Holiday Season Underlines Shifts in Judaism as Self-Definition Fades

CuJu, BuJu and Mu-Jew Are Faith's New Drawing Cards

thinkstock

By Jay MIchaelson

Published December 24, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

‘Tis the season once again — the season of the December Dilemma.

In its original form, the alliterative allusion is to the challenge of raising Jewish kids in a non-Jewish society. Everyone loves Christmas, right? So how come we don’t celebrate it?

But the December Dilemma is dated. A majority of non-Orthodox Jewish marriages are intermarriages. Multifaith families are everywhere. The menorah next to the Christmas tree, once the epitome of treif, is now commonplace. And after a decade or two of closing their eyes and ears to this reality, Jewish organizations are now figuring out how to work with it.

I wonder, though, if we’re headed into a yet another new phase of Jewish-Christian mingling. Recently, these and other pages have hosted lively conversations regarding non-Jews considering conversion, ‘Jewish Cultural Affirmation’ (Steven Cohen and Kerry Olitsky’s rather ponderous neologism), or other forms of affiliation with Judaism and/or the Jewish people. Cohen and Olitsky want to create a kind of Jewish literacy course, Rabbi Andy Bachman wants to convert them, and various haters in the blogosphere have thrown cold water on anything that isn’t the Judaism they personally think is valid.

Add to this the recent speech by Union of Reform Judaism president Rabbi Rick Jacobs, in which Jacobs called non-Jews interested in being part of the Jewish community “the opportunity of the millennium.”

All of a sudden, goyim are good for the Jews. As long as they are Jew-curious.

Cohen and Olitsky say that in a 2011 study of New York Jews, 5% said they were Jewish “by personal choice” and another 2% said they had converted. This, they say, points to a surprisingly high level of interest not in converting, but in affiliating.

I have completely unscientific anecdotal information to support that view. As I’ve traveled the country for book tour and scholar-in-residence weekends this year, I’ve seen more and more Christians in shul. In suburban Chicago; in Beacon, New York; in Houston — the trend is unmistakable.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.