Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gut Yontif

Hannukah was the only Jewish holiday I ever celebrated as a kid. Twice, with paper napkins on our heads since we had no yarmulkes or prayer shawls. Often, really often, I would hear Jews say that it's "not even that important a holiday" when someone else talked about how important it was to say "Happy Holidays" or something equally inclusive. I'd briefly wonder at what they were getting at and gradually just accepted, after hearing from many Jews, that it wasn't an important holiday. It was a long time before I realized they were lamenting the sorry state of American multiculturalism. Hannukah is the only Jewish holiday most Americans know. And what they know of it is basically that they have no idea how to spell it. (It's transliterated from another language that doesn't use Roman script, so there are lots of variations.) In recent history, it has actually gained some prominence in parts of the Jewish world for "Jewish" reasons, re-establishing a Jewish state has had some resonance with rejecting assimilation into ancient Greek society, but in America it's been about proximity to Christmas. Because some Christians wanted to be inclusive, they picked a simple (for them) and Christian-centric way to do so. Nice going, lazy mamzers. If people in America want to actually be inclusive, they can do better.

I don't actually want to devalue Hannukah. I like it, and celebrating the rejection of assimilation (even if there are some icky bits in the story, like fundamentalist terrorism and whatnot) seems really appropriate to me. Let's make Hannukah newly important. Just let's not celebrate it by settling for half-hearted assimilation.

And here's Ben Kweller talking Hannukah songs (there is no video, however, because it's radio - silly WNYC):
View Full Audio on WNYC

View Audio? Here's a segment on Jewish foods.

And, of course, Happy Joel doing Christmas Kicks Hannukah's Ass:


Andy said...

Blogs without auto-playing videos are more tolerable.

Matt said...

Sorry, Andy. But Soundcheck is really to blame.