Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Dear President Biden and Vice President Harris,

Thank you so much for explaining Chanuka and its customs to me. Had it not been for you, President Biden, I would never have known that Chanuka is “undeniably American.” Had it not been for you, Vice President Harris, I would never have known that non-Jewish spouses may help light the menorah by placing a hand under the Jewish spouse’s hand as he lights.

President Biden, Vice President Harris, I had always thought that Chanuka was about battling foreign influences, multiculturalism, and assimilation. I thought Chanuka was about fighting to preserve Jewish observance at a time the Greek occupiers of Jewish indigenous territory had made such observance illegal. Perhaps that is why it seems strange to me that the non-Jewish wife of a Jew who married out would make a public ceremony of the two of you lighting the menorah. But be patient with me. I have a lot to learn.

President Biden, I’d like to know more about that thing you said regarding Chanuka being undeniably American. I thought the Chanuka story had nothing to do with America at all, being that the Chanuka story happened thousands of years before America was even discovered. Had you not told me that Chanuka was undeniably American, I would have said just the opposite—that there is nothing American about Chanuka. So I’m really glad you straightened that out for me.

I mean—I’m so glad to have been enlightened. All those years I was completely wrong. But now I know: Chanuka is undeniably American. Amazing.

I also really liked all those pretty words about “fragile flames” and illuminating “a path forward.” Truly. That was so much more lyrical than the violent, bloodthirsty tale I was raised on. Jews taking up arms and slaughtering the non-Jewish occupier and so forth. That’s what I’d thought Chanuka was all about. That and fried food, of course.

I was so wrong. (And hopefully, so is my bathroom scale.)

What I really like about the way you, President Biden, and you Vice President Harris, greeted the Jews on Chanuka is how it turned our holiday into something so much more attractive and universal. It made me almost feel like I belonged and fit into normative society. Which is weird. Because I’d always thought Chanuka was about Jews NOT fitting in—about Jews REFUSING to fit in.

Guess I was wrong. Which is great. I can hardly wait to drink eggnog and yeah. I can almost taste those Christmas cookies coming at me come December 25. And you know what, Vice President Harris? I feel so much better about you smiling and nodding as that student talked about Israel committing ethnic genocide, which after all, is what the Greeks were trying to do to the Jews of Israel. There’s no way you could think that the Jews of Israel were doing the same thing to somebody else, right?? It must have all been a stupid misunderstanding. After all, you married a Jew, so you can’t possibly be an antisemite, amiright?

In summary, President Biden, Vice President Harris, I want to thank you for reinventing Chanuka for the Jews. Your Chanuka is so much more adaptable, so much more attractive. None of this slaughtering of Greeks. None of this Jews fighting to stay Jewish and not marrying out business. After all, look at Kamala and Doug. The perfect embodiment of a blended family and shared traditions. You see? I was so wrong. All these years I thought the Maccabees fought for exactly the opposite of that and here we have this couple publicly lighting the menorah together. Absolutely delightful.

I have to say that I also really like the way President Biden compared the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, restored after desecration by the Greeks, to democracy, something invented by the Greeks. What a neat twist it is to liken a holiday that celebrates the de-Hellenization of Israel and Jewish observance to an actual Hellenistic political philosophy. Some mindboggling brilliance, there. Kudos to your JINO speech writer, Joe. Whoever he is.

Vice President Harris, what I really liked best about your 2020 Chanuka greeting, for instance, was the way Doug couldn’t pronounce the hard letter “Het” at the beginning of the word Chanuka, but you could. I liked that you said it several times so we could catch that and admire your perfect Hebrew pronunciation, especially compared to Doug’s. If someone were to make a “Who said it Better” video, you would definitely win over Doug. And really, that’s so much more important than I can express.


It makes me feel better as a Jew to hear my vice president exert that much effort toward pronouncing my holiday. In fact, I couldn’t help but marvel over how much she must love the Jews to have actually married one and practiced saying his words until she could say them better than him. Aside from the pronunciation thing, which admittedly is really great, I still can’t quite figure out how the Kamala-Doug Chanuka greeting fits in with Chanuka, being that it isn’t permitted for a Jewish man to be with a non-Jewish woman, and Chanuka is kind of about observing Jewish law.

But give me a minute and I’ll catch up. I’m sure of it.

I have to say, President Biden, Vice President Harris, I looked through similar greetings from presidents on Christian holidays, and there was nothing about them being American. A lot of stuff about resurrection, and a certain guy whose name starts with J, but nothing likening Christianity to the United States. So I guess the fact that you described Chanuka as “undeniably” American is an honor.

You guys must really love the Jews. So thank you.

And Happy Chanuka.

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