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Jewish Family Seeks Christmas Alternatives : Holidays: For many Jews, particularly young children, this can be an especially alienating season.

PEACE ON EARTH. FAMILIES' TIES: Traditions in celebrating the holidays.

December 26, 1991|AMY LOUISE KAZMIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

While Ruth and Steve Kaye's children were growing up, Christmas Day was movie day.

As Jews, the Kayes did not celebrate Christmas, and the movies were a means of keeping the children amused when most of their playmates were celebrating with their families.

The Kayes' children have grown up and moved away, but the movie day tradition lives on. For nearly 10 years, the Pasadena couple have organized a movie outing and potluck supper for about 10 other Jewish couples who also have little to do on the Christian holiday.

This year, the tradition hasn't fared well. Several of the families had other social commitments, and one family had a serious illness. Even the Kayes had to bow out of organizing the annual excursion because they are attending a surprise birthday party for a friend.

They said they plan to resume the tradition next year, though.

Meanwhile, their tradition was echoed in a new event organized for the first time this year at the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center, where the Kayes have been active members for many years.

Families with children were to meet Christmas Day at the synagogue to partake in a kosher brunch, and then to go on outings--to the park or to the movies--with other families.

Cathy Kobayashi, one of the organizers of the temple event, said the gathering was not planned "to serve as a substitute" for Christmas but rather to bring Jewish families together on a day when many usually just hang around their houses with little to celebrate.

"A lot of things are closed," said Kobayashi, who has a 7-year-old daughter. "You can't go to the museum. You can watch television, but what's on is a lot of Christmas programs."

By gathering at the temple, she said, families can meet with others who share their interests and participate in activities together.

Rabbi Gilbert Kollin, head of the Pasadena Jewish Temple, said that for many Jews, particularly young children, Christmas can be an alienating season.

"Ten or 11 months out of the year, we are all Americans," he said. "Then Christmas comes along and every one is celebrating, and you say, 'Hey, this is not my holiday.' It reminds Jews that you are a minority."

Steve Kaye, now 62, said his family began going to the movies on Christmas because it was "a reasonably convenient thing to do." Kaye said his family considered the holiday "a kind of bonus day, to do something you can't normally do."

Although the family once went to Disneyland, the movie matinee became the regular ritual. Once their kids had moved out of the house, the Kayes decided to continue the practice and invite close friends to come along. A new tradition was born.

The potluck was quickly added to the event because "going out to eat on Christmas Day is always a major problem."

"Either restaurants are closed or they are serving a special Christmas meal," Kaye explained.

It's not easy for the large group of couples to agree on a film to see, and Ruth Kaye said the key is to select a film well in advance.

"We have to arrange a few weeks ahead so that the people won't go and see it--so they will save it for Christmas," Ruth Kaye said.

Her husband said that they generally "put up a candidate and see if it gets shot down."

The ideal Christmas Day movie, he added, is "nothing too heavy. We like a movie where you come out feeling upbeat." Past films for the group include "Lies My Father Told Me," "Hester Street," "Blaze" and "Rain Man."

Though the Kayes had to cancel the event this year, they said they are confident that it will resume next year because, over time, their friends have become their second family.

"These friends are really closer than friends," Ruth Kaye said. "We're like an extended family."

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