This holiday season both Hallmark Channel and Lifetime have produced Hanukkah movies along with the usual staple of Christmas movies. Calling something a Hanukkah movie would imply it was about that holiday and its celebration. The three movies had different degrees of success in meeting that standard.
Only one of the Hallmark movies, Double Holiday, was about celebrating Hanukkah and it was the best of the three. Rebecca and Chris are coworkers who must produce a holiday party for their company. How well the party does will help determine which one of them gets a promotion. Because the eight days they have to prepare coincides with Hanukah, the two wind up celebrating together.
Rebecca celebrates with her family and Chris appreciates their warmth and sense of social obligation. The Hoffman’s only exchange gifts one night and the other nights are dedicated to charity and volunteering. Chris is open to learning about Hanukkah; in the course of the movie the blessing for lighting the candle is recited three time.
The movie stresses that people celebrate in different ways. This is at least a tacit acknowledgement that the fantasy Christmases of Hallmark movies is not for every one. Although Double Holiday did, to some extent, equate Hanukkah and Christmas, it was respectful of Jewish traditions. The plot did not involve Rebecca coming to love Christmas, rather Chris came to a better understanding of Hanukkah.
The other two movies, Lifetime’s Mistletoe and Menorahs and Hallmark’s, Holiday Date are both Christmas movies that include a Jewish person. Holiday Date was the worst. It has a convoluted, unrealistic plot and verged on being condescending and patronizing about Hanukkah.
The best thing about watching these three movies was that I heard “Hanukkah Oh Hanukah” sung multiple times and heard the candlelight blessings several times as well. Double Holiday had the extra bonus that no Christmas music was played.
Yesterday I attended a Stop the Bans rally in Northampton. Similar demonstrations were held all over the country in response to the draconian anti-abortion laws that Alabama and other states have passed. It is very depressing to me that reproductive rights are so threatened in 2019 when I can remember marching for the right to have an abortion in New York City in the late 1960’s. Abortion became legal in New York State in 1970.
Abortion was not legal in Massachusetts until Roe v. Wade in 1973. Massachusetts was also one of the last states to legalize birth control. However, last year, Gov. Baker, a Republican signed the Nasty Women Act which repealed several old laws regarding abortion and birth control. Nasty stands for Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women; legislators felt the bill was necessary in the wake of Brett Kavanaugh ‘s appointment to the Supreme Court.
Several of the speakers at yesterday’s rally spoke about pending legislation in Massachusetts, the Roe Act. This legislation would remove the requirement of parental consent for an abortion for people under the age of 18. The Roe Act also provides health care coverage for abortions for people who don’t have Mass Health.
Current Massachusetts law does not provide abortion coverage after 24 weeks. The Roe Act would extend that time period in cases of fatal fetal anomalies. Other provisions of the bill include ending the currently required 24-hour waiting period, and codifying the principles of reproductive freedom into state law. You can get more information about the Roe Act here.
As I have said before, this year it has been difficult for me to find time to blog once a week. Because I don’t have a lot of time. finding topics is harder. Unless I am writing a more personal post like this one, I do have to spend some time researching and preparing the topic.
Already this summer I have been to New York a couple of times for Yankee games, stayed over for a few days once, gone to a Jewish retreat and next weekend I am going to an adult skating camp. I also work one day a week at the Take Back the House office in Northampton where I am the office manager. Besides all this, there have been social engagements, regularly scheduled meetings as well as a demonstration against Trump’s immigration policies. I have been making slow but steady progress on my book which is good. In other words I have been living my life rather fulsomely.
Aleph sponsored the Kallah which I went to last weekend. Aleph is one of the branches of Judaism in the United States. It is Jewish Renewal which is a mixture of Kabbalistic or mystical and Hasidic traditions with music and dancing thrown in. The Kallah was a week-long but I only went for Friday afternoon through Sunday morning. Spending Shabbat at Kallah was really a unique and very lively experience.
The Take Back the House office is a coordinated campaign which a coalition of groups is sponsoring. The groups include Swing Left and Indivisible. We are focusing on two races in nearby states: NH2 where there is a Democratic incumbent, Annie Kuster and we are trying to help her hold her seat.
The other race is NY19 where there is a Republican incumbent, John Faso who it would be great to defeat. His opponent is Anthony Delgado. The TBTH office is having its grand opening, July 19 from 5-6:30. It is at 18 Center Street, Northampton. It would be great if any of my local readers showed up.
The Adult Skating Camp will also be a rather intense experience since I will be doing hours of both on and off ice work. I’ll write more about it after I get back.
There was recently a death in my family. Several other people I know have also lost members of their families recently. In honor of all these losses, I offer two poems that I have found comforting and meaningful at times of sorrow. I read this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay at my brother’s memorial service several years ago. She is one of my favorite poets.
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
I saw the following poem on a subway in New York City. I find it very moving.
by Patrick Phillips
It will be the past
and we’ll live there together.
Not as it was to live
but as it is remembered.
It will be the past.
We’ll all go back together.
Everyone we ever loved,
and lost, and must remember.
