Being Jewish in a Catholic world
I am a ten-year-old Jewish girl in 5th grade. My classrooms has 24 students in them; all Catholic except me and there’s a non-religion boy. I feel alone, uncomfortable, and scared. It is December and two-weeks before Hanukkah.
Trying to find gifts to give to my family and friends are extremely difficult when you’re in a budget like myself. I walk dogs and saved my dog walking money for presents. Lately, after school, I’ve been spending a lot of my time, circling the mall trying to find the perfect present. The mall doesn’t make it easy for anyone, when there are long times you have to face, crowded impatient people, and loud Christmas music playing in all the stores distracting you.
All I see are store clerks wearing red and green clothing. All I smell are gingerbread scented potpourri, fresh apple pie perfume, and spice scented candles. Store associates are wishing me “Merry Christmas.” I purchase a Barry Manillow CD for my mother; the salesman compliments me on a “perfect Christmas gift to give to my mother.”
I enter a Hallmark Store then walk directly to the card section. Santa Clause, Christmas Cards, snowman cards, holy cards, season greeting cards. No Hanukkah cards. I hunt card after card trying to find a single Hanukkah one…nothing. I ask the sales lady if she has any Hanukkah cards. She gives me a puzzled look, thinks, and then asks another salesman.
“Hey Al, do we carry any Han-new-cha cards?” says Betty the sales associate.
“Bless you!” says Howard.
“Thank-you Howard, but I DID NOT sneeze!” responded Betty. “Han-new-cha? Hanukkah? Or however you pronounce it. The cards Howard! Do we carry them or no?”
“No…I don’t think so,” he says.
Just then Howard points me to the holiday cards that are blank inside with wreaths on the cover.
“We have these though…These are just as good!”
I stand there like a little kid who wasn’t picked on a kickball team during recess. Confused and frustrated. Why don’t they have any Hanukkah cards? I say to myself. I look again. Searching left and right through the unorganized messy card shelf and hoping I might find something to give to my parents and then under all the jolly spirited cartooned cards was something.
A bent out of shape Hanukkah card. On the cover was a Rabbi standing next to a menorah. I opened the card up excitedly, anxiously waiting to see what was written.
“Oh yeah…and Happy Hanukkah…” it says.
I throw that card down all the floor and picked up another one on the cover it says…
Why did this card have one sentence and all the Christmas cards have a novel written on the inside? Why is it so hard to be Jewish and try to participate in the holiday when the society won’t allow me to?
Christmas…Christmas…Why is it always Christmas?
Commercials advertise Christmas decorations on sale at K Mart, circulars promote Christmas spectacular sales, television shows base some episodes on Christmas such as several Boy Meets World episodes. There’s also classic Christmas movies on television such as Miracle on 34th Street, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and The Little Drummer Boy. But why? Doesn’t the society know that Jews live in America too? No…according to my 5th grade teacher all society cares about is getting money.
I use to think school was a way to get away from all the things that were upsetting me, but lately it’s just been making me feel worse about myself. In our music class everyone is looking forward to our “holiday concert” this is a time when all the parents come and see us sing happy spirited Christmas songs. A holiday concert? It should be called the school’s “Christmas Concert.” That would make more sense. Everyone can’t wait for our show in a few days, everyone except me. We are going to sing “Frosty the Snowman” “Jingle Bells” “12 days of Christmas” and “Walking in the winter wonderland.”
The concert is the last thing we do and then school is closed for “Holiday break.” School doesn’t reopen until after New Years Day but until then after the concert we will be off for Holiday break.
Holiday break? They might as well call it “School is closed for Christmas break.” After all next year the first night of Hanukkah will fall on the day after Thanksgiving. That’s right, the first night will be in November. Talk about early. When I’m in 6th grade and I’m off from school for my “holiday break” exactly what holiday will this break consist of? New Years? Ok then my two week break should be called “New Years break.” How silly does that sound?
After I return from the Hallmark store my dad tries to make me feel better by saying,
“If Catholics went to Israel they would have a hard time trying to find Christmas cards,” my dad says.
Statistics show that more Catholics live in the United States than Jews. But why? Why is it religion has to be favorited in certain countries? My dad then puts his arm around me and gives me a big father-daughter bear hug that only daddies can give and whispers, “being Jewish is special because we are different.