Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hanukkah-Phobia at the New York Times

Czarek Sokolowski

The New York Times op-ed page has run a few pieces dissing Hanukkah. I read the first such piece in 1997 and it struck me as a one-off. In it the Times inveighs: We shouldn't assume that the "Disney" version of Hanukkah is correct; Hanukkah is "linked with nationalism and military prowess" of intolerant "traditionalist" Jews "scandalized" by "naked wrestling" that Hellenized Jews favored. Hanukkah's true story, one of tense conflict between nationalist Jews and Jewish fans of naked wrestling, is a joyless cautionary tale for modern Israelis, the piece insisted. This grim, Hanukkah-phobic op-ed was as far from yet another commentary on "Twas the Night Before Christmas" – the Times likes those – as one could get.

In 2005 the Times published "A Beginner's Guide to Hanukkah," a weird and ugly little op-ed piece by Jonathan Safran Foer, the overhyped writer of the moment. A joyless read.

Okay, I thought, Foer's is another NYT op-ed that disses Hanukkah, but by way of dissing Christmas, so maybe Times Hanukkah-phobia isn't really a trend.

But here comes another NYT op-ed piece putting the kibosh on Hanukkah spirit. "Hanukkah struggles to find a path to Jewish hearts," the author says. "It's so hard to get excited about" Hanukkah, says the Times.

What's the deal? Why all this hating on Hanukkah?

It's a holiday that involves lighting candles, eating chocolate, and playing with a top. Very good so far. Am I missing something?

The Times has annoyed me much over the years in its various screwball stances on big issues, but its Hanukkah-phobia is a bridge too far.

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