“It’s the Jews VS the Christians! Chanukah VS Christmas! But it’s NOT a war! It only a game!”
This is the tag line from the newest game from J. Levine Co., a Judaica Bookstore here in New York. Available just in time for the holidays, the game is a take on chess – the board is set up with Jews on one side, Christians on the other. Rabbi’s, it appears from the photograph on their website, are the pawns, Israeli flags are the rooks, and some unidentifiable figures as the bishop, knight, king and queen. On the other side of the board (we only see their backs), it looks like monks are the pawns, Christmas trees are the rooks, and it looks like pilgrims and elves fill out the rest of the board.
The game is designed, so says the ad, for interfaith families – as though these families like to sit around and “battle it out.” I assume whoever made this game thought it would be a fun way to market to the ever increasing number of interfaith families in America, and these families would appreciate a little levity. Yeah, pitting families against each other is just a great way to bring everyone closer together. Every interfaith family loves to be reminded that they are at war!
How misguided could their message be? Even though the game says “it’s NOT about war,” when someone tells you not to think of something, what’s the first thing you do? If I say don’t think of a pink elephant, chances are you’re going to think of one. This “game,” which is yours for the low, low price of $270, completely trivializes the challenges these families face every holiday season – especially this time of year as we gear up for the “December Dilemma.”
At JOI, we don’t mind a little humor to lighten up serious situations. The High Holiday ticket scalping video we blogged about is funny because it uses satire to provoke a much needed conversation (in that case ticket prices for High Holiday services). But this chess game is not satire – it’s just offensive. It appears to use ridicule to denounce interfaith marriage. In other words, it ridicules the choices made by nearly half the Jews in the world today. This is a major step in the wrong direction for organizations like ours which aim to welcome and engage the intermarried families in our midst.
Interfaith families don’t need to buy a game which encourages them to choose sides. It’s already hard enough for these families to navigate the Hanukkah/Christmas season – one more reminder of their struggles won’t make this any easier.