Bintel Blog

Why Garrison Keillor's Rant Makes Me Say 'Bah Humbug'

By Sarah Seltzer

During this most wonderful time of the year, when non-Jewish people wish me a Happy Hanukkah with a knowing look in their eyes; I refrain from saying “Seriously, it’s a minor holiday. Merry Christmas, and get back to me on Pesach.” I 100% accept the fact that Christmas is really and truly a Bigger Deal than any other winter holiday; even in New York, where bodegas stock menorahs, December 25 will dwarf all other seasonal celebrations.

But what I don’t accept is watching the vast majority of the country get psyched about Christmas while pundits complain that their day is being taken away from them. It’s enough to bring out my inner Scrooge. Jeffrey Goldberg’s blog tipped me off to this Garrison Keillor piece kvetching about the de-sanctification of Christmas by casting aspersions on Jewish songwriters contributing to the Christmas-song canon:

And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write “Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah”? No, we didn’t.

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On the Heels of Hatch’s Hanukkah Song, the Ballad of Mormon by a Jew

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

Thanks, Orrin Hatch for the most publicized (first-ever?) Mormon-rendered Hanukkah Song. Conan’s self-proclaimed only Jew Max Weinberg returned the favor last night with a little ditty for the Mormon community to sing at Christmas time. Doubt they will though, since its purpose is to count all the ways in which the singers know nothing about Mormonism besides the names of celebrity Mormons like Katherine Heigl and Mitt Romney:

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Aftermath of Mosque Arson Attack — Condemnations and Settler Rabbi Dance and Chant

By Nathan Jeffay

This weekend the “price tag” policy of extremist settlers got well and truly out of hand. Price tag is an attempt to demonstrate to law enforcement bodies that any action which interferes with settler interests will result in vandalism on highways and in Palestinian villages — and sometimes also harm to individual Palestinians.

On Friday the mosque in the West Bank village of Yasuf was vandalized and burned, apparently in reaction to the settlement freeze. A graffiti message read: “Price tag — greetings from Effi.” See articles about the attack here, here and here.

There has been a mass of reaction. There has been condemnation from various places, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres. Politicians have spoken of how they fear it could lead to an escalation in violence. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called it a “despicable crime.”

In settler and pro-settler circles the response has mostly been swift. The settler representative body, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, aka the Yesha Council condemned the attack. Lawmaker Uri Orbach of the religious-Zionist Jewish Home party, penned an impassioned article condemning the attack and saying it is the wrong way for settlers to oppose the settlement freeze. He wrote: Will the bad fire end the freeze or deepen it?

But not everyone was so quick to condemn this action. Michael Ben-Ari, lawmaker for the far-right National Union party refused to do so.

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Senators Hatch and Reid: Mormons With Mezuzahs

By Gabrielle Birkner

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch isn’t the only Mormon legislator with a soft spot for Jewish traditions.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s wife, Landra (née Gould), was raised Jewish, and the Reid family has a mezuzah on the doorpost of their Searchlight, Nev. home in honor of that heritage, a spokeswoman for Senator Reid confirmed. (Senator Hatch wears a mezuzah around his neck, as this Tablet music video shows.)

Both Senator Reid and his wife are converts to Mormonism; Hatch was born into the Mormon faith.

According to this New Yorker profile of the current Senate Majority Leader, Reid’s eventually close relationship with Landra’s parents got off to a rough start. Mr. Gould apparently tried to break up the couple because the Goulds “wanted their daughter to marry a Jewish boy,” according to Reid.

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No More Sukkah, Time for Hanukkah and the Spinagogue

By Dan Friedman

Proving that Jewish consumer culture is devouring the calendar every bit as voraciously as any other culture in America, Modern Tribe has just sent out notice of the home they have built for the dreidel — the “Spinagogue.”

Homelessness and hunger are indeed terrible problems in our world. Glad that Sarah Silverman and Modern Tribe are turning their attention to them. Viva Tikkun Olam.

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Plans for Kislev?

By Dan Friedman

What are your plans for Kislev 5769? People around the world are lighting the candles in a multitude of different ways, but always left to right, others have chosen to show communal solidarity on 28th and 29th Kislev by volunteering at hospitals and soup kitchens.

President Bush celebrated Kislev by flying to Iraq and dodging a pair of shoes. But Brad Cohen, author of the book “Front of the Class” — and de facto spokesman for Tourette’s Syndrome — anchored the White House Hanukkah Reception for him while he was away. Tourette’s is a serious and generally misunderstood syndrome but, in the same way as it’s okay to envy a man’s wheelchair seat at a five-hour march, it would be great to meet the leader of the free world — or her husband — and have carte blanche to say anything you wanted to her.


