Yes, I knew the Santa song

We really should go to Egypt where there are more Jewish people. But then Emma couldn’t come. Well, maybe she could bring her parents.


But Mama, who are my ancestors?


But you celebrated Hanukkah too, right?
You didn’t?
Why did you lie to me?
But were you Jewish?


What’s Muslim mean? What’s Christian Science? What’s Judaism? What’s Christianity?


Dear Aviva,

I don’t know if I will ever answer your questions adequately. They are such good questions, all of them – thoughtful and incisive and so very honest. When you asked me in the bathtub last night if I knew the Santa Claus Is Coming to Town song and I said yes, and you asked how, it seemed like as good a time as any to tell you that I grew up celebrating Christmas at home. I hesitated, but only for a second, when you then asked if we also had a menorah for Hanukkah and didn’t we do some of both, even just a little? Then I told you the truth: no, we didn’t, not even a little. I started telling you the whole story, about my Grammy, her Christian Science, and healing through prayer, about how I didn’t start learning about being Jewish until I was practically a grown-up but that yes, I was still Jewish all that time. How could I tell you this, how could I make it make sense when it doesn’t make sense? I guess my job with you isn’t to make the world a neat sum, but to tell you the truth best I can, my truth, which is the only one I’ve got.

But even this was too much information, too many words, and I have to keep trusting that the words, the stories, the information you need and crave will all come in time, they will all come in time for you to know who your ancestors are, where you come from, and what is your birthright to choose or reject or bend and modify and interpret in ways that are meaningful and relevant to your beautiful, unfolding life. I love you. I love the lights I strung around the doorways yesterday, love that you want to teach your class how to play dreidel, love that you are trying to piece together at the age of six what I’m still making sense of a month before I turn 35. There is so much here, so much more, but for now, I will say just this – keep asking, keep asking, keep asking. And I will keep asking, too. This is our inheritance, questions covering more questions, like nesting dolls, mothers and daughters. And together, we will keep walking through a thousand doorways of twinkling stars, into the past, into the future, into right now, the light, your questions, piercing the darkness.


10 thoughts on “Yes, I knew the Santa song

  1. Anonymous says:

    Very beautiful, Jena. You have a way of managing a long sentence without it being run-on; it carries me along so that I don’t even have to reread the beginning! Nice to actually enter your blog…I enjoyed my stay!


  2. Mrs. B. Roth says:

    I love it when parents are willing to be honest. Giving children the truth (as much as you dare) seems to feel better even if it is a little confusing and brings up a million more questions. Thanks for setting a beautiful example – taking time, answering questions … bathing the kids – all good things I should do more often.


  3. She She says:

    So hard to give them an answer, wrapped with a nice bow, when we’re still figuring it out. We’ll never figure it out completely. If we did, what would we do then?

    You have a couple of jewels in your midst, you know. They are special girls.

    Thanks for your comment on my post, friend.



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