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By Daniel Kroft

December 26th, 2009 – Shabbos. “Oy, we’re going to be late!” I hear. Minutes later, the whole family piles into the car. The car rattles, coughs, and then starts, and we set off to our weekly Friday night dinner at my aunt’s. A few minutes of silence, then: “Turn on the radio.” A second or two of static, and then my sister’s favourite radio station begins to play: “All I want for Christmas is you…” House after house of colourful lights and decorated trees whiz by, and I try to ignore the “Merry Christmas” tattooed onto every shop window. “I–‘m dreaming of a white Christmas…” My dad turns the radio off.
                This was probably a common scene for most of you on winter break. Carols, bells and lights… and barely a Chanukiah or Chamtza in sight. Driving down Academy Road that Shabbos, a thought came to my mind – a thought most likely hidden in the minds of all Jews at this time of year: While constantly surrounded by Christian holiday cheer, how do we Children of Israel stay Jewish? After all, one cannot deny the occasional Christmas tune getting stuck in one’s head (I’m a sucker for ‘Let it Snow’). I then got to thinking about what being Jewish is really all about. What is something that all Jews have in common – a value that we all share?
                My family is not a very religious one. We do not keep strict Kashrut, we do not go to shul every Saturday morning, and we do drive on Shabbos. We only wear our tallit on the High Holy Days, and we even indulge in the occasional seafood linguine. However here we were at my aunt’s house – standing around a table together as a family, reciting the brachot over the candles, wine and bread. Although we did not keep the rules of Shabbat, we kept its essence alive in the family. Aha! I thought to myself as my uncles discussed airport security. Maybe this is the key to keeping our Judaism alive during the Christmas season – not necessarily walking to shul on a chilly Saturday, but acknowledging that Saturday is something that is worth celebrating.
                On the lazy drive home, my ears perked up suddenly as ‘Dominick the Donkey’ faded out, and was replaced by Adam Sandler’s ‘Chanukah Song’. I stopped and thought for a moment, and then smiled as I realized something: now that we have the Internet, TV, and other forms of global media, Judaism is not just for individual families or communities anymore. The word is finally getting out! “Merry Christmas” is now “Happy Holidays”. There is not just a Christmas tree in Polo Park Shopping Centre, but a Chanukiah standing proudly beside it. And there are not only Christmas songs played on the radio anymore. We now have Chanukah songs that the whole world can enjoy. This is the new Judaism. We have not only broadened the spectrum of Jewish culture, but have retained the essence of the religion itself – just like my family had at Shabbat dinner – and this is a feat that has not been achieved by many global religions. And so I remind you all – be proud of your religion! Be proud of who you are. Because believe me – it’s something worth being proud of.
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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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