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ITS A HOLIDAY JUST LIKE CHRISTMAS


The overlap of Christmas and Hanukah (which will not occur again until 2005) has led to a degree of "religion blending," notes Rabbi Gerald L. Zelizer writing in USA Today: "More and more Americans regard religious faiths as items displayed in boutiques, with shoppers free to mix and match." Nowhere is this more evident than in November/ December when the Christmas season begins. The roots of this development date back many decades when Hanukah was elevated to a special status in order to keep Jewish children from feeling left out. This phenomenon chiefly took root in the United States. While some assimilated Jews in other countries celebrated Christmas they did not generally attempt to redesign Hanukah in the image of Noel.


In 1997, responding to the letter of a 9-year old Jewish New Yorker, real estate mogul Leona Helmsley agreed to illuminate the Empire State building on the first night of Hanukah - as is generally done for the Christmas holiday. However, the 9 year-old’s appeal speaks volumes about the attitude of many Jews to the festival of lights: "I don’t understand why the lights weren’t on for Hanukah," she commented "its a holiday just like Christmas."


Indeed, the actual story of Hanukah and its significance has been completely overshadowed and slowly, the holiday has become an occasion for Jews to proclaim both the differences and, ironically, the glaring similarities, with their Gentile neighbors. For them Hanukah is not a religious holiday but an ethnic festival to be celebrated with family and friends.


http://www.wjc.org.il/publications/policy_dispatches/pub_dis26.htmlJanuary 1998

"Good for the Jews, bad for Judaism"

Hanukah as a Metaphor for the Jewish Condition in the Diaspora. World Jewish Congress


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