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The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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Students from interfaith families celebrate a variety of holidays during winter

Kane+opens+presents+under+the+tree+alongside+her+brother+and+mother+in+2015.+
Paul Kane
Kane opens presents under the tree alongside her brother and mother in 2015.

After celebrating Hanukkah early in December, junior Eli Cashon goes to his grandmother’s house over winter break to celebrate Christmas. Cashon’s father is Christian and his mother is Jewish, making him part of an interfaith family.

While Cashon does not feel a connection with Christmas as a holiday, he enjoys the time and connection that it gives him with his dad’s side of the family. 

“I go down to my grandma’s house [for Christmas],” Cashon said. “It’s not exactly celebrating in the traditional sense; there’s nothing religious about it, but we exchange presents to help that side of the family celebrate.”

According to Pew Research Center, as of 2020, 42% of all married Jews have a non-Jewish spouse. At CESJDS, there are many students who come from interfaith families. However, since their family chose to send them to a Jewish day school, it is often the case that they feel more connected to their Jewish side and therefore are more religiously observant of Jewish holidays. 

“If someone’s going to JDS, considering all the other great public school and private school options in our area, that does convey that their family cares about Judaism a lot,” High School Chair of Jewish Life Robbie Shorr said. “Just being here, it does express like we want our kids to be a part of a Jewish community.”

Cashon sees many similarities between Hanukkah and Christmas in addition to giving gifts, he sees a theme of family in both holidays. However, Cashon feels more connected to his Jewish traditions.

“Hanukkah is more of an actual religious and traditional experience [for me],” Cashon said. “There’s a bit of the more spiritual side of Hanukkah: lighting the candles, saying the prayers and the songs. Christmas, I go down [to my grandmother’s house] and I do what I can to help them celebrate but I don’t go to services or anything.”

While interfaith families are not very common or talked about at JDS, Cashon has found he talks about it when others are curious or find it interesting. Although rarely discussed, Cashon does not see a stigma surrounding interfaith families at school, and feels there is an open environment to talk about it. 

Shorr said that it is important to acknowledge and talk about these differences in the JDS community, but with sensitivity, so as not to make students feel othered, especially at a school where the majority of students only celebrate Hanukkah. 

Some interfaith families want their children to get multiple perspectives from both religions. This was the case with freshman Ella Kane. After eight years at a Catholic school, Kane came to JDS in seventh grade. Kane’s mom is Israeli and her dad is Catholic. 

She celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas and while she appreciates being able to see different sides of the holiday season, she feels there are many similarities between them.

“They’re both really pretty,” Kane said. “You have  a hanukkiah with the lights and stuff and that’s nice to look at, same with a Christmas tree. And they’re both nice times of year.”

While she only gets presents on Christmas, Kane enjoys celebrating both holidays and appreciates the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with her relatives.

Celebrating more than one winter holiday gives Kane the opportunity to see multiple sides of religious tradition. Like Cashon, Kane feels a deeper spiritual connection to Hanukkah than to Christmas. 

“Separately, I like the religious aspect of Hanukkah,” Kane said. “But for Christmas I think we do it more for fun. So it’s the best of both worlds.”

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About the Contributor
Mia Forseter
Mia Forseter, Sports Editor
With much of her life revolving around playing sports, Mia is excited to take on her role as Sports Editor for the Lion’s Tale this year. She looks forward to designing spreads and continuing to provide a great sports section for readers. Outside of Lion’s Tale, Mia plays for the Varsity Softball and Cross Country teams. Mia enjoys volunteering at the National Youth Baseball Academy during the summer. She is also very involved in debate, and is a media center fellow. She can’t wait to work with her co editors to produce an amazing sports section and overall newspaper.  

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