One of the things that strikes me this year is that it feels more relevant than ever. With antisemitism on the rise, it’s not difficult to see the parallels between what we are going through in 2021 and the Maccabee’s fight for religious freedom. As the United States is potentially stumbling into autocracy and away from democracy and religious pluralism, this story is more than important than ever.
If you celebrate, wherever you are, have a Happy Hanukkah.
We can learn a lot about a specific culture or group by simply observing and tasting the meals that are served. These dishes speak to the history, the values, and the traditions that have stayed with these specific people over many generations.
The new season of Padma Lakshmi‘s Hulu series, Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi, explores the unique holiday traditions of different Americans represented by the food they serve. Each episode focuses on one holiday and tells the story of that holiday via the food that is served and those who eat it.
I have not watched the entire series. But what I have watched, I have enjoyed tremendously. It was made with joy, respect, and the love of a good nosh. If the viewer learns nothing else, it is that despite our outer differences, we are all human and underneath, the same.
For my part, the first episode explored Hanukkah and reminded me how much I love a good latke.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi: Holiday Edition is available for streaming on Hulu.
Though it can be described as a war story, it’s much more than a story of war. It’s a story about a small band of rebels who fought against an empire who would happily see the Jews completely assimilated into their world.
In 2019, I feel like this message, even after thousands of years, has so much power. It’s easy to assimilate, to become like your neighbors. It’s harder to be yourself, even if that means being different and possibly ostracized.
During this time of year, it would be easier to buy a tree, decorate your house in lights, sing Christmas Carols and appear to be like your neighbors. I would rather not. I am a Jew, I am proud of it and my menorah is on display for all who would like to see it.
For me, Hanukkah is the story of survival against all odds. It can be argued that the Hanukkah is essentially the story of military victory, but for me, it is so much more.
It’s about a minority group who in spite of assimilation and persecution is not only able to beat back the conquering army, but also able to openly celebrate who they are.
It’s no secret that throughout most of human history Jews have been at best tolerated and at worst, murdered. But we survived and we are still here. Hanukkah speaks to the miracle of the holiday, the human ingenuity and the human strength to survive when all seems lost.
Wherever you are, if you celebrate, have a Happy Hanukkah.
Adam Sandler, in his Adam Sandler way, announced Hanukkah with the following lyric: Put on your yarmulke/here comes Hanukkah.
While the list of Christmas movies seems to go on forever, the list of Hanukkah movies is sadly very short.
In Eight Crazy Nights (2002) Davey Stone (Adam Sandler) is an alcoholic with a criminal record. He is given the chance to reform his life while under the supervision of an elderly basketball referee, Whitey and his sister Eleanore (both voiced by Adam Sandler).
There is a message in this movie, but not in a schmaltzy way. It’s also edges toward PG13, which is nice change from the typical holiday movie.
In The Hebrew Hammer (2003), Mordechai Jefferson Carver (Adam Goldberg) is an Orthodox Jewish blaxploitation hero. When Santa Claus’s son Damian (Andy Dick) plots to steal Hanukkah, it’s up to Mordechai to rescue the holiday.
This movie is incredibly funny. While satirizing the blaxploitation movies that were part of the 1970’s cinema, the movie also subtlety hints at the idea that many Jews are often drawn to lure and popularity of Christmas.
Do I recommend them? Why not.
And if your wondering, Hanukkah this year is the 17th-24th. Happy Hannukah!