Today’s song is “Maoz Tzur,” a traditional song for lighting a menorah. This probably doesn’t belong in an Advent calendar of music. However, last night I had a request for a proposal for a Passover program website, and this morning I went to oDesk to get my paycheck and there was a buyer saying that she’d had a provider refuse her job upon discovering that she was Jewish. So I guess it’s time for a Chanukah song.
I don’t like the custom of lumping Chanukah in with Christmas as though it were merely a Jewish variant of Christmas. Ditto for Ramadan and Diwali. While it’s true that most people have some kind of winter festival, it isn’t really the case that they are all interchangeable, and saying “Happy Holidays” somehow covers everyone’s observances.
On the other hand, it is true that some American Jews have taken up some customs reminiscent of American Christmas. When I worked in the store, I remember selling a stocking-making kit to a regular customer with grandchildren.
“Is one enough?” I asked, having seen her in the store with several kids.
“Probably more than enough,” she answered. “We’re Jewish.”
Passover programs were new to me. You see, Passover is eight days long, and observant Jews can’t have anything in any way connected with bread in their homes. “Spring cleaning on steroids,” as my client explained it.
Instead, some Jews take a vacation — sort of like Spring Break with religious elements. You go south for a week or two, and stay at a kosher resort with activities for the kids and all the religious observances taken care of, and then you go home and continue your normal life.
As for the oDesk contretemps, I am of course saddened and horrified that anyone would do such a thing. At the same time, I remember Arab students in my ESL classes who felt no shame at all about their prejudices against the Jewish people. We used to include it in an English lesson — don’t say things like that in America. Attempts to change their thinking were obviously not practical, so we just tried to convey that announcing desires to disembowel people who didn’t share your religious views were not comme il faut in the U.S.
So you can sing “Maoz Tzur” if you’re in the mood. If not, it can be a good reminder that, while it may at this time of year appear that we’re all joining in on the same holiday celebrations, we actually have a wonderful level of diversity in our nation and world, and praise God for that.