Jewish Holidays and Practices
A Guide for Newcomers
Click here for more »
Basic Holiday Info
Click here for more »
Think Pieces and Sermons
Click here for more »
A year ago, I met a wonderful woman who is Korean American and grew up going to church. Last night for Hanukkah, that same woman (now my wife-to-be) hosted a latke fry for our friends and made sweet potato kimchi latkes. (All completely her idea.) And they were delicious! When we first started dating, we worried about our differences. But now we see our differences as opportunities. (Especially when it comes to food.)
She’s not converting. She even said she still wants a Christmas tree, because it’s what she grew up with. But she loves the idea of Hanukkah and other Jewish traditions. She appreciates the family aspect, the songs, the traditionâ€¦..and of course the opportunity to fuse our cultures together in creative ways.
What’s particularly interesting to me is that, before I met her, I was what you might call a not-so-engaged Jew. But the more I see Jewish holidays, traditions, and culture through her eyes, the more I appreciate what I like about being Jewish, and the better I am able to answer the question for myself of why be Jewish. As a result of our flexibility, open-mindedness, and teamwork, plus all the great things about Judaism, we are in a much better position to make sure our children grow up with Judaism as well.
I’m not saying sweet potato kimchi latkes are by themselves the key to interfaith bliss. But they are a tasty representation of how one plus one can equal three when it comes to interfaith relationships. That said, just in case you do want to try them out yourself, here’s the recipe from Epicurious.com:
* 1 pound sweet potatoes
* 1 cup packed kimchi (7 ounces), very thinly sliced
* 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
* 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh serrano chiles (including seeds; amount depends on heat of kimchi)
* 1 cup thinly sliced scallions (from about 2 bunches)
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
* About 1/2 cup corn oil or lard
Peel sweet potatoes and julienne using slicer (about 6 cups).
Stir potato together with remaining ingredients except oil. Let mixture stand at room temperature until wilted and moist, about 5 minutes, then stir again.
Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Filling a 1/3-cup measure halfway full with potato mixture for each pancake and working in batches of 5 or 6, tap out into oil, gently flattening pancakes with a spatula to about 1/4 inch thick. Cook until golden brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip, adding a little more oil if necessary, and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Add oil to skillet between batches as needed. Serve warm, with dipping sauce.
Tablet Magazine featured an article by JOI Associate Executive Director Paul Golin in response to a recent trend of non-intermarried Jews telling intermarried Jews that they shouldn’t put up a Christmas tree in their home. He raises the point that each family has a right to decide for themselves how they are going to tackle the December holidays. Even though he does not choose to have a Christmas tree in his own home, despite his wife’s upbringing with one, he respects others’ decisions to include this symbol of the season:
For many Jews looking in from the outside, a Christmas tree might represent the threatening, monolithic assertion: â€śChristian Household.â€ť But for vast swaths of the intermarried population who put up Christmas trees but still successfully raise strongly identified Jews, thatâ€™s just not factually correct. And itâ€™s why Tabletâ€™s Marc Tracy drew the wrong red line when he wrote on the Scroll that the flexibility of identity requires some limits â€śand celebrating Christmas is beyond that limit.â€ť
Really? Why does anyone get to decide that limit for someone else?
The overwhelming majority of Jews pick and choose which Jewish laws they find meaningful and which they reject. Keeping kosher all the time? Rejected by 85 percent of American Jewry. Believing homosexuality is an abomination? Thankfully, rejected by a growing majority. When we start telling each other that our own individual red lines are the universally accepted â€śJewishâ€ť red linesâ€”and if you cross them, youâ€™re a bad Jewâ€”our community descends into recriminations. Those of us working to actually grow the Jewish community understand that the message of â€śour way or the highwayâ€ť more often than not results in the highway. Rather than telling people what they shouldnâ€™t do, why not provide more ways for them to express their Jewish identity?
We at JOI support intermarried families raising Jewish children, regardless of their decision to have or not have Christmas trees in their homes. As Jews, we should be thankful for the fact that they have chosen to raise their children in the Jewish faith, and be open to the idea that they have a right to decide if and how to incorporate the non-Jewish partner’s traditions. Let’s focus on sharing what we love about being Jewish rather than chastising people for doing it “wrong.”
[cross-posted from the Huffington Post]
There has long been a war brewing in America over a December religious holiday and no, I don’t mean the silly non-issue “War on Christmas.” I’m talking about the heated debate that has pitted brother against brother, rabbi against gabbai: The Hubbub Over How to Spell the Jewish Festival of Lights.”
Every year around this time we at the Jewish Outreach Institute receive several “correct spelling” requests for the holiday’s name, usually from well-meaning grade-school teachers who want to present a multicultural front for the inevitable celebrating of Christmas in their public schools. My answer to them is always the same. Yes, there is only ONE way to spell the holiday’s name, and that is: ×—× ×•×›×”.