The Goyishization of Judaism

Rosh Hashanah Resolutions!

Now, I’ve heard everything.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy Jewish holidays and tradition.  Sure, when I was a kid I was sad every Christmas eve as I curled up on the window ledge of our bay window and looked out to see all the twinkly Christmas lights on all the houses, knowing that all the Christian kids were snug in their beds, not sleeping in anticipation of waking up before dawn, running down the stairs and opening gobs of Christmas presents.  Sure, I hated the fact that ours was one of the few houses on the block not outlined in tacky red and green lightbulbs without a shining gleaming Christmas tree in the window and light up snowmen, sleighs and angels in the yard.  Yes, my parents tried to comfort us in our Christian-envy by saying eight nights of gifts, latkes and hanukkah parties but while I enjoyed Hanukkah, a little part of me was sad not to be like all the other kids celebrating Christmas.

I got over that by the time I was about eleven.

Since then, I have learned to embrace our Jewish holidays and our traditions and love them on their own merit, not because they are in some kind of competition with Christian holidays, but because they are special and meaningful in their own right.

I think back to the days when we gathered at our grandparents’ house for just about every holiday.  On Hanukkah, we played dreidels and my dad, uncle and grandfather argued about politics (okay, that happened all the time) and we each got to open our over-the-top presents that our grandparents let us order from the Sears Catalog, stuff our parents would never let us get.  I cherish the memory of those huge boxes containing my soda fountain, cotton candy maker and my cousin’s ice rink with the standard issue blue wrapping paper with silver menorahs (you know the one) and white bows and ribbons.  I treasure my grandmother’s kreplach and my mother’s latkes and the mocha torte and chocolate chip pound cake we would eat at Rosh Hashanah, because let’s face it, honey and apple cakes suck.

I love going to shul on Simchat Torah and Purim.  I love the festivity of Rosh Hashanah as we dip apples in honey, wishing each other a sweet new year followed  by sticky kisses round the table.

I think it’s great that over the last 30 or so years, Western society has embraced the fact that not all of us are Christians and we have holidays and festivals too.  It’s great that people wish you Happy Hanukkah and ask you what’s appropriate to wish someone on Yom Kippur.  It’s great that society is embracing that we are not all the same with the same beliefs and that people embrace diversity.

But, Hanukkah bushes, people putting Hanukkah lights on their houses and now New Year’s resolutions?  Come on!

Could we be any more goyishe?  Yes, I’ll have a pastrami sandwich on white bread, with mayonnaise, tomatoes and lettuce.  

PS -If you don’t recognize that line of a very famous movie, you shouldn’t be reading this post.

Look, I think it is great if people want to use Rosh Hashanah as a time for  reflection and a promise to try and change things for the positive.  That is what the holiday is for.  For those more traditionally inclined,  it is the day of judgment, where G-d inscribes the names of the righteous in the Book of Life.  Jews bring different meanings and interpretations to some holidays and traditions.  In my family we broke the Yom Kippur fast with eggs, cheese and fruit, my Dutch Jewish husband breaks it with fish cakes and herring.  So the holidays mean varied traditions and interpretations to different Jews.  Absolutely.

But one thing I am pretty sure of is that Hanukkah is not Jewish Christmas and the Jewish New Year is not about vowing to eat less Ben and Jerry’s or finally signing up for that yoga class.

There’s no need to try and bring our beautiful holidays and traditions closer to Christianity,  they are wonderful all on their own.




About the Author
Dana has made it her habit to break cultural barriers and butcher languages wherever she goes. Born in Pittsburgh, Dana lived and worked in Tel Aviv for five years, before moving to the Netherlands where she lives with her husband and daughter in Amsterdam.
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