DC High Holidays Classes and Events 5783

Image courtesy of ClipArtMax.com

L’shanah tova! A new year will be upon us in a few weeks. And with that, my favorite holiday! Bring on the apples and honey!

The effects of COVID-19 seem largely reduced this year, though J-Connect still has a list of streaming services in the area. For more of their High Holidays coverage, click here.

I thought I’d take a moment, as in years past, to highlight some DC-area events leading up to and including the High Holidays! Links will lead you to access points online. Or in-person locations with public safety rules. Feel free to leave other events in the comments!

Sunday, September 18

Pre-High Holiday Apple Picking at Homestead Farm
10 am, Bethesda Jewish Congregation

Family Days of Awesome
10 am, EDCJCC

Tashlich and Picnic Lunch at Ben Brenman Park
11 am, Agudas Achim Congregation

Young Families Apple Picking at Hollins Farms
11 am, Olam Tikvah

Reverse Tashlich stream cleaning
1 pm, Congregation Etz Hayim

Apples in the Campfire: A Rosh Hashanah Gathering
3:30 pm, Pozez JCC

Tot Sized Taste of Rosh Hashanah
4 pm, Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County

Monday, September 19

Online Elul Workshop with Avram Weissman
7 pm, Magen David Sephardic Congregation

Renew and Restart: A High Holidays Yoga Class
7 pm, Sixth & I

Tuesday, September 20

Bim Bom Bags: A Year of Crafts and Fun!
4:30 pm, Pozez JCC

Saturday, September 24

Rosh Hashanah Family Jam
11 am, Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim

Monday, September 26

Apples and Honeys
10 am, Bender JCC

Thursday, September 29

Virtual Bim Bom Bags for High Holidays
4:30 pm, Bender JCC

Sunday, October 2

Pick with PJ: An Apple-Picking Event at Waters Orchard
2 pm, Bender JCC

Wednesday, October 5

I’m Sorry Day
10 am, Bender JCC

Yom Kippur Mindfulness Hike at Rock Creek Park
1 pm, EDCJCC

Geraldine Brooks Tackles Race Relations and the Legacy of a Real-Life Horse in her Latest Historical Novel

Geraldine Brooks and her book cover / image courtesy of Adas Israel

Geraldine Brooks, well-known for her historical fiction novels like March and Caleb’s Crossing, came out a few months ago with another meaty one in Horse. She joined the Adas Israel and Beth El communities online via Zoom last Sunday morning in order to talk shop.

Brooks, a Jewish author who has written on Jewish topics like the Sarajevo Haggadah in People of the Book (she’s also a renowned nonfiction writer), spoke about what it was like to write during the pandemic, dealing with that general uncertainty alongside the sudden death of her husband. Over 250 people were in attendance over Zoom, and she answered questions from fans about everything from the nature of her writing practice to her admittedly cynical beliefs concerning systemic racism.

As a tangent, Brooks is staying away from writing historical series’ for the moment, and will also likely stay away from revisiting the Iron Age after all the work it took to research her King David biopic, which is currently the only book of hers I’ve read. The author said her sweet spot in history is the late 17th century.

Horse tracks the life and legacy of the real-life famous racing animal, Lexington, from the antebellum south. Similar to The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish (and you can listen to Kadish address the Adas/Beth El community in an archived video program here!), another Jewish historical novel, this is a multiple timeline narrative. Lexington’s life is chronicled through the exploits of the slave who first cares for him. In 1954, a gallery owner becomes obsessed with contemporary paintings of Lexington. Then, in 2019, a scientist and historian convene to study Lexington’s bones, and in so doing uncover the story of his Black handlers.

Many of the specific characters are fictional, but Brooks was inspired by lots of factual evidence, too. Adas Librarian Robin Jacobson shared with participants links to PBS documents pertaining to the human-horse bond, as well as this Smithsonian article on Lexington. Jacobson was then in conversation with Brooks during the Zoom chat.

If you were unable to make it to this virtual event and are in the DC area, you still have the chance to see Brooks in person! She’s featured for the Library of Congress’s National Book Festival, which will be held at the National Convention Center on Saturday, September 3. Local indie bookstore, Politics & Prose, will be selling the book on site; you can also order a copy from them here.

For more of my literary coverage, check out the Books, Plays, Movies and Music tab!

