Paul Newman’s half Jewish, Noelle Tannenbaum’s half too…

But not really. I mean, my mother’s mother’s mother was Jewish, and my 3rd cousin had a bat mitzvah, but my immediate branch of the family converted a long time ago. And my dad’s family, they are basically WASPs, but really, really nerdy. And not in the good way. Because of this particular heritage, when I was a kid, I thought that all people in the world were either Christians like my family, or Jewish like my extended family and my childhood family friend Jacob Goldsteinowitcz.*

*I totally made that name up.

Also, since the Christian part of me was half Presbyterian and half Christian Scientist (oh, and the story of how I went to two Sunday Schools every week to accommodate my parents’ disparate religious beliefs, and what that did to me as a person, that will probably be my first published short story in the New Yorker,) I thought that all Christians prayed for healing (a distinctly Christian Science thing, as I learned later) and the only people who went to doctors were Jewish, because Jacob Goldsteinowitcz’s mom was always worried about germs. In fact, one time when we were six and visiting the science museum, Mrs. Goldsteinowitcz scolded me and Jacob for licking rainwater off of the railings outside the building. She told us if we kept doing that we’d get sick. In my head, I thought, “yeah, you might, because you’re Jewish and you believe in medicine that’s why you can’t lick the rainwater, but me, I have the power of CHRIST to keep germs from hurting me!” When my mom agreed with Mrs. Goldsteinowitcz that we should not lick the rainwater, I thought she was just doing it to be polite.

It wasn’t until sometime in early elementary school when I realized there were people in the world who were neither Christian nor Jewish. (You know, the 4 billion people who fall into the category of “other?”) The moment of realization came when we were preparing a holiday program, and our school teacher queried who was celebrating Christmas and who was celebrating Hanukkah. She looked over at Fatima al-Rahman** and said, “of course, I guess you don’t… um… celebrate either, do you?”

**again, I totally made up that name to kind of over-exaggerate my point.

Immediately, I felt awful for Fatima.  If she didn’t celebrate either of the two holiday options, how in the world did she get presents?  Would she be part of the “Jingle Bells” group or the “Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel” group?  And furthermore, if she didn’t celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah what the hell religion was she?  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the answer to that question until an grade history class when we spent one day learning about non-Western and non-American cultures.  That’s when the lightbulb went off.  Thank you public education!  Without you, I would totally suck at trivia night!

In conclusion, for all those who are celebrating the festival of lights tonight, l’chaim!  And to all those of you who are “other” (including my atheist heathens) does anyone have a Festivus pole I can borrow?

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18 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by nancypearlwannabe on December 5, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I am an honorary Jew, bestowed upon me by my Jewish-ish university and all my Jew friends. They dubbed me Shulamit Kauffman.

    Awesome!

    Shalom.

  2. Festivus for the rest of us!!! Sorry, my Festivus pole is in the shop.

    Festivus for someofus?

  3. Wow, this has got me thinking that maybe my non-committal, PC “happy holidays” isn’t the right way to go either. What about Happy New Year? Although, different cultures celebrate the new year at different times. Maybe I’ll just stick to Arbor Day. No one gets offended or feels left out by Arbor Day, right?

    I think happy holidays works. No matter what religion you are, it’s nice to spread cheer when it’s dark. Maybe don’t say it to anyone in a burqua.

  4. Fatima might have had Ramadan…

    Thanks to my own church situation this year, I can gleefully say that I’ve already heard about your two Sunday school classes every week! (Why the glee? I don’t know…It’s just nice to already know something sometimes. 😉 )

    You are so in the know.

  5. Posted by Michelle on December 5, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    I LOVE the story of you and the rainwater. “YEAH, well I have the power of CHRST!”. I’m totally going to say that to Aaron next time he’s mean to me.

    I mean I’ll tell him every day.

    He’s such a meany

  6. Posted by EvilKate on December 5, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    Just this afternoon when my new business cards came in (I’d been handing out ones with a typo in my email address for MONTHS before I noticed) I declared, “IT’S A FESTIVUS MIRACLE!!”

    Awesome.

  7. I’m going to a festivus party…does that count? this was a very amusing post!

    next time I do something deemed “risky” or “dangerous” I’m going to think to myself – “Yea, it is to you but I have the power of CHRIST on my side!” Ha!

    He’s like a take-along superhero

  8. You are rabbinically Jewish! As will your children be…Maybe that means you can celebrate Hanukkah AND Christmas!!!

    Mermu….
    rabbinically Jewish otherwise Christian kids are so lucky….

    Ah, rabbinically Jewish. I like that phrase.

  9. My assistant is Jewish and I REALLY hoped she was bringing the office some kind of Hannukah treat today.

    …unfortunately, no such luck.

    Well, the good thing is that you have 8 days.

  10. My Festivus Pole was stolen at my office. That is the first grievance on my list.

    Mother fucker!

  11. This made me think of Adan Sandler’s Chanukah song. —— – one fine looking jew. ——- not a jew.
    Happy Chanukah from yr. Jewish blogger friend.

    I’m glad to evoke the spirit of the season.

  12. It’s strange to me that it never even occurred to me until a few years ago that these sorts of things could be confusing for kids. I grew up in a very small, very white town and didn’t know anyone who wasn’t Christian. To some extent, I suppose it’s helpful to share the same stories. On the other hand, that town could use a little shaking up and a bit of confusion, I think.

    I guess adults don’t even think about what may confuse kids.

  13. Well, I used to squeezing my head on being politically correct about whether to say “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hannukah,” “Kwanzaa Rocks!”

    I just don’t know. It used to be that “Happy Holidays” covered it all…

    So, I say….”Festivus for the restuvus?!”

    It’s just another subtle way that we separate ourselves from each other, and divided we…

    I’m all for happy holidays.

  14. Man, lately I’m starting to feel like I missed out, what with the whole secular childhood and all. Because seriously, look at where worshiping at the altar of Star Wars got me.

    If you don’t grow up religious, what do you rebel against?

  15. this almost made me pee my pants.

    I used to be the only non jew where I worked, I do have long curly dark hair and look, well….Jewish, in fact I looked like the dauther of my boss.

    one day the Rabbi from the temple came in and yelled at me for about 20 minutes about never seeing me in temple anymore, when I replied “I’m not Jewish” he figured I had given up my faith and tried to convert me.

    true story.

    this has nothing to do with anything, sorry.

    also, I loved your made up names.

    I was shooting a movie in Brooklyn during a Jewish holiday once, and Orthodox Jews kept coming up to me and asking if they could blow their horn for me. (That’s not as dirty as it sounds, but it means they assumed I was Jewish.)

  16. You know, for all my bitching about 12 years of Catholic school, at least my weekends were free. Two Sunday schools! That’s my definition of hell.

    I actually liked one of them, and it wasn’t until later that I realized how bad I had it.

  17. I was raised by by a lapsed Catholic and non-practicing Jew…so I guess I celebrate Chrismakkah. Thanks to “The OC,” people like me now have a name for our non-religious hybrid holiday!

    I think it’s a nice blend.

  18. I had a childhood friend who was Catholic. Little did I know in the late 60’s how AMAXING it was that her mom let her come to our Baptist Vacation Bible School. It was a VERY BIG DEAL. I don’t think she converted tho. She’s probably still worshiping that fake virgin cement statue. Unless she’s already dead and burning in hell.

    From a recovering Ex Baptist Bible College, married her freaky Preacher boy husband twice, and divorced said freak husband twice, hoping that more then me realize that God may just speak to others without using the King James Version (1611)…woman.

    ??

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