On the fifth night of Hanukkah, Mindy Kaling gave to us… a fully lit and fully tone-deaf menorah. Oy vey.
As a Jewish woman, I’ve become accustomed to a general lack of understanding of the many customs, traditions and holidays that I hold dear, save for Hanukkah because of how it falls close to Christmas.
On her Instagram on December 14, Kaling shared a photo of herself smiling with a lit menorah and the caption: “Happy Hanukkah night 5! *All candles lit for dramatic effect*.” Even if her intentions were in the right place, the execution was all wrong. Five nights. Five candles and the shamash. Not eight, as Kaling’s post suggests.
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B.J. Novak, Kaling’s former costar and longtime friend, is Jewish and has been long-rumored to be the donor father of the Kaling’s two children. Many Instagram commenters seemed to be more concerned that her Hanukkah wishes could be a sign that the two were celebrating the holiday together. Even if that was the case, wouldn’t a lifelong Jew like Novak know that Kaling’s post would be viewed as a major faux pas? And if he wasn’t there to celebrate with her, why have a menorah in the first place?
As someone who has been in an interfaith relationship for the past several years, I can say that my partner has been nothing but open and understanding about Judaism. But I can’t imagine ever being okay with him or any non-Jews that I know sharing a photo with a menorah “for dramatic effect.”
In the ruthless space that is the internet, public figures have seen how cautious they must be when sharing anything online so it does not lead to a #CancelMindyKaling hashtag trending on Twitter. But after some digging, I was dismayed — though unsurprised — to see that the outrage over Kaling’s offense was limited to the comments section of her Instagram post.
Many Jewish and non-Jewish commenters shared in my frustration that something so symbolic and meaningful would be used for “dramatic effect.” Nonetheless, there are more than 125,000 likers who apparently disagree with seeing any wrongdoing.
In no universe is lighting the menorah early the same as putting up your Christmas lights early, and while we may not know what her true intentions were behind this picture, let’s hope that she’ll learn never to use something like an improperly lit menorah as a photo op again.
Next time, a simple “Happy Hanukkah” post or tweet will suffice, no dramatic effects necessary.