The questions that come up in situations involving intermarriage are very complicated and have to be dealt with in the most delicate way. The fact of the matter is that any mitzvah a Jew does is valuable, whether in an intermarried home or not. You are correct though in observing a massive problem that is pretty much unavoidable in such homes, and that is the mixing of traditions. Jews are not supposed to adulterate Jewish practice by mixing in non-Jewish elements, or even engage in behaviors that have no rational explanation and therefore must have come from some idolatrous source, which is called "going in the way of the Emorites", derech Emori.
That doesn't sound like what she's doing is exactly that. It sounds like she's doing a more "you do your thing hubby, and I'll do mine." The question is though, is there still an issue doing a mitzvah, and specifically reciting a blessing, in front of a Christmas tree. This question is actually quite complicated, because it in part has to do with how the tree itself is being used. If her husband actually worshipped the tree, it would be treated like an idol. If the husband has the tree for religious reasons, then the tree might be considered a tashmishei avodah zarah, something used for idol worship. If the husband is doing it simply for tradition or just to "be in the spirit" it MIGHT be treated more leniently, but someone much bigger than myself would need to give that kind of leniency. Any which way, it's definitely not proper to do, but might be permissible if there was no other place to light, or she might have fulfilled the mitzvah ipso facto depending on how the tree is viewed in legal terms. That being said...
Don't say anything about it. She didn't mention an issue to you, and there's basically nothing you could say that wouldn't put her off. Any criticism would be seen as a criticism against her relationship and against her Judaism in a very personal way. She likely wouldn't here the message and you might not have a friend after all is said and done. What you can do is enter into dialogue with her in general terms, and suggest in the course of talking (not proselytizing, just talking) that she might want to find a rabbi to talk to about Jewish stuff or at least recommend a Jewish website. The purpose, the whole purpose, is to make her more curious about learning about her Judaism. That's basically the only thing you can do.
My friend is Jewish. Her husband is not. I was at their home and now have a question. Is it kosher to celebrate Chanukah, lighting candles in front of a Christmas tree? I didn't know what to say!
A great question. In short, I would say, yes, lighting candles in a home, any home (Jewish home, Christian home, shared home) , is fine - even if there is a Christmas tree present in the room.
I would hope that the couple, though, would look at their respective ritual items as belonging to one of them, not as shared possessions. That is, the tree would be "his" and the menorah "hers." Otherwise, the bluring between religions is too much. Each religion should have its **own** symbols - and I see nothing wrong with them sharing a room. In fact, I know of many synagogues and churches who share a sacred space (Saturdays for the Jews, Sundays the Christians) - so why not objects, too? Don't put the menorah under the tree, though!
By the way - your use of the word "kosher" is correct in how "kosher" has come into our modern use. However, kosher is really just about the traditional Jewish laws around food.
In the opening scene of “Last Night At Ballyhoo”, by Alfred Uhry(which can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wi3XjbQEcuk), the mother criticizes the daughter for putting a star on the top of a Christmas tree, exclaiming that Jewish Christmas trees don’t have stars!
This play, which takes place in Jewish Atlanta in 1939, raises all kinds of questions about Jewish identity politics which many Northeast or more traditional Jews never had to confront before the advent of engaged interfaith families.
As these families navigate their connection to Judaism and their non-Jewish spouses’ own cultural attachments, they are challenging our assumptions, which often leaves us wondering what is appropriate, or ‘kosher’.
Is it ‘kosher’ to light a Chanukah menorah in front of a Christmas tree? Under what circumstances? As part of a communal winter gathering? In a home where two people are navigating their choices and identities? How important is the Christmas tree to those gathered? How important is the menorah? Are the affiliating with a Jewish congregation, participating in Jewish life, celebrating Jewish holidays? Does the Christmas tree ‘live’ in a room with Jewish books on the shelf, a mezuzah on the door, and a ‘pishke’ (Tzedakah box) on the table? Is the couple committed to living a Jewish life, raising Jewish children with Jewish values, and really determined to explore those ideas and ideals meaningfully? What Jewish values, interpreted by whom? And how would we ever know?
There was a time when a Christmas tree was code for some of a superficial Jewish existence. Anne Frank and Theodore Herzl had Christmas trees. Perhaps we have an obligation to look for opportunities for commitment—that Chanukah menorah—rather than symbols of disengagement. And who knows what we’ll find come next December?
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