Chanukah And How Gentiles Infantilize Judaism

Chanukah And How Gentiles Infantilize Judaism

We deserve better than to be treated like children.
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This year, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays had a klezmer band among the Christmas shows, tucked between the France and Morocco pavilions. The band was called Mostly Kosher; they're a self-proclaimed “Post-Klezmer Indie band” and the first Jewish music ensemble to perform at the Disney parks, bringing with them Yiddish lyrics and a variety of musical styles as wide as the spread of Jewish people around the world.

I watched their show several times, and enjoyed it each time. It had been too long since I’d heard klezmer music, let alone any live performance of Jewish music, so I was plenty eager to clap, sing along, and jump up to join the hora dance.

At one point in their show, the singer steps forward to make a speech about the journey their performance will take us, through many different countries where the Jewish people have called home in the Diaspora. This speech is repeatedly interrupted by the band playing the dreidel song, and the singer tries in vain to draw attention away from the silliness and back to their message.

This moment is ostensibly funny, but it struck a chord with me, because the thing it's poking fun at might not be clear to non-Jewish viewers. It isn't making fun of the singer for being serious. It's demonstrating the way people so often don't take Judaism seriously, how they would much rather hear about dreidels and miracles than about the rest of it.

My elementary school teachers used to ask my parents to come to class and teach everyone how to play dreidel and tell the story of the miracle of the oil. My parents always replied that they would come only if they could teach about Shabbat and Rosh Hashana and other important parts of Judaism, too.

That never happened.

The miracle of the oil story is what we tell to children, and playing dreidel is what we do with children, if we do those things at all. And even when my siblings and I were children, we understood this, and were capable of thinking about both the fun and silly things and the more serious things. But dreidels and oil miracles – the fun and silly things – are all you'll ever see of Judaism in media (even though it would be so easy to portray us more complexly!).

The conclusion I came to at a very young age is that gentiles on the whole would much rather see Jews as innocent and childish than engage with us as adults with a legitimate belief system. Why think about the rich culture that the Jews have developed during our long history of exile when we can sing about playing with dreidels instead?

I've written before about my complicated feelings about Chanukah. Some Jews celebrate it. Others ignore it. Still others celebrate but take it with a grain of salt, remembering how the Maccabees killed not only the Greeks but the assimilated Jews in their community.

As I’ve said before, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Jews celebrating, getting joy from, or attributing spiritual significance to Chanukah. G-d knows all three are true for me! But when the only thing that non-Jews know or want to know about Judaism is the children's version of a minor holiday, it's infantilizing. We deserve better than to be treated like children.

Cover Image Credit: Sophie Katz

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A Letter From God To Help You Finish The Semester

God sees your struggles and He's here to give you strength and motivation.
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My Child,

The lack of motivation towards the end of the semester is normal. You are mentally and physically tired, but you are almost at the end. Don’t stop walking down the perfect path I have for you. When you’re going along and you come upon a speedbump, I want you to go over it and keep driving. The paper you have to write and the test you have to study for are just small speedbumps I have given you to make you wiser. You can write that paper and you can gain motivation to study for that test. I am here to give you strength, and am here to open up your mind and give you motivation.

You are so loved. You have such a beautiful mind. The light of Jesus shines through your eyes and your smile brings comfort to the world. There’ll be times you feel like you’re carrying a heavy load. There’ll be times you feel like the task I have given you is impossible to perform. But remember this: I would never put anything upon your shoulders that you cannot carry. If I put you in a certain situation, it’s because I know you are strong enough to go through it.

When you feel like crying, cry to me. When you feel like a failure, remember how much I love you. You are not a failure and you are not going to give up. I will hold your hand through every second of your life. I will seek your heart through your darkest moments. I see you, I see your heart, and I see your burdens. And remember that I have your heart which means I also have your burdens. Follow my footsteps and you will be free from the doubt. Remember Mark 4:40-41: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” I have the power to calm any storm and wave. I have the power to calm YOUR storms and waves. Set your doubt, anger, and tiredness in my hands and simply be patient.

Romans 8:14-15 says,“For those who are led by the spirit of God are the children of God. The spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again, rather the spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.” Nothing can separate you from my love. Not even your lack of motivation. You have no motivation because you do not feel good enough. You are more than good enough. You were perfectly made by me and when I look down at you, I think of how proud I am of your heart.

Throughout the last few weeks of this semester, you will stumble upon speedbumps. But hold the hand of my son Jesus and you will be able to go over that speedbump with ease. Go write that paper, go study for that test, and go get an A in that class. I know you can because I have given you power.

Love,

God

Cover Image Credit: Margaret Carnes

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7 Bible Verses For The Insanely Stressed Out College Student

Bible verses to bring peace of mind as finals rapidly approach.

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As finals quickly approach and the academic year begins to wind down, it's easy to find yourself becoming bogged down with stress. Despite your religious background, these verses can provide solace and peace to those most in need of it during this stressful time of year.

1. Matthew 6:34

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

2. Psalm 34:19

"The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from all."

3. John 16:33

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

4. Psalm 42:5a

"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God."

5. Philippians 4:13

"I can do all things through him who gives me strength."

6. John 14:27

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

7. Philippians 4:6-7

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And in the peace of God, which transcends all understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

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