My Jewholic-Christmauannuakh


Julia Vastano, Editor-in-chief

At first glance, you wouldn’t notice my parents are an unlikely couple, or that our family was out of the ordinary; but if you knew them when they were in high school, it would seem impossible that they would ever end up together.

My mom was the oldest of two kids, a blonde haired blue-eyed, Jewish girl living in the heart of Miami. Her grandfather moved from Latvia to America shortly before the outbreak of World War II and began a new life in New York City. Shortly after my mom was born it was on to Miami where my grandparents owned a chain of retail stores.

Meanwhile, my dad was the third of four children and was raised Roman Catholic in the then-small town College Station, Texas. His great-grandparents were from Sicily, Italy and moved to America with a wave of immigrants in the late 19th century. My grandfather graduated high school at 16 and became a research professor, and my grandmother a teacher.

Coincidentally and independently, both of my parents ended up at UCLA in the summer of 1989, fell in love and got married. At their wedding was both a rabbi and a priest, and both Jewish and Catholic customs were followed throughout the wedding. While neither of them thought much about it, a few of their more conservative friends were wondering, what were they going to do? My parents would answer that question with, “do about what?”

Usually the conversation proceeded with “How are you going to raise your children, Jewish or Catholic? Are one of you going to convert?” Neither of my parents wanted to convert, and so they decided to raise me and my brother teaching us about both religions.

My mom grew up around many different religions and cultures. In Miami there is a strong Latin American influence as well as Jewish and Christian. For her, religion was personal, and my dad and her were in love so he didn’t think much about their religious differences either.

So, 17 years later here I am. My mom’s family will come over throughout Hanukkah as we will observe the holiday, say the prayers, eat a special meal and exchange presents. On Christmas my dad’s family gets together and we observe that holiday as well.

Not only is it fun to celebrate both holidays, I find learning about two religions to be an enriching experience. My grandfather on my mom’s side likes to speak in Yiddish and teach us about the prayers and customs of Judaism. It makes me feel proud to be a part of such a beautiful and rare culture in the “bible belt” of the South. Though being ‘half’ Jewish sets me apart, I like it because I get to learn things others don’t have the opportunity to experience.

Most everyone I know celebrates Christmas, and I enjoy celebrating and learning about the birth of Jesus Christ weather or not it is my religion. Though my dad is Catholic, we go to a local non-denominational church and I like how it really just talks about being Godly and a good person.

So I guess I don’t have an ‘official’ personal religion established yet, but I admire how my parents are open to me choosing what I would like to follow. I haven’t felt forced into anything or wondered what I would believe had I been born into another religion. It is freeing to be able to choose in what I believe. Meanwhile, until I decide which religion I follow, it’s fun to learn about Judaism and Catholicism and get presents for both holidays.