Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Winter Purim Spiel

Back in August, we posted A Summer Puim Spiel, featuring the video recording of the first performance of this year's Purim spiel, from March 1st. Here now is The Schnook of Esther (A Purim Spiel) Adas Emuno March 4, 2015, a recording of our second performance on Purim eve.  Just the thing to provide a little warmth (and merriment) on a cold winter's day).

Once again, this particular Purim Spiel, The Schnook of Esther, is an original work, and any other congregations or Jewish groups out there who are interested in using it for their next Purim celebration, you can contact us via email: <adasemuno at>.

And once again, this is just raw footage, not a professional video production, with one of the songs missing (the other video, posted on A Summer Puim Spiel, is complete). And yes, the players are not ready for prime time, by any means, but I think you'll agree that we know how to have fun here in our little shul on the hill in Leonia, Bergen County, New Jersey.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Musings on Jewish Identity at Christmastime

This past Friday, December 18, the Jewish Standard published another op-ed by Adas Emuno president Lance Strate. Entitled, Musings on Jewish Identity at Christmastime, it is altogether timely, so we are pleased to share it with you here and now:

Adam Sandler performed an update of his “Chanukah Song” last month at the New York Comedy Festival, with a second performance in San Diego available on YouTube. The new rendition is the fourth version of the song he debuted in 1994 on Saturday Night Live, a song that is as much about Jewish identity as it is about the holiday.
Sandler’s “Chanukah Song” is not without its critics, however. In an editorial published in the New Jersey Jewish News last month, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Andrew Silow-Carroll of Teaneck, expresses much ambivalence about Sandler’s listing of Jewish celebrities. He worries that while it reflects a sense that it is cool to be Jewish, that coolness is a shallow expression of ethnic pride, lacking the depth of religious commitment.

In my view, Silow-Carroll sells Sandler short.

But first let me note that I agree with the general argument that Jewish identity ought to be based on something more than ethnic pride. If Jewish identity is reduced to ethnicity alone, it eventually will be lost within the great American melting pot. Think of how many Americans today claim to have a Native American great grandparent. But the key to understanding “The Chanukah Song” is not in the list of Jewish celebrities, even though that constitutes the main part of the song.

Steve Allen once observed that the comedian is usually a person with a grievance, and Sandler explained the grievance behind “The Chanukah Song” when he first introduced it on December 3, 1994. “When I was a kid, this time of year always made me feel a little left out, because in school there were so many Christmas songs, and all us Jewish kids had was the song, ‘Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,’” he said then. And while Sandler goes on to say that he “wrote a brand new Chanukah song for you Jewish kids to sing,” in actuality the song actually has very little to do with the holiday.

Sandler does begin with a reference to religious tradition, as the first line of the song tells us to “put on your yarmulke,” and goes on to identify the holiday as the festival of lights. But for the most part, the connection to Chanukah is tangential, a list of famous people who are more or less Jewish, motivated by the mostly unstated implication that they also celebrate Chanukah instead of Christmas. In other words, the song is not about Chanukah itself, but rather about not celebrating Christmas, about feeling like “the only kid in town without a Christmas tree.” About feeling left out.

Certainly, the song’s appeal to ethnic pride is an effort to compensate for that sense of alienation, and there is something very Jewish about taking note when a prominent person is a member of the tribe. Indeed, doing so constitutes a link to our tribal roots, an expression of a group-centered communal sensibility, one that stands in marked contrast to the extreme individualism of American society. Moreover, it can serve not only as an expression of shared pride, but also of collective shame. For example, in the new version of the song Sandler expresses his disapproval of former Subway spokesperson and convicted sex offender Jared Fogle, and his disappointment that Fogle is Jewish.

To understand the peculiarity of American-Jewish life over the past century or more, it is helpful to consider how the equivalent of “The Chanukah Song” would work for other groups. A song pointing out the identity of African-Americans or Asian-Americans, for example, would seem pointless; it simply would state what is obvious to all. The same would be true, to a large extent, for a song about Italian-Americans naming Pacino, DeNiro, Stallone, DiCaprio, etc.; or for Hispanics naming Lopez, Garcia, Longoria, Montalban, etc. And yes, we have our Levines, Shapiros, and Cohens, but then there are also names like Gyllenhaal, Johansson, and LaBeouf, all named in Sandler’s recent update.

