Families Face 'December Dilemma'

December 21, 2008

Author: Kim Mulford

Source: The Courier Post


Claudia and David Tung are an interfaith couple who are raising their two children in the Jewish faith. The Atco family observes all the Jewish holidays and are active in the synagogue.

But in December, their holiday celebration has evolved into a blend of family traditions and decorations. The kids each have their own menorahs and Christmas stockings.

From the outside, it might seem the family celebrates both holidays, but that's not what's going on.

"Ever since (our kids) were little, I instilled in them that (Christmas) is not our holiday," said Claudia Tung, principal of the Hebrew school at Temple Beth El in Hammonton. "It's their dad's holiday, so out of respect to him, we put up the tree. They know the difference."

The way interfaith families deal with Christmas and Hanukkah has been dubbed the "December dilemma."

It's an issue facing a growing number of families. Within the Jewish community, there are an estimated 1 million intermarried couples, according to the Jewish Outreach Institute.

The trend has spurred the creation of synagogue workshops, counseling programs and online discussions on how to deal with the holidays.

Decisions surrounding the December dilemma can be painful and difficult, according to Pippi Kessler, national coordinator of the Mothers Circle, an e-mail listserve run by the Jewish Outreach Institute for non-Jewish mothers raising Jewish children.