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Of Jews and Gentiles

(A picture of the table setting of my first thanksgiving that I hosted as an adult. As you can tell, I like me some decorations.)

So after a thanksgiving back in DC with my family, full of yummy gluten free food and lots of quality time with my friends, we drove back here to New Haven, CT. It’s a tradition in my family to put up the Christmas tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Only…things have changed a little. Last year I converted to Judaism.

I grew up Catholic and Presbyterian, my parents could never agree on what faith to raise me so I was never baptized. After a long struggle with Christianity, and feeling like it never fit, I gave up on organized religion when I was 16. Not only did I give up on it, I threw it out the window. I vowed to never be part of any organized religion. Ever. So when I started dating Natalie, I suddenly was introduced to Judaism. Not that I had never met a Jewish person, but in my very Christian town, there just weren’t any. So I really had no concept of the religion.

Fast forward to going to Adat Shalom Synagogue in Bethesda, MD. I met Rabbi Fred. You know when they talk about men of God? That’s Rabbi Fred. I love him. He’s a vegetarian, Reconstructionist, specializes in LGBT studies and Women’s studies, funky, funny, Rabbi who, when we went to Shul, I felt truly inspired after listening to his talks. So long story short after 3 years(yes 3!!) of converting classes, reading, listening to my heart- I converted last August.

So here comes Christmas…the holiday I love. I LOVE lights, Christmas trees, ice skating, the whole shabang! So I want to bring that over to Hanukkah. Yes, it’s not a big holiday, but any kind of pick me up in these dark months is reason enough for me. I got sad thinking I would never have a Christmas tree again. Not for the religious aspect…but because I’m shallow and it’s pretty. Rabbi Fred asked why I would give it up? Why would I completely erase my past?

So today, our Jewmas tree goes up. Decorated with blue and while lights, ornaments from places Natalie and I have traveled, and lots of pretty things. It’s a tiny tiny tree because I feel some guilt that I continue to want a symbol of a religion I never identified with. I know Natalie’s father, a man who grew up in Poland, Ukraine, and Israel, was horrified when he came to America and saw Jewish people putting up Christmas trees. The search continues for cool decorations for our house that are festive and fun and still Jewish.

So while I may one day give up my tiny Jewmas tree, today I can keep it. And love it.

Comments

I love the Jewmas tree idea, and I love the wisdom of Rabbi Fred. Happy decorating and celebrating with your lovely wife!

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