Apparently the Jewish characters on Glee have no Jewish pride? My family knows that the vast majority of Americans celebrate Christmas and that decorations and entertainment will overwhelmingly be Christmas oriented. Glee, featuring two expressly Jewish characters, managed to produce a holiday show where only Christmas exists.
Growing up, I felt the pressure of the Christmas spirit. It’s easier to just say “Merry Christmas” then to be different and say “Happy Holidays”. It’s hard to be one of the only kids who aren’t buying and decorating a tree. And in my family, Dec. 25 is the day for skiing. So I love when broadcast TV has Jewish characters expressing both their pride in our heritage and the awkwardness that comes from having a different faith. The closest Glee got to it was having Rachel acknowledge that she had never given a Christmas gift as she gave one to her boyfriend as a peace offering.
Glee has two characters that openly describe themselves as Jewish – Puckerman and Rachel. Like all the characters on the show, these two have character flaws, but in the Holiday show, they didn’t mention of their holiday and they’re both regaling the Christmas spirit. Nothing wrong with the holiday spirit – but it’s more than Christmas. And many Jewish high school students do ask their schools and friends to acknowledge Hanukkah as well. Hanuakkh is the first historic first for freedom of religion. We all cherish this freedom and it’s worthwhile for everyone to know about the fight for it.
The real irony is that this year there are two fantastic, current, Glee-like Hanukkah songs going viral on YouTube. One, from the Yeshiva University Acapella Group, wrote new lyrics about the Hanukkah miracle to the song Dynamite. And it was great when the kids used the new lyrics as the song played during a Hanukkah laser show at our school. By the way Glee - this made the New York Times and the Today show.
And then Orthodox Hip-Hop Recording Artist Matisyahu recorded a great song and fun video called Miracle. I describe it as Hanukkah as a hockey game. But it's a great song and inspires my kids to sing about their pride.
One of the benefits of a Jewish Day School education is that they are very secure in their Jewish identities and pretty much “roll with it” instead of being incensed. They are loving listening to these two songs and watching them on YouTube. Their faith and customs are hip and cool. I think Glee could have done something similar and made their Holiday show interesting, creative and inclusive. So what do you say, Glee writers...think you could have Puckerman and Rachel host a seder for Passover?
After the Glee disappointment, I found myself watching the Brothers & Sisters holiday episode without expectations. Although the mother character in the show was born Jewish, it's clear from the storyline that she did not raise her five children Jewish. It's her brother, Saul, who brings their Jewish heritage up from time to time.
I never thought I'd her the Schehecheyanu on broadcast TV. But in the last few minutes of the Christmas episode, Saul reminds the family of the Jewish blood that runs through their veins and blesses the family. This prayer was said at the founding of Israel and at any important or joyous occasion. And the few million people who watch Brothers & Sisters got to hear it. It was an elegant nod to our culture in the midst of all the Christmas revelry. I hope the writers and actors know we appreciate it.