Kudos to Sue Fishkoff, a longtime Jewish journalist and author who is now editor of J., San Francisco’s Jewish newspaper, for “My Family Tree Is Loaded With Tinsel,” a brave piece about Christmas.
A patrilineal Jew, Fishkoff had a halachic conversion at age 19, and “would never put up a tree in my own house,” but she has continued to celebrate Christmas each year with her gentile mom:
Let’s be clear: I am totally, unequivocally Jewish. I always have been, even before I got that official certificate signed by the three rabbis from Brooklyn (one didn’t speak English, I swear). Going to my mom’s for Christmas takes nothing away from that.
So why does the Jewish community make things so difficult for me and the hundreds of thousands of other American Jews who have non-Jewish relatives? In this country, one out of every two Jews marries a non-Jew, and those non-Jews have parents and siblings and uncles and aunts. That’s a lot of Christmas trees.
As intermarriage increases, so will those blended families. Six years ago, a Hillel survey found that 47 percent of college students who identify as Jewish come from intermarried homes.
Look carefully at that number: It means that for today’s young Jews, intermarriage isn’t a problem, it’s who they are. Many young Jews may be committed to marrying Jewish, but plenty of their friends don’t feel the same way, even if they want to build Jewish homes. As they say, it’s complicated.
I’ve been working in the Jewish media for 20 years, and many’s the time I’ve been called upon to cover events on Dec. 25. There I am on the phone with this or that prominent Jewish organization, telling them why I can’t attend, and the reaction is always the same. The sharp intake of breath. The careful pause. The unspoken question.
Why can’t we openly acknowledge what we all know is going on?
I encourage you to read the entire article.
Perhaps illustrating just how different the West Coast is from New York, there is not one comment posted online so far in response to her column! Not one! Where are you “Anti-Intermarriage” and the commenter who regularly complains about gentile women raising Jewish children? Where are you Orthodox triumphalists who insist liberal Jews will have assimilated into nothingness within a generation or two?
In any event, I am heartened to see high-profile Jewish figures like Sue Fishkoff (whose book credits include “The Rebbe’s Army” and “Kosher Nation”) sharing their stories and offering a nuanced and open-minded understanding of intermarried families and their children.