The Jewish comedian Adam Sandler recently performed an updated version of his 1994 “Hanukkah Song.” For Andrew Silow-Carroll, the song epitomizes the current American environment, in which being Jewish has a certain cachet (as long as one doesn’t express strong support for Israel). But being cool isn’t always a good thing:
[The] “Hanukkah Song” . . . is essentially a list of Jewish celebrities, from Dinah Shore and William Shatner to Goldie Hawn and Henry Winkler. The song is an unabashed expression of Jewish pride, going so far as to “out” celebrities who tended not to have advertised their Jewishness. It makes Jewish ethnicity “cool” by identifying it with secular cultural heroes. . . . It rejects the idea that Judaism is a stigma, or a burden, or the very thing that separates you from the mainstream.
At the same time, I worry that the song speaks for generations for whom Judaism may not be a stigma nor a burden but may not be very distinctive, either. Sandler’s celebrities are cool because they happen to be Jewish, not because they represent a particular Jewish way of being in the world. . . .
[I]n some ways the “Hanukkah Song” is the Hanukkah of songs. Hanukkah’s integrity as a Jewish holy period has been overshadowed by its role as a consolation prize to Jews left out of the Christmas hoopla. Hanukkah kitsch affirms Jewishness in the mainstream—see the blue and silver decorations right next to the green and red ones!—without conveying much sense of what we’re celebrating or why. Pride is a wonderful thing—but pride without meaning or responsibility is a hollow sort of cool.
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