Christmakah Musings – Francie Yarwood

Christmakah Musings

Francie Yarwood

As I walked into a store the other day, I saw that they already had Christmas decorations up.  Since school had just started and we hadn’t even gotten through the High Holy days, this was a little bit of a shocker.  Then a little bit of panic ran through me. Panic of the “holiday” season.  A hundred thoughts ran through my mind. Where am I going to get enough Chanukah candles for my family?  Where am I going to get enough Chanukah gelt for my family of seven (my in-laws always participate)?  How many school events are going to interfere with Chanukah?

OH!  The school!  My school district has a total of three Jewish students; all three are my children.  They teach Christmas around the world. They try as hard as they can to teach about Kwanzaa and Chanukah.  So, every year since RJ was in kindergarten, I go into the school for any teacher that asks (especially the teachers that have my children) and try to explain what Chanukah is: what the story is, how we celebrate, and what a chanukiah is.  Of course, I have to treat my children’s classes to latkes, donuts, gelt, and a game of dreidel. 

Like many of us in the community, I have a blended family.  I was raised in a Conservative Jewish household, and my husband was raised in a Christian household. I was raised in a household where I was taught that you buy someone a present because you saw something that reminded you of them, not because the calendar tells you to. However, my husband was raised with presents being exchanged during the Christmas season. Even after twenty-some years of being with my husband and being so welcomed by his parents, Christmas is still foreign to me.  So the thought rises of how many Chanukah presents do I get my children?  Not really a true tradition of the holiday, but an American tradition since it falls so close to Christmas.  A lot of stress for a fun time of year.

As I drove home, I remembered when RJ was little. I had gotten him a remote control car for Chanukah.  He was so excited to get eight presents, one for each night. Little did he know that Ron and I had already agreed that we would do one Chanukah present since he was going to get a lot of other presents from his grandparents.  Not wanting to disappoint him, I took apart the car and gave him a different part each night, so on the final night he could enjoy his present.  That memory made me remember how joyous and fun the holiday is.

Since we do not take ourselves very seriously, we have had many jokes through the years about celebrating both holidays.  There was a joke in my town for a few years that if you want to see a lot of Christmas lights go to the Jews’ house. (We live in a small town – everyone knows everyone and where they live.) We used to have a giant blow-up dreidel among the Christmas lights.  My kids had a small blue fake Christmas tree that they would decorate with silver ornaments.  They, of course, called it their Chanukah bush, so Hanukkah Harry would know where to leave their gifts.

Once I got home, I looked at the calendar and what a wonderful surprise!  For the first time in many years, the entire holiday of Chanukah falls during “winter break.”  No homework, no Christmas concerts at the school they need to participate in, no practices.  NO WORRIES.  So I look forward to lighting our candles, playing dreidel, and celebrating at our Temple Chanukah party. But most of all I look forward to celebrating the time with my family.

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This Week and Upcoming

Dear Ohev Tzedek Congregants and Friends:

The monthly Rosh Chodesh women’s group and potluck will meet on Thursday, December 1 at 6 pm at Phyllis’s house. Please RSVP to Phyllis or to the office.

Don’t forget to join us at Fire Grill on Saturday, December 3 at 7:30 pm as the BURGERGUYZ present Art Einzig with their burger of the year award! 

Saturday, December 3: Services (Torah portion: Toldot) begin at 9:45 am. 

Ohev Tzedek-Shaarei Torah will be participating in the NJOP Read Hebrew America program on Sunday, December 4 from 9:30 am-3 pm, with the intention of furthering our appreciation and knowledge of Hebrew, the most important Jewish language. We can accommodate beginning to intermediate students and will have additional teachers on hand to help. Please let us know your needs so we can better tailor the class to you. The class is free, but RSVP to the Ohev Tzedek office is required by 4 pm on Wednesday, November 30. Continue reading

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Rabbi’s Oresky’s Sermon (November 19, 2016): Where Do We Go from Here?

Dear Friends,

A week ago Tuesday, the country elected the most controversial and divisive a candidate for president than any who has ever run for the office. Wherever you stood on the issues, and whatever your previous voting experience, and however you understand the forces that drove this tidal wave, we can all agree that major change, and not necessarily of the positive kind, is coming. Ever since the election, the number of hate crimes has spiked, apparently tied to the empowerment of the alt-right (read neo-Nazi) and other white supremacist forces that still exist in our “land of the free.” The designation of alt-right sympathizer Steve Bannon as chief strategist of the Trump administration is, to say the least, troubling. To many across the country, from those who have already suffered hate crimes to those who have been merely intimidated, from those young people marching in the streets to those of all ages who more passively but anxiously wait for what seems to be the inevitable hardships that will come, the future appears at best murky and at worst horrifying.

After the post-mortem analyses have ended, we are left with the results of the peoples’ selection and ponder the implications. Our very system of choosing the president, the electoral college, has again come under attack as not being the right tool for a true democracy, since, again, the candidate with the greatest number of individual votes, this time by a margin of more than a million, did not win the electoral college. It is not enough to analyze and rethink the mechanism of election, however; it is now the time to try to understand the economic, societal, and even spiritual motivations of those who propelled Mr. Trump into office.

As an American people, who are we now? And as the Jewish segment of the American people, what is our new reality? It is probably a bit paranoid to say we are now living in a time equivalent to the early days of the Third Reich, but the trepidation is nevertheless understandable – we’ve seen this climate before. More than ever, we need now to clarify our own beliefs, to assertively stand up for those rights and institutions that may be challenged, to seek to understand the beliefs, needs, and frustrations of the people around us, and to do our best to turn down the flames of hatred and division that were at highest flame during this toxic election cycle. More than ever, we must now get involved in causes that will be threatened and actively give support to people who are already being attacked. This is a tall order, but one that must be pursued if we are to remain part of a just society for all Americans, no matter their race or religion. When the Torah says tzedek, tzedek tirdof – justice, justice you shall pursue – it is not asking us to take a casual stroll, but to chase it with all the speed and power we can muster, for only by doing so can we remain an ohr lagoyim, a light unto the nations. In that way, as Abraham was blessed by G-d, we too, his descendants, can be a blessing to all nations.

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This Week and Upcoming

Dear Ohev Tzedek Congregants and Friends:

There will be no services Thursday morning (November 24).

The office will be closed on Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 24) and Friday, November 25.

Saturday, November 26: Services (Torah portion: Chaye Sarah) begin at 9:45 am. This Saturday, November 26, is Simcha Shabbat. Please join us in celebrating November’s happy occasions!

Phyllis Oresky’s monthly Rosh Chodesh women’s group and potluck will meet on Thursday, December 1 at 6 pm at Phyllis’s house. Please RSVP to Phyllis or to the office by Tuesday, November 29. Continue reading

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