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Jewish Life Around the World

Original image courtesy of clipart-library.com

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival usually takes place every summer. This year, it was back and in person for the first time since 2018!

The purpose of this festival is to bring amazing world and cultural events to the National Mall. But because it was celebrated virtually last year, they decided to do a repeat, and highlight the United Arab Emirates again, this time with normal programming. They also added an “Earth Optimism” track, which was described on the website as a chance to interact with scientists, anthropologists and specialists who will teach about conservation efforts through the Smithsonian and broader communities.

For the last several years, inspired by DC’s folklife tradition, I have researched and brought attention to the widely diverse world of Jewish communities. Jewish culture has touched almost every corner of the world, and vice versa. But since the Folklife Festival honored the United Arab Emirates last year, I already wrote about their Jewish presence here! I used this as an excuse to put off writing a new entry, as alas, the Folklife Festival is now over until 2023. (I did go in person myself, with my dad, sister and niece! So great to be back!)

But in honor of conservation efforts, allow me to point out some Jewish environmental groups. And for my past coverage of Jewish life in unique places, click on the “Annual Events” tab!

The Coalition on the Environment and Public Jewish Life (COEJL)
Founded in 1993 and based in the U.S., COEJL highlights outreach, activism and Jewish learning centered on Earth stewardship and protection through their programming with Jewish leaders, institutions and individuals. They serve as the Jewish partner in the National Religious Partnership on the Environment.

Hazon: the Jewish Lab for Sustainability
Founded in 2000 in the U.S., Hazon has since merged with other Jewish organizations including the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center and Pearlstone. Focused on diverse community building, they highlight connections to nature, environmental sustainability, Jewish teachings and more.

Marketed as the Green Zionist Alliance, with activities in North America and Israel. They have history as the environmental party of the American Zionist Movement and the World Zionist Organization. The webpage has several dead links, but going by the organization’s their Facebook profile, they’re still active!

Also from Israel: the scholarly online journal, The Environment in Jewish Thought and Law (great WordPress layout ;D), Teva Ivri and the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, which was started in Jerusalem. This is a very bird’s-eye view of Jewish environmentalism; feel free to leave more info in the comments!

Pride Month 2022 in Jewish DC!

Graphic courtesy of Clip Art Max

Happy Pride! It’s an exciting time to celebrate with local Jews. The EDCJCC’s GBLTQ organization, GLOE, recently started a book club! Contact the organization, or check your Edlavitch JCC newsletter to learn more. Adas has also convened a new LGBTQ+ affinity group, called Ga’avah (Pride.) We held an inaugural event over Zoom last week to discuss queer and other revelations in preparation for Shavuot, and on Sunday, June 26, there will be an in-person meet-and-greet. The RSVP link isn’t publicly available, I don’t think, but if you are affiliated with Adas and LGBTQIA+ identifying/questioning or immediate family, then I’d be happy to send it to you. I’m not in a leadership position, but I’m hoping it will be a great way to meet new people in an intersectional space! You can also donate to Adas’s Jayme Schlenker Memorial Fund, which provides resources to transgender youth.

Here are some more events coming up during Pride Month:

Friday, June 10

Pride Shabbat, Happy Hour, Service and Oneg, 6:30 pm. With GLOE and Bet Mishpachah.

Pride Shabbat, Happy Hour, Service and Dinner, 7 pm. With Sixth & I.

Saturday, June 11 (Capital Pride Parade)

Mishpacha Meet-Up: Pre-Parade LGBTQ Family Gathering, 2 pm. With GLOE, Adas Israel, PJ Library, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

March with GLOE at the Capital Pride Parade, 3:30 pm.

Sunday, June 12 (Capital Pride Festival)

Young Professionals Pre-Festival Bagel Brunch, 11 am, with GLOE, and the Capital Qvellers.

Thursday, June 16

Hunger Action: Pride Edition, 6:30 pm at the EDCJCC. Can also participate from home.

For a historical look back, the Capitol Jewish Museum posted images of buttons from the Lesbian, Gay & Bi Equal Rights & Liberation March of April 25, 1993 to its Facebook page this month.

The EDCJCC is also selling Pride 2022 t-shirts. Click here to learn more!

BETTY Returns to their Roots for JxJ, plus Jewish American Heritage Month 2022!