That Jewish identity is often not immediately apparent goes hand-in-hand with the fact that for most of the time, Jewish-Americans are privileged to feel and function as if we are part of mainstream American society. Even when we take off for Jewish holidays, fast on Yom Kippur, and avoid chametz on Passover, we may be diverging from the mainstream, but we do so by taking an alternate path, a detour, rather than running counter to its current. It is only at Christmastime that we find ourselves at odds with the vast majority of Americans and can feel like strangers in our native land.

And let’s be honest, generic phrases like “holiday season” and “season’s greetings” are essentially euphemisms for Christmas. The attempt to acknowledge that there is more than one holiday at this time of year essentially translates to “Christmas and others,” or more accurately “Christmases and others,” by which I mean not only the Orthodox Church’s Christmas that falls during the first week of January, but more importantly the distinction between the religious observance of the Christian holy day and what has become, for many, a secularized American holiday.

It is pointless to deny the power of secularized Christmas, whose elements include Christmas trees, magic snowmen and reindeer, elves, and of course Santa Claus as a figure akin to the tooth fairy. And Sandler doesn’t mention the fact that in an effort to avoid feeling left out, some Jews actually do celebrate some form of secularized Christmas.

While I don’t believe that Santa Claus ever can be fully separated from his origins as the Christian Saint Nicholas, or that Christmas ever can be the kind of pluralistic national holiday that Thanksgiving is, my point is not to criticize attempts to create a kosher Christmas. Rather, what I want to emphasize is that if it is possible for us to celebrate some form of secularized Christmas, then the decision not to celebrate Christmas becomes a conscious choice that we have to make, an act of resistance to the dominant culture, an affirmation of our group identity as a people, and most importantly, an affirmation of our faith.

The decision not to celebrate Christmas is much more than a matter of ethnic pride. It must be based on religion, and this is the underlying assumption of Sandler’s “Chanukah Song,” and the point that Silow-Carroll misses. We are defined by what we are not, as well as by what we are. Admittedly, it is not enough to define ourselves against others. We also have to define ourselves positively, by our beliefs and practices. But we should understand the hidden ground of faith behind Sandler’s humor.

We should also understand the grievance behind the song, stemming from a sense of isolation that may be felt only or much more acutely at this time of year. Sandler’s song counters isolation through the creation of a sense of connection, achieved by naming others who are “just like you and me.” What he gives us is an imaginary community of people who are known to us, but who do not know us in return. In doing so, he points the way to the real solution, which is to seek out a real sense of community, something we can only find through our Jewish congregations, synagogues, and community centers.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Don't Let the Light Go Out!

For this last day of Hanukkah, how about an inspiring local Hanukkah story?

We hope you've had a very happy Hanukkah, and remember to keep the flame going all year around!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Eight Candles Tonight!

As we look forward to the last night of Hanukkah, here are two of our favorite songs of the season:

Once again, our outdoor menorah lighting will take place at 7 PM, followed this evening by our monthly Poetry Garden meeting in the Social Hall. With that in mind, how about some Hanukkah poetry?

Here's one from 2013 that's quite exceptional, entitled The Black Miracle: A Hanukkah/Thanksgiving Poetry Slam:

And one from 70 years earlier, entitled Chanukah, 1943 - poem by Brenda Levy Tate:

And here's the write-up on this video:

Hélène Berr lived in Paris and actively resisted the Nazi invasion of her homeland. She attended the Sorbonne, played violin, fell in love and tried to make the best of her family's dire situation. Rather than trying to downplay her Jewish identity, she opted to wear her yellow star as a badge of pride in her heritage. Sadly, she was sent to Auschwitz in 1944 and died in the Bergen-Belsen camp only five days before the liberation. Her diary was retained by her fiance and passed on to her niece, who finally chose to publish it. In 2008, the newly-released journal touched and moved readers, causing Hélène Berr to be called "the French Anne Frank". I hope I have done justice to her memory. While this poem is not specifically about Ms. Berr, it was written in her honour to commemorate the experiences of many families in similar circumstances during that dark time.

On a lighter note for this Festival of Lights: Marcia Lawson recites her poem "Hanukkah Is No Jewish Christmas":

Happy Hanukkah, hope to see you this evening!


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Time to Spin Your Drey-Drey

Join us this evening for our annual Hanukkah party, following the 7 PM outdoor candle lighting. To get into the mood, here's a new video from Six13 called "Watch Me":

And how about this one, entitled "Nes Gadol,"  from the New York Boys Choir?

So, come spin your drey-drey at Adas Emuno tonight!

