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Interfaith families share traditions

 Andrew D'Amore-Braver, 8, and his father, Arnie, take a break from decorating to play the dreidel game at their home in Troy, Mich. The family celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah.
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Date published: 12/23/2006


DETROIT--The exterior of the D'Amore-Braver home glows with sparkling Christmas lights, adding a festive flair to their street in a Troy, Mich., subdivision.

Inside on a recent Monday evening, Arnie and Andrea and their two sons, Alex and Andrew, string lights and place bows and ornaments to adorn the Christmas tree between their living and dining rooms.

A new blue-and-white tablecloth imprinted with menorahs, stars of David and dreidels--symbols of Hanukkah--covers the circular coffee table in the living room. Atop it sits a display of five menorahs--most of them made by Alex and Andrew over the years.

While they decorate, the family listens to a CD that--like their decorations--celebrates both Christianity and Judaism.

While many families are getting ready for the busy holiday season, the challenges multiply for those in which the spouses are of different faiths, like the D'Amore-Bravers.

Arnie D'Amore-Braver, 55, is Jewish. His wife, Andrea D'Amore-Braver, 48, was raised Catholic.

The family attends the Birmingham Temple in Farmington Hills, Mich., but celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday that began Friday evening.

Like other interfaith couples, they have found that sharing in and respecting each other's faiths and traditions keeps the spirit of the season alive in their households. Rather than diminishing one religion or the other, observing both holidays allows them to learn about and experience other cultures. Plus, it doubles the fun.

More than 28 million adults--22 percent of all couples married or living together--were in mixed-religion unions in 2001, according to a book released this year, "Religion in A Free Market" (Paramount Market Publishing, $49.95) by professors Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

The percentage of Jews married outside their faith rose from only 13 percent before 1970 to approximately 47 percent in 2001, based on data from the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, sponsored by the United Jewish Communities, the organization representing North American Jewish federations and communities.

"The reasons relate to the greater assimilation of Jews in the general culture," says Micah Sachs, managing editor of InterfaithFamily.com. "There has been a decline in anti-Semitism. And in the last 10 to 15 years, at least, the general culture has promoted more multi-culturalism, and there's been greater geographic mobility of people of all faiths."

Different families have different approaches to the December holidays.

The D'Amore-Braver family celebrates both.

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