The #1 question during Hanukkah is: What is the correct way to spell the name of this holiday? As I blogged about last year, "Since it's a Hebrew word that is transliterated into English, there are several acceptable spellings. But people still want to know if there is a consensus."
I’m sure Christopher Hitchens would have no problem with me, an admirer, taking him to task for a shoddy piece he wrote about Chanukah a few years ago in Slate. Hitchens, the eloquent atheist and polemicist, who died last week, at 62, had no problem with criticism.
With Chanukah just a few days away, and Christmas not far behind, the Intertubes are not surprisingly very, very congested with interesting Chanukah-Christmas Chatter. (Isn’t it cool that each of those three words starts with C-H, but in each one it’s pronounced differently? Clearly I’ve been spending a lot of time with my learning-to-read 5-year-old!)
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for this paper about Pilgrims and Native Americans. It spoke of how the legacy of the Thanksgiving story often falls prey to deconstructionists, who value historical truth over cultural myth at all cost. Rather than have children- and, for that matter, adults- celebrate a cherished American belief in a common appreciation of blessings, they would argue that historical reality in all of its messiness- or at least, the probability of its being reality- must trump exercises in feel-good nostalgia rooted in legend.
I know I promised you some December Dilemma resources.
But in the meantime, here’s an example of what NOT to do should you be invited over the home of an intermarried relative who has a “towering” Christmas tree “decorated with blue tinsel and blue ornaments, topped with a lit Star of David”:
I asked Marlene how she could so blatantly disrespect the Jewish religion by having such a sacrilegious symbol in her home. Perhaps I went too far when I asked if she thought her grandparents, who were Holocaust survivors, would approve.
On Sunday I had the honor of giving a talk at The Museum of Jewish Heritage on the so-called December Dilemma. I’m posting an edited version of my speech here, along with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s brilliant “Can I Interest You In Chanukah?,” which, because I love it so much, I had to include in the speech:
I’m going to start today, as I started a column a few years ago, with the story of the Jewish boy who got Christmas presents from the family dog.
Over the past week, my life has been so overtaken by the Festival of Lights that I’ve been looking forward to Christmas, just so I can kick back and do nothing!
Our schedule was packed this week: three events at our temple, family over for dinner on Saturday and dinner with friends on Monday night. Plus, "Chanukah Lady" visits to Sophie’s pre-K and Ellie’s second grade to teach about the holiday and pass out dreidels and gelt. Oh, and did I mention that it was a regular week of work and school for everyone, and that I had to take the kids to two different doctor’s appointments?
Chanukah 5771 has brought a bumper crop of music videos destined to become holiday classics. These viral videos became breakout hits by using comedy and quirkiness combined with genuine talent to communicate universal messages. Here is a roundup of 5771 hits along with JInsider’s “Chanukah Classic of All Time.” (All videos can be viewed at www.jinsider.com)
“Candlelight” by Maccabeats
Premise: A hip-hop twist on the Chanukah story and traditions.