A couple of years ago a neighbor asked me if I would be his guest at a Jewish networking group.
“What makes you think I’m Jewish?” I asked.
“You are, aren’t you?” he responded.
“No,” I said, “I’m an Atheist.” He was perplexed.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because God doesn’t believe in Atheists,” I replied.
My reality is that I've been a confused Jew since birth. My mother was a major leader in our Jewish community and Vice President of the National Council of Jewish Women. We celebrated Chanukah and Christmas.
My grandparents were Founders of Seattle’s first Reformed congregation, in 1899; my cousin Samuel Koch, was the second rabbi from 1906 to 1944. My father was president of the Board when I was Bar Mitzvahed.
My cousin, Joe Greengard, was a teacher in the religion school at TDH. Rabbi Levine visited Joe's class to explain to the little munchkins why they shouldn’t have a Christmas Tree in their homes, then opened the floor to questions.
“I want to ask Mr. Greengard if he is going to have his Christmas tree lot this year.”
My dear long-time friend, Samuel Goldfarb wrote the best known of all Hannukah songs … THE DREIDEL SONG.
I had a little dreidel, I made it out of clay, and when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play.
Sam Goldfarb was the music director at Temple De Hirsch in Seattle from 1930 to 1963. On February 20, 1959 Jimi Hendrix’s first gig was in the basement of the Temple and was kicked out for being “too wild.” I don’t think Sam had anything to do with that.
One of my favorite comedians, Adam Sandler, wrote “The Hanukkah Song” with Saturday Night Live writers Lewis Morton and Ian Maxtone-Graham. He originally performed the song on SNL’s Weekend Update on December 3rd, 1994. He later included the song in some of his stand-up comedy routines.
The premise of “The Hanukkah Song” is that Jewish children feel alienated around Christmas-time, when they are surrounded by Christmas music and decorations but don’t celebrate the holiday themselves.