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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When God Says, “Not Right Now.”

“God give me faith to wait and not manipulate. To trust You fully, no matter how my circumstances may appear." — Lynn Cowell

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One of the most frustrating yet beautiful things is when God tells us “no" or “not right now."

At the time, you may have agony or desperation for this one thing to work out in your life, but it slips away from you. You may ask God why. Why does He want you to be unhappy? Why does He want to take away your dreams?

At the time, you cannot see how much God truly is working in your life, but He is. In my life, every time that I was disappointed that a plan or dream didn't work out, I was devastated. I didn't want to be in a position where I was challenged and tested. I wanted all the blessings to flow and to fulfill what I thought was my plan in life. But that's exactly what it was: my plan.

I did not see at the time that that is not what God intended for me and that He actually had far greater plans than I did for myself. He needed to mold me into who I am supposed to be today. Along the way I have met the most amazing people that have had a huge impact on my life, have gone through the most amazing experiences with God, and I wouldn't trade going through all the trials because it has truly made me into the woman I am today.

“What God does in us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for." – John Ortberg

God is continually, endlessly, working in our lives.

We may not see it, but He is. We may blame God for all the things that are going wrong in our lives, but we never see that in the end, we were supposed to go through the low valleys to get to the high, amazing, and beautiful mountains in our lives.

I truly believe that it's when you're at the bottom of the darkest pit in your life that you can actually see the light of God shining brightly upon you. During these times, pray to Him to lead you to understanding that this is all a part of His plan for you.

It hurts God to see that His child is suffering, but in order to carve out just the person that you are supposed to be, you must go through challenges. Where you are today is no accident. God is using the challenge you are in to shape you and prepare you for the place He wants you tomorrow. When it comes to God's plan, timing is absolutely everything.

Looking back on all the events that I had to endure before getting to where I am now, I know that I had to go through the trials in order to be just who I am today, which is happier than I have ever been because I know God and His plan for me. Waiting is the most difficult job of hope, but you must remain faithful and know that God is guiding you.

“When I wait, you strengthen my heart." Psalm 27:14

When you are waiting for God's righteous plan, don't lose faith in His goodness. He only wants the best for you, and in the end, you will look back and see just how much He truly was working in your life. Be patient and the blessings will flow.

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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Poetry On Odyssey: Ego

Years later, we can still learn something about ourselves and our morality from Freud.

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I'm studying Freud now for maybe the 5th time

So I'm familiarized with his notorious line


It starts off as ID, ending at SuperEgo

Which helps you gauge if you're good, and hopefully not evil


It's the impossible goal to balance Ego in the middle

I think back on myself, trying so hard to fiddle


The morality dial to a place to that felt right

Where my mind was peace and my soul could feel light


I think now that I've made it, but I hadn't at first

So my earlier years were understandably the worst


My first day of grade school I was instantly smitten

Well aware that my guidelines had already been written


I was taught that fulfillment could be found in God's Word

His love the incentive with which I was lured


But she was just so damn sweet, with long hair and dark eyes

I hated myself for thinking same as the guys


Adam would never have lain down with a man

So to make it to Heaven, she was not in the plan


Later in life I was leaving high school

Taking dick, smoking pot and breaking rules to look cool


When on a contemplative car ride one night with my friend

My SuperEgo delusion came to a startling end


I asked, "Have you ever felt like you were missing a penis before?"

Her expression told me not to bring that up anymore


That night sent me deep into a pit of self loathing

I could pass as pure to my church, but felt absolutely nothing


I was shrink wrapped in guilt for the secrets I held

Taught that my kind were all children of the Angel that Fell


I felt I had failed, too wrapped up in desire

Postmarked now for down under as a fag, tranny and liar


Even though I would spend just two more years with God's son

I had denied who I was till the damage was done


All those times that I'd judged queer folks with disgust

Held me down like a freight train infested with rust


I internalized all the hatred I'd spread

Every comment placed pea-like in my soft Christian bed


That was the past, I breath easier now

But not without finding my "who" and my "how"


The person I'm now is so earthquakingly free

I mourn the years without girlfriends and the pronouns "him/he"


Pretty Boy is all honest, and that's pretty much "how"

I was able to end up at "who" I am now


It seems that its easy to find your Ego on the line

When your ID and your Super are authentically defined


But not by a god or a priest or a book

Right and wrong will come out if you're willing to look

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