Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Embracing the Pyromania of The Festival of Lights

I tend not to write about Judaism here, as I have a pretty ambivalent relationship with the religion in which I was born and the ethnic identity that I cannot escape.  But it has come up a lot the past few days and with Hanukkah starting tonight, it felt time to have a few thoughts on Jewish stuff for a change.

First, the big news, of course is this:
JK Rowling had been asked if there were any Jews in the world of Harry Potter.  That she could only come up with one seems a bit low, but then again, one kid out of the named characters is not that bad, since Jews are about .5% of the British population. Given stereotypes about Jews being smart and clever and all that, of course, the one Jew is on the house dedicated to the brainy kids at Hogwarts.  So, is JK playing with stereotypes?  Maybe so, but the odds are really one in four anyway.

Second, my favorite tweet of the day was this:

Yep, taking the dreidel song and using it to make fun of Putin's problems is just fantastic.

Ok, the real discussion over the past day has been this Vox post about whether one should expect Muslims to always disavow and condemn acts by Muslims.  I posted on my fb page, and it led to a really interesting discussion about what we expect of ourselves and of others.  A Jewish contributor suggested that it is the job of Jews to condemn fellow Jews for doing stuff that besmirches the religion, but perhaps it is not fair to expect that of others.  My stance is a pretty belligerent one: acts by individuals are acts by individuals and should not be read as saying anything about the identity they claim to represent, and that we should not expect anyone to have to condemn the acts of members of their group.  Of course, this wildly contradicts much of my work on ethnic conflict that assumes that groups act as groups.  Oops.   I will have to square that circle someday.

Anyhow, on this first night of the most socially constructed holiday (Hanukkah was never really that much of a holiday until Jews had to develop an event to compete with Christmas--at least that is far as I know), if you are celebrating the festivities, enjoy your pyromania.  I certainly did as I grew up.  And enjoy the family, the fun, the latkes and the gifts--which, contrary to stereotypes and jokes, are not just socks and underwear.

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