‘Glee’ful Christmas Jews
Thank you Glee for continuing the tradition of using Jewish characters for all the fun stereotypes (Jewish American Princesses, greedy, etc.) and making the classic jokes regarding whether something is kosher (usually not discussing food) or how Jewish children are so depressed watching their Christian neighbors enjoy such a marvelous holiday like Christmas. I also appreciate the Hanukkah references you manage to squeeze in or rather the one Hanukkah reference, the last minute “Happy Hanukkah” at the end of the most recent Christmas episode.
Now I am not saying that we should avoid Christmas specials or that they should be “Holiday specials” where equal time is given to each and every tradition (get off my back FOX news, I deal with enough of your crap). I understand that Christians make up the majority of this country and the world. This is not my issue. But I ask that if you and any other show wish to play off of our stereotypes, which at times I may even find amusing, could you at least honor our traditions to some extent as well? Not all Jewish children pine and whine over not being able to experience the holiday season the way our Christian friends and neighbors experience and celebrate it.
The other issue I would like to address is the musical nature of Glee. While I enjoy many Christmas songs, and it should be acknowledged that secular Jews or Jews who viewed Christmas more as an American holiday wrote many of those songs, there are Hanukkah songs. I know I know, everyone is now thinking about “I had a little dreidel” and how campy that is or Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song and its various versions and marijuana references. But there are others, with lovely tunes, which could be adapted in various ways and have been. There are the traditional ones such as Maoz Tzur, Mi Yimalel (and this cool version), and Sevivon among others (most of these have English versions too). And then there are the more modern one like “Light One Candle” (Peter, Paul and Mary), Eight Candles (Dave Koz), and Ocho Kandelikas (and this hip hop version).
Try talking to Idan Raichel, Sam Glaser, Matisyahu, the Maccabeats, and Ein Prat Fountainheads. They might have some good ideas. How great would it be to explore another culture in a new and creative way, showing the world that we are more than our stereotypes, more than one song every non-Jew knows (and tends to associate with every Jewish holiday or custom). Imagine the doors this could open for further exploration of other cultures. Okay, calm down Anne Coulter, I see your ears steaming and your feet pounding the earth (as if you hope I will fall into your hell if you can just cause an earthquake).
Glee you do not have to go as crazy as my imagination. No TV show does. It would just be nice if for once the Jews of America did not have to contend with Ross Gellar’s Hanukkah armadillo, Grace Adler’s ham and cheese on Yom Kippur, or Dr. Cristina Yang (Jewish atheist adopted daughter of surgeon Saul Rubenstein). But for Glee to have two Jewish characters who have no issue spending an entire episode having everyone wish them Merry Christmas, singing exclusively Christmas songs with the occasional non-denominational secular winter tune thrown in there, and then sit and be moved by the story of Christmas as it is read from the Christian bible…it feels as if the traditions of the people these two characters are supposed to be representing (my people) are considered less…less important, less meaningful, less honorable.
Now Hanukkah is certainly one of the minor holidays in Judaism but I do not foresee any major pop culture recognition of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, or Passover…aside from, again, the occasional joke made at their expense. Our society enjoys making light of many traditions and I do not take issue with that. I am also still a fan of Glee (for the most part, the teenage soap opera-like drama is a bit much at times but…it sells). I also understand and acknowledge that there are many other groups and cultures our pop culture chooses to ignore or pay lip service too. However this was my Glee inspired rant regarding my people and my culture. Maybe next year Rachel Berry and Noah Puckerman could light a Hanukkiah (a Hanukkah Menorah), discuss Hanukkah as a story of the underdog overcoming oppression (a common theme for Glee), or at least spin a dreidel while singing the most recognized ‘Jewish’ song in the non-Jewish world. I suppose in the mean time I will simply have to accept that after getting over her materialism this Jewish character, apparently oblivious or simply not interested in her heritage, says to her boyfriend “I love you and that is all that matters to me on Christmas.”