Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Hanukkah!

Menora
Menora (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There's a show called, "Black-ish" that started this season on ABC. It has garnered a decent amount of criticism because of the title and for some of the characterizations on the show. People have thought that it oversimplifies certain issues and promotes a certain Black stereotype.

As they say in medicine, those things may be true, true, but they are unrelated.  I've seen one episode in its entirety and it reminded me of my thoughts as a little Black girl in Rochester, New York attending Twelve Corners Elementary School in Brighton, a predominantly Jewish suburb.  My best friend, Alison, was Jewish. And just like the little boy on the show, I wanted desperately to be Jewish...

As a child, Hanukah had a certain mystery and magic that Christmas seemed to lack. I was keenly aware that "the masses" celebrated Christmas because it was commercialized and there was a Santa Claus on nearly every corner shaking a bell requesting a donation for the Salvation Army. In contrast, Hanukah seemed like something that only the cool kids got to do. And it was so cool that it required neither commercials or fanfare. If you were in the in crowd, you just knew what to do.

Our "very" Christmas tree

The Attraction of Hanukah


Hanukah has eight days of gift giving. As a child, on the receiving end of gifts, that seemed that an enviable holiday. Who wouldn't exchange eight days of gifts for only one.  I read one commentator's view of Black-ish who criticized the character for wanting to exchange his religion for a Bar Mitzvah. 

However, I can say that from my perspective, I was thinking neither of religion nor heritage when I was longing to be Jewish. For me, a Christmas tree and a menorah seemed interchangeable.  I just wanted to be part of something that everyone at school was a part of.


Last year's holiday shoot


Of course there is more to Hanukah than presents and the meaning of Christmas extends way beyond one day. We're talking about the birth of the savior of the world for goodness sake. Would I really have given all of that up for the chance to play with a dreidel? You betcha!

I doubt that my experience was what Martin Luther King, Jr. and the others were hoping to overcome when they marched for integration in the 1960's, especially since he was part of the "Southern Christian Leadership Conference". However, integration has some unintended consequences. As an adult, I have learned that some of my Jewish friends grew up longing for a Christmas tree. So, I think my longing for such things is somewhat of a rite of passage.

In any event, whenever Hanukah comes, I always think fondly of my school days in Brighton and remember when I wanted to embrace this holiday as my own...

Happy Hanukah!!!

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