In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 10, 2004 / 26 Kislev, 5765

A ‘Chrismukkah’ world

By Jonathan Tobin

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Mixed messages for a new generation are, at best, a mixed blessing

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | You can, if you like, call it progress. Decades ago, when I was growing up, I was thrilled whenever I spied anything on television that gave any sort of play to a Jewish holiday.

In those days, when American popular culture often gave short shrift to minority religious observances, coming across anything that gave Chanukah equal time with Christmas on the small screen was about as likely as your chances to hear the public-school choir sing "Maoz Tsur" as part of the annual holiday program.

Those were the bad old days, when Jewish children had to rely on their own resources and inner strength to resist the blandishments of the Christmas season that so consumed everyone else we knew.

Things have changed since then. Supreme Court decisions ultimately rendered public-school observances religiously neutral. And though many American Jews still spend the last month of the calendar year hyperventilating about the fact that Christmas is an integral and inescapable element of American culture, acceptance of the minor Jewish festival of Chanukah has never been greater. From a postage stamp to the huge menorahs erected throughout the country by Chabad (often to the embarrassment of other Jews, who want all religious observances out of the public square), Chanukah is definitely mainstream these days.

In an effort to avoid the Christmas envy that afflicted previous generations of American Jews, baby-boomers have also helped elevate the Festival of Lights into a very big deal. That assuaged our December depression, but it has laid the foundations for other problems.

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Along with mass-market merchandising, Chanukah hasn't gotten just time. In some quarters, it has simply merged with Christmas to create a new end-of-year, quasi-ecumenical, yet non-religious holiday, called, by some, "Chrismukkah."

Of course, there's no such thing, but the term — popularized recently by its mention on "The O.C.," a popular Fox nighttime television series — represents a sea change in American culture. One of the by-products of the acceptance of Jews in virtually every sector of American society is the fact that barriers to intermarriage are also nonexistent. And with a huge population of mixed Jewish and Christian families, many of which prefer not to make a firm choice between religions, the merging of the two December observances into some inchoate blend of menorahs and trees was inevitable.

This has spawned not just the reference on TV (made by a character from an interfaith family), but a series of greeting cards and joke gifts that will, I'm sure, be great stocking stuffers. The market economy will always provide the public with something it wants if there's a demand for it.

Complaining about all of this being a slight to Judaism (not to mention Christianity) is about as pointless these days as warnings about the long-term problems that widespread intermarriage poses to the future of American Jewry.

Let's face it: Few people are interested in the demographic facts that intermarriage statistics present anymore. Those who worry about such things have, for the most part, decided to accept it as reality, and have moved on to other fights. Others prefer to put a happy face on the story, and spin scenarios about outreach efforts turning the lemon into Jewish lemonade.

The drift toward a Chrismukkah winter wonderland for us to frolic in is merely a reflection of the low priority many people place on religious faith, notwithstanding answers to exit polls culled from the last election.

So why would we expect pop culture to do anything other than combine the December holidays into one meaningless excuse for a party?

In truth, melding disparate holiday celebrations at other times of the year is far from uncommon. The recommendation a few years ago by the Dovetail Institute, a group that provides resources for interfaith couples and their children, that families stuff their Easter ham with Passover charoset is one example that's rather hard to forget.

Decrying any of this may be as futile as spitting into the wind, but it still behooves us to remember that, the calendar notwithstanding, Chanukah really doesn't fit into the mold that the ignorant would like to stuff it into.

The mixed message that Chrismukkah brings us does the children of intermarriage no favors. Those who seek to give the next generation a piece of their Jewish heritage by combining it with the traditions of another faith are actually asserting that neither has validity. Religion may have been drained out of Christmas for many of our neighbors, but it is particularly inappropriate for us to follow suit.

That's because Chanukah is far from being a blue-tinsel version of Christmas, or a fuzzy Jewish feast of goodwill toward men. Commemorating the struggle of the Jewish people for religious and political freedom in second-century BCE, the holiday provides a particularly apt message for contemporary American Jewry.

The observance of Chanukah embodies the will of the Jewish people to stay faithful to the traditions once assailed by foreign tyrants, and which are now cast aside by our own impulse to fit into an increasingly secular world. Its essence is that standing up and being counted among those who will not bow down to the false idols of the popular culture of the day is the duty of every Jew. For the same reason, that's why we should probably worry less about getting equal time for Chanukah this December, and more about whether we are living up to the challenge that the memory of the Maccabees' great struggle set for us.

No matter where you are on the Jewish religious spectrum — or whether or not you live in an interfaith family — the eight days of Chanukah ought to speak of the need to reinforce our ties with fellow Jews, and to rekindle the spark of Jewish identity within ourselves. Anything less is a terrible waste of candle power.

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JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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