The Security of Strong Identity

During the winter holidays, my children are constantly reminded that they are minorities by faith. When they were very small, they'd protest that there were pictures of Christmas Trees and banners proclaiming Merry Christmas, but no menorahs or Happy Hanukkah signs. It was very interesting that after a year in Jewish Day School, their protests simply stopped.  They still noticed, but it didn't bother them as much.

Last weekend, my eldest was asked by his cousins (who are part of an interfaith family) if he celebrated Christmas. He simply replied - no, I celebrate Hanukkah. They mentioned that they celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas. And then they asked him if he wanted to celebrate Christmas.

I wasn't in the car. My sister was driving and listening. Previously, she's shared that when she was a child, she was very aware that everyone else celebrated Christmas and it looked like fun. That she didn’t like that she felt different. She shared Benjamin's response with me - because he delivered it so surely, it was memorable.

Not really because I'm Jewish and I don't want to celebrate Christmas. I'm happy with Hanukkah.

There was no judgment or advocacy in his tone or his intent. He's simply secure with his identity - he's Jewish. He celebrates Jewish (and American) holidays. And he's perfectly comfortable with his cousins making a different choice that fits them. 

His surety of identity is a direct result of his pluralist, Jewish day school education. Pluralism means that he has been taught that there is no one right way to practice Judaism or worship G-d.  Jewish Day School education means that his formative years are imbued with celebration of his holidays (and study of others).  Research indicates that the more diverse the environment, the more children self-segregate.

It's counter-intuitive. In order to raise a child who embraces diversity, the child has to be secure in its own identity first. My son is eleven.  He is still learning who he is - but he is secure in his faith and his unique individuality. I hope it lasts as he moves through adolescence and into adulthood.  Evidence is on my side that it will.  For now, I'm just proud that he can share his pride and comfort in his tradition without making his cousins uncomfortable.