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To the Editors of the Crimson:
For a few weeks now, I've been wanting to sort through my thoughts on being Jewish during the holiday season and Deborah Gelin's good-natured article in The Crimson's Holiday Supplement touched one of my more sensitive nerves. The Christmas tree in Mather dining hall does bother me, but I'm more concerned by the possibility that I'm being trivial or overly-serious--a possibility that Gelin raises and that I acknowledge. This is the Jewish holiday anguish, and Harvard Jews exhibit some of the standard reactions.
One group defiantly insists that the American Jewish struggle for identity must be maintained. Damn right they're serious, and not overly so, in their own minds. For every Christmas tree that goes up, they demand that a menorah be stationed next to it. Perhaps this group was responsible for the announcement in the Mather Memo of the impending donation of an electric menorah to the dining hall. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
A second group, which Gelin seems to represent, feel that they have a clearer, less emotional perspective on the season. Christmas is simply more fun than Hanukkah, so any reasonable person will prefer Christmas. The holiday generates a lot of warmth, and besides, it's been totally secularized (to the chagrin of many Christians); so why not choose Christmas? Well, it never occured to me that Christmas was mine to choose. The birth of Jesus Christ, Savior, Son of God--I'm not sure, but he doesn't look Jewish.
I find myself in a third group. I'm disturbed by Christmas trees on my "territory" (e.g., the dining hall); I'm angered by electric menorah; I'm annoyed with Hanakkah for trying to compete with Christmas; and I'm upset with myself for being so upset. Our problem is compounded by Christians who act as though their rights are violated by those of us who are nervous about the Holiday Spirit. They are trying to enjoy one of the richest aspects of their tradition, and apparently a few of us who are left out are intent upon spoiling it for everyone.
We're not trying to spoil it; it's just a defense because we are left out. Hannukkah is a piddly, minor holiday, so don't tell us we have our own Christmas. And don't tone down the festivities for our sake; I don't think we want that hung on us. Just try to understand that if we seem confused by the Christian world around us, it's because we are. Stephen Cohen '79
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