Thursday, December 29, 2011

In case you missed it... PM Spins dreidel with aplomb!

Over the Hannukah holiday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper took time out to engage with the Jewish community on a serious matter... the famous dreidel spin.

Yes, the PM and his wife, Laureen, spent a few moments with kids at the Calgary Jewish Community Centre on the third night of Hannukah to play a game of dreidel. No word on how much money he put down on the famous Jewish game of chance, but rumour has it he's working on a new spin technique for next year because he got smoked by that kid with the white kippah on the right.

Stephen Harper, second from left, demonstrates his deftness with a dreidel last week in Calgary. [Photo courtesy of the PMO]

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Rocky Hora Chanukah Song

For this year's Festival of Lights, the team at The Canadian Jewish Shmooze is sharing the Shlomones' new holiday parody track.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chanukah's history and lighting rules

In an exclusive to, Rabbi Michael Stavsky takes us deep inside the meaning of and the lessons to be learned from the festival of lights. Chanukah comes alive in his retelling of the Second Temple's desecration and in his detailed account of the rules for lighting the menorah.

For your primer on the true meaning of the chag, jump to Rabbi Stavsky's column here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Intermarried Holidays

Dear Ella,

My husband and I were invited to a family dinner at the home of my niece, Marlene. Marlene is married to a non-Jewish man and has two beautiful boys. It was the first time we’ve been there at this time of year. When we walked in, there stood a towering Christmas tree decorated with blue tinsel and blue ornaments, topped with a lit Star of David.

I know I must have turned white, because Marlene asked if I was OK while she helped me off with my coat. My husband, didn’t seem to care, but I was completely offended and disgusted.

After dinner, when we all retired to the living room, I was forced to sit on the couch facing that monstrosity, and I could no longer keep quiet.

I made sure the boys were out of the room, and I asked Marlene how she could so blatantly disrespect the Jewish religion by having such a sacrilegious symbol in her home. Perhaps I went too far when I asked if she thought her grandparents, who were Holocaust survivors, would approve. My sister stood up for her daughter and told me if I was so uncomfortable I was free to leave, so I did. We have not spoken since, and I feel terrible. I don’t want to apologize, because that will send the message that I approve. I’m not sure how I should proceed.

Sickening Symbolism

Dear Sickening Symbolism,

It’s understandable that you were shocked when you walked in and saw this tree topped with a Star of David. The tree is a symbol of Christmas, which is the holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus, while the Magen David sitting on top signifies Judaism. It’s a symbol on the Israeli flag and was used to identify Jews during the Holocaust. Since your parents were Holocaust survivors, I can see how this might offend you. However, the fact is, you are part of western culture, and many people don’t have that same strong connection to the Magen David as you do.

The Jewish Federations of North America did a survey that showed the percentage of intermarriage in 2001 was 47 per cent. That’s a huge number, and my guess is it’s gone up since then. You may not like it, as I’m sure many parents don’t, but in the end, they must accept it or lose their children.

Try to look on the positive side. Marlene and her husband are doing their best to keep Judaism in there home. They are showing their children that they are the product of two religions. Raising children this way may not be optimum from a religious point of view, but it does teach tolerance and acceptance. I’m sure when it’s time to light candles, they will have a chanukiyah too.

Intermarried families are here to stay, and the sooner the community accepts them, instead of shunning them, the better chance of teaching them about Judaism and not losing them completely.

Apologizing is the right thing to do. You can’t impose your way of living on others, but you can take over latkes, dreidels and Chanukah gifts and tell the story of Chanukah. Kids will accept learning a lot better if it comes from the heart.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Coming up in the next 'Ask Ella'

This week's Ask Ella column dispenses advise on a possible path to take in response to a reader being upset upon seeing members of her inter-married family place a Magen David upon a Christmas tree. Inter-married families are apparently here to stay, Ella says. The sooner the community accepts them, the sooner we will likely stand a better chance of teaching them to carry on Jewish practices instead of losing them completely.