BETTY (Elizabeth Ziff, Alyson Palmer, Amy Ziff) courtesy of JxJ

I was a newbie to the party (a “BETTY virgin,” as they say,) but loads more people attending this live concert at the EDCJCC knew to respond to the band’s “hello!” with “hello, BETTY!”

BETTY, which on their website describes their music as “indie pop” (Wikipedia describes them as “alternative rock”) got their start in DC in the mid-eighties. The band’s almost as old as I am, which I guess is a way to feel young? 😛

Since their early days of playing at the 9:30 Club and indeed the Washington JCC, they (Alyson Palmer on vocals, bass and guitar; Elizabeth Ziff on vocals, guitar and electronic programming; and Amy Ziff on vocals and cello,) have moved to New York, started a nonprofit to aid women, girls and the LGBTQ+ community, and provided the theme song for the Showtime drama, The L-Word, as the tip of the iceberg.

The songs in their set were largely about relationships (romantic, parental,) joy and activism. They joked about their sexual exploits of the 1980s and the promise of revolution today, particularly as they joined pro-choice marchers on the National Mall the day of their concert, May 14.

Their vibe was deeply conversational, with members of the audience occasionally throwing in quips. At one point in the evening there was a technical malfunction with the cello acoustics, leading EDCJCC staff and audience to lend a hand (“always be thankful for a lesbian with a flashlight” they quipped when someone offered up her phone.) They talked about being black, queer, Jewish, pro-Israel in Amy’s case, revolutionary in Elizabeth’s, filled with gratitude in Alyson’s and generally looking for ways to break down boundaries and co-exist.

The music was peppy, the harmonies impressive, their energy kinetic, and the whole experience was more like listening to a couple of friends jam rather than sit for a formal event. I’ve lived in the DC area for way too long, and it’s always exhilarating to find new, quirky ways to feel like a local. 😛

The evening was preceded by a happy hour with GLOE, the EDCJCC’s LGBTQ+ program (which just started a book club!) The JxJ festival is a multidisciplinary celebration of film, music and talks, with programming continuing through May 22.

Broadly speaking, JxJ also fits into Jewish American Heritage Month! The Philadelphia-based Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History’s JAHM Page features several virtual and digital collections, exhibitions and genealogical information. Closer to home, the National Museum of American Jewish Military History is livestreaming a Memorial Day event, honoring the Seixas family and other Jewish Gold Star families, on May 30.

Check out my past coverage of both the JxJ Festival and Jewish American Heritage Month under the “Annual Events” tab.

More Than Just the Food: The Passover Seder w/ Sixth & I

Screenshot from the class worksheet / courtesy of Sixth & I

Continuing a tradition from last year, where I attend a Sixth & I event for Passover prep! This one, convened over Zoom last Thursday and led by Senior Rabbi Aaron Potek, also focused on the conversational aspect of the holiday.

Specifically, the class was about how to lead a seder, and in that vein, the rabbi zeroed in on the most persistent obstacle: “annoying relatives” who keep asking when the meal will arrive. 😛 In the traditional Passover seder, the meal (Shulchan Orech) is step 11 out of 15. So, it’s bound to be a late arrival in any instance, even in a short seder.

The difference between a 30-minute seder and an 8-hour seder, Rabbi Aaron continued, is step 5: the telling of the Passover story (Maggid.) Many haggadot, (plural of the book called a Haggadah, or “Telling”) contain long narratives from the Book of Exodus, parceled out appropriately amidst the asking of The Four Questions. It’s up to each seder group whether they will recite everything, recite some portion and then divulge into discussion, or whittle it down to “they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!”

For seders that incline more towards the longer options, the rabbi suggests sprucing up some of the other ceremonial foods. Particularly step 3, the appetizers (Karpas,) usually parsley (which is dipped into salt water to dramatize the tears of the Israelites during enslavement). But in fact, any vegetable is appropriate—even potatoes!

Food is a big part of any Jewish holiday, and with Passover we have a whole plate of symbolically rich edibles or thereabouts. But food isn’t really the main point of the seder, Rabbi Aaron said. Nor, per se, is the retelling of the Exodus story. Rather, it’s the reliving of that story, and interpreting the themes as befits our own lives and world. (In more traditional words, to experience the Exodus as if it happened to you…because in the cyclical nature of Jewish memory, it kinda did.)

