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!
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • 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.