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Whats a nice Jewish boy to do?
What, asked radio talk show host John Rothman on San Franciscos KGO the other night, does a nice Jewish boy like me say when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas?
Jews dont celebrate Christs birthday. Everyone knows that. I have never really understood why. After all, Jesus was a Jew and I gather is recognized by the Jewish people as a fine young man but not the Messiah. They still await their Messiah. They do observe Hanukkah about this time of year. Its an 8-day holiday, a minor one though, commemorating rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem defiled by Antiochus of Syria.
Jews often volunteer to work on Christmas Day in order to give their Christian coworkers the day off. They are fairly tolerant of other religions than their own although that rabbi who raised the ruckus about Christmas trees at Sea-Tac Airport last year didnt do their reputation for tolerance any good. Hes the one who demanded that an 8-foot menorah be erected next to the 8-foot Christmas tree, tallest of nine trees at the airport.
Port of Seattle authorities panicked, believing their lawyers that if they added the menorah, theyd have to add symbols for other religions, which was opening an even bigger can of worms than hushing up a rabbi. They had the trees taken down overnight. News of their surrender angered many, including the rabbi who said he hadnt demanded the trees come down, just the menorah go up. He would sue, he said, if that didnt occur. The port put the trees back but without the menorah and did what politicians always do when in deep doodoo, named a committee to decide what to do in the future.
The rabbi, whose lawyer said, There is a concern here that the Jewish Community will be portrayed as the Grinch, withdrew his lawsuit threat.
So here we are in 2007 and the Port, advised by its committee to put up holiday trees that do not resemble yule trees so no one will be offended, has put up a bunch of birch trees in a winter display. No ornaments. No tinsel. What a bunch of wusses.
But back to Mr. Rothman, who invited his listeners to tell him how they handle the ongoing argument over whether it is more appropriate to wish others Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, when there is more involved than the birthday of Christ.
Telephones rang off the hook. The vast majority of callers were for Merry Christmas, even some of the Jews who called in. I wish my Christian friends a Merry Christmas because it is their holiday, said one Jewish caller.
Many complained that one of the side effects of not emphasizing the Christmas-ness of the Dec. 25 holiday was a little more subtle. Stores and other outlets were playing whats regarded as Christmas music, but leaving the Christ out of it. I.e., songs like Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, etc.
No O Little Town of Bethlehem. No Hark the Herald Angels Sing. No Come All Ye Faithful. Christmas just isnt Christmas without all the old carols, people complained. A business friend of mine told me, however, that the old carols arent conducive to shopping while Jingle Bells etc, puts people more in a buying mood.
As for Mr. Rothman, hell Happy Hanukkah his Jewish friends, but if someone Merry Christmass him hes going to wish Merry Christmas right back. And he expects the old carols to surface as Christmas nears. In fact, on his show on Christmas Day, listeners will get a mixture of Christmas songs new and old, religious and secular.
You are a nice Jewish boy, Mr. Rothman, and a man for all seasons. Seasons Greetings.
Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA, 98340.