Rudolph the blue-nosed reindeer? // by Lior Zaltzman
Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, The Ronettes, Nat King Cole — their voices fill the air come Christmastime, injecting some holiday warmth into our Grinch-sized winter hearts.
But as you’ve probably heard, behind (almost) every merry and bright hit, there’s a Jewish writer..
Can you tell which of your favorite holiday songs were written by members of the tribe? Take our quiz and test your knowledge — you may be surprised.
Jewish Broadway performer Idina Menzel, the voice of Elsa in Disney’s animated film “Frozen,” is recording a Christmas album.
“I know I’m Jewish,” she said Wednesday night during a performance at Radio City Music Hall, “but a lot of famous Jewish people have written Christmas songs, so I’m going to try and have a lot of their songs on the album.”
She performed an original song for the album called “December Prayer,” according to Broadway.com.
Menzel is currently starring in the Broadway musical “If/Then.” She was a recurring character on the television show “Glee” and starred in the original Broadway run of “Wicked.”
All you Jewish kids who need some extra love come Christmas-time can rest easy — you’re not alone. Amanda Peet feels your pain.
According to AP, the actress is writing a children’s book about growing up Jewish. “Dear Santa, Love Rachel Rosenstein” will tell the story of a young Jewish girl who wonders why Santa never stops by her house.
The picture book, written in collaboration with Peet’s friend Andrea Troyer, is set to be published by Random House in fall 2015.
“When my two children, Frankie and Molly, started asking me why we don’t have a Christmas tree and colored lights on the roof and a plate of cookies for Santa, it was hard to come up with an appealing answer,” explained Peet in a statement. “The book came out of a desire to capture the feeling of being left out during the Christmas holidays and to explain how you can’t always get what you want—and how sorting that out, for Jews and Gentiles alike, is part of what the holiday spirit is all about.”
Peet has two children with “Game of Thrones” co-creator David Benioff.
Three Jews walk into a Christmas movie…
This actually isn’t a joke. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen have announced that they are working on an “Untitled Xmas Comedy,” directed by Jonathan Levine.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the most Jewish of Christmas films will tell the heartwarming tale of three childhood best friends who reunite in New York City for their annual tradition of going out on Christmas Eve.
The third lead role has yet to be cast, but fingers crossed for another member of the tribe!
(JTA) — Israeli President Shimon Peres sent out a mostly boilerplate Christmas greeting yesterday, but what jumped out at me were the video’s first 22 seconds, where Peres stands at the center of a group of kids dressed in Santa suits, all singing “Jingle Bells,” accompanied by a piano.
Discerning viewers will note, though, that Peres — while admittedly moving his mouth most of the time — doesn’t seem to know the words to the song. He looks like he’s employing the same technique he used in the 1990s, when he didn’t appear to know the words to Arik Einstein’s “Ani v’Ata” in an impromptu duet with Bibi Netanyahu.
It isn’t surprising, of course, that an Israeli man born 90 years ago in Poland wouldn’t know the words to an English Christmas standard. Given Peres’ constant talk of peace, perhaps this would have been a more appropriate selection.
Seth Cohen’s dream finally came true.
This year, celebrate Christmas the kosher way (sort of), with a Yamaclaus. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a red yarmulke complete with fluffy white Santa trim. And if you’re a millennial, chances are you’ve seen it before.
Fans of “The O.C.” will recognize this holiday gem from the show’s second season Chrismukkah episode, “The Chrismukkah That Almost Wasn’t.” In fact, that’s exactly where Yamaclaus creators Alan Masarsky and Larik Malash, both Russian American Jews, got the idea.
Another year, another “War on Christmas” debate.
This year’s complaints? The so-called liberal obsession with the word “holiday.” The National Republican Congressional Committee made the first move when they tweeted out their seasonal t-shirts boasting “‘Happy Holidays’ is for Liberals” with a (middle) finger-pointing “Merry Christmas” printed on the back.
But Fox News, the real barometer of white man persecution syndrome, has taken its outrage to a whole new level. As Jon Stewart puts it, the network’s “sense of persecution is always at its worst this time of year.”
“What is it like to live in that world of pure fear and despair?” he asked in response to clips of Fox News anchors voicing their concerns over the impending “post-American apocalypse” (Stewarts’ words) where people respect all kinds of diverse celebrations and traditions.
Maybe they’re on to something. After all, “how can I enjoy my Christmas when I know that somewhere a little Jewish boy isn’t being forced to sing ‘Oh Little Town of Bethlehem’?”
What’s the only thing that Israel and Iran can agree on?
Israeli singer Liel Kolet has teamed up with exiled Iranian singer Ebrahim Hamedi, 64, better known as Ebi, to release a holiday single called “I Can Hear Christmas,” Ynet reported.
Originally written by Yoav Ginai and Tomer Addadi for Israeli singer Boaz Sharabi, the song was released as “Chag Sameach Ahavat Chayai” (happy holiday, love of my life) about three years ago. Kolet got the idea of re-recording by Tomer Addadi, to be featured on her upcoming album.
