February 21, 2020

Merry Christmas!

Not “happy holidays.”  It’s Christmas!  I don't like tofu wishes; I wish for flavor and truth.

This is the holiest day of the Christian calendar.  I would not want someone wishing me “happy holidays” for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

As a child in Iran, I attended the French school Razi- Lise France.  On Christmas, I learned to sing with my friends  “Petit Papa Noel” and decorate the beautiful tree.  It felt good.  It was safe.  I knew I was Jewish, but I belonged to them in song.

It was later in life when I attended private Jewish schools that I was told to dissociate myself from Christmas.  Somehow, the trees, the songs, the words became offensive.

Last week, during Chanukah, I witnessed a miracle: A female Asian-American rabbi (Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, senior rabbi at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue) lit the Chanukah candles in front of an African American president in the White House.   I want my children to grow up in this world.

It is no longer Chanukah.  It is the eve of Christmas, when our Christian brothers and sisters sing “Silent Night.”

To wish our Christian friends “Merry Christmas” is not being un-kosher.  It is being Jewish.  It is loving our neighbor as ourselves.  It is also a prayer of gratitude- for living in this glorious country where Jews have historic freedom and wealth.

In a fractionated world, with imperfect humans, with “us” and” them,” we need to spend more time building bridges and less time erecting walls.

To my Christian friends- I wish you a Merry Christmas and a year filled with love, health and closeness.

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