Multifaith Hanukkah


I think the kids call it Chrismukkah – a unique modern day holiday celebration that combines Hanukkah and Christmas for those families that have members of the Christian and/or Jewish persuasion. Chrismukkah is supposed to be a warm event that celebrates tolerance and diversity, but all to often, multi-faith marriages leave the children confused or annoyed and what is meant to inspire diversity ends up inspiring nausea and annoyance. Why? Because kids are smart and they have a low threshold for bullshit. They know that Mommy and Daddy aren’t particularly good practitioners of whatever religion they are ostensibly commemorating and the whole exercise ends up being, shallow, meaningless and comes at the expense of quality Guitar Hero or wii Tennis time. This song, called “Light the Fucking Candles” by Seattle songstress Eva Moon, with its “early days of punk rock” influence, really best captures the spirit of these interfaith times:

Fun!

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50 Comments

  1. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Israel: Chrismukkah

  2. Kung Fu Jew 18

    12/15/2008 at 2:07 pm

    I’m gonna take big issue with your typical characterization of interfaith kids as confused. I come from two generations of interfaith marriage and had to move to NYC to meet large numbers of “normal” Jews.

    My bullshit detector is pretty honed, for sure. But it’s usually aimed directly at the people talking *about* me or who claim to represent a “right” practice, less so at the specific practices of my parents.

    The stereotype that parents are wishy-washy needs to go also. Our annoyance is not for our parents who live pious private faiths and made a commanding decision to marry the one they loved, religion and prejudice be damned. That’s inspiring. More so, I see us all pissed with the competing “good” practioners who all claim to have it figured out, why dontcha come in to my shul/Hillel/Chabad house for Shabbes? Having witnessed that Judaism is just as bastardized and internally bickersome as Christianity, why not pick and choose like the orthodoxies do already?

    This stereotype is based in nothing, CK, unless it’s your personal experience. I understand your intention was good — not to tear multifaith families down or slander us — but it’s still damned stereotyped.

  3. ck

    12/15/2008 at 4:20 pm

    Yo KFJ. Check your anger at the door man. My personal experience is just as valid as yours – we’re not having a pissing contest here. I have many good friends from interfaith families who are admirable and even inspiring from a spiritual perspective. So please, spare me the righteous indignation.

    I’m not prejudiced against non-Jews. People are free to make whatever choices they like regarding their personal lives. But I am not averse to stating my opinion. In my opinion, on a societal level, interfaith marriages do not tend to produce large numbers of committed Jewish offspring – however it is you wish to define “committed.” If you want to create circumstances that are as amenable as possible to the creation of committed Jewish children, an interfaith marriage is not something you ought to pursue. There are plenty of exceptions of course, but that’s the general statistical rule.

    But allow me to frame this in a way that perhaps even you can relate to. Chrismukkah is crap. It’s a bad idea. It’s more of the empty and vapid meaningless celebration that one sees this time of the year, amongst Christians celebrating Christmas and Jews celebrating Hanukkah. These celebrations have very little to do with their underlying religious origins and are about as spiritual as a new pair of Nikes. Crap, crap, crap.

    This is a song about bullshit. This is the singer/songwriter’s experience. It’s at least as valid as yours and represents her perception of reality. Sorry if it makes you feel uncomfortable, but it’s reality.

  4. Ephraim

    12/15/2008 at 5:22 pm

    Being the product of intermarriage myself, I can absolutely attest that ck is correct. If you want committed Jewish children, and by that I mean children committed to living Jewish lives as traditionally defined, do not marry someone who is not a Jew. I have 3 siblings, 4 first cousins, and a slew of 2nd cousins, and except for one of my sisters, none of them have anything but the most tenuous connection to Yiddishkeit if you define that as feeling close to, and part of, the Jewish people. I doubt if most, or any, of my nieces or nephews or the children of my 2nd cousins are even aware that they are Jews at all (the ones that are Jewish anywyay; half of them aren’t).

    This is not limited to intermarriage; my 2nd cousins come from two Jewish parents, but when the parents are both anti-religious socialists, assimilation happens just as fast, or even faster.

    You, KFJ, may not be confused, but I submit that this is precisely because you think syncretism is cool and orthodoxies, of whatever kind, suck.

