Being Jewish in the Christian South

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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.

Outdoor events

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

Stocking stuffing

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.

What cultural and religious holidays do you celebrate?

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Heather is a Florida girl with New York tendencies. She values honesty and authenticity, while not being a huge fan of small talk and surface-level friendships. As a Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, you can usually find her exercising and exploring the great outdoors. Her love for everything local truly flourished after moving to Columbia in 2015. Heather maintains a strong interest in community-building while balancing work as a Social Media Strategist and life as a dedicated Wife and Mama (by marriage and by birth). Likes: Coffee shops, travel, reality tv, singing (in and out of the shower), dancing (even when the music stops), sunshine, photos, and advocacy. Dislikes: Cartoons, scary movies, laundry, chain restaurants, disorganization, and gossip

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