March 26, 2019

We Wish You a Jewish Christmas

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

It’s another day of sun here in the United Socialist Republic of Southern California. Free speech is alive and well, as long as you agree with the loudest people in the room.

Because many voters perceived the 2016 presidential election as a choice between a stab in the back and a kick in the nuts, I’m willing to cut a deal for the 2020 election: You reincorporate the United States into the British Crown, and everyone can unite against an agreed form of oppression by the British government. The British are looking for a happy new bedfellow after “Brexiting” the bossy Germans in the future. Americans love a good simcha, so we will guarantee you one royal wedding per year to replace “America’s Got Talent” with “Britain’s Got Royal Weddings.”

Now is the time for the ultimate Jewish invention: Christmas. Can we ditch “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”? I didn’t move to L.A. for snow. Last week, I visited my parents in Florida, who were snowbirding to escape the European Union (EU) winter, which hopefully will improve after the U.K. separates from German EU control (“if in doubt, blame the kraut”).

Florida was freezing. To add insult to frigidity, the public menorah lighting in Palm Beach was beneath an artificial snow machine with realistically cold snow. “What the fakakta?” I thought in Yiddish.

I’m dreaming of a Jewish Christmas. The song’s composer and lyricist Irving Berlin was the son of a Russian cantor. The original “White Christmas” lyrics include:

“There’s never been such a day In Beverly Hills, L.A.
but it’s December the 24th
And I am longing to be up north.”

Was Berlin dreaming of NorCal or Northern Russia? I suspect he didn’t write it at all. The proof is his surname, Berlin, capital of Deutschland. Ze Germans!

My jibes at Germany merely demonstrate a love for English values rather than Germanophobia.

This ’tude isn’t even my fault. I was brought up with the song British football fans chant when playing Germany: “Two world wars and one world cup, doo-dah, doo-dah.”

(For clarification, that is football you play with only your feet rather than American “football” where you can use  your hands).

I was brought up in a Church of England country, where Her Majesty Queen Liz is head of church, state, Parliament, the Bank of England and probably secret head judge on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

As a child, I loved Christmas, except for prejudice displayed by teachers. Every year, students staged a nativity play, and I got cast as “Third Shepherd.” Always the sheep-tender, never the messiah. It wasn’t much better at Easter, when I played Pontius Pilate, realizing 20 years later that it wasn’t a good move playing the man most associated with the crucifixion. I shall bear this cross.

My most meaningful Christmas was when I was in yeshiva. I was in for a year of full-time Torah study but got out after 10 months for good behavior.

Our yeshiva was in the beautiful city of Efrat, which is near Bethlehem, so the obvious thing to do was to arrange a group trip on Dec. 24 to Nativity Square. We had golden crowns from my birthday party the previous week at Jerusalem’s kosher Burger King, although that evening ended badly when the manager threw us out for making a human pyramid.

Torah study is forbidden on Christmas Eve, known as “Nittelnacht.” So wearing our golden crowns and hitchhiking to Bethlehem seemed like the natural thing to do. Manger Square was packed, so we headed back and broke yeshiva rules by learning Torah. Rebels with a cause.

Ideally, I would spend this Christmas in Germany. Europe’s largest menorah recently was erected at the Brandenburg Gate on the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Winters in central Europe are even colder than in Palm Beach, Fla. Drinking German beer in a Bierkeller is fun, and Hamburg was a great crucible for the Beatles. Some Germans love Jews, and my British passport is good there for 93 days and I’ll have a very Jewish Christmas, just like rabbis intended.


Marcus J Freed is a Los Angeles-based actor. His website is marcusjfreed.com.