Messages from a Jewish Grandmother to her Granddaughter
It is almost Thanksgiving time; in our world that is every day.
This year, Hanukkah starts the weekend of Thanksgiving. This makes me so happy.
I don’t have to have a Christmas Tree all lit up and flashing competing with my Menorah for 8 nights. Sure, I respect poppops holiday, but I am thrilled I will get my eight nights without looking at a tree, angels, pointsettias, wreaths, garland, santas, reindeer, bells and balls.
(By the way; in true Nova fashion I of course insist on being the one to decorate. As you know, that has everything to do with my need to control all decor, and little to do with the joy of the Christmas holiday for me. )
The first night is November 28th, and the last is December 6th. It will end almost three weeks before Christmas, and I hope every Menorah in every retail establishment comes down on the 7th of December. Hanukkah does not need to “compete” with Christmas, and I as a Jew do not see it as my Christian Christmas celebrating peers, friends and relatives as you trying to be inclusive. I promise you, it is not. Perhaps having the meaning of the Jewish holidays shoved into your psyche and brain from the time you started school would hover on inclusivity. Perhaps. At the very least, you would have some knowledge of what Hanukkah is… a minor Jewish Holiday, and if truly your curiosity peaked, you could actually learn what the more important Holidays are about.
In 1957 I started kindergarten at Eli Whitney, a public school in Stratford, CT. School prayer was the norm in the morning. No Charlotte; not a moment of meditation, not a quiet time to settle into your thoughts for the day, and definitely not the Shema.(The Shema; for my very much respected Christian friends is one of Judaism’s most important prayers.)”Hear O Israel”…
No Charlotte, we said the Lord’s Prayer, and I knew that by heart before I could count to 100, recite the ABC’s, read ten words or say the Shema.
It would be five more years of saying the Lord’s prayer outloud in unison to start the school day before it became banned by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1962. After that, I still remember having a time of silence in the morning for the class to “pray.” By then I knew the Shema, and sang it silently while everyone except my friend Jeri was probably saying the Lord’s Prayer. Thank you to the people who took school prayer to task. Thank you Mr. Engel for fighting the battle; although the war is still being fought. Many are in agreement that we are and have become a G-dless society. No, my dear Evangelicals, we are not. We just choose to keep our many and diverse religious beliefs out of public education.
You would think sixty years later I would have forgotten the Lord’s prayer. I still know it. I guess it was my first Christian indoctrination, and it should never have been a Universal start to the school day. I am unsure why my parents or Jeri’s did not see anything wrong with this. Perhaps it was a battle they were unwilling to or did not know how to fight. Two Jewish girls in an entire school, what would be gained? Much, I think…or perhaps we would have been further singled out for our non Christian comforming beliefs?
Because of your momma and her strength I am finally finding my voice. I am holding myself accountable to call out and change the events and practices that I see as exclusionary and or incorrect representations of us as Jews. My hope is that by the time you are given these stories to read you will already have your knowledge and will be creating the changes needed to make the world better.
Let me give you an example of what I experienced this week.
I work for a great company. I love my job; and have been in the same location for fifteen years…and for fifteen years I have dreaded the Christmas season. Retail is Christmas’s best friend. It is not so much fun to be a Jew and listen to Christmas music for eight hours a day for thirty days. I imagine it is not fun for many other people who do not celebrate Christmas either. Two days ago our Christmas tree went up, our wreaths went up, our Christmas balls went out to decorate the tables, and our Menorah went out with all candles in it, surrounded by a tray of Christmas balls.
I had a choice: be silent, ignore it, or say something to the people with power to change this display. Christmas balls and decorations are not to be placed around a Menorah, and we light it one night at a time, put it out the first day of Hanukkah, light it appropriately and correctly, and take it down the day after Hanukkah. Keeping a Menorah out for thirty days does not make me feel included in Christmas. Hanukkah if it could speak would tell you it DOES NOT WANT TO BE AND IS NOT CHRISTMAS.
Hanukkah originated almost six centuries prior to Christmas, and was and is the celebration of a military victory. It is not as important to Jews as Christmas is to Christians.
Now Bunchkie, here is the educational opportunity, and lucky for me I work for a company that listens. I sent a text to my Human Resources manager stating how I felt about the Menorah floating in the Christmas balls, and stated how I felt. It was sent up to my Regional Manager who immediately had the process changed. The Menorah will go up the first night of Hanukkah. One candle will be lit each night by the Shamash. (Phoenix is adding this: thats the taller candle in the middle that lights all the other ones.) It will not be surrounded by Christmas Balls. Just because they are blue does not change things. Just because it looked aesthetically very beautiful, does not make it more acceptable. (I will likely have to show my peers how and what candles to light first, and I will gladly take on the responsibility.) The morning after the 8th night, the Menorah will be put away. We are not now or ever the same as Christmas. The tree will stay up as is the tradition through New Years Day. This was an opportunity to educate and make a change. Mission accomplished, after fifteen years of being silent and uncomfortable for six weeks. Now Bunchkie, I am a firm believer of being silent on many occasions. Biting your tongue so to speak, or counting to 10 before saying something you could regret. Words are and will always be very powerful and there can be much power in silence also…This is what I say: “When it comes to standing up for something you believe in…something that will educate and ultimately make the world better,
Be Loud…be articulate and kind, yet firm…and know the facts. Your voice needs to be heard.”
Say it…From my heart with love, Nana…
…..that Jew, since ’52