Here we go again!
December 13, 2019
The annual intersection of Chanukah and Christmas is once again approaching and with it the combined joy of the season. The close proximity of the two holidays this time of the year becomes complicated because of the different meaning and commemorations of what each holiday represents and how each should be observed and celebrated.
Each year the Jewish community faces this annual dilemma of how to keep from getting caught up in the holiday season while at the same time respecting our Christian friends in their celebration of Christmas.
How do we emphasize to our children and turn their attention to the important traditions and history that Chanukah commemorates without competing with the extensive gift giving and decorations that have become Christmas traditions?
This year the one-day holiday of Christmas falls right smack in the middle of the eight days of Chanukah and brings into sharper focus how the one-day holiday influences the eight-day holiday.
In many progressive Jewish community centers and day schools the idea that inclusion and diversity are integral to “Tikkun Olam” have driven Chanukah programs to be integrated with non-Jewish holiday programs such as a “universal Festival of Lights.”
Unfortunately, inclusion and diversity in progressive Jewish institutions and the melding of non-Jewish programming into Jewish programming can only lead to dilution and assimilation; and ultimately, a weakening if not a disappearance of the Jewish community in American society.
American pluralism in the private sector is indispensable to Jewish survival. Inclusion and diversity in the private sector leads to loss of cultural and ethnic identity not only for the Jewish community, but for all the diverse cultures and ethnicities that make up the fabric of American society.
America was not founded as a Christian nation. Such a notion was contrary to the founders. The Declaration of Independence was careful to avoid religious favoritism by invoking the signers’ faith in “Divine Providence,” rather than to use a religious reference identified with any specific religion practiced in the Colonies.
The First Amendment to the Constitution declaring an express separation of religious faith from the federal government (and later the individual States through the 14th amendment) is clear and unambiguous that no specific religion [or religious group] should be favored or promoted above any other.
Pluralism and mutual respect for each of the colonies’ diverse societies was the fundamental basis that brought the original 13 very different colonies together to first fight the British and to federate into one union after their victory in the Revolutionary War.
A high level of and commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality in the public sphere is indispensable for a healthy democratic society whose population is multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural and ethnically diverse.
Another and equally important strength of a healthy democratic society is the mutual respect for pluralism and freedom for every citizen to pursue his or her separate values and practices in the America we all love and call home.
Finally, it must also be remembered that the Constitution of the United States, was not ordained by heavenly decree, but as the Preamble so clearly articulates, was ordained and established by “We the People.”
Best wishes to all my friends and fellow citizens of every faith for a Joyous and Meaningful Holiday Season; and the happiness of knowing we do so in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
If you wish to comment or respond you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner.
Mel Pearlman holds B.S. & M.S. degrees in physics as well as a J.D. degree and initially came to Florida in 1966 to work on the Gemini and Apollo space programs. He has practiced law in Central Florida since 1972. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; was a charter board member, first vice president and pro-bono legal counsel of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as holding many other community leadership positions.