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A Super Opportunity for Interfaith Sensitivity

Posted by Deborah Neisel-Sanders // November 28th 2013 // Future of Faith, Thanksgivukkah // no comments

Thanksgivukkah_InterfaithA Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity … In More Ways Than One!

One of the characteristics of being in the minority is that one is seen by society not for what one actually is, but through the lens of the dominant culture.  It takes practice for us to see something that is non-dominant with simply our naked eye.

This is how our country has seen Hanukkah – through the prism of Christmas.  Because they usually occur so close together, it’s been easy for American culture to conflate the two and get the impression that Hanukkah is “the Jewish Christmas.” Retailers help the association along by tossing up some blue-and-white-and-silver along with the red-and-green-and-gold, hoping to assuage non-Christians who decry that this important Christian holiday has become a cultural monolith.

But looking through a prism distorts the image you’re looking at; you don’t get a true image of it.  And it sure doesn’t feel good for those in the minority to not be seen truthfully, for who they really are.  Hanukkah isn’t “the Jewish Christmas” – it’s something entirely different.  With Hanukkah occurring so much earlier this year and in confluence with the relatively non-religious holiday of Thanksgiving, Americans have a rare opportunity to see Hanukkah through a different lens, or even through none at all, and get a truer sense of what this event is really about in Jewish religion and culture.

Ironically, Hanukkah may have more to do with Thanksgiving than Christmas, in that one of its themes is gratitude for the abundance of G-d’s gifts and miracles.  And along with the bittersweet taste of being conflated yet again, most of my Jewish friends are heartily and humorously embracing the mash-up of this oddball couple.  Still, I hope we’ll appreciate “Thanksgivukkah” not because it allows us to look at Hanukkah through the prism of a new dominant holiday, but be thankful that it’s giving us a reminder that Hanukkah is actually its own unique event and deserves to be seen for what it means to the Jewish faith.

So, ask a Jewish friend or relative or a fellow UU with Jewish heritage and beliefs what Hanukkah means to them.  And after that, THEN ask them what “Thanksgivukkah” means to them – because after all, “Thanksgivukkah” is really fun to say!  And those “menurkeys?”  Adorable.

About the Author

Deborah Neisel-Sanders is the Office Administrator for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. She can be reached at dsanders@uua.org.
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