It’s a message that sits well with me. I haven’t had an orthodox Jewish education—literally or figuratively—and am uncomfortable with being forced to merely recite a bunch of stuff in Hebrew. I like the idea of challenging myself to make the holiday more resonant, and participants more engaged in the act of retelling. Rabbi Aaron pointed to tract in the Babylonian Talmud (Pesachim 115b) when the rabbis discuss removing the Passover table so that guests may ask why it was taken away. Thus this becomes a unique interpretation of the Four Questions.

That being said, to argue with the Talmud, removing a table merely to incite questioning seems like a closed loop. It’s better, Rabbi Aaron said, to look at the Passover story psychologically. Broaden the scope to the major themes of personal redemption, freedom, justice and how to make change happen. As a participant pointed out, likely many seders this year will bear reference to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

One can also argue with the traditional aspects of the story, like judging the archetypal four children who ask the Four Questions, celebrating (and mourning) the drowning of the oppressors, and etc. This is an example of what the rabbi called “the paradox of the Passover evening,” in that it taps into both suffering and freedom. Like matzah, which is both a symbol of affliction and redemption. There are lots of niggles to discuss, or perhaps rewrite, as the case may be. Maybe the four children could be morphed into four different types of Jews today.

Rabbi Aaron’s remarks lasted for about an hour, followed by a half-an-hour of question and answer. At the end of it, I definitely felt ready to tackle this holiday and make it my own. Even better, to know that my style of unique engagement could be construed as authentic Judaism.

For DC (and worldwide) mishpacha: check out the Gather The Jews Passover Guide for upcoming events and ways to commemorate the holiday. Passover (or Pesach in Hebrew) begins this year on Friday evening. Chag sameach.

Celebrate Purim in 5782!

graphic courtesy of Vecteezy

Purim starts on March 16, a festive holiday of rejoicing, yet again, in the fact that we (the Jews) have survived a persecution attempt. Huzzah! Though not as noticeable to the outside world as, say, Chanukah, it is definitely as fun—allowing people of all ages to dress up, eat special sweets, and wave noisemakers called groggers as the Megillah (book of Esther) is read out enthusiastically.

You don’t have to wait until the 14th of Adar to participate in this holiday. Enjoy these local offerings of Purim-related festivities leading up to and encompassing this holiday event! With the COVID-19 rates down in the DC area, a lot is happening in person (with safety measures), too. Chag sameach!

*note: GatherTheJews already captured a lot of events, and other things, on their annual Purim guide! Here’s just a few more.

Friday, March 11

Shabbat Purim
Tonight at Washington Hebrew Congregation, featuring a callback to the ’70s band, ABBA. Plus, bring your skates, because there will be a roller rink! 😮

Saturday, March 12

Purim in the Park
Join the Pozez JCC for a family-friendly celebration at the Hidden Pond Nature Center.

WHC Purim Carnival
Washington Hebrew will celebrate with Purim Prize Bags and other fun! For families with kid 5 and under.

Sunday, March 13

Purim Carnival and Game & Puzzle Swap
Adat Shalom has the usual costumes, hamentaschen and condensed Megillah reading, plus a game/puzzle swap!

Monday, March 14

MineCraft: Purim + Passover
A virtual-born experience of gaming and celebrating the holiday! Open to 9-12 tweens, in partnership with Capital Camps, Hill Havurah and Pozez JCC.

Tuesday, March 15

Purim Parade at the J
Families should wear costumes for this parade at the Pozez JCC parking lot.

Wednesday, March 16

Tot Purim and Schpiel and Megillah Reading
Families are asked to come in costume and bring their groggers to this Temple Shalom celebration. Plus there’s a sign up sheet for pizza after!

Ta’anit Esther with Hadar
Learn about the fast, named in honor of the heroine of the story, that precedes Purim.

Sunday, March 20

Purim Carnival
Temple Shalom rounds out the season! Their carnival will feature balloons, arts and crafts, games, prizes and more.