What ensued is perhaps the most absurd Christmas video ever to hit the Internet, from the early shots of a yarmulke-clad boy bowing to a little girl in a hijab (and then them holding hands in front of the Christmas tree) to the black and white montage of the singers dramatically embracing world peace.
Sure, you could sit at home with some lo mein and grab an action flick. But Christmas is far from a wasteland for Jewish events. From gorgeous kosher dinners to trivia night for nerds to clubs full of Jewish singles, we’ve rounded up something for everyone.
Dance Around the Matzo
Jewish singles, rejoice. The annual Matzoball takes place on Christmas Eve, and it’s one of the biggest matchmaking events of the year, or a good place to do some serious dancing. Hosted by the Society of Young Jewish Professionals, these ragers take place in clubs across the country. This year, there’ll be Matzoballs in New York City, Miami, Boca Raton, Toronto, Boston, LA, Philadelphia, and D.C.
Go to matzoball.org for more details.
Chow Down with Eddie Huang
Step up the traditional Christmas Day Chinese take-out with restaurateur Eddie Huang’s globetrotting cuisine. Huang is whipping up a six-course Kosher dinner at downtown Manhattan hotspot Jezebel, first come first served. For $88, you can feast on Huang’s spicy short-rib noodle soup with beef and fennel peppercorn dumplings, and sample Szechuan roasted Cornish hens. Who needs figgy pudding?
Jezebel: 646.410.0717. For more information, go to jezebelnyc.com
Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, which means that it might be tougher than usual to get that reservation at your favorite Chinese restaurant. But with December 25 just a few days away, there’s no need to feel like a Grinch.
Whether your usual plans have fallen through or you’re in the mood for something different this year (like a comedy show or a mah-jongg game), browse our guide for how to keep your spirits bright throughout the holiday weekend. After you’ve gorged yourself on wontons, for example, you might burn some calories on a walking tour or take the kids to a museum. Got other ideas for avoiding a blue Christmas? Feel free to suggest an event in the comments section below.
Star of David tree-toppers aren’t necessarily meant for Hanukkah bushes. In fact, they are reportedly favored by both evangelical Christians and intermarried couples looking for just the right thing to place high atop their Christmas trees.
Leave it to Jews to be the ones to come up with the idea of Christmas “menorahments.” The Jerusalem Post reports that Jewish couple Morri and Marina Chowaiki have sold thousands of their Hanukkah Tree Toppers since first putting their patented six-pointed silver stars on Amazon.com in 2009.
A New York vodka billboard featuring the slogan “Christmas Quality, Hannukah Pricing,” was quickly removed after the Anti-Defamation League criticized it as anti-Semitic, news reports said.
One billboard for Wodka vodka was taken down from a prominent spot overlooking the West Side Highway in Manhattan, the New York Times reported.
The ad, part of a campaign, features two dogs, one wearing a Santa cap and one wearing a yarmulke with the message “Christmas Quality, Hanukah Pricing.” According to the ADL, the billboards were featured in several locations in New York.
Should Jewish parents let their kids watch Christmas television specials? Maybe, writes Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick in a column yesterday. On the one hand, “one needn’t be virulently anti-Christmas to experience the seasonal anxiety felt by parents who want their children to enjoy the winter holidays while avoiding religious indoctrination,” she contends. And characters like the Grinch are stand-ins for “grumpy old Jews,” Lithwick writes, akin to dragging kids “to see The Merchant of Venice.” On the other, Jewish parents find all kinds of rationalizations to allow their offspring to tune into “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “The Year Without a Santa Claus.”
In what’s become a beloved Christmas tradition, listeners are getting treated to a new song sharing the spirit of the season… by a Jewish pop star.
Paul Simon’s the latest Semite to jump on the Yuletide bandwagon with “Getting Ready for Christmas Day,” a thumping, blues-tinged tune “with no mention of Jesus, Mary, Joseph or any of the rest of the gospel crew,” according to the UK Telegraph, whose site is streaming the song “exclusively.”
When the Chilean miners surfaced, Israel’s tourism minister, Stas Misezhnikov, invited them on an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel over Christmas. “Your bravery and strength of spirit, your great faith that helped you survive so long in the bowels of the earth, was an inspiration to us all,” he wrote, before inviting them to the “Land of Jesus” for the holidays.
Well they’ve accepted. David Dadon, governor of the Atacama region, where the miners were rescued, has told Israeli embassy in Chile that they want to come, so long as they can bring a long list of relations, which — according to this report on Ynet — includes 33 miners, 31 partners, two mothers of two single miners, the miners’ 33 children, one grandchild, one nephew and one partner’s daughter. And if you thought we Jews have chutzpah, guess who one miner wants to bring. His wife and his mistress! Well Misezhnikov’s invitation promised a “spiritual journey this Christmas,” so whatever it takes.
As might be expected of an Upper West Side girl who demanded a bat mitzvah, Elena Kagan seems pretty comfortable with her roots.
“As you know, I don’t think it’s a secret I am Jewish,” she said yesterday, during the second day of her confirmation hearings in front of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.
But the real kicker came when a question from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham created what was possibly Congress’ Most Jewish Moment Ever.