Where Do You Give?

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On the 3rd Night of Chanukah: Interfaith Couples Find Common Ground

For the past six months, my boyfriend and I have started to talk about what our future together could be.  After four and a half years, we’re committed to the long haul and are planning on moving in together this summer.  We’ve processed all the details – he’ll start putting his dirty socks in a hamper and I’ll watch Grey’s Anatomy on my own time.  But the elephant in the room remained to be untouched: will we celebrate Chanukah or Christmas?  Of course this question is deeper than a question of holiday cheer; it spoke to our identities, our connection to our pasts, and our desire to pass on our traditions to our children. 

Neither of us is religious.  I grew up in a secular Jewish household, and he grew up going to a Catholic church once a year on Christmas.  But neither of us was ready to abandon our heritage altogether so compromises began.  You can have a Bar Mitzvah if I can have a baptism.  We’ll do Passover at my parents’ place and Easter at yours.  This is all on the surface – we can celebrate both sets of holidays and split traditions easily.  But what will our child believe in?

For me, working at AJWS and on Where Do You Give? helped me navigate this question.  I have learned about parts of Judaism that speak to me in a way that going to synagogue did not.  Concepts of Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam align with my personal values.  Giving to others and pursuing social justice are rules within Judaism that I can and want to follow.  I don’t need my future children to believe in God, to go to synagogue, or to keep kosher; I need them to understand Judaism’s imperative to fulfill your obligation to others.

I brought this answer back to my boyfriend.  “I want our children to believe in the Jewish principles that make me proud to be a Jew – the lessons that teach dignity, respect, and fairness for all.”  To which he responded, “That sounds good to me!”

Melanie Goldberg

Melanie Goldberg is a social work intern at AJWS. She is currently in her second year at Wurzweiler School of Social Work where she is pursuing an MSW degree focused on community organization and macro-level change.

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