Being Jewish in the Christian south can be challenging. It can feel lonely, and even scary at times. Being Jewish is part of who I am. It’s woven into the identity of my family now. My wish is for people to see me as I am. I mean truly see me. Take me into consideration when planning the decor of your holiday market, stocking the shelves of your store, and scheduling your social media content. Together we can keep diversity, equity, and inclusion in season.
Let’s be very clear: This is not a Christian bashing session or intended to be a guilt trip. On the contrary, I love everything Christmas-time brings.
Sipping hot chocolate with mini marshmallows
Cutting down the tree from a local farm
Decorating the house to the tune of All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey on vinyl
Ice skating under draped string lights
Watching Hallmark Christmas movies besides a warm fire and under a cozy blanket
A renewed focus on family, friends, and giving
IT’S ALL MAGICAL!
All that’s missing in Columbia, SC is the mystical white snow, winter sports, and a little inclusion.
Where it gets a little hairy, in the South, is when shopping for gifts, attending seasonal events, and flipping through the pages of local publications. “Merry Christmas!” everywhere. “Merry Christmas!” to everyone! No hesitation.
The community holiday markets are decked with green, red, and gold decor, Christmas trees, wreaths, and poinsettias. Santa is a staple. Where’s the Menorah? The blue, white, and silver decor? The Jewish star?
Jelly donuts (sufganiyot), a game of dreidel with chocolate coins (gelt), lighting the menorah, reading stories and singing songs, and eight nights of presents—these are just a few ways to celebrate Hanukkah.
We set up a tree, a custom from my husband’s Christian childhood. We set up a light-up cardboard dreidel too, a practice from my Jewish upbringing. We eat Chinese food because growing up that was what was open on Christmas for dine-in and take-out for the non-Christian communities. We decorate gingerbread houses and ornaments, participate in angel tree gift-giving, and write cards for the elderly, all in the spirit of the holiday season. Christmas lights frame our doorway, and punny matching PJs are nonnegotiable. In our house, we blend traditions.
Why? The power of acknowledging other religions and holidays is in the opportunity for greater inclusion; in the exposure to our world’s beautiful differences, in the encouragement of a deeper sense of understanding and acceptance, in the warmth of memories, and in the learned importance of family, kindness, and presence.