To me Christmas was always the “other” holiday of winter. As a Jew we celebrated Hanukah. But I knew that Christmas was an extremely important holiday for Christians for many reasons. Certainly there were the theological implications of the Messiah becoming fully human as well as divine. That was always a mystery for me as well as devout Christians as well. Then, of course, there were the commercial aspects, Christmas music and time off from school. All good. We celebrated the gift giving and the beauty of the Christmas tree with our friends and neighbors. But it was always someone else’s holiday.
While becoming officially less observant of Jewish religious traditions, my identity as a Jew is indeliable since being Jewish transcends religion. It is a cultural, historical as well as genetic (as can be determined by testing) tradition.
The past year 2014 has witnesssed an alarming upswell of anti-semitism in the world, now fostered by radical Islam. This has been deeply painful to the Jewish community. We cannot help but feel its chill in the deepest recesses of our souls. It rekindles age old fears. The Shoah was only the most horrific and most devastating of a several thousand years tradition. Now it appears once again.
That contrast between what is happening around the world and what I have seen in my personal life is particularly striking. My friends and patients have wished me a joyous Hanukah from the bottom of their heart. Their sincerity is palpable. And I am deeply grateful for it.
It brings home the power and beauty of this great country of ours. America may stand alone in the world as the bastion of tolerance for diversity. Tolerance was once understood as the basis of who we are as a nation. It still remains. I have been deeply touched by its presence.
Christmas 2014 is different for me because I will never again take this country for granted.
May we continue to be a light to the nations. Merry Christmas and my hopes for a peaceful and happy New Year for those of good will.