And join us tomorrow evening for our final menorah lighting at 7 PM, followed by our monthly Poetry Garden meeting in the Social Hall!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Eight Days of Love

Eight days of love, a perfect sentiment to get us in the mood for tonight's Hanukkah Shabbat, with services following the outdoor candle lighting at 7 PM.

This video, "8 Days (of Hanukkah)" by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, certainly bring out the soulfulness of our Festival of Lights. And join us tomorrow evening, after candle lighting, for our annual Hanukkah part in the Adas Emuno Social Hall.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Festival of Northern Lights

This marvelous video, Hanukkah in Alaska, with well known actress Molly Ephraim reading from the children's book by Barbara Brown, illustrated by Stacey Schuett, is an absolute delight! Wonderful for children, but a pleasure for everyone, of all ages, we promise you will never look at Hanukkah, or Alaska, the same way again!

Hanukkah in Leonia may not be quite as exotic, or exciting, but we do hope you are having a happy holiday nevertheless, and don't forget about our nightly five-minute outdoor menorah lighting, tonight and every night of Hanukkah, at 7 PM sharp! No moose sightings so far, but you never know...

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Hanukkah Direction

And now for another kind of parody, here's the Manhattan Jewish Experience doing a mash-up entitled, A One Direction Hanukkah:

So, once again, Happy Hanukkah from Congregation Adas Emuno, and join us for our nightly outdoor candle lighting at 7 PM!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hello Hanukkah!

As we continue to say Hello! to Hanukkah, here's a parody of the hit Adele song, entitled Shalom (warning, this really does make fun of the original, while also continuing the latke theme of yesterday's post):

And here are the lyrics by Ari Blau:

Shalom, it’s me
I was wondering for Chanukah, would like to meet
To go over everything
The miracle of Chanukah and Judah Macabee
Shalom, can you hear me?
I’m in Synagogue dreaming about when you’d play with me
Light the menorah and eat
I remember you and I would made delicious latke treats
When you see Christmas amongst us
It is Chanukah time
Shalom from the other side
I must’ve spun a thousand times
To tell you I’m sorry for beating you at this game
But I promise to go easy when we play dreidel again
Shalom from the Kosher aisle
We used to shop, we used to smile
We’d get onions, eggs and potatoes with starch
Matzo meal, veggie oil, and applesauce on the top
We need more…we need more applesauce
Shalom, how are you?
It’s the festival of lights, we need to celebrate together
The Jews, beat King Antiochus
And they shooed the Greeks right out of town like nothing ever happened.
And the biggest miracle
Oil lasted 8 nights
Shalom from the other side (other side)
I must’ve spun a thousand times (thousand times)
To tell you I’m sorry for beating you at this game
But I promise to go easy when we play dreidel again
Shalom from the Kosher aisle (Kosher aisle)
Now we shop, And now we smile (now we smile)
We get onions, eggs and potatoes with starch
Matzo meal, veggie oil, and applesauce on the top
We need more
We need more, ooooohhh
We need more, ooooohhh
We need more applesauce, ooooohhh
We need more, I love this applesauce
We need more, We need moreeeee
Shalom from the other side
I must’ve spun a thousand times
To tell you I’m sorry for beating you at this game
But I promise to go easy when we play dreidel again
Shalom from the Kosher aisle
Now we shop, And now we smile
We get onions, eggs and potatoes with starch
Matzo meal, veggie oil, and apple sauce on the top
We need more…
Mmmm, latkes and applesauce
Happy Chanukah, everyone…

And we echo that sentiment, Shalom you all on this happy season of Hanukkah, and Shalom to all, all over the world! And don't forget our outdoor candle lighting at 7:00 PM!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Festival of Latkes!

What would Hanukkah be without its special culinary delights? By which, we mean... LATKES!!! And sure, there are all kinds of different recipes out there for making them, but how about this musical Latke Recipe

This new song by The Maccabeats sure is a great way to enhance our appetite for celebrating Hanukkah! And a reminder once again, that our outdoor menorah lighting will be held at 7:00 PM sharp tonight, and you are invited to join us for five minutes of blessings, songs, and stories.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Happy Hanukkah!

Our Hanukkah holiday begins tonight at sundown. If you're in the neighborhood, come join us as we light our outdoor menorah promptly at 7:00 PM, tonight and for the seven nights that follow. we spend five minutes saying the blessing the blessings, and maybe a song or two, and a story. Join us... but don't be late.

And to get in the mood, here's a music video by Jewish a cappella group Shir Soul, entitled Lift Yourself Up

And with that, we wish you a very happy first night of Hanukkah!