Interfaith Books for the Holidays

Weekly Trip to the Library

In Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family Susan Katz Miller discusses raising kids in interfaith marriages. The author explains that nearly half of the marriages in the U.S. over the last decade have been between people of different faiths, and many of those families are raising children fully in both parents’ religious traditions.

I strongly believe that there is no harm in children learning about all religions. In the process, children will learn to love their own religion, customs, and traditions even more. Here are my suggestions for children to learn more about other holidays. Here are my selection of interfaith Christmas and Hanukkah children’s books to share with children this holiday season.


Light The Lights! A Story About Celebrating Hanukkah And Christmas by Margaret Moorman

Interfaith families and families that aren’t religious crave materials that validate the observance of holidays from the traditions of different faiths. In one of a very few such picture books, the author focuses on a household’s joyous celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas, two festivals that frequently occur close together on the wintertime calendar. The book’s title reflects a motif common to both: candles in a menorah glow brightly in Emma’s house during the eight days of the Jewish holiday; later, lights shimmer beautifully from her family’s Christmas tree. The family’s celebrations are purely secular, and Emma’s response to everything — be it getting presents or playing dreidel — is sheer delight, which the author captures nicely in her bright, unpretentious paintings. The story, however, is very slight, and there’s no sense of the origins of the holidays, which are very different.

Elijah’s Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas by Michael J. Rosen

A child’s vision of religious tolerance is exquisitely played out in this story about an elderly Christian barber and a Jewish child who befriends him. As a hobby, the African American barber makes elaborate woodcarvings — many of which refer to events or characters in the Bible. Michael, a 9-year-old Jewish boy, often visits the barbershop just to admire old Elijah’s carvings, especially that of Noah’s Ark–a story that belongs to Jewish as well as Christian teachings. One day when Hanukkah and Christmas coincidentally overlap, Elijah gives Michael a special gift, a carved guardian angel. Immediately Michael is filled with a jumble of feelings — gratitude for such a beautiful gift, concern that his parents might disapprove, and an even greater fear that God may frown upon a Christmas angel, “a graven image,” in Michael’s home. The thick sweeps of paint, the heavy uses of wood-tones, and primitive images make the settings and characters look as though Elijah carved them himself. When Michael finally reveals the carved angel to his parents, they help the young boy understand how expressions of friendship, love, and protection can be carried into any home, regardless of the household’s religion. Michael J. Rosen based this story on the real-life Elijah Pierce (1892-1984), a lay minister, barber, and woodcarver from Columbus, Ohio, whose award-winning woodcarvings are now owned by the Columbus Museum of Art.


Holiday Miracles: A Christmas/Hanukkah Story by Ellyn Bache

This heartwarming story is truly an interfaith tale, a profile of a family in which the mother is Jewish and the father Christian. (This is a roman … clef: Bache has lovingly drawn from her own experience as a member of a Jewish-Catholic family.) As the parents perform the annual negotiations of latkes and parties and wrapping paper (red or blue?), their five-year-old son becomes seriously ill, making the entire family realize anew the central message of both Hanukkah and Christmas: Miracles are possible. The novella is simply and beautifully presented Bache, a Willa Cather Prize recipient, clearly knows how to tell a story. What could be cloying or manipulative is instead full of honest emotion.

Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family by Susan Katz Miller

In Being Both, Miller draws on original surveys and interviews with parents, students, teachers, and clergy, as well as on her own journey, to chronicle this controversial grassroots movement. Miller argues that there are distinct benefits for families who reject the false choice of “either/or” and instead embrace the synergy of being both. Reporting on hundreds of parents and children who celebrate two religions, she documents why couples make this choice, and how children appreciate dual-faith education. But often families who choose both have trouble finding supportive clergy and community. To that end, Miller includes advice and resources for interfaith families planning baby-welcoming and coming-of-age ceremonies, and seeking to find or form interfaith education programs. She also addresses the difficulties that interfaith families can encounter, wrestling with spiritual questions (“Will our children believe in God?”) and challenges (“How do we talk about Jesus?”). And finally, looking beyond Judaism and Christianity, Being Both provides the first glimpse of the next interfaith wave: intermarried Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist couples raising children in two religions. Being Both is at once a rousing declaration of the benefits of celebrating two religions, and a blueprint for interfaith families who are seeking guidance and community support. (Review from Amazon.com)

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