LARSON: Let us rejoice for Jewish holiday

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

I grew up with cultural diversity before the term was even coined. Everyone, no matter what their ethnicity, knew what pierogi and pizzelles were and we all loved dancing to "Hava Nagila." And we danced it not only at Jewish events, but also at Saturday night dances at the YMCA, where it was right up there on the play list with "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" and "Runaround Sue."

One year our drama club acted out "The Night Before Christmas" and when we got to "visions of sugar plums danced through their heads," the sound technician spun "Hava Nagila" on the record player and all the Jewish kids leaped out on stage and danced the hora. Everyone loved it. And this preceded "Saturday Night Live" by more than a decade.

But recently I read in the Wall Street Journal that at many Jewish gatherings, "Hava Nagila" is no longer welcome. The younger crowd considers it stale, with one Gen-Xer saying it's like pouring sour milk on cereal. How can that be?

I emailed several Jewish friends and it seems none of them care.

"Play it. Don't play it. Don't matter to me," Jess Vics, a former Duluth resident, said.

Woody Morawiec, whom you might remember from my column on his Holocaust Shoe Project, said it's all about trends.

Trends? So what about tradition? What about the importance of tradition to Tevya in "Fiddler on the Roof?"

On one hand, I wonder. If they did a remake of the movie, would they eliminate that song? But on the other hand, don't we need to know what tradition is -- or was -- in order to define our trends?

Feeding into this trend-versus-tradition theme, Woody also mentioned the so-called Hanukkah traditions. Apparently, there's no such thing.

"Did you know," Woody wrote, "that it is a pretty insignificant holiday compared to others in the Jewish calendar. The only reason gifts are given on each night was due to the holiday falling on or near Christmas. Jewish boys and girls were jealous that their Christian friends received gifts for Xmas. In Israel, gifts are not exchanged, at least to the best of my knowledge. Perhaps that too has changed with the times."

Possibly, considering that Adam Sandler, whose movie "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" makes it clear he's an authority on everything Jewish, noted that there aren't many Hanukkah songs. So he wrote one. And of course, it's funny. Even funnier, I must admit, than our drama club skit. (You can Google it.)

Today, for the first day of Hanukkah, whether it be trend or tradition, I'd like to say to all my Jewish readers and any other readers who, in the spirit of cultural diversity, will celebrate anything, "Let's all rejoice!" Or as they say in Hebrew, "Hava nagila!"

Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at susanlarson79@gmail.com.


sarahldavis 2 years, 8 months ago

Mazel Tov on a great holiday column!


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