DC Jewish Life and Approaching the End of the Second Year of the Pandemic

graphic courtesy of clipart-library.com

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting links to Purim celebrations happening in the DC area. It’s probably safe to assume that more events are taking place in person this year than last, or at least are more dynamic this time around. Last year at Adas, for example, I attended a themed walkthrough and mystery hunt inside the building (with strict reservations so only one family could be inside at a time.) This year, there’s an (outdoors) masquerade! I’m waiting for my glasses-friendly order to come in from Higgins Creek, and look forward to thinking of masks in a festive way again. 😛

But most of my Jewish interaction remains virtual. Back in November, I joined the Adas monthly Israel book club, wherein I open Zoom during my lunch break at work in order to participate. The program continues on until May; click here to learn more!

From there, I went on to attend a couple of evening virtual MakomDC classes, relatedly about how to engage in constructive disagreement “for the sake of Heaven,” (Mahloket L’Shem Shamayim.) Basically, it boils down to what discourse has value and what discourse does not. Around 25 of us met two February Tuesdays in a row with rabbis from Pardes North America to discuss how religious texts grapple with this, and to interact over exercises meant to showcase similarities and differences in how people contextualize the world around themselves.

Zoom has more or less become my go-to for cultural content (including “distant” offerings, like these two panels from the Jewish Book Council!) The Edlavitch DCJCC has been open to the public since last September, and I trekked over for a TV show airing at Cafritz Hall in November, so that’s something? 😛 I also remember the air of excitement during the JxJ concert that took place in person last May at right outside of the Bender JCC.

Otherwise, my recent attendance at in-person Shabbat services and holidays at Adas has been more or less the same as my pre-COVID usual. But not everyone is having an easy time of getting back to their norms. Ergo, the community, in part with funds from The Covenant Foundation, has started a program called Stepping Back In. It’s meant to offer spiritual guidance for congregants who are unprepared to return to their regular religious life at shul. Currently, Adas is hosting small listening circles to talk about the impact of the pandemic in a safe space. More programming will be coming in the fall.

I’d love to hear about other ways the DC Jewish community is setting up to tackle this third year since COVID! I remain very grateful to the leaders who stepped up their game in trying times to ensure that we have various options for staying connected. Toda Raba!

Commemorate MLK Weekend 2022 and Tu B’Shevat 5782 in DC!

graphic courtesy of clipartkey.com

Happy new year! Here’s hoping for improvements in 2022? Alas, COVID still has its claws in us. But we have been able to get back to normal in some ways!

Before I venture into the future, allow me to assess some of the past! Here are some 2021 stats for JewishDC. According to WordPress, the blog got 493 views and 267 visitors, with the largest numbers coming from the United States, India, Canada, and Israel. My most popular post of the year was 2021: Another Virtual Year for Jewish American Heritage Month, which allowed me to take a look at events happening through the National Museum for American Jewish History in Philadelphia.

Thanks so much for your support, everyone, and here’s to hoping for a fruitful secular new year! Starting with some holidays and some community service.

The Jewish community commemorates two significant holidays—one religious and one secular—in January. And this year they’re happening at the same time! MLK Weekend takes place this weekend, from Jan. 15 to 17. Tu B’Shevat occurs between Jan. 16 and 17. Check out these ways to get involved with the local community!

MLK Weekend

  • A pre-game talk at Sixth & I: a virtual chat and text study on Wednesday, Jan. 12, between Rabbi Aaron and Reverend Doctor D.K. Kearney of Turner Memorial AME.
  • For Shabbat, Sixth & I’s Visions of Freedom and Justice (in person and virtual). In conjunction with Turner Memorial AME Church. Includes their annual focus on the relationship between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
  • Washington Hebrew Congregation’s virtual MLK Shabbat Service. In conjunction with faith leaders from around two dozen partner churches and mosques, featuring Angela Alsobrooks as the guest of honor. Alsobrooks is the first woman to serve as county executive in Prince George’s County, and the first Black woman to be elected to county executive in Maryland history.
  • On Sunday Jan. 16, WHC offers a virtual book chat with the author of Irma Stern and the Racial Paradox of South African Modern Art. On Monday, Jan 17, their annual day of service has in-person and remote options.
  • Adas Israel’s 2022 weekend. Including musical Shabbat services, virtual and in-person, featuring the Adas band. Dr. Deitra Reiser will be the weekend’s guest scholar, speaking on building anti-racist stamina. Saturday evening after Shabbat, Musician-in-Residence Micah Hendler will host a zoom Havdalah session, with a focus on songs for racial justice in the African American tradition.
  • Rabbi Krinsky from Adas will be joining Pastor Harris at the People’s Congregational Church in person with a virtual element on Sunday, Jan. 16, for text study. On Monday, Jan. 17, Adas invites people to register for a community service option, caring for young trees at the Adas cemetery. Looking forward to the future, the Adas MLK Weekend page includes information for the Washington Interfaith Network’s virtual and in person action regarding affordable and green housing on Sunday, Jan. 23.
  • EDJCC is hosting an in-person concert with The Afro-Semitic Experience on Sunday, Jan. 16! Check out their Monday community service options for families with young children, and families with older children and adults.

