As you can imagine, being raised both Jewish and Christian while having an Irish last name and having red hair on top of that has brought up questions my whole life. I grew up in an interfaith household and never really thought much of it.
It seemed pretty normal to me. Growing up in a town with a large Jewish and Christian community, I had friends that were Christian and friends that were Jewish. Some of my friends went to CCD every week and church on Sundays and others attended Hebrew school at the local temple three days a week and practiced Shabbat every Friday night with their families.
Our schools were closed in observance of holidays for both religions. With my mom being Jewish and my dad being Protestant, I was raised Jewish and given a Hebrew name, Lea Shira, but I was also raised Christian. I attended Sunday school, run by an organization for interfaith families, for five years. Over those five years, I learned about the history of Judaism and the Jewish holidays, how to read and write Hebrew and learned the blessings, prayers and songs of the religion. I was fascinated by the history of Judaism and would always come home and tell my mom everything I had learned.
After seventh grade, when students in the program graduated and had their bar or bat mitzvah, I became a TA for a first-grade class at the Sunday school for three years. I didn't end up having a bat mitzvah but I attended many bar and bat mitzvahs of friends and family members.
As a family, we celebrated Hanukah most years in addition to celebrating Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter. My mom, siblings, and I would get out the menorah and light the candles each night of Hanukah while saying a prayer before receiving our small gift. It's an interesting family dynamic for holidays because my dad's family and part of my mom's family are both Christian. My grandfather remarried after my mom's mother passed away and part of my grandmother's family, including my aunt, uncle, and cousins are Protestant. We celebrate Christmas with my mom and dad's families and Hanukah with only my immediate family. I am very lucky that I am able to celebrate holidays from both religions with both sides of my family. It's something special that not everyone can say they do.
I didn't really notice it until high school and now in college, but when people would ask me what religion I identified with, I would say that I am part Jewish and part Christian and the reaction was always a look of surprise. The follow-up question would then be, "Well, isn't your last name Irish? How does that work?" I would then tell people that my dad is Christian and my mom is Jewish so I celebrate holidays from both religions. Then if they asked about how I got the red hair, I would say that both of parents actually had relatives on each side with red hair.
Now that I am attending college at what I consider a southern university, it's definitely more unusual to people now when I tell them I am both Jewish and Christian. I'm definitely part of the small population of Jewish students at the school. Knowing that I celebrate Christmas, people are even more surprised when I tell them that I'm half Jewish.
I have come to be proud of the fact that I am a Jewish and Christian redhead with an Irish last name and enjoy talking about my family history.