If you have read my blog a few times, you might recall how I was born on Rosh Hoshannah and delivered by Dr. Nathan Steinberg, an Orthodox Jew. If not, you can go back to September’s posts and learn how I, The Rosh Hoshannah Kid, learned to respect Judaism because of him.
As I grew, ‘Jewish’ to me was still, as I like to say, just another ‘ISH’. And in the Second Street neighborhood in Philadelphia where my dad grew up, and where my brother Harry and I spent many happy times, especially holidays, there were Jewish people we knew well. Like Mr. and Mrs. Bellow, who ran the deli/candy store at the corner; Julius the butcher, who had some funny writing on his store window (dad said it meant Kosher Butcher); Harry Zweig, the painter and paper hanger across the street; and the Weinsteins at the shoe store where we got our school shoes (Buster Brown).
They were JewISH, we were IrISH, and some neighbors were PolISH. As it should be.
One December day, walking with dad through the forest of Christmas trees for sale at Lamplugh’s (Irish) fruit and vegetable store, I mentioned with seven-year-old concern that it was awfully close to Christmas but Julius and Mrs. Bellow didn’t have their Christmas decorations up yet.
Dad chuckled. “Well, they’re Jewish.”
I knew that. Yeah, so what?
“Jewish people don’t have Christmas.”
How can that be? We ALL have Christmas….let’s not be selfish….we should let them have it, too.
He delivered the news that shook little me right down to my Weinstein Buster Browns:
They don’t want to.
Whoa. Unbelievable. I will never forget the shock! They don’t WANT to? Dad was a great kidder, but that’s not funny. How can they not WANT Christmas?
That was the first time I learned that Jewish wasn’t just an ‘ISH’, but a belief in God, and that Christmas was a religious holiday that had to do with a different belief in God.
Took me many years to come to terms with that but I was a little mollified when I discovered there was a Jewish holiday, Hannukah, happening around the same time as Christmas. It took even longer to grasp the fact that the two are not at all related……but still…..a winter celebration.
Now I’m ready to celebrate everyone’s winter holidays. It’s all about the return of the light to clear the darkness. Always good.
I guess that long ago revelation cleared up a little darkness for me! The Rosh Hoshannah Kid and The Big C: lesson learned!
In honor of Dr. Steinberg, the Bellows, Julius, and the others, I hang a dreidel on my Christmas tree every year, and a little bag of gelt. I think they would like that.