    That’s fine. However, saying that intermarried kids have a trendency to be more ambivalent about their Jewishness than those with two Jewish parents is not the same as saying that their parents are spiritually bankrupt.

  5. Kung Fu Jew 18

    12/15/2008 at 5:31 pm

    Define: Jewish.

    Then define: Judaism.

    You can’t. Your proposal is prejudiced to meaningless platitudes of Jewish normalcy. And that normalcy is dying out; meanwhile intermarrieds are growing. Soon *we* will be the norm. And life will continue. Centuries later, people will write about how different Jewish life used to be. And the orthodox will still be orthodox, and still think the rest of us are infidels.

    Chrismukkah might be meaningless to you, but for several of my friends, Chrismukkah is a bright spot of harmony at home reached between warring partisans out to deligitimize their authenticity as Jews. It’s no less vapid than Hanukah or Christmas are normally, or any other holidays.

    It may, indeed, be infinitely more relatable (harmony, compromise, valuing the person over the religion, the sanctity of family) than any yackery about dead Jews thousands of years ago and a bogus miracle, or a fat man in a chimney and a baby and three kings.

    I’m not talking about the singer, I’m talking about you. You’re welcome to your opinions, of course, but that doesn’t not make you xenophobic.

  6. Ephraim

    12/15/2008 at 6:01 pm

    Jew: someone born of a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism according to halacha.

    Judaism: the Jewish religion.

    You got anything else?

    Jews will, as they have always done, do whatever they want. That doesn’t necessarily amke what they do Jewish.

    Not so sure that what you deride as “normalcy” is dying out, BTW. The Orthodox continue to have large families, and the secular and intermarieds generally don’t.

    I know that the “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” argument is seductive, but you can’t just do whatever you want and call it Yiddishkeit.

    Well you can, of course, but that doesn’t make it so.

    But you can do whatever you want. I doubt that “Chrismukkah” will stand the test of time, but whatever.

  7. Kung Fu Jew 18

    12/15/2008 at 6:16 pm

    Ephriam, your difinition includes halakhically-sound Messianic Jews and excludes a majority of the Russian and Ethiopian Israelis. It’s not just a seductive argument; it’s identity politics in reality, whether you like it or not.

    The Orthodox are so few even if they’re growing fast(er), and their “drop out” rates aren’t non-existant, just lower. Meanwhile, the Jew-counters proclaimed years ago that the number of Jews in the US is lesser each year. The Orthodox growth rate isn’t making up the difference. Just read the papers.

    And you CAN do whatever you want and call it Yiddishkeit: just look at American and Israeli Jewry today.

  8. ck

    12/15/2008 at 6:53 pm

    KFJ: Yackery about dead Jews thousands of years ago and a bogus miracle? Well, that yackery is the only reason you have any Jewish identity at all today. It’s thanks to that, and to those who believed in that “bogus miracle” that you can sit here and write on this blog as a Jew. You can be dismissive of the community and the way of life that created you, and you can express a preference for your lovely bright spots of harmony, but… empty, vapid, feel-good celebrations that have no substance or meaning are not what is going to keep Jewish identity alive. Chrismukkah is not just stupid, it’s offensive. Enjoying Christmas Ham by the light of the menorah? Good lord – the Maccabees would have skewered you. Literally.

  9. Tom Morrissey

    12/15/2008 at 7:07 pm

    Were the Maccabees cool with turkey?

  10. Ephraim

    12/15/2008 at 7:30 pm

    I’m not sure what your comments regarding Russians and Ethipians mean. AFAIK, the Ethipoians are Jews. The issue with a lot of the Russians is a problem, yes, but that’s what covnersion is for.

    Anyway, a person can be a Jew and not practice the religion. They overlap, but not 100%.

    My brother is a Jew and doesn’t keep any aspect of the religion or know anything about it. He’s still a Jew, though. Not so his daughter, since her mother isn’t Jewish. While she knows she isn’t a Jew, she knows more about Judaism than he does, ironically.

    Yes, it is true that Jewish numbers and identification with the religion and the people on the part of younger Jews are decereasing, no thanks to people like you. It’s always been that way.

    A lot of individual Jews, like those in my family, won’t make it. But Am Yisrael will muddle through somehow.

    So go light the Chrismukkah treenorah and sing Chrismukkah carols and exchange Chrsimukkah gelt and have your baked ham with latkes and knaidlech or whatever. Don’t let me stop you.

