Two Religions

We celebrate two religions in our house. There are people who think that wrong. There are people who think that that ends up serving neither religion. We do it anyway.

When I go to my inlaws house for Christmas, my parents are invited as well. My sister-in-law is also married to a Jewish man and his parents are there too. At my mother-in-law’s Christmas table there are more Jews than Christians.

When we host Passover seder in our house, my in-laws and friends join us. There are always more Christians than Jews at our Passover seder.

More than the details of each religion, this love and commonality and underlying lessons is what I want to give my children. They celebrated the Christian holidays with Kim and the Jewish holidays with me.

But, there is of course, a fundamental conflict. Sure.

Maggie put her finger on it when she was four. She figured out that Catholics believed Jesus to be the son of God and Jews didn’t. She said to me from her car seat in the back, “they can’t both be right.”

There’s been a lot of fighting over the fact that they can’t both be right. Wars have been fought and people have died over settling issues of whose religion is the most compassionate and correct.

But not in our house.

Although this question came years before we expected it to, my answer to Maggie was that it’s not knowable who is right so in our house we respect both views. If at some point in her life she wants to choose to become entirely Catholic, entirely Jewish, entirely something else, or entirely nothing that is up to her. She thought a minute and said, “that’s what mom said”.

So here are two Elena stories on religion. Elena, because she was small and cute and the life of a party could get away with being devilish. Kim took the girls to the F O P Christmas party each year. One year they came back and Elena was excited because they had had a Karaoke machine set up. She loved a microphone and was blessed with an imagination that protected her from knowing she had no sense of rhythm or tone. I asked what she had sung and she just grinned at me and went up stairs to brush her teeth.

I looked at Kim and asked “what?” Kim said she sang a song that no one but her and Maggie had recognized. She’d sung the Chanukkah blessings. Not in defiance but in that devilish little way, she’d expressed her Jewish side at a Christian event.

This, of course, went both ways. That next spring at Passover she sat between her two grandfathers. Maggie was stealing the show. She was old enough to read from the Hagaddah when it was her turn. Maggie has always been a good and fearless leader and I was bursting with pride.

When we passed the Matzoh around to split for the blessing, Elena passed it on to my father – her Jewish grandfather – with that devilish look on her face. She nodded her head to him and said “body of Christ.”

Published in: on February 24, 2006 at 9:14 am  Comments (12)  

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I love two things about this story- the love of the microphone (as my daughter’s big on that). I also love the mashups that kids do as a matter of course, and that your daughter used it for humor. She sounds like a top-shelf talent.

  2. Truth of the matter is that the Jewish and Christian faiths have more in common than any other religions. We should be looking more at the issues that bind us rather than the issues that divide. Elana appears to have understood that more than most.

  3. I find it easier to celebrate specific religious rituals but to adopt universal attitudes, in my case, Hindu. “Be compassionate. Be tolerant. Be self-restrained.” Otherwise, love.

    It isn’t deep. It doesn’t have to be. That’s why a child can do it easily and an adult has to become childish from time to time to remember how.

    Be well and thanks. When I hug my children tonight, I’ll remember yours.

  4. Daniel,

    Thank you for sharing about Elena on these pages.

    We will keep your family in our prayers.

    Scott and Ruthie Schram

  5. Thanks for sharing that. It’s not easy to discuss religion. I love the serendipity in your post and my week. As a Christian, I was honored to be invited to our next-door neighbor’s bris Wednesday. The child’s name is Daniel.

  6. Kim, Maggie and Daniel,

    I saw Elena frequently in passing, picking up kids from the school or the playground, from the art class, Girl Scout meetings. Elena always had a radiant sparkle in her eyes, it cheered me up to see her. Last night at the parents’ meeting the school psychologist said that Elena was like sunshine on the playground during recess. She was like sunshine every time I saw her too.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story about Elena.

    We are so sorry for this terrible loss, and you are in our thoughts.

    Vera, David, Lisa, Hannah and Leah.

  7. Dear Daniel
    I do not know you, but through my husband Malcolm. My heart goes out to you, your wife and your oldest. We will pray for you all during this time as well as the future. Thank you for sharing the memory of your youngest with us.

    Leslie Davis

  8. David, I am so sorry to read about the loss of your daughter. I lost my brother when he was 16. and though it changed my life in irreparable ways. I never understood my parents reaction until many years later when I had my own son.

    I loved your story about Passover. My brother’s family is Jewish and my sister’s is Anglican so we, as religious slackers, provide the neutral ground in our family for all holiday events. I just figure God made all kinds of different flowers so he must like variety.

    Sending my best thoughts your way in this time of great sorrow. Be good to you,


  9. Elena sounds like the kind of soul where the universe will bend around her. And like she made the most of her whole life. You were blessed to have her. Like all great blessings, there is a terrible aspect.

    Thank you for sharing her.

    My deepest condolences.

  10. Reading your memories of Elena I laughed and cried at the same time.

  11. Dear Daniel:

    Here I sit, feeling sorry for myself because of
    a “job transition”. 4 days, and I’m done at a contract
    job, with only “promises” for the moment.

    I, the single, unmarried, definitely hetero male..
    with only dogs to keep me company.

    But then I read of your LOSS…so profound. I immediately chastise myself for my insipid self pity.

    I’m still wiping the tears. Your LOSS is so profound, so
    beyond belief.

    Please, please…DO NOT APOLOGISE for anything your
    feel right now. This is just too much for a human
    to bear.

    Please, gather in your friends and your family and hold
    onto them!

    You will survive this, but this event is something no
    one should have to go through.

    I’m sorry..


    Mark Hugo, Excelsior, MN 2/26/06

  12. Blogging as Catharsis. What wonderful therapy and I am grateful that you can share these thoughts.

    I sbsolutely loved this line: “She loved a microphone and was blessed with an imagination that protected her from knowing she had no sense of rhythm or tone.”

    A lot of writers (and wannabes like me) wished they could be this eloquent.

    Thanks. I feel honored for this having this experience.

    Newport News, VA

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