Years ago, when I first started out working in public media, the second time around that is, I was hired to do something I knew little about: community outreach. But heck, that wasn’t about to stop me from doing the best job possible.
So I went in desperate search for any information I could glean, any knowledge I could take in. And that’s how I met Simone Bloom Nathan.
A wonderful, compassionate woman, Simone, who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. Of course, we met in Los Angeles, where she was doing a diversity training in partnership with the public TV station there. The training was aimed at outreach professionals in the public media system and was designed to give them the tools needed to teach child care providers and parents how to use “The Puzzle Place,” a high quality children’s TV series all about tolerance and acceptance.
It proved to be an invaluable training. I found Simone’s knack for teaching and being, well, such an awesome, compassionate woman, very inspiring.
Fast forward to now. Simone, in her continued support of diversity and tolerance, has written a sweet, endearing book for the holidays, “Eight Candles and a Tree.” Happily, Simone has been gracious enough to answer some questions I recently posed to her. I’m thrilled to share her response with you.
1) Who did you write this book for?
I wrote the book for families with young children who celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.
2) What inspired you to write “Eight Candles and a Tree?”
A few years ago, when my granddaughter was three, I went to my local bookstore to buy her a picture book about celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, but surprisingly, to me, I could find a book on the topic. I decided I was going to write one. Little did I know that it would take three years of research and learning about picture books before I actually was able to hold the book in my hands.
3) What is the message you are hoping to convey through the story and why should families be more accepting or flexible in celebrating the holidays?
With 60% of Jews marrying out of the faith and more than a third of all marriages interfaith, I think it’s important to validate and accept that all families have different traditions and different ways to celebrate their holidays. I also tried to convey that there is no “right” way or only way to celebrate a holiday, and that each family develops their own rituals and traditions.
4) What are some of your own memories and experiences of celebrating the holidays and what does celebrating Hanukkah mean to you?
I grew up Jewish in Johannesburg South Africa, where Hanukkah was a minor holiday that my family celebrated by lighting the menorah candles and eating latkes. We didn’t give or get presents. When I immigrated to the United States, and particularly when my own children were born here, I realized that in this country, Hanukkah is considered a “major” holiday, especially from retailers’ point of view. So my family started making our own new Hanukkah traditions that included menorah candle-lighting, making latkes and giving small gifts.
5) What would you say to a parent who may be trying to figure out how they will honor their traditions as well as their spouse’s?
Here are my tips for interfaith families:
- Make a conscious decision as a family to create and celebrate traditions that honor both faiths. There is no “right” way or “only” way to practice a religion or celebrate a culture, and interfaith families have a unique opportunity to make their own traditions and celebrations.
- Show an interest in and enthusiasm for your significant other’s religion and culture. While you may not have grown up with it, it’s part of your family’s life now.
- Connect your children to their grandparents and great-grandparents by telling and re-telling family stories. Children in a recent study who had high levels of self-confidence knew they belonged to something bigger than themselves.
- Good communication is one of the foundations of a happy family. When children ask you about religion or culture, answer questions that you can, and offer to find out together about questions that you don’t know the answer to.
- Find opportunities to link with other interfaith families in your community. For example, the Interfaith Families Project of Washington DC has weekly Sunday gatherings and educational programs that expose families to both Christianity and Judaism.
6) Anything else you’d like to add, including where can you buy the book?
Monica’s Tangled Web readers can purchase the book at a special discounted price of $15 with free shipping at simonebloomnathan.com. Mention Monica’s name. The book is also available at Amazon or through Beaver’s Pond Press.
Congratulations to Debbie of Musings by an ND Domer’s Mom, for winning my NaBloPoMo contest. Debbie, bless her heart, commented on my blog nearly every day–29 days in all! Whoopee, Debbie, your electronic Amazon gift card is on its way!
To all those who supported me during the 30 days of blogging, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. I wish I could give you all Amazon gift cards!