Chanukah Should Be Better Represented On Television. Here's How.

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I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan of this time of year.

It's cold and wet and people tend to get sick. I get the need to celebrate. I actually love to celebrate.

As a Jew, I celebrate all the time and I'm not even talking about Chanukah. In fact, I'm going to let you in on a secret; Chanukah is a very minor holiday.

A Holiday Feast for Hanukkah

Jews have so many holidays throughout the year, i.e., Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchah Torah, Tu B'Shvat, Purim, Pesach, Shavuot, etc.

Chanukah is one of our smaller ones.

Sure, it's fun. The food is not half bad if you aren't on a diet and the presents are nice, but it isn't so big a deal in comparison to some of our bigger holidays.

Rebecca Surrounded by Family

Falling around the biggest commercial holiday of the secular world, i.e., Christmas, non-Jews got this idea that Chanukah was Jewish Christmas, which is so far from the truth. We celebrate for eight days and then we move on.

Christmas is December 25th. That is one day. And I'm sure it's a great day with fun had by all.

I know that there are presents, and who doesn't love presents? I know there are decorations and food and everything that makes for a fun party with your family and friends.

I love holidays, and I see no problem with a day filled with all of these things.

Dressed to Impress on Christmas

But if this holiday is just one day, why do radio stations, television networks and stores start celebrating in November?

It always amazed me growing up how my favorite television channels would start with Christmas movies over a month early.

Some channels actually have countdowns to 25 days of Christmas. But wait, Isn't 25 days of Christmas already a countdown? So, you're counting down to a countdown?

You're probably thinking I'm just a bitter Jew struggling with Christmas envy; I don't think that's the case. It just starts to grate after a while when you can't find anything but Christmas on your television or radio for over a month, and, hey, you don't celebrate it.

Interfaith Holiday - Mistletoe & Menorahs

This year a couple of networks featured "Chanukah" movies, which were rather controversial if you have your ear to the ground in the Jewish community.

The premise of these movies were basically the same. A Christian and a Jew fall in love while learning about each other's holiday.

This premise bugged a lot of Jews and many articles came out about how these movies weren't really about Chanukah.

Under the Mistletoe -  Tall -Mistletoe & Menorahs

It is no surprise that The Foward, would have an article entitled "Hallmark’s Hanukkah Movies Do More Damage Than Good, By Portraying Jews As Outsiders," as it is a Jewish publication.

But more mainstream secular publication such as The Washington Post and The New York Times published similar articles about the outcry from Jewish communities.

There was even something in The Deseret News, a publication in Utah that is subsidiary of the Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So the problem is not just in our heads. It's there.

I'll be honest, I went into watching these movies with low expectations, and while I missed what was apparently the worst of the lot when it came to representation, the movies I saw weren't that bad.

Double Holiday Poster

I thought Double Holiday did a decent job of showing Chanukah during the first half of the movie. But then there is the other half of the movie to contend with.

Some of the more religious Orthodox might feel that television should just leave Chanukah alone because they are never going to get it right anyway.

But there are those who sit at home binging Hallmark movies who want to have a movie or two where they don't have to listen to "Jingle Bells" or stare at a tree for just a couple hours. 

The formula for these feel-good, rom-com holiday movies on television is pretty simple. A lot of them would work just as well for Chanukah as it would for Christmas. Two Jewish characters can fall in love over the course of an eight-day holiday just as well as two Christians can.

Christmas Shopping - Mistletoe & Menorahs

The formula for these movies is not to focus on the religion, so don't. Use just as much Judaism as you would Christianity.

Take out the tree and put in a menorah. Get rid of the cookies and add some gelt. Use songs like Ma'oz Tzur, Mi Y'malel, and S'vivon in the background instead of Rudolph.

Because yes, we have more songs than the one about the dreidel. We actually have a lot of songs. Jews love to sing.

We have so much music, you have no idea. We certainly have enough to fill up a soundtrack. And a lot of these songs have English versions, so you don't have to worry about not understanding. 

Lighting the Menorah - Misletoe & Menorahs

And while we're on the subject of those Hebrew songs, having the prayers in Hebrew is great, but maybe to avoid offending the religious Orthodox types, have them say Hasham, since this is a movie, and they aren't actually praying or actually Jewish for that matter.

Now, you might say, "but I don't know the first thing about Chanukah. These movies will be confusing if the Jewish character doesn't teach the Christian character some things."

Well, there is an easy fix for that.

Instead of a Christian learning about Judaism and a Jew learning about Christmas, how about a Jew with a less religious background learning from a Jew with a more religious background?

Rugrats Chanukah

There is a spectrum of Judaism in America ranging from the Reform and non-practicing to the Orthodox and Chasidim. This spectrum is the very reason that some Jews will be offended no matter what you do, but with a little more effort, you can placate the masses.

Just make sure to heavily consult Jews from sects of Judaism you mean to represent. Don't ask a reform Jew how and Orthodox Jew would celebrate or vice-versa.

Make sure you know how to properly pronounce the words before you say them, and try to avoid common stereotypes.

Jewish Stereotypes

Personally, I would love to see a story that took place in college. College is a time when people are reinventing themselves and discovering who they want to be.

There are a lot of religious organizations that reach out to Jews in that age group to try and get them involved in being Jewish.

It would be a great way to address the spectrum that is Judaism and tell people what Chanukah is all about.

These organizations can be a great place to meet a potential romantic partner. Why not let sparks fly at a Chanukah party or at a Hillel or Chabad meeting?

The Menorah on Double Holiday

More than that, there has been a rise in antisemitism on college campuses of late, and I would love to see a representation of how these Jewish characters are dealing with that during the holidays.

I would love to see a Jew who is afraid to celebrate their holiday in the current climate find safety and community as well as love.

Now, different networks would have different ways of approaching these sorts of movies.

Some Christmas movies are about Christ, and some barely mention him. There's a good reason for that, but I'll leave that explanation to the Christmas episode of Adam Ruins Everything.

Chanukah movies can run the spectrum too, from religious holiday specials to completely fun, completely secular Jewish love stories.

Just leave out the Christmas.

Cheers and Salutations

And stop trying to highlight how similar Christmas and Chanukah are; these are two different holidays from two completely different religions.

We are not ashamed of our differences. We are, in fact, proud of them.

Let Christians be Christians and let Jews be Jews. 

Maybe next year we'll all be able to settle in for a nice Chanukah movie.

Until then, happy holidays!

Leora W is a staff writer for TV Fanatic..

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