The Shmooze

Hanukkah, Festival of Cheese?

By Dan Friedman

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Despite Howard Jacobson’s slightly miserable interpretation of Hanukkah in the New York Times, the Jewish festival of lights has inspired YouTube moviemakers in recent years to make or post some fun videos.

Hanukkah wouldn’t be Hanukkah (or Chanukah, or Khanike) without Adam Sandler’s song, either the original, the Neil Diamond cover or the follow-up. Sandler embraced the anti-assimilationist message of the original story in which Greeks and Hellenistic Jews were indiscriminately attacked by a bunch of religious zealots. By looking to the ethnicity of some famous stars, Sandler just pointed out the Jewish jelly that filled those famous American doughnuts.

This year the video offerings seem to veer away from doughnuts, bypass the latkes and head straight to the dairy territory of Shavuot — cheese.

From the Snuggies advert, to Matisyahu’s adventure on ice and the Storahtelling story this year’s offerings are testament to the triumph of the humorless Hasmoneans. Granted Storahtelling is aimed at children but I only watched to the end for research; Matisyahu I watched to see if it was in fact Ali G in a beard; and Snuggies passed the clickaway test only because of a macabre fascination with the flammability of Snuggies (do the blanket-clad singers all die in flames from the hanukkiah candles or not? Click here to find out).

I’d rather watch last year’s message from Michael Ignatieff as he wishes Canadian Jews a happy Hanukkah, even in French.

In fact the only compelling video I’ve seen this year is the Maccabeats “Candlelight.” Despite being a capella (not obviously a help, witness this Hanukkah song), derivative and featuring a group of Yeshiva University students who are not destined to grace the walls of teenage girls across the country, “Candlelight” is a lot of fun to watch. Plus it shows a dramatic restaging of the defeat of the Greeks about which Howard Jacobson was unconvinced. Unless the next candles bring us better offerings, for seven more days we remain Maccabeaten.

Watch “Candlelight” below.


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