December Dilemma v. Thinking Broadly about Religion in Schools

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As I write this, K-12 schools are wrapping up classes or may have already finished them for winter breaks. In elementary schools, no doubt, many teachers have felt compelled to mention Christmas and Hanukkah in some way.

Look at the photo above, though. First-grade teacher Debbie Fagg at the Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet Elementary School in Wichita, KS, is teaching about Hanukkah in early November as part of a multi-week unit on three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She brought the menorah … Continue reading

Grocery Bag Heals Old Wounds about Holiday Greetings

A Boston-area grocery store made this Jew very happy today. And yet, I couldn’t help but wonder. How did non-Jews react when they received grocery bags with that picture of that menorah and the candles all aglow with orange flames? They don’t celebrate Hanukkah. Would it make them feel left out like I did many times in my childhood? I seriously doubt it. My hunch is that the bag will give non-Jews a tiny glimpse at Hanukkah.
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A Jewish Mom’s Dilemma: Does Hanukkah Have to Compete with Christmas?

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Summary: I’m not the first Jewish parent to face this conundrum. How do I make sure that my young son’s fascination with the Christmas spectacle doesn’t diminish his enthusiasm for his family’s religion? In a Dec. 18, 2011 column for The Boston Globe Magazine, I write about dealing with this dilemma and attempting to keep Hanukkah, a minor Jewish holiday, in its proper perspective.

Reaction: The article drew more than a dozen reader letters and prompted discussion as well on the Globe’s website. It … Continue reading

Make Hanukkah a Literary Fest: My ‘Jewish’ Book List for 2011

Looking for books to give Jewish friends and relatives as gifts? Linda K. Wertheimer, a voracious reader and writer, offers nine suggestions, one for each night of Hanukkah and that ninth candle, the shamash. Continue reading

Jewish Toddler’s Santa Encounter at Hanukkah: Is this parental faux pas?

>Our almost 3-year-old son met Santa Claus for the first time last week during Hanukkah. He loves live music so we took him to a local holiday pops concert as a Hanukkah present. Santa showed up to lead Jingle Bells and other holiday – well, Christmas – tunes. It looked and sounded like Christmas everywhere we went.

Egads. Have we committed a Hanukkah faux pas with our child? I don’t think so. It presents challenges, but it’s okay for a Jewish child to brush elbows with Santa Claus, a figure important in the lives of many of our friends. It’s not a holiday Jews celebrate, but Christmas is a big presence in America. Still, it is a challenge to figure out the best way to explain Christmas trappings to a child just starting to develop a Jewish identity. Continue reading

Happy Hanumas? Ditch Season’s Greetings

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Happy Hanumas? Happy Chrismakah? Merry Hanukah? The winter holidays are fast approaching. It’s time for non-celebrants of Christmas to ready ourselves for the onslaught of seasonal niceties from store clerks and acquaintances. No one, of course, will blend a greeting that pays tribute to Jewish and Christian holidays. Most will tell me, “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays.” No one will likely utter Happy Hanukkah.

Am I bitter about this? No, I’m a mature adult. I live in a country dominated by Christianity. Christmas is the one holiday that leads to a shutdown … Continue reading

No gifts: We tried a Hanukkah idea at a birthday party

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If you check out today’s Globe magazine, you will see my article about the no-gifts policy we tried at our son’s second birthday party this year. There’s a story behind the story. Urging our guests not to bring gifts to Simon’s birthday party was an extension of something we tried at Hanukkah. We gave our son a dreidel each night, and nothing else. My husband and I gave each other nothing.

Our plan in the years to come is to continue to make Hanukkah a gift-less holiday. This is a family … Continue reading