Now here is a headline that a GetReligion scribe has to pass along, pronto: “Why can’t the New York Times get Hanukkah right?”
What we’re talking about is a Religion News Service commentary by Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin. Consider this a kind of early weekend think piece, since it’s talking about op-ed page work.
However, religion-beat professionals will certainly want to read (and maybe file way) this to get a refresher on some history and facts about the eight-day “Festival of Lights,” which is a relatively minor Jewish holiday that punches way above its weight class for reasons that are quite ironic, to say the least.
The opening is very clever and slightly snarky at the same time.
Every few years, the New York Times runs a contest: “Best Essay About Hanukkah By An Ambivalent Jew.”
That is the only explanation for this past week’s crop of New York Times op-ed pieces about Hanukkah.
“The Gray Lady” is showing signs of advanced Jewish arteriosclerosis.
Take yesterday’s article, “That’s One Alternative Santa.”
The author, a comedy writer, begins with the traditional disavowal of any substantive Jewish connections or affiliations.
In theological terms, there is little love lost between me and Judaism. But culturally — with my unwavering devotion to [Howard] Stern on the radio, [Philip] Roth on the page, [Bob] Dylan on the stereo and kugel in the oven — I am a Hasid.
This self-identification as a Rhett Butler Jew — “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” — points him in the direction of embracing the “traditional” Hanukkah symbol — Hanukkah Harry — a fictional character on Saturday Night Live.
You get the idea. Somehow, I had missed “Hanukkah Harry.” Just lucky, I guess.
Here’s the big question: What does all of this have to do with Judaism? That leads to a common debate topic this time of year: Are we talking Judaism the religion or Judaism the culture.
The answer, of course, is “yes.”