some of the most famous Christmas songs we hear every year? I knew that “White Christmas” was written by Irving Berlin, but I didn’t fully appreciate the quantity of famous Christmas songs that had Jewish creators. “Let it Snow,” “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” and even, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” were written by Jews! As a child who did choir all throughout school, I was bothered by the lack of Hanukkah music we would perform for our December concerts. If only I had realized that so many of the songs I was singing were written by Jews!
Regardless of how your family is observing Christmas, with a tree, with Chinese food, or as a typical Friday heading into Shabbat, I wish you health, safety, and warmth as 2020 comes to a close.