  11. A

    12/15/2008 at 8:38 pm

  12. Modern Girl

    12/15/2008 at 8:45 pm

    I’m a token Shiksa, but I totally think that Chrismukkah is a bad idea. I agree with CK.

    If you want to teach your children to be good Jews, the *best* way to that is not to just feed them latkes. You should also teach them the importance of the Maccbees and how they fought the Greeks so they were able to practice their own religion and be proud Jews.

    If you want to teach your children to be good Christians, the *best* way to that is not to just teach them about Santa. You shoud also teach them about the birth of Jesus and how he allowed everyone to go to Heaven.

    If you want your children to have a strong faith in anything, feeding them latkes and stringing up mistletoe while neglecting to give them any historical religious education is going to mess them up. It will not mess up all of them, but probably the vast majority.

    And heck, I’m in an interfaith relationship, but I know that raising children in two faiths will likely cause massive identity crises to them in their preteen years. For my children’s psychological health, I’m gonna check the Christianity at the door and maintain an (unofficial) Jewish household for them. Christmas will be Grandma and Grandpa’s holiday that we’ll be invited to each year.

  13. froylein

    12/15/2008 at 9:43 pm

    I see a post on Chanukka is overdue.

  14. Chutzpah

    12/15/2008 at 11:24 pm

    This would be an awesome track for Guitar Hero.

    Obviously I’m with Kung Fu Jew on this issue.

    Modern Girl, raising children in two faiths does not cause “massive identity crises”. Raising them in an environment where they can’t question and explore freely does.

    My Chana learned some fucked-up story about Chana and her 7 sons today. That dumb bitch instructed her baby to martyr himself rather than bow down to Antiochus, after watching her other children all be tortured rather than convert. I instructed my daughter that if ever faced with the opportunity to have a Gyro vs. death, go for the Gyro.

  15. Kung Fu Jew

    12/16/2008 at 2:00 am

    I’ve written a lot already, but I still smell empty assertions, so I will press on.

    CK, that yackery gives me a great deal of personal meaning. But for someone else who hasn’t been raised to assume its importance, to read you clutching your testicles and whining about “OMG, we wouldn’t even BE here without the Maccabees!” is naught but a little chuckle-worthy. Without the Maccabees, there might be MORE Jews, you never know — it’s a national myth, not fact. An inspiring myth. But not even the Jews think that story is revelation.

    And take a step back here, dude. If people create their own minhag, that’s great. I should point back to a lot of vapid, senseless, stupid and feel-good Jewish tradition which is JUST AS made up.

    And, yes, the Maccabees would have slaughtered me. Without a doubt, at least because I’m against animal sacrifice. If I were picking a Jewish dodgeball team, I’d totally leave the temple cult fundamentalists for you.

    Emphraim, the Ethiopians are quasi-Christians who claim to be Jews generations ago. They’re not Jewish halakhically.

    Modern Girl, you’re far more reasonable and smart about this. Perhaps because you have kids. I’m not recommending Christmukkah for every Christian-Jewish household, and neither am I saying that Jewish literacy isn’t crucial in a vibrant Jewish society, but I’m definitely saying that the tired stereotypes CK bought into are uneducated and meaningless.

    Chutzpah, bless you. I’m the guy who sacrificed a pig who Judah Maccabee thought so righteously to strike down.

  16. DK

    12/16/2008 at 3:35 am

    and a bogus miracle?

    ck, you know that “miracle” was completely bogus. Stop pretending otherwise. There was no virgin Mary, there was no miracle oil. It isn’t even recorded on the Maccabee’s in-house chronicles of the affair, nor in the prayer addition in the Shemoneh Esrei. Because it NEVER HAPPENED.

    Tom Morrissey asked,

    Were the Maccabees cool with turkey?

    Doubtful. The Maccabees were fundamentalist assholes.

    Chutzpah wrote, That dumb bitch instructed her baby to martyr himself rather than bow down to Antiochus, after watching her other children all be tortured rather than convert.

    The Hasmonean revolt was a dress rehearsal for Shi’ah Islam.

    Anyway, we will all disagree on many things…but I think we should all agree–irrespective of background or perspective on Chrismukah–that The Pogues “New York Fairytale” is by far the very best Christmas song ever. And tragically, no Karaoke bar seems to have it. And this is in NYC. And that is complete and utter bullshit.

