Scenes From The Season
Published: December 29th, 2006
By: Steven and Cokie Roberts

Scenes from the season

It's been a long two weeks around the Roberts household. Since we're a Jewish-Catholic couple we celebrate both traditions, and as one holiday ended we immediately started preparing for the next. The wax drippings from the Chanukah candles were still visible on a coffee table as the guests arrived for Christmas dinner.

We've fed well more than a hundred people; and now a landfill worth of trash, all soggy from a winter rain, still decorates our back yard. But our favorite scenes of sthe season focus on faith and friends and family, as our tribe, like yours, practiced the annual rituals that define who we are.

The Jewish star on the top of our Christmas tree -- a rather shabby cardboard ornament, handcrafted by a child decades ago and much repaired -- symbolizes our devotion to diversity. This devotion has not always been easy. Clergy tend to emphasize differences between faiths rather than similarities, and when we tell people we've raised our children in both religions, we get plenty of skeptical looks.

So we were pleased to find a children's book this year about a family that celebrates both Chanukah and Christmas -- just like us. In "Light the Lights," author Margaret Moorman gently uses the symbolism of Chanukah candles and Christmas bulbs to tell the story of a young girl whose parents, while coming from different backgrounds, have a lot in common.

We bought this book at a Jewish community center in Ann Arbor, Mich., a few months after Washington Hebrew, the capital's oldest Jewish congregation, announced that two of its rabbis would now perform interfaith marriages. We have long believed that rabbis who refuse to bless such matches are making a huge mistake. They will not stop the couple from marrying; rather, they will only drive the young family away from the Jewish community. But now that two out of five Jews in the Washington area marry outside their faith, reality has overtaken resistance.

"Too many people were hurt and felt their temple had turned them away," Hank Levine, the congregation's president, told Washington Jewish Week. "I had a number of people say, 'What took you so long,'" added David Vise, a former president.

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