Tuesday, December 13, 2016




Whoever would have thought that manger scenes and mall Santas could become a topic of contention in America? That saying “Merry Christmas” is becoming taboo in some circles?

Wow.

I spent the first decade and a half of my life in America. Most of my neighbors were Christian, not Jewish. They put up Christmas lights on their houses and had Christmas trees. Some of them even went to midnight mass on Christmas eve. The stores were full of Christmas music and decorations and so were the streets.

They were pretty.

I never imagined it would be necessary to discuss this. It seems so bizarre but as this has become such an issue I, as a Jew, would like to say to Christians everywhere:

For God’s sake, just say: “Merry Christmas.”

Your holiday doesn’t threaten my identity. If this time of the year makes you feel more Christian that’s great. You being more Christian doesn’t make me feel less Jewish.

It would be nice if you could remember that I also have a holiday at this time of year. It’s called Hanukah (and has nothing to do with Jesus). For those that don’t know, one wishes Jews a “Happy Hanukah.”

To Christians who wish me a “Merry Christmas” I always answer: “Thank you. My holiday is called Hanukah but thank you.” The PC police might see wishing someone the wrong holiday wishes as inappropriate, racist and an attempt to subjugate a minority to the majority culture. I see it as a well-intentioned mistake. Really, it’s not a big deal.

If you can’t remember that I have a holiday and that it’s different from yours, you know what? That doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t need your recognition in order to know who I am. It would be nice but it’s not necessary. What you do doesn’t change my identity, my history, my rituals or traditions. I will remain me and you can remain you.

If anything, as a Jewish person, what I’d like to ask of Christians everywhere is to use this time of year to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Do you remember what it is you are supposed to be celebrating? It has nothing to do with presents or lights or food.

Who gets the best stuff has nothing to do with the promise that everyone, no matter what they have done in life, can find redemption. Having enormous family meals often has very little to do with love or gratitude.

As a Jew, I’d like to ask Christians everywhere not to focus on what Jews or Muslims or Sikhs or Buddhists or whoever think of your holiday. Instead focus on what you are doing with your holiday. What are you teaching your children about Christmas?

If you are teaching them to be more Christ-like, that’s the best thing I could ask for. The ideas of hope, loving your fellow man, having compassion for others etc. are eternal. I don’t have to believe in your Savior to recognize that those are good things to teach. I don’t have to be Christian to hope that you will teach your children to be Christ-like or to believe that we’d all be better off if you did so.
I would like to point out that there is a real War on Christmas and it has nothing to do with Starbucks deciding to print “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” on their cups. Or if the cup is red or green. 
         
The real war on Christmas is happening in the Middle East, in Africa and in China. It is a war on Christians who have pledged to follow in the footsteps of the Nazarene: Jesus of Nazareth (whose Hebrew name was Yehoshua or in English, Joshua). It is a matter of life and death, not a matter of holiday decorations.

Home in Iraq marked with the symbol of the Nazarene
The war is against Christians who are being marked for death because they have refused to submit to the Islamic State. It is people who are beaten up, ostracized, considered “less than,” arrested in the dead of night, blown up in their churches and sometimes even crucified for their faith.

These things are not happening in the Middle Ages, it’s not a thing of the past, they are happening here and now, in a number of places around the world.

But who cares about the Christians of Iraq or Syria or Africa or China when Starbucks makes an issue out of printing the words: “Merry Christmas”?

Maybe you’ve lost your job or are sick. Maybe you think that Trump is scary. Everyone has something that is bothering them in their life. To my Jewish way of thinking it seems that Christmas season should be a time for Christians to look beyond the issues in their own lives.


I would hope that you use this holiday to bring joy to others, to people in your own community less fortunate than you. Buy presents for the kids in the poor family. Invite a lonely veteran to have Christmas dinner with your family. There are countless small ways you can make a big difference… If you do nothing to help others, at least be grateful for what you have. Your “War on Christmas” is ridiculous compared to the real war, the war on Christians. Scary is when your neighbors rise up against you, to kill you. Scary is heads on pikes in the street, executions in the town square. Everything else is child’s play, the complaints of the overly satiated. 

For God’s sake, just say: “Merry Christmas” and be happy that you have the freedom to do so. Anyone who has a problem with your choice of words is free to go curl up in a corner a cry if they like.

I choose to wish my Christian friends a very Merry Christmas!

I’ll be busy here in Israel, reveling in the miracles of Hanukah. As a child, I was taught about Hanukah, “a great miracle happened there.” Now I live in the place where one says: “a great miracle happened here.”  This is MY legacy and that’s what I’m going to focus on.

I certainly won’t be thinking about the people who said “Happy holidays” vs “Happy Hanukah” vs “Merry Christmas.”

That’s the beauty of freedom.

Thank God, we are still free enough to choose what to focus on, to choose our own reactions. There are people elsewhere who don’t have that luxury.





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