As I’ve written in the past, I think the Jewish community is barking up the wrong tree by continuing to bemoan Jewish assimilation into the larger American culture, when “assimilation” is really not an accurate depiction of what’s happened to the Jews. Recently Rabbi Irwin Kula, who spoke at JOI’s last national conference and continues to put deep and innovative ideas about Judaism into the secular media, has a new video about Hanukkah in which he points out a very interesting anomaly in the whole assimilation theory:
If you really wanted to assimilate into a culture, the best time to assimilate…is to actually celebrate their majority festival [of Christmas]. If you really didn’t want to assimilate into a country, one of the finest ways to assure that—no matter what—your neighbor will know you’re different is if at exactly the time when everyone in your neighborhood celebrates the same holiday, you celebrate a different holiday…. The fact that 80% of American Jews light Hanukkah menorahs means that the vast majority of Jews in this country want to be Jewish. And at the moment when it would be easiest to kind of hang back and be part of the dominant general culture, if they really wanted to assimilate, that’s when they say, “Nah, I think I’ll celebrate my own holiday and be very different from everyone else in this country.”
It’s an important point and a great example of Jewish integration, not assimilation, into American society. And it’s an important additional value in the celebration of Hanukkah, which very much relates to the original story of the holiday.
No comments yet.