  17. themiddle

    12/16/2008 at 4:06 am

    You mean this?

    youtube.com/wa...

    Are you kidding?

    This is:


  18. Michael Star

    12/16/2008 at 5:01 am

    Correction: the Ethiopians ARE

  19. Michael Star

    12/16/2008 at 5:14 am

    Correction: many Ethiopians ARE halachic Jews, because most of them have undergone conversion at the hands of the Rabbanut in Israel. Unlike KFJ, they have a respect for normative Jewish practice.

    And, just to throw this in KFJ: reading your posts here and at Jewschool, you are clearly out of touch with reality and have been hanging out a bit too long in the echo-chamber that is Jewschool if you paradoxically believe the “future” of the Jewish community is the large, silent majority of Jews who have almost no connection to the existing, very-much-real Jewish community. Chabad, Aish, and all that aside, there does exist a very large population of Jews who do go to Sunday school, got to synagogue a few times a year, have a bar mitzvah, and eat chicken/tofu under the lights of the Channukiah, not ham. By definition, the disenfranchised products of American secularization, which is largely made up of products of intermarriage, will not be counted as part of the Jewish community.

    You, as a product of intermarriage who is not disenfranchized, are a statistical anomoly, which is the main point CK was trying to point out and you ignored. I know we live in a postmodern world, but attempting to completely obliterate any definition of “Jewish,” and then include any individual claiming to represent Judaism as part of the Jewish community, just doesn’t work.

    Communities still exist, along with their good sides and their bad sides. Get over it.

  20. Tom Morrissey

    12/16/2008 at 5:17 am

    Alright, I gotta pull Christian rank: Little Drummer Boy is the very *worst* Xmas song *ever*. This is shocking coming from Middle, who as a Jew is an expert on Xmas songs. (You guys wrote most of ‘em.)

    Pahrumpadumdum…. Pahrumpadumdum…. Pahrumpadumdum… AAARGH!

    DK’s right. But if you can’t deal with the Pogues, stick with Irving Berlin. Please.

  21. themiddle

    12/16/2008 at 5:46 am

    No way, man, I like that song.

    You don’t like it cuz it’s one of those that wasn’t written by an MOT.

  22. themiddle

    12/16/2008 at 5:53 am

    Here Tom, you’ll love this one.

  23. ck

    12/16/2008 at 10:50 am

    Dudes. A Fairytale of New York is a gorgeous Christmas song for sure. But even David Bowie cant save the little Drummer Boy. You want bad ass? Try Fairouz, Lebanon’s beloved songstress:

  24. Kung Fu Jew 18

    12/16/2008 at 10:57 am

    Michael — what a horrifically condescending and essentialist statement to make about Ethiopians. Much of the previous generation tried to assimilate at all costs; the new generation does not. There is a backlash against Israeli society/rabbanut for telling them that their culture, faith, practices and minhaggim are inferior.

    I’m saying two things to CK and the like:

    1) Your definitions of normative Jewishness are arbitrary. Halakha is half the conversation, insufficient to fully answer the question, because the State of Israel itself is taking plenty of liberties with the definition. Unless you pick one over the other, you cannot possibly be consistent. Either some mixed Jew is just as Jewish, or start advocating to ship the Ethopians and Russians back home.

    2) We can disagree on #1, that’s fine. But like I said before, drop the stereotypes you rely upon because they’re insulting. Like saying, “Oh, I can make generalizations about black people because I have five black friends.” I’m pushing you to admit that the reasons presented here are riddled full of holes, wishful thoughts, and half-examined research, in which the only consistent feature is parroted prejudice. It’s like listening to the 700 Club talk about what makes gay people gay. They have “research” to rely on too. Based in fantasy and pre-determined conclusions.

  25. froylein

    12/16/2008 at 12:26 pm

    This is one of my favs music-wise, though other medieval songs and even Latin ones are still going strong here:

  26. froylein

    12/16/2008 at 12:41 pm

    Somebody once came up with Chanukka lyrics in Ivrit to go with the tune of this one:

  27. Ephraim

    12/16/2008 at 12:49 pm

    What Michale Star said.

    KFJ:

    A “mixed” Jew is just as Jewish as a “pure” Jew, providing that the “mixed” Jew’s mother is Jewish. Otherwise, the “mixed” Jew is not Jewish.

