Yep, it’s that time of year people. Christmas. It’s everywhere. In the grocery store. The mall. The nail salon. The bathroom at Olive Garden. Everywhere. Which is cool. And I really do mean that. Christmas is really cool. There are gifts and sparkly lights, and people full of cheer. And eggnog. And apparently other people filled with anti-Semitism and disdain.
On Monday night we attended a Hanukkah celebration at our town Community Center. I sit on the board of the Community Center and one of the things that I like most about it, is that it’s for the community, as the name would imply. A community that encompasses a myriad of different cultures, religions and colors. A community where last week there was an Indian wedding party at the Garden Club, and where there are Seik kids at school, and you know what, even African-Americans (yes I am being tongue in cheek). A community where 35% of said members are Jewish. And so we ate latkes and tried to remember not to shake hands with the Rabbi, and chatted about sending our kids to the Chabad Hebrew school. And my kids indulged in a celebration that was for their faith, and we all went home feeling good.
Until this morning, when I was shown a letter, scribbled on the back of a donation form for the Community Center. It said that because the Community Center supported a religious event, they would never donate money again. And this was apparently preceded by a phone call. Never mind the fact that there has been a Christmas Tree sitting in the front lobby for two weeks. Never mind that the Chabad rented the Center out and the event was not presented by the Community Center. Never mind the fact that I’m still so surprised that bigoted small-minded individuals do exist and are prepared to voice their racist opinions publicly.
And to the point of raising opinions, let’s move on to the 2nd grade play this year. Due to a, let’s say, little oversight, apparently the play was something to the effect of how the elves work hard for 364 days of the year so that all the boys and girls can get toys on Christmas, the most special day of the year. Um, not the Bregman kids. Or a bunch of other kids in the school, one of whose mom was super upset and had a chat with the school principal, who of course canned the whole play. I know that mom feels really bad, and that some of the parents are angry about the wasted hours put into the play by the kids, teachers and parents. And I know that 99% of the participants never considered that the play was excluding others. Truly. Because Christmas trumps Hanukkah at this time of year. Fact. And one of my friends really didn’t think that Rudolph the Reindeer was aligned with Christmas. True story. This is what we have to deal with and it’s up to us as Jewish parents to decide how to deal with it.
What do I think? Well, last week Max was in tears because we’re missing the play and he was in fact vying for the role of Rudolph. The Jewish reindeer, of course. And I wasn’t going to tell my kid he couldn’t be Rudolph because he’s Jewish. To me that really sends the wrong message. It says that because you’re Jewish you’re being excluded. Do I think that the school was wrong? Yep, and I’m sure they’ll never make that mistake again. But I would rather have turned this into an opportunity for my kids to learn that they live in a Christian world, and that’s ok, because they know who they are, and what they stand for, and no matter what environment they’re in, they can stand strong and proud as Jews, and as significant members of any community.
And in fact, I have a Christian friend, who this year celebrated Hanukkah with her kids because they’re friends with my guys. I love that my kids were able to help open their world a little more. So I’ll smile the next time I buy eggs and hear Jingle Bells, because tonight, when we light the candles for Hanukkah, I’ll know that my kids know who they are. And just in case, let’s remember that Jesus was, well, Jewish. L’Chaim, peeps!