By Ellen Goldstein
Today is December 24. Not only does Shabbat come early (4:28 pm), but it is also Christmas eve in America and throughout the Christian world. And according to the most recent Pew Study done this year, 4 in 10 married Jews have non-Jewish spouses. That means in many houses with mezuzot on door frames, the people inside are celebrating Christmas in some manner. My home is one of them.
No, we don’t hang stockings or have a Christmas tree. We don’t go to church or go caroling around the neighborhood. But yes, we celebrate the “holiday season,” as Americans call it, with family and friends. When my in-laws were still alive, we shared Christmas dinner with them, and if we were lucky, also with my husband’s siblings and their spouses. And if we were extra lucky, the celebration would include my parents and my sister and her husband. Once, a rabbi joined us for Christmas dinner, similar to when a priest, and several ministers joined us for Passover Seder.
In our interfaith family, we are grateful to be part of many different families…and communities; part of the Buffalo Jewish Community, the Roswell Park Alliance and Ride for Roswell Community, the Elmwood Village neighborhood and Garden Walk Buffalo family. We are grateful to be part of these groups who accept us for what we contribute and share, and what we both do to make our Western New York a better place for everyone.
So, this Christmas we will gladly share dinner with my sister and her Christian husband, then go on Christmas day for a joyful breakfast to the home of our dear friends—the parents of our three goddaughters—each of whom is also intermarried. We will share what we always share–food, love, our connections and our friendships. My husband and I will call or Zoom with other family members; we will exchange gifts with neighbors and with each other. And we will continue to be thankful for our lives, our various communities, our opportunities to participate and build community- Jewish as well as secular—and we will wish many people a merry Christmas. Zy geshunt!
Ellen Goldstein is Editor of The Jewish Journal of WNY and a member of Temple Beth Zion and Congregation Beth Abraham.