    Not all Jews, “mixed”, “pure” or otherwise, take it upon themselves to dotheir best to live a Torah life. So they marry gentiles, celebrate gentile holidays, eat trayf foood, etc. Thy’re still Jews, but they can in no way be considered to be living a Jewish life. For Jewish hipsters of the Jewschool persuasion, as you seem to be, their expressions of “Jewishness” seem to consist primarily of dumping all over those tiresome wet blankets who have the chutzpah to say that Chrismukkah is a crock.

    Snide hipster ironic detachment from actual Jewish life is not the same as living a Jewish life. You are, of course, free to do whatever you want, but just don’t call it Yiddishkeit.

    Yes, Israel and its approcah to halachic issues and definitions of Jewishness present some interesting issues. Israel was specifically for the purpose of creating a “new Jew”, and for many of the original pioneers, the “new Jew” was envisioned specifically as aeverything the “old Jew” was not. In a sense, they adopted a very goyish approach to what made a Jew a Jew. It would be interesting to be able to live long enough to see how that will work itself out.

    Personally, I think the Jewish people will continue to live as it has always done: a core of dedicated “religious fanatics”, if you will, who will live according to Torah and mitzvot no matter what the cost, surrounded by a larger group of people with decreasing levels of identification/observance the further from this core group they drift.

    And don’t forget the gerim.

    Modern Girl:

    I think you will be doing your children a disservice if you raise them so that they think they are Jewish. They aren’t. If you want to convert, great. But otherwise, they will suffer in the long run. Your children will be (are?) gentiles, and for their sakes they should be raised as such.

  28. Pingback: IFF Network Blog » Blog Archive » Hanukkah Comes Up From the Minors

  29. Sheela

    12/16/2008 at 6:31 pm

    Tsk, tsk, so much bickering right before the holidays. Very jewlicious!
    I’m with Kung Fu Jew on this one. OK, Christmukkah sounds really stupid, but it’s not exactly a highly confidential CIA report that Hanukah itself was a quaint minor holiday on the Jewish calendar, that got blown waaay out of proportion by North American Jews to keep their little pitselehs for feeling too bad about not celebrating that fun holiday w/ the fat man in the red suit & all the presents & goodies. So forgive me if I have a hard time relating to all this grandiose talk about preserving the sanctity of the holiday and whether or not the Maccabees would have put my head on a spike if they caught me eating a BLT. :P
    And I guess we’ve all had different experiences with different people but the characterization of Interfaith families as “leaving the children confused or annoyed” seems pretty way off base too. I mean, WTF? From my own experience the adult children of such families have embraced their
    Jewish identity to the fullest, and quite frankly have more Yiddishkeit in them than most of their secular ironic hipster counterparts, who were raised in a home with two practicing Jewish parents, and as adults go DJ after work in the trendiest Williamsburg bars on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.

  30. Tom Morrissey

    12/16/2008 at 10:27 pm

    That ‘trendy Williamsburg bar’ is in truth the very maw of Hades.

  31. Ephraim

    12/17/2008 at 12:10 am

    If we’re talking about the best Christmas music, screw all that Irving Berlin boojwah.

    The Renaissance German Lutheran composer Michael Praetorius composed the most beautiful Christmas music in the world.

    If someone could compose Hebrew lyrics to his hymns, such as the following, I would be happy.

    youtube.com/wa...

    I suppose it’s just as well that I don’t understand German; all I can hear is “eine kleine kinder” blah blah, blah. But the music is just too beautiful for words. It’s even better when the voices are accompanied by the correct Renaissance instruments like sackbutts, krummhorns and cornetto. The ultimate expression of “dulcet tones”.

    And for plain old nostalgia, “O Tennenbaum” can’t be beat.

    Parumpumpumpum, my ass.