Tu B’Shevat

Jews and Christmas Trees get the Virtual Talmudic Treatment Over at Sixth & I

More controversial than it appears! / image courtesy of Wikipedia

I came into this event not knowing what to expect. Would it be a forum for Jews such as myself—Jews with Christian family members—to admit to the realities of interfaith life? Not quite.

“All I Want for Chanukah is a Christmas Tree” convened on Zoom last Wednesday night. Hosted by Rabbi Aaron Potek, executive director of Jewish life at Sixth & I, it featured religious textual snippets that he formed into arguments for or against Jews, particularly American Jews, putting Christmas trees up in their homes for the holidays.

Some arguments were relatively straightforward. In the against camp—as Rabbi Jonathan Saks (z”l) once said, “You can’t be a Jew without being counter-cultural.” Christianity, in the US and in Sak’s UK, is definitely mainstream. The Torah and later scholarship is filled with the repeating trope—we will live among the gentiles but not follow their ways. And if we’re going to abandon Jewish particularism, then what are we doing in this Zoom chatroom anyway?

In the for camp—hearken back to the reality that many Jews by choice and by birth, such as myself, have Christian family members, including parents. And what ever happened to that good ol’ commandment to honor one’s mother and father? (Though to be fair, my Jewish mother is far more taken with the trappings of Christmas than is my non-Jewish father. :P)

Other arguments got decidedly more complicated. Rabbi Aaron spent a lot of time talking about Christian privilege—the reality that in America, Christian touchstones are seen as the norm. Even Christmas trees can be divorced from their traditional (paganism aside) religious context…but calling Christmas trees secular still denotes Christian privilege, as if Christianity can be secular, or universal. This was the talking point that garnered the most contention on an already-active call. A few Christian participants took issue with calling the Christmas tree, well Christian, because they themselves are not religious. The whole thing reminded me of the more well-known concept of “white privilege,” and the whole systemic vs personal divide that some folks can’t seem to get their minds around.

It also made me think broadly about culture vs religion. I’ve always been of the mindset that so-called secular Jews have a bit of a patent on that; how many times have I heard Christians express confusion about Jews identifying as Jews, even if they never go to shul? But with religion generally on the decline in the West, maybe Christians can lay claim to that distinction as well. Christmas trees are, perhaps, cultural Christianity. (Cue the war on Christmas!)

Another controversial argument has to do with the fact that although Jewish texts claim a divide between us and the gentiles…well, it’s never been that simple. Even in the ancient days! For example, according to a 2010 article in CJ: Voices of Conservtative/Mastori Judaism, Dr. Benjamin D. Sommer posits that some Sukkot traditions are derived from pre-Jewish practices. And Chanukah, as Rabbi Yitz Greenberg asserts in The Jewish Way, is based off Sukkot! Maybe it’s time we realize that ethnic and/or racial identity is more porous than traditionalists would like to believe.

I found the entire hour and a half long discussion to be very compelling, though I mostly sat with my thoughts. (At one point my cat nosed her way onto the camera, earning me a couple of adoring private messages, so at least I contributed something! :P)

It was a more personal experience than many events I’ve covered on JewishDC. I have some memories of interfaith panels in Jewish spaces; I used to call them ”surviving the trenches.” Mostly, I remember parents yelling “but what about my grandchildren?,” interfaith couples cowering in fear, and individually feeling like I was in a petri dish, as the adult child of an interfaith couple.

But in honestly parsing the Christmas tree debate, this panel didn’t question my Jewish identity, or that of Jews by Choice, or anyone else who doesn’t fit the old school norms. More important to me than any Christian expression, I’m hopeful that Jewish diversity is becoming more mainstream.

Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates.