I call myself a “cashew” for fun. I’m a Catholic-Jew I tell people. My whole life, I have been fortunate enough to be part of a multi-faith family. My mom is Jewish and my dad is Catholic. What does that mean exactly? The easiest way to explain it is to tell you that I celebrate everything. We have Christmas and Hannukah; Easter and Passover. We aren’t a religious family by any means, neither of my parents were particularly dedicated to their religions. I didn’t grow up going to church or temple nor did I have a communion or bat mitzvah (lost out big time on those!), but we always celebrated and shared the holidays together. In the end, being with family is what sticks out the most.
Growing up, I felt like the only Jewish kid in town. Not in a bad way, but no one knew what Hannukah was and in 1987 we didn’t get 15 days off during the year for holidays like Yom Kippur or Passover like kids do now. In my world, everyone went to CCD and celebrated Christmas. It never really bothered me, as I got to basically participate in what everyone else did. Plus, I got to play my Jew card. I didn’t have to go to school on certain obscure holidays and as I got older, I could take off work or leave early for the same reason. However, if I didn’t celebrate Christmas, I think I might have felt differently if I was ONLY Jewish; somewhat sad that I wasn’t part of holidays that were so commercially promoted and in your face.
When I moved to a new town, I noticed a lot of people were Jewish. There were more Jewish people here than I think I have known in my entire life. In fact, I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful group of friends and they are ALL Jewish. I am the only one decorating a Christmas tree and hiding eggs on Easter. I’m suddenly the religious minority in my adult life, like I was during childhood.
This time of year, I notice it even more, as my friends are getting ready to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (it’s 5776 in case you’re wondering). They’re cooking and making plans to visit family and it’s a whole big event. It’s nothing like when I grew up in my small mountain town and it’s kind of nice to see how people embrace these holidays. In my family, if we could make it happen with everyone’s crazy schedules, we did. We’d eat brisket and challah and dip some apples in honey (just to make my mom happy). And if it didn’t work out, we’d skip it and maybe have a “Jewish meal” some other time during the year.
Even though I am surrounded by a lot more Jewishness during this time in my life, I don’t feel any more Jewish, or Catholic, than I used to. I’m married to a man who is Catholic, who doesn’t go to church and isn’t religious himself. He eats matzoh balls and chicken soup and I eat ham and lasagna when the holidays roll around. We have a daughter who is obsessed with Christmas and likes spinning a dreidel and my hope is that is how she lives her life from here on out: spinning dreidels, decorating trees, hunting for eggs, lighting candles on the menorah and eating delicious random holiday food. And most importantly, being with family. Because that’s the way life should be and we are fortunate enough to be able to do it all. L’Chaim. Amen.