  32. ck

    12/17/2008 at 1:23 am

    DK: Oh the Maccabees were so horrible! Heh. The biggest miracle of Hanukkah is that a rag tag group of zealots defeated the most powerful empire on earth. And the Jews that were killed in the process? They weren’t diaspora Jews in the post enlightenment era redefining the scope of their Jewish identity so that it could encompass eating a BLT sandwich, falling in love with and marrying a non-Jew or DJing at some dive in Williamsburg on Yom Kippur. They were effectively active collaborators with a deadly enemy hell bent on destroying the Jewish people. You remember the kapos? Well these Jews were worst than kapos. Now of course the whole Maccabean thing eventually went south – but, just as we celebrate those that resisted the Nazis, celebrating the resistance of the Maccabees is perfectly appropriate. I am certain that even the bacon loving Jews amongst us, if confronted with a similar foe today – one who killed Jews in a horrific manner and tried to institute rules against the practice of Judaism – even you would fight against such actions.

    So there.

  33. Ephraim

    12/17/2008 at 1:53 am

    Most Jews maybe, but DK? Not so much, I think. I mean, he thinks brit millah should be abolished, so there’s an even chance he might be right in there with Antiochus ratting us out.

    After all, who were the Greeks but the original enlightened pagans who thought all of that “one invisible G-d” stuff and all of those pesky mitzvot were a crock that got in the way of everybody accepting the obviously superior Hellenistic culture? As far as I can tell, DK thinks Judaism pretty much sucks and that Jews would be better off without it.

  34. ck

    12/17/2008 at 2:22 am

    I know it’s easy to think that DK would be on the side of the Hellenists but whatever misguided notions DK has about smegma or traditional Judaism, I have no doubt that he would not support wrapping Rabbis in Torah Scrolls and burning them alive, or capital punishment for refusing to eat bacon or whatever. I have no doubt that he would fight against any force that sought to annihilate the Jewish people. I say this because I know him personally and I am fully cognizant of the fact that his writings don’t necessarily correspond to what I said. DK is mostly wrong about stuff, but he doesn’t know it. Otherwise his essence is verily infused with Ahavat Yisrael and Yirat Hashem. Seriously.

  35. Tom Morrissey

    12/17/2008 at 5:28 am

    Ephraim, check out Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s baroque Xmas music, too. While unfortunately French, he had a genius for melody. Also- while I’m not a medieval chant fan, there’s a Xmas day chant CD by the Tallis Scholars (the Brits do this stuff as well as anyone) called Sarum Chant (Gimell). Ethereal, spacey music (though you’d never know it was composed for Xmas), guaranteed to lower your blood pressure.

  36. Eva Moon

    12/17/2008 at 9:44 am

    Thanks for linking to my video! Interesting discussion!

    Eva Moon

  37. Sheela

    12/17/2008 at 4:43 pm

    “that ‘trendy Williamsburg bar’ is in truth the very maw of Hades.”
    Huh, you ain’t kidding. Skinny jeans… feh! :P

  38. Ephraim

    12/17/2008 at 5:52 pm

    Well, ck, all Antiochus wanted was for the Jews to abandon their religion, which is what prevented their complete assimilation into the Hellenistic world, and it was only after his reasonable requests for the Jews to stop being so damn contrarian were met with armed violence that he sent in the troops. If the Jews had just stopped taching Torah and keeping mitzvot, there would have been no bloodshed.

    Everything DK writes leads me to believe that he would have assented to Antiochus gladly, since I have never heard him say one positive thing about the Jewish religion.

    But you know him and I don’t so I’ll take your word for it.

  39. Kung Fu Jew

    12/24/2008 at 5:55 pm

    You all have inspired me to write and solicit other mixeds on this topic. Cuz I’ve just had it up to *here* with the stereotypes.

  40. froylein

    12/24/2008 at 6:28 pm

    KFJ, just scanned through your post, and I agree wholeheartedly. The stereotyping is nonsense, the claim of confused identities utter shtuss (only a person clueless about either religion could claim such). A sidenote to any girl who may have been told such by a Jewish bf, it’s not an uncommon way of hinting at that a break-up is inevitable / overdue. Love speaks a different language.

    As I occasionally like to say, “At least I can admit to my mixed background.”

    Cheers.

  41. Tom Morrissey

    12/24/2008 at 7:25 pm

    What’s love got to, uh, do with it?

  42. Ephraim

    12/24/2008 at 9:51 pm

    Pretty damn stupid post, KFJ.

    Judaism has little or nothing to do with what most people call “race”, as you seem to think. You need to get over your obsession with DNA. It’s unhealthy.

    I come from a mixed background too. We celebrated Christmas when I was a kid. I still have very fond memories of it. It was hard to give it up.