This Facebook post by Robert Reich https://www.facebook.com/RBReich about all the stores that will be open on Thanksgiving made me reflect on how I have spent Thanksgiving and the day after over the years.
Before I was a nurse, I briefly had a job as a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army. People didn’t call the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” then but it was a huge shopping day and the kickoff for the holiday season. Now the holiday season starts before Halloween which is one sign that our economy is not doing great. It felt funny to me, as a Jew, to be ringing the bell for this Christian organization but people didn’t realize that I was being paid and thanked me for my service.
Once I became a nurse I often worked on Thanksgiving. If I was working a 7-3 shift when I got home we would go out to eat. One year my husband and one of my sons cooked dinner which was a real treat. When I worked 7-7 my family met me at the hospital and ate in the cafeteria with me.
This year my Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will be spent with family and not shopping. Thanksgiving is a nice holiday because it is non-denominational and a time to relax. In our 24/7 society we need days of rest and no commercial activity.
I have been doing research on Anne Bennett, wife of John Bennett, president of Union Theological Seminary from 1963-1970. Anne was a committed anti-Vietnam War activist. Her husband was a founding member of Clergy and Laity Concerned. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a founding member.
In 1967 he gave this speech to a meeting of the group at Riverside Church, New York City. The speech is amazing and makes me realize, once again, what a great man he was and what a loss his assassination was.
King showed tremendous courage in speaking out against the Vietnam War. I wonder where such a leader is today. We deeply need someone who can connect the issues of militarism and imperialism to issues of social justice.
We did go back to the Rockefeller Chapel today for the organ concert. The biscuits were only store bought cookies but the tea was strong and the music was glorious. The chapel is awe-inspiring; the ceilings are so high that you feel like you are outside while inside.
I forgot to mention that the day we were at the game was the fortieth anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 13 space mission. The Adler Planetarium has an exhibit on it and Jim Lovell, the commander of the mission, was at Cellular Field. Tom Hanks played him in the movie.
On Sunday night after the game and dinner, we went to hear jazz at a church. The Hyde Park Jazz Society usually has jazz on Sunday evenings at a different venue. For a few weeks they will be at the church instead. A group of high students performed and were very talented. The headliner was the Tammy McCann quintet. She is local and had a lovely voice. The crowd was diverse although not particularly young.
At the end of our meeting with the Sufi Sheik, Abdul Aziz Buchari, in his lovely and historic home, he said he had a website. I asked him if he was on Facebook. He replied, “Yes.” Twitter? “I am working on it.”
Almost everyone we met had email and a website. The Arab merchant we bought our game table from said he was trying to develop a site. When the world is that interconnected can getting along be far behind?
We read and discussed a Yehuda Amichai poem, that, in part said:
“Why is Jerusalem always two, (Jerusalem) Above and (Jerusalem) below while I want to live in Middle Jerusalem.” (I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the poem.)
The Internet and the world wide web also occupy both high and low spaces.Would the middle be a better understanding of other cultures and more peaceful ways to solve problems?
On our tour we went at a pretty fast pace. Lee, our amazing tour guide, kept us in line. Because we had so many appointments, leisurely strolling through a market was not often an option.
On the last day, the tour was officially over and we did not have to leave for the airport until 8:30 p.m. Aaron and I walked to the old city, first going through an artist colony. In those shops the wares were fairly expensive and we were able to restrain ourselves. When we got to the Arab shuk, (market), it was a different story. Everything was so colorful and looked so nice. With no time limit, it became almost hypnotic. Eventually, after we bought a game table and had tea in an Arab shop, I realized we had to leave or we would keep shopping. Maybe Lee moving us along was not such a bad idea.
The Jerusalem Syndrome is a phenomena that occurs when someone comes to the city and starts believing that they are some kind of messiah, prophet, or religious leader. The cure is to leave Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Syndrome: Shopping
Lee implores, cajoles, commands
This way, this way through the shuk
We walk quickly
Our eyes sometimes stray
We want to shop
It is our right
Today, no Lee
Plenty of time
The shuk is open and inviting
We are pulled in and in
Come in and see my shop
Just for a minute
We cannot stop
Or at least want everything
If we do not stop now
We never will.
This is another poem I wrote while in Israel. The session at Elul unleashed a creative spurt that is very interesting.
A few days later we met with David Ehrlich, an excellent writer of short stories. He spent over an hour with us, talking about his writing and the creative process. He said that sometimes ideas are in his mind or in the air and they float by. This is similar to what I have been feeling lately.
Jerusalem is a very different and interesting city. All the facades, by law, have to look the same, which is a beige Jerusalem stone. The Old City is very winding and up and down, but other parts of the city are as well. Jerusalem perches on a mountain with hills and valleys around it. You are always going up or down, often on paved or cobble-stoned paths.
Another aspect of Jerusalem is the intense tourism since so many different people and faiths feel the city belongs to them. When ever I travel overseas I like to buy things that are actually made in that country. Of course in many parts of the world the tourist items are made in China.
Steps and Stones
Everything in Jerusalem is
Steps and stones
Steps and stones
Up and Down
Up and Down