I was extremely fortunate to grow up with extended inter-faith family. While we celebrated the Jewish holidays in our home, we often had the chance to enjoy helping relatives and friends decorate their Christmas trees, hunt for Easter eggs and sometimes, yes, attend Christmas Eve mass. Our family and friends joined us for latkes and playing dreidels, matzah brei and long Seders, walking to shul and standing in the back with me for High Holy Day services. And the wonderful thing was, everything involved family, love, and the history of our ancestors.
Again, I live in a Jewish home and the inter-faith family connections have continued to multiply. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to celebrate your own identity and share in the joys of others as well. A lot of it has to do with mutual respect, love of a Divine presence, and sharing our cultural traditions. We had family and friends of various faiths attend our children’s Bris, naming, and B’nai Mitzvahs just as we’ve attended Christenings, Communions and Hindu Namakaran ceremonies. It just seems as if the love is multiplied in so many different ways and sometimes also languages. There are so many similarities — for instance the winter season has celebrations such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali and Kwanzaa, each one is a “Festival of Lights” in its own unique way.
Growing up I did know a few people who frowned upon the inter-faith exposure, but it never hurt me. I never strayed from the religious beliefs my parents raised me with, but I did grow to respect, accept, and enjoy all my loved ones’ customs. And despite the fear some folks may have about losing their young to other cultures, it actually became a stronger tie to my own beginnings. I love who I am and I identify with my roots and I encourage others to hold on to their beliefs as well. There are those, in today’s world, who feel that religion causes wars and hate, but it shouldn’t. Parents should raise their children to recognize that every HUMAN BEING has a right to their own way of worship and to enjoy their religious festivities.
During Hanukkah we celebrate the story of the Maccabees and how they led the fight for religious freedoms. We should all feel free to observe and celebrate our faith, to worship (or not) the way we want to. Every person has the right to find comfort and peace in their beliefs. I am aware there are fanatics in every faith but too many of them are using and perverting the concepts of their religions for their own gains, and that is not love of their fellow human beings. We have to learn tolerance and acceptance and reject the tirades of the prejudiced and close-minded. We have to teach our children that every human being deserves acceptance and deserves to be loved.
I wish you all the joys of the season.
May you all know happiness, peace and family love.
|Merry Christmas Happy Hanukkah Joyous Kwanzaa|