Faux Hasidim, Real Hasid Unite on Network TV…

By Daniel Treiman

…to sing a dreidel song on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.” The real Hasid is Bostoner Hasid/rapper Y-Love. The fellows in the fake beards are Erran Baron Cohen (brother of “Borat” comic Sacha) and his band. The song is from Erran’s new album “Songs in the Key of Hanukkah.” The motley crew’s performance can be viewed here — at the end of the show. (It was, by the way, a very Jew-y episode of “Late Night,” with the dreidel song preceded by a fun appearance by perennially popular comic matador Don Rickles.)

UPDATE: Turns out Y-Love is no longer a Hasid. Back in June he told Jewcy: “I am no longer Chassidish. I converted Chassidish and I davened in Chassidish shuls until like 2005. But my rav is Sephardi.” Oops.


Hanukkah Shopping With Rod

By Dan Friedman

There are only five more shopping days until Hanukkah and the country is slipping into the deepest recession in nearly a century. What to buy your loved ones? Well, taking their cue from what appears to be a Jew-free scandal, the folks at Funny or Die have a furniture suggestion.


Only in New York: Hanukkah Subway Attack Was a Multi-Ethnic Mash-up

By Daniel Treiman

I never thought that there would be a Hanukkah-related brawl on my favorite subway line — let alone one that would dominate the front pages of New York’s tabloids.

As the alleged victims of the attack tell the story to the Daily News, the four of them boarded a Brooklyn-bound Q-train after celebrating Hanukkah at a bar in Manhattan. They were carrying a menorah and dreidels. A larger group of young straphangers shouted “Merry Christmas” at them, to which 21-year-old Angelica Krischanvich responded, “Happy Hanukkah.”

Next, Krischanvich told the News, “[One woman said,] ‘You can’t say that, we are Catholic.’” Krischanvich continued: “That’s when two guys stood up and showed us their Jesus tattoos. They started yelling at us and telling us we have no savior.”

“I started to yell back when one of them spat in my face. I didn’t let it bother me, and I told him, ‘Jesus turned the other cheek,’ and that is when the fight started.”

“They said, ‘You dirty Jews, you killed Jesus on Chanukah, you should all die,’” Baruch College student Maria Parsheva told the News. She said a member of the other group pulled a knife and waved it close to her face.

The News reports that three of Hanukkah revelers suffered bruises and cuts in the fracas.

The Daily News reports that police wound up arresting 10 members of the larger group, charging them with various offenses, including assault, menacing and inciting a riot. The police are reportedly still investigating whether the incident was a hate crime.

Here’s where the story turns crazy New York multicultural:

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Hanukkah Special: Petite Smoked Ham, Only $6.99 Per Pound

By Daniel Treiman

Manhattan grocer Balducci’s had a holiday treat for Jewish shoppers: Hanukkah hams!

Novelist NancyKay Shapiro happened upon the discounted hams and snapped some pictures of the store’s signage. Following up on Shapiro’s discovery, the Daily News reports:

A Balducci’s official was so verklempt about the error he didn’t want to speak on the record. He fessed up that “it was a mistake,” blaming it on a stock clerk who normally doesn’t work the meat department.


Hanukkah Dichotomy: Miracles vs. Maccabees

By Daniel Treiman

As I noted earlier on this blog, atheist firebrand Christopher Hitchens finds Hanukkah wholly objectionable, whether it’s the miracle or the Maccabees’ Hasmonean dynasty. The JTA’s Ami Eden takes him to task for lumping the two aspects of the holiday together:

By emphasizing the miracle of the oil, the rabbis in the Talmud were essentially attempting to write the Hasmonean rulers that Hitchens so detests out of the story. Yes, the rabbis’ narrative is still an anti-Greek one, but even from Hitchens’ perspective, this shift in emphasis should be seen as progress.

Over on Jewcy, cartoonist par excellence, Eli Valley, and his iconoclastic collaborator, David Kelsey, offer their own comic take on Hanukkah, combining the acid assessment of Hitchens with Eden’s nuance.


Hitch: The Hanukkah Miracle Is for 'Credulous Peasants'

By Daniel Treiman

“God Is Not Great” author” Christopher Hitchens hates Hanukkah. And Christmas, too. No surprises there. One wonders though, how he feels about Chrismukkah?



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