    So the fuck what? It was hard to give up the comfort foods of my father’s side of the family too, things like fleishpankacken (a delicious oven-baked custard-like pancake filled with crisp bacon and served with appelsauce), shinckenflecken (a layered noodle and ground ham kugel baked with eggs and milk, flavored with nutmeg and served with applesauce), and saurbraten (a braised beef roast marinated in wine, vinegar and pickling spices and served with a sourcream gravy). I grew up on these foods (along with latkes and chicken soup with knaidlech, of course). But I got over that too.

    Your point seems to be, basically, that “mixed” Jews are better Jews than “pure” Jews and can “solve” the “problems” of the Jewish people by bringing in all of their conflicting and incompatible cultural baggage. Sorry, that won’t help the Jewish people, it will just speed our complete disintegration as an identifiable community with shared values.

    You say that you’re tired of the “stereotype” of mixed Jews being confused. And your example is a guy with a Magen David and the Shema (in Hebrew that he can’t read) tattooed on one arm and a crucifix and the flames of Hell tattooed on the other? What do you call a person like that if not terminally confused? Way to make your point, dude.

    Your post, and the examples you bring, are pretty much the best argument against intermarriage that I can think of. Like I said earlier, it’s not that such people are not confused about what it means to be Jewish (they are). You just think the confusion is a good thing, not a bad thing, because you think that the Jewish and goyish sides are both equally valid. They aren’t, at least not in a Jewish context. It’s like saying you can be a Communist and a Republican at the same time. Not possible.

    I’ve said this before, so I’ll say it again: my wife is a Japanese giyoret and my sons could all pass in Tokyo if they wanted to. We speak Japanese at home, and we eat a delicious and varied 100% kosher Japanese diet. We are also shomer shabbat and my one of my sons is an ordained Orthodox rabbi. It would be hard to find a more racially mixed family than mine. And yet we are 100% accepted by the Orthodox community. Why? Because we accepted the price of admission. The people you talk about either aren’t at that point yet or are actively fighting against the traditional definition of what it means to be Jewish. To the extent that someone insists that they must be accepted as Jewish even as they insist that celebrating Christmas is a perfectly acceptable thing for a Jew to do, they should not be surprised if people have a problem with this.

    I am not saying the road my family took is for everyone. Nor am I saying it was easy. But this is the kind of mixing that the Jewish people need: everything goes through the kosher filter, and what comes out the other end is Jewish because it’s kosher. The kind of facile everybody-is-Jewish-because-everybody-is-racially-mixed-and-no-one’s-definition-of-what-it-means-to-be-Jewish-is-better-than-anyone-else’s definition you seem to favor is a dead end.

    Any one and every one of the people you mention could be authentically Jewish if they really want to be. I wish them all the best of luck as they try to sort things out. I really do. But the halacha and the mesorah are the only legitimate things that define who and what a Jew is. And race has nothing, but nothing, to do with it.

    But crucifixes and Magen Davids, Christmas and Chanuka, chazzer and Shabbes are mutually exclusive things, and they always will be.

  43. froylein

    12/25/2008 at 1:55 am

    Ephraim, I don’t think it was KFJ’s point to demonstrate that mixed Jews are better or to open a race debate (the really hardcore frum wouldn’t marry a convert or a child of a convert, so the argument is to be held there), but he denounces the myth mixed upbringing necessarily leading to confusion and he laments being looked down upon by allegedly “pure” Jews. (Let’s face it; if you’ve got blue eyes, a considerable part of your ancestors lived somewhere north of the Black Sea as the origin of the genetic mutation that led to blue eyes could be traced back there.)
    BTW, there are lots of Sauerbraten recipes without cream in the gravy. Fancy?

  44. Pingback: Jewlicious » Fourth Night of Hanukkah: Just me and this cat…

  45. Ephraim

    12/25/2008 at 6:53 am

    Who are the “hardcore frum”, froylein? That argument is just as much of a stereotype as what KFJ is complaining about. Hell, just let me know when Lubavitchers start marrying Satmarers, for that matter.

    I’m quite aware that there are plenty of Jewish racists. I question whether Judaism itself is racist, though. Exclusive, yes, no question. But every group is, be definition, exclusive in some way. That’s not the same thing as racism, however.

