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Jew on the Waves of Fate

‘Glee’ful Christmas Jews

Copyright by FOX

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).

Hanukah, Oh Hanukah Music

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.”

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6 thoughts on “‘Glee’ful Christmas Jews

  1. Talia on said:

    A to the men brother!!! Thanks for speaking out. I felt the exact same way watching the episode. I was shocked and floored when the supposedly Jewish Rachel Berry talked about nothing but greed and Xmas for the WHOLE episode. Shocked that there was no mention of Hanukah until the end. It was an utter disappointment… Not that Hanukah wasn’t included because if they made all the characters Christian, that wouldn’t be an issue, but that they actually made two characters Jewish and totally disregarded the holiday. Disgusting to me.

    I wish someone would put a character like me on a tv show. I’m a Jew who is proud of their Judaism. I dress modestly. I pray. But I live a normal secular life. We don’t need to live as a stereotype.

    Thanks again for sharing this important blog and shedding light on this obnoxious behavior!!

    • RoninAD on said:

      Thanks Talia for your comment! I think you should be on TV too and if not you a character based on you. A confidant young Jewish woman, living life proud of her heritage and her tradition while not spoiled (like Rachel Berry).

      And remember it isn’t just Glee, they are simply the latest example. I’m not opposed to having some fun with stereotypes, it can help to remove their stigma but honestly, it would be as if the only time Kurt’s sexuality was mentioned was to talk about girly he is, or how into fashion and musicals he is but in the end he gets himself a girlfriend because that “normative” behavior is the way to go.

  2. B’H

    Go get em, guy. They should not use stereotypes about us, except the ones we like: smart, handsome, brave and like that. I am sure that the staff of the show is listening to you and will make up for it… in the future… for another group.

    By the way nice cuts at fox and drones. I am sure that they won’t target you for what you said. No paranoia here.

    Your biggest fan


    • RoninAD on said:

      I agree about using stereotypes we like!! I hope they are listening to me, I’d be happy to help provide some Jewish consultation if they’d have me.

      Love you abbasama!

  3. Well said.
    Though, I have to admit, that sense it was all SO Christmas, I was kind of glad they didn’t throw in some cheesy Chanukah stuff. Yes, I wish Rachel would have acknowledged it more but the reality is that it was a Christmas special and it would have felt so forced if they had thrown in some ma o’tzur.

    • RoninAD on said:

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that it would be pretty tacky if out of no where Ma’oz Tzur or another Chanukah tune was sung. I certainly don’t like it when it is forced either. But just as they used the Christian-biblical story of Christmas to inspire the characters (Rachel in particular) to give back to their community and the needy there is strength in the story of Chanukah.

      You’re absolutely right, it is a Christmas special. I suppose my overall point is, I get a little frustrated that Jewish characters are more often than not used as a way to get laughs but when it comes to something serious or sentimental their Jewish heritage is overlooked, ignored, or paid lip service.

      Why bother having Rachel be Jewish? Because it’s funnier that a girl with her nose, her spoiled & greedy attitude, her dramatic flare & overbearing demeanor, and her love of Streisand be Jewish. It makes the jokes at her character’s expense funnier. I actually wouldn’t mind it so much…if we could just show that there is more to Judaism then the jokes that can be made about us.

      Sorry that was a long response and all things you already know (it was my ‘secret’ way of adding to the blog). Thank you again for commenting!

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