Saturday, December 25, 2010

Have Yourself a Merry Jewish Christmas

Originally published @

I am sitting here watching Glenn Beck’s “American Christmas” broadcast from Wilmington, Ohio, and I hear him say, “Everyone should have a Rabbi.”

He then expresses his desire to study the entire Tanak (Old Testament) in Hebrew with his friend, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, even if it means suffering through the blandness of eating kosher meals. (For the record, there is nothing bland about a good brisket.)

Why the growing interest in Jewishness?

Because, the gentile Mormon Glenn Beck is increasingly using Hebrew to explain the solutions to the moral problems we face as a nation. For instance, he proceeded to explain to his middle-American Christmas audience that the root of the Hebrew word for “love” (ahavah) is “to give” (ehav). Giving, Beck explains, is the root expression of love and, moreover, when giving occurs miracles happen.

As if to prove God’s linguistic point (because, as Beck said, Hebrew is the language of God) a miracle occurred: a Jew found a Christmas special that didn’t make them feel completely left out in the cold during the holiday season.

Hanukkah came early this year. Ask any American Jew and they will tell you they hate it when Hanukkah comes early, because it is even more of an excuse for the country to forget about us, the poor measly Jews, as they trample us underfoot on their way to see Santa, cut trees, and hang lights. These are the cultural traditions that make us as Jewish Americans fully aware that we are the outsiders during the one time of year when everyone is supposed to get along.

The funny thing is, without us Jews you folks would never have Christmas as you know it. Whether Garrison Keillor likes it or not, without Irving Berlin you’d have no White Christmas, without Johnny Marks you’d have no Rudolph, and without Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn you’d never be able to say ‘let it snow’. The only reason you know you “need a little Christmas” is because the Jewish Jerry Herman told you so.

At this point you’re probably asking, “Why would so many Jews invest their time and talent in writing songs about a holiday they don’t even celebrate?” Take a look at the lyrics. “White Christmas” expresses longing for missed loved ones and bucolic youth; “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is about the picked-on outsider who earns a place in history for rescuing the Chief and saving everyone’s favorite holiday; “We Need a Little Christmas” because we need “a little snappy Happy Ever After”. Were these Jewish American songwriters channeling the cultural imprint of loneliness and longing to fit in with the crowd? Perhaps. But, one thing is for certain; these Jewish songwriters are a major reason why this is the season of “goodwill towards men.”

Practically every popular Christmas song was composed by a Jewish American, and I’m not just talking the secular ones, either. Little Drummer Boy was co-written by Harry Moses Simeone and performed by his own Chorale & Orchestra. Lest you think we secularized your holiday, Little Drummer Boy is a song about a boy with no gold, frankincense, or myrrh to bring to his Messiah. Instead, the little boy presents the gift of his own talents to his king. Yes, even at Christmas we Jews are reminding you of the true spirit of your holiday season.

While we’re talking about Jewish contributions to Christmas, if it weren’t for that little Jewish boy from Bethlehem, your “Christmas” might still be called “Saturnalia” among other pagan titles. You’d be hanging evergreens to ward away witches and evil spirits, or encourage your sun god not to die in the freezing cold. Your mistletoe would be hung to entreat Nature Sprites to join you in your festivities, and your 12 day celebration would focus around a burning Yule Log meant to symbolize and welcome pagan gods and goddesses.

Face it: You don’t need a billboard telling you to, “Remember the Reason for the Season,” you just need a Jew. As Glenn Beck said, “Everyone should have a Rabbi.” And when it comes to Christmas, everyone should thank the Jews, not that we’d take the credit. We know better, but we’re still happy to pass on the praise.

After all, we speak the language.

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