    The Torah says that after three generations Egyptian converts could be accepted into Am Israel. If Judaism were racist, this would be impossible. But three generations is just about the amount of time it takes for malign cultural and religious elements to be assimilated out. The grandparents are dead, and no one lights the tree anymore (so to speak). It is around the third generation that a child of converts in such a situation could conceivably be raised with no Egyptian religious and spiritual nostalgia. All they would know is Judaism. In marrying such a person there’s no danger that your kids are going to start insisting that mummification and burning incense to gods that look like they’re from some bestiary like what Oma and Opa do is just as legitimate as keeping Shabbes.

    I have a sour cream-less saurbraten recipe, but I’m always happy to have another.

  46. froylein

    12/25/2008 at 7:14 am

    Ephraim, Satmar already is considered mainstream by many smaller Chasidishe sects. It gets way more hardcore than that, and even many adherents to Satmar wouldn’t marry a convert or offspring of a convert because of questionable “yichus” – while they had the benefit of the doubt that much of their own geneaology was losts in the mists of persecution and migration. (Most of my friends in the US are Chasidish.) This is not in so much a stereotype as in most yeshiva rabbis I know advise their bochurim accordingly and they tell me the policy is the same at seminaries. Despite the honour and respect converts should receive in Judaism (thanks to the story of Ruth), those people that consider themselves the norma normans consider converts inferior. Though I dare say it would do their genepool good to become more accepting of converts.

    As for children swaying spiritually, I don’t know whereabout you dwell, but in Brooklyn “henna parties” for Chasidishe bachelorettes / brides-to-be are all the rage. Those henna tattoos are either Hindu or Northern African Nomad magic symbols, so as things are, incense sticks are just a matter of buying stuff off the next shelf. That’s what I meant by kitsch in my recent post; Judaism has become a label even among many Orthodox, but the jar is void of content.

    I’ll translate the recipe for you later. I <3 Sauerbraten.

  47. ck

    12/25/2008 at 11:05 am

    Yeah froylein. And Hamsa’s predate Islam and Judaism and those are all over the place even here in Ir Hakoydesh. As a Jew who has two Jewish parents, I still don’t look down in any way shape or form on Jews from mixed parentage or converts. As to the issue of race – it doesn’t even come into play. What I look down upon is the introduction of absolutely treif concepts into Judaism. A tattoo of a burning cross next to a tattoo of magen David? I know the intention was good, but it aint Judaism. And yet, even in such a case, if our tattooed friend were to decide to become Jewish, or whatever, I’d accept him 100%.

    Look, I even accept the possibility that someone coming from an interfaith household can still live a more Jewish life than me. When I am critical of multi-faith families it’s just because on a societal level they don’t tend to produce a high percentage of people that even identify as Jews. What I am stating is statistical fact – I hate being criticized as some kind of close minded bigot when I state that 2 + 2 = 4.

  48. froylein

    12/25/2008 at 11:15 am

    What I look down upon is the introduction of absolutely treif concepts into Judaism.

    Then you’ll have a lot of cleaning up to do, my dear. ;) Told you, there’s a reason why I like your chanukia.
    As for those stats, they’re not really telling as they don’t tell to what degree people affiliate (as you already suggested above). You’ll more likely have people with mixed backgrounds embrace Judaism if you can convince people to be just as welcoming of them as you are. Many are not.

  49. Ephraim

    12/25/2008 at 7:39 pm

    Well, one tiny sect of Chassidim considering another slightly more numerous bunch of Chassidim mainstream doesn’t mean much to me. That’s like Obama’s team doing an investigation of themselves and saying they didn’t talk to Blagoyevich about the senate seat. It don’t signify.

    Anyway, I’m basically Mitnagdish mainstream Modern Orthodox. I figure the Chassidim think I’m a goy anyway, so I don’t particularly care what they think.

    I’m pretty sure KFJ feels the same way about how I feel about his ideas too, so zei gezunt. Useless to discuss it further.

  50. froylein

    12/26/2008 at 4:34 am

    Glad you agree with “golus boy” for a change. :)

    I suppose you’ve followed the news from Israel about Charedi authorities revoking conversions, even Orthodox ones. Since the state of Israel accepts them as an authority, it is an significant move.

    BTW, Chasidim consider all of us on here goyim. If you don’t keep all the mitzvot to their standards, you’re not a Jew in their eyes.

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