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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"Jewish In a Winter Wonderland"

When I saw the title of this NY Times story, "Jewish In a Winter Wonderland", I thought it was going to be about how it feels to be bombarded with Christmas programming and decorations everywhere you go this time of year. I went to work on Thursday, and the theme of the day was all Christmas, all the time. The christmas trees and twinkling lights in the lobby of my office building, the store windows as I walk through the city streets, the soundtrack playing "Silver Bells" as I ordered my coffee from Starbucks. I know all about being Jewish In a Christmas Wonderland, I thought, as I saw the article's headline.

Apparently though, the woman who wrote this article had a different solution than mine (keep your head down, try to ignore hearing "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" for the 34,765th time, change the channel when "Arthur's Christmas Special" comes on Channel 13). She seemed to have decided "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em", and soon enough her house was in full Christmas regalia:
But despite our differences, we both love our little winter wonderland. Some nights, I put on our Starbucks Christmas CD, light a fire, turn on the tree and play with the different settings, put liquid smoke in the train’s smokestack and turn on the choo-choo sound effects and then I sit back and enjoy my first Christmas, in all its kitschy splendor. I feel a little guilty when I look at our lone menorah on the mantel (the only evidence of my faith other than my guilt), but I ask you: how can this much pleasure be wrong?

Before you answer that in a snappy letter to the editor, fellow Jews (including you, Dad), let me just say that I’m pretty sure that if we’re fortunate enough to have children, we will raise them with the same arbitrary rules we were raised with, trying our best to sell that old chestnut (roasting on an open fire) that “eight nights is better than one,” and putting this tradition behind us until the kids go off to college, if not forever.

On the other hand, maybe it’s nice to teach children that holidays can be done à la carte. Every religion, every culture has so many beautiful rituals and traditions to choose from. Maybe celebrating is a step toward tolerating. I can hardly wait for Hanukkwanzaa.
Yeah. Like I said. The article didn't turn out quite like I had hoped it would.

22 Comments:

Anonymous A said...

That was the second essay in the NYT over the weekend with the same exact message. (The other was in the Lives column in the magazine). Too much.

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OM,

Did it ever cross your mind that if you weren't Orthodox you wouldn't view all that Christmas cheer as being overwhelming?

My child attends a public school and he came home last week telling us about the menorah and all the driedel symbols (gimmel, nun, etc.)

I thought it was wonderful.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

This article made me very sad.

Chanuka can't compete with the media juggernaut that assualts everyone every november to january. Nothing can.

But is holds it own pretty nicely if you take the time to make it so. It's sad how many jews have thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

I understand why Jews are so cavelier about intermarrying. It just doesn't have to be that way.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the NYTimes article was quite pathetic. If my religious leanings could be so easily swayed by a Pottery Barn catalogue, I would not rush to tell the world about it, let alone jump through hoops to try and justify it.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"I thought the NYTimes article was quite pathetic. If my religious leanings could be so easily swayed by a Pottery Barn catalogue, I would not rush to tell the world about it, let alone jump through hoops to try and justify it."

I'm sure your parents are very proud of you. But, with all due respect, you missed the point entirely. Both OM's and the article author's.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous goyguy said...

There is something very strange to me about this whole Jewish Christmas thing...

I grew up in this neighborhood and have plenty of Jewish friends and neighbors, but don't ever recall any of my childhood friends that had two Jewish parents having a freaking Christmas tree.

Go to a Christmas party? Sure.

Stop over for food and drinks after everyone got back from midnight Mass on Christmas Eve? Hey, why not. A party's a party.

Drop a little something off for the neighbors kids? Nothing wrong with being nice.

Heck, some of them even played Santa at a party so their Christian friends could be with their kids. But....

This year I stopped by some friends after Thanksgiving dinner. Hey, look honey, they're putting up the tree! Interesting tradition for a Jewish family. Hmmm.

At least they blew a big wad on their kids' Bat Mitzvah's. THERE'S a tradition the kid's will pass on ;-) (although, the truth be known, the food sucked)

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm sure your parents are very proud of you. But, with all due respect, you missed the point entirely. Both OM's and the article author's."

Well, why don't you make *your* parents proud of *you*, and explain your point? Rather than being rude, that is.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"Well, why don't you make *your* parents proud of *you*, and explain your point? Rather than being rude, that is."

Explain my point? Actually, it's OM's point. You just misunderstood her and wen't off on this little self-righteous rant about how if you were the article's author, you wouldn't have done what she did. And for that, we say, "Well, good for you!"

12:26 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

I scooped you on this one by 12 hours:

http://charliehall.blogspot.com/2006/12/jews-behaving-badly.html

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... well, "still wonderin'" -- since you won't engage in substantive or civil dialogue, I don't see the point of speaking (typing) with you.

For the rest of the more civil folks out there: My point was that I find it pathetic and embarrassing that a Jew would revel in crass materialism, let alone crass materialism associated with avodah zara. And it's doubly irritating that this is one of the few stories that the NY Times -- the major newspaper from a city with more Jews than any other city in the US -- chose to run about Hanukkah (or perhaps I should say "Christmasukkah" *gag*).

Equaly disturbing are the author's attempts to justify her choices by assuring us that when it comes time to rear her (future) children, she will apply the same "arbitrary" values (like celebrating Jewish, as opposed to Christain holidays) with which she was raised.

2:53 AM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Did it ever cross your mind that if you weren't Orthodox you wouldn't view all that Christmas cheer as being overwhelming?

I am not Orthodox and I find it to be overwhelming.

3:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's too bad that you find all that Christmas cheer as being overwhelming, Jack. Most people, regardless of their religious affiliation find the all the cheer and warmth to be rather contagious!

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's some interesting excerpt from the Book of II Maccabees:

6:7: On the monthly celebration of the king's birthday, the Jews were taken, under bitter constraint, to partake of the sacrifices; and when the feast of Dionysus came, they were compelled to walk in the procession in honor of Dionysus, wearing wreaths of ivy.

So the evil Antiochus made the Jews worhsip idols with greenery. Bet then our hero Judah Maccabee rides in and recover the Temple:

10. 5: It happened that on the same day on which the sanctuary had been profaned by the foreigners, the purification of the sanctuary took place, that is, on the twenty-fifth day of the same month, which was Chislev.
10.6: And they celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the feast of booths, remembering how not long before, during the feast of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals.
10.7: Therefore bearing ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place.
10.8: They decreed by public ordinance and vote that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year.



Our Maccabeean heros didn't seem to have any problem using a "pagan custom" (greenery) that was forced on them even after they liberated the Temple. And the greenery was more than just lulav and etrog, the specifically mention ivy in both cases.

From this, I have no problem with Jews putting upo trees and having wreaths, etc. for the winter solstice period. A sort of "indoor sukkah," if you will.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't read the articles.

Jews have to relate to G-d, not J'ism or Jewishness as a "life style". It's not about dreidels and chocolate candy coins in gold tinsel, it's about a vision of the world, big picture, reality, how to experience existing. Big stuff.

Christmas is very nice. In fact it is wonderful. For Christians. I am BT ( a newly orthodox Jew). Anybody Jewish can be. It is nice to be really yourself. Christmas is wonderful and being BT is wonderful. Everything is wonderful. Shabbat Shalom.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jews have to relate to G-d

It's a little hard to relate to God when that relationship is all one-way. I know you're kind of excited about the BT thing, but believe me, I've been there, and all that religious stuff is so much bunk. Makes no sense. Disconnected with reality.

I've found peace just experiencing the world as it exists and not worrying about "deep" "ultimate" meanings of anything. In fact, I've come to believe that life has no meaning, but so what? I can still enjoy it. Don't worry, be happy.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OM you really need to stop saying things like:
"To be honest, I don't particularly need to hear nonstop Christmas songs when I walk into every store this time of year (except, thankfully, for the local Kosher supermarkets and..."
and "Now, I'm not sure about this one. I definitely would not want to see a Nativity scene going up in every holiday display across America."

I have no problem with my children learning all about Channukah and Kwanza and coming home and playing dreidel and understanding what shin and nun mean.
I think it is healthy to learn about other cultures and their traditions.
It does not cause me to fear that they may convert.

Why are you so offended by the rituals that come along with the Christmas season?
None of us would ever complain about a Jewish song being sung.
Christians are taught to live and let live!

I do however find it most annoying when Jewish children are not taught better by their parents- and they go around telling Christian children that there is no Santa Claus. This is an outrage.

When my children have said Jews are mistaken for not believing in Jesus-
I chastise them and tell them they are never to judge what anyone else believes. Everyone has the right to believe in whoever and whatever they wish. That is how I was raised!
You ought to try teaching tolerance instead of writing these stupid articles that do nothing but show your ignorance.

6:22 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


Why are you so offended by the rituals that come along with the Christmas season?
None of us would ever complain about a Jewish song being sung.
Christians are taught to live and let live!


Oh, get over yourself and your outrage. I am quite sure that if you walked into Target or Walmart on Christmas Eve and they were playing an endless loop of only Chanuka songs like "Draidel, Draidel" and "Hava Nagila", you wouldn't be quite as magnanimous as you claim you are in your ironically ungenerous comment (which so completely misses the point my head hurts).

6:35 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'Christians are taught to live and let live'

Some of them, but a lot of them are taught that they are supposed to try to convert every non-Christian they can find to their religion. The author of the NY Times article is giving them a lot of ammunition by fuzzing the differences between the two religions.

Assimilation, not anti-Semitism, is the major threat to Jews in America today.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one teaches that we should convert.
Try to walk into mass and see if there is anything said about it!
We are taught to love everyone.
Turn the other cheek...

Clearly you have us confused with Jehovah's Witnesses.
Or Born agains!

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 6:22 & 8:01-

GREAT points...

Don't you get it? Orthodox Judaism and all the fanaticism that goes along with it is the Judaic equivelent of Re-Born Christianity and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Whether they be Christian or Jewish, ANYONE who knows even half of what Orthodoxy entails (Not ripping toilet paper on Shabbos!?!?!?) recognizes the lunacy of their, ahem... religious lifestyle.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous zman said...

Haredi Jews are by no means comparable to fanatic Christians. Is it part of our dogma to convert and condemn? The answer is no. And you may be taught to live and let live but lets see you practice your religion among hordes of others and being ridiculed, eyed, and questioned. The extent of your children’s knowledge about Judaism maybe about two letters, but this is no justification for non-stop Christian bombardment. But, I must agree, labeling our beliefs and practices and lunacy is an unprecedented step in tolerance and acceptance of Christian America.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry but to the average, mainstream American BOTH of these extreme branches of Christianity and Judaism ARE fanatical. I agree with you 1000%, Christians trying to convert others to their religion DOES make them zealous. That, along with their views and beliefs on divorce, homosexuality, and accepting Jesus as your savior as "a ticket to heaven".

9:32 AM  

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