A New (Jewish) Christmas Tradition

by Brie Stimson November 27, 2018


funny-girl_0Necessity is the mother of invention,” Betzy Lynch, CEO of the Lawrence Family JCC says of the modern American tradition of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas.

For the first time this year, the JCC will be hosting a Jewish Christmas event on Dec. 25, complete with glatt kosher Chinese food brought in from LA and a theatrical showing of “Funny Girl.”

Rather than have everyone spread out across San Diego, “we thought it would a great way to grow community among our Jewish friends to do it here at the J,” Betzy says. “And who doesn’t like glatt kosher Chinese food, right?”

The idea came from Betzy’s past experience at five other JCCs where they held events on Christmas, including “anything from kosher Chinese food to a pancake breakfast and different things where we’ve served the community on Dec. 25.”

While many eateries are now open on Christmas, many Jews still indulge on Chinese food. “It’s definitely of our North American context,” Betzy adds on the origins of the custom. “It’s a really sort of fun community-building tradition and ritual that doesn’t come from any Jewish religious context but strictly from communal context, which is what’s so amazing about being Jewish, right? Is that we have this context around peoplehood as much as we do about Judaism itself and so much of the way that people, particularly in San Diego, participate in Jewish life is within that peoplehood or cultural context and so that’s why we felt like it was a great opportunity to bring people together around something that’s really sort of fun and sort of a new tradition in Jewish life.”

Betzy says due to the success at the other JCCs and the robustness of San Diego as a cultural center – and it is the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture – the idea of adding film, which they had not done at her previous JCCs made sense.

They will be showing “Funny Girl,” a musical starring Barbra Streisand, based on the life and career of Broadway star and comedian Fanny Brice. It includes famous songs like “People” (who need people) and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” The movie, which came out in 1968, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“In terms of popular icons and new Jewish traditions, Barbra Streisand obviously is one of the prouder members of the tribe, and so I think it was an opportunity to highlight – first of all it’s hard to believe that “Funny Girl is 50 years old – but to highlight an iconic classic that has deep ties to our Jewish community, but also something fun and light for the holiday.”

While they have a capacity of 500 in the David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre, “we have absolutely no idea what to expect because we’ve never done it before,” Betzy explains. “We’re really hopeful that people come and we have a lot of flexibility with the caterer.”

She guesses attendance will be anywhere from 150 to 300 people – similar in numbers to most of their inaugural event crowd sizes. “Our goal this year – we’re not going to judge success based on attendance – we’re going to judge success based on people’s experience because if we do a great job with this this time I’m sure it will be something that will build.”Α

“Funny Girl” with catered Chinese food will be on Dec. 25 at 5 p.m. The full menu is available at sdcjc.org and registration is required by Dec. 18. Tickets start at $35 (including food) for members.


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