A local Jewish group was holding a menorah lighting ceremony at town hall, so we figured we'd go, since we'd already hit the town's tree lighting-palooza. Plus there'd be latkes and doughnuts. I refuse to make latkes from scratch because there's only so much work I'm prepared to put into dinner, but I'm happy to eat them if someone else makes them. (Side note: Trader Joe's frozen latkes are quite good.)
So we showed up a few minutes late and figured the menorah -- a decent-sized electric one next to the lit-up tree -- was already lit and the party had moved inside, except for the few stragglers still around the menorah. Then we realized the stragglers were the party. The entirely outside party. After dark. In December. With the wind whipping through our entire bodies.
Let me just say, you all seemed like very nice people, as much as we were able to talk to you in between the teeth chattering, but ... outside? Two feet from a parking lot? In the freezing cold? With children in tow?
I know the whole point of Hanukkah is to shine a light against the darkness and all, but you know what else beats back the darkness? A well-lit room. With heat.
I almost made us leave on the spot, but we'd promised kiddo latkes so we trooped on over. There was a radio playing Hebrew party tunes, a table with doughnuts and dreidels, and that was just about it. We politely stayed a few minutes and then skipped on out before our children got frostbite. "You brought a baby -- you must really be dedicated!" one man called out as we were leaving.
No, sir, just expecting a *ahem* warmer reception.
And I wouldn't even be that annoyed, except that here was how the tree lighting party went: chorus sings, fire trucks blare, Santa arrives, tree lit, big crowd heads inside for Santa photo ops, balloon animals, cupcakes, hot chocolate and other assorted goodies. Sure, one was town-sponsored and one was a private group. But they were both held at the same spot, so yes, folks, comparisons are inevitable.
Jews are not good at outreach. Or PR. I think we're so used to everyone hating us that it doesn't occur to us that people might want to, say, know more about our culture, or maybe attend one of our cultural events without it being unbelievably inconvenient. (DH has complained before about feeling unwelcome in all-Jewish places.)
In all fairness, it's easier to get into the Christian holidays because they tend to have a secular (pagan?) component to go along with the more serious religious component. Christmas has Santa. Easter has the Easter bunny and gobs of candy. Neither one is the point of the holiday, but they give the kids (and wary Jewish adults) something to hang onto unless and until they're ready for the real point. Jewish holidays are the point. There's no Pasky the Passover Pascal Lamb, for instance. Just the seder. And gobs of matzah.
But the end result is that we are going to do our damndest to educate our kids in both sides of their heritage, and Judaism is going to be a harder sell. Unless we can find better Hanukkah parties.