'Is there anybody Jewish in there ... ?'


I felt moved to write about the Dec. 19 column by Corey Levitan. "Christmas is confusing for Jewish kids."

I regret that Corey was not raised in a home that emphasized his own very unique place in the world and in life. I'm sorry, also, that as a young Jewish child he felt there was little to do on Christmas other than go to a movie theater or the Chinese restaurant and that he could not wait until he was in college to have his "own Christmas."

Today I talked to many other Jewish folks who are my age. Not one of them felt as if they were in some way or in any way cheated because they did not celebrate Christmas. Some of our families used the opportunity to get together with our extended families. Others of us volunteered to work at our place of employment so Christians who celebrated Christmas would have the chance to celebrate this holiday with their families.

Most of the Jewish kids who grew up in my era were very aware of the fact that we celebrated different religious holidays than many of our contemporaries. However, we were taught a great sense of appreciation for who we were and for what we had. We were taught to not covet anything our neighbors had or celebrated.

Personally, I was very fortunate to have parents who unashamedly decorated our house for Chanukkah. Our next door neighbors, Ann and Jim, always got a huge Christmas tree and invited us over to help decorate the tree. My sister and I were thrilled to participate in the joy of their holiday and I have to admit I did like the smell of the tree in their home. Our family had very close Christian friends whom we visited each and every Christmas to wish them a happy and loving celebration of their holiday. Yes, we shared in their joy and in their happiness. But I never felt as if we were cheated out of anything nor as if we needed to personally celebrate something that was not ours.

There were many, many of us Jewish children who went to Hebrew School after our secular school days were finished. We went through a ritual called Bar Mitzvah and gained an understanding that we were now accepted into our religious faith as fully participating members of the congregation.

Corey has written on Facebook that he was glad his child would not have to suffer being raised by a Jewish woman given that his wife is not Jewish. Please allow me to recount: When I was a child in elementary school every classroom had a Christmas tree and the whole classroom decorated it. My Jewish mother would bring a Chanukkah menorah, candles, dreidels, and M&Ms to school and she would explain to everyone about this holiday called Chanukkah we celebrated as a part of being Jewish. She would oversee us playing the dreidel game and most of the kids would wind up with some of the M&Ms. We learned to appreciate the holidays that others celebrated and felt a sense of pride in sharing the holidays we celebrated. Never did any of the Christian kids express a desire that they could celebrate "eight nights" of Chanukkah, nor did we Jewish kids feel that all we ever wanted at that age was to celebrate Christmas. And, yes, I did know one -- that's one -- Jewish family who succumbed to this kind of feeling and actually had a "Chanukkah Bush."

I do not want people to read Corey's article and come away with the belief that most Jewish kids were unhappy being born into Judaism ... most of us were taught to believe that there was something special and unique about our birthright.

To paraphrase the Pink Floyd song "Comfortably Numb," I ask Corey and others who feel as he does, "Hello, is there anybody Jewish in there ... inside of you?" None of us should be ashamed of who we are and we should not condemn others for having different belief systems. Nor do we have to promote the fact that it is too bad we aren't somebody different.

If you are a Christian, stand up for the great aspects of Christianity, be proud and I wish you a very Merry Christmas. If you are Jewish, stand up for the great traditions of Judaism, be proud and I hope you had a very Happy Chanukkah.

We should all be celebrating the fact that in this great country we are afforded the opportunities to celebrate who we are without the need to feel ashamed of who we are. Of all these thoughts, I am not confused. Rather, I am very, very clear.

 

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