How Do You Spell “Chanukah” In Sign Language?

ASLIt turns out our deaf and hard-of-hearing brothers and sisters have the same issues as the rest of us — there’s just no “right” way to spell Chanukah in American Sign Language.

Much like Judaism, Deaf culture is always in danger of being lost to assimilation, in this case caused by cochlear implants and other methods of “fixing” deafness, but it seems many deaf Jews manage to maintain both identities proudly. According to a 1998 j. article there are about 10,000 Jewish deaf people in the world, including the completely fabulous actress/activist Marlee Matlin. There’s a synagogue for the deaf, Temple Beth Solomon in Tarzana, CA, as well as matchmaking for deaf Jewish singles facilitated by the Orthodox Union.

These “I Love Chanukah” notecards hail from Harris Communications, which also offers a DVD featuring ASL signs for the holiday blessings, including the Sh’ma, and a holiday-themed rubber stamp.

Yard Pollution, Blue Lights And Other Holiday Acquiescences

giantmenorah‘K, so I have plan for all the baby Jesusi (words that end in “S” — so hard to pluralize) I’m planning to purloin from all the neighborhood nativity scenes: I’m going to dress them them in cloth diapers and little yarmulkes and arrange them all around this inflatable menorah* in my driveway. When my outraged neighbors come with their pitchforks and torches, I’ll tell them it’s an experimental performance art piece to foster community and understanding between the different faiths.

Wha’, you don’t think the deep South is ready for it? Maybe I should wait until my PMS passes and then string a nice line of environmentally-correct LED blue lights around the porch and call it a (holi)day.

Speaking of which, where do y’all fall on the subject holiday lights? Kosher or not?

When I was growing up, twinkling lights were as verboten at as our house as a Chanukah bush, or as my mother liked to say: SFG*. So it constitutes a fairly major rebellion that I’ve done the blue light thang since college; I just think they’re pretty and my children really love them. I don’t go batsh*t and drape things from the roof or anything, just a tasteful doorway/window display that adds a cozy glow to these deep, dark days of December. When the menorah’s lit in the window framed by blue, our home shines as bright as any meshugenneh’s with their flashing seizure-inducing displays.

I’m not saying I’m trying compete with the Christian tradition; it’s just nice to look down one’s block on a chilly winter night and not see a black hole where one’s house sits. Chanukah is the Festival of Lights, after all.

* “Strictly For the Goyim”

**I borrowed the image from Orienyenta, a Spanish-speaking, Asian Jewish single mom living in Miami. I know there’s at least one single Jewish doctor out there who might be interested in a tall, independent woman who can cook latkes and egg rolls…

The World’s Teeniest Menorah

hanukitBecause every Jew should have a chanukiah that fits in an evening bag or pocket, here comes the “Hanukit” by Reddish Design Studio. No fancy candles necessary — just strike, sizzle and chant the Chanukah blessings before it burns out! Perfect for Matzah Ball pre-partying or a quick getaway should the Cossacks come knocking on the door.

Match flick to Halting Point.

Shows I’m Missing Because I Now Live In A Christian Suckhole*

Sorry, do I sound bitter? I just miss the cynical anti-religious sentiments of the San Francisco Bay Area, not to mention the music scene: This Thursday, Dec. 14, klezmer-punkalicious pranksters Golem will be playing the Independent as part of VodkaLatka, a “festival of rights” combining social activism, free food and accordian music you can dance to. Yo, my Hebraic peeps back in the Hilly Land: Light a candle for me, but don’t burn the house down!

Good For Jews 2(For those nowhere near San Francisco who have never heard of Golem, a band so hip it hurts, I’m particularly proud of last year’s feature about them, “Puttin’ The Pedal to the Shtetl”.)

Also playing this week closer to the coast I now inhabit but still far enough away from Jesus is Good for the Jews, a reconstituted version of the “Jewish joke-pop” sensation What I Like About Jew (also reviewed here early this year.) Rob Tannenbaum (the snarky “short one”) has a new partner in crime, indie musician David Fagin of NYC’s The Rosenbergs, so even if it’s questionable that these guys are good for the Jews, it’s sure to rock.

The droll duo will be at the Knitting Factory Thursday, December 14 with comedian Todd Barry, Rachel Feinstein, and singer Tammy Faye Starlite, as well as the next night with singers Lisa Loeb and Julian Fleisher. There are more dates during the season in Boston, D.C., Virginia and Chicago; email if ya need more info.

Don’t worry about me, I’ll just be here down South with a giant pillow over my head, trying to drown out “Come All Ye Faithful.”

*It’s really not that bad. Plenty of synagogue-related Chanukah activities to attend, though sadly, no gigantic Chabad menorah at the mall. But … so many … plastic nativity scenes on the lawns … it’s just too tempting to steal all the baby Jesusi and replace them with Hebrew National salamis…

Rabbi Throws Fuel On the War on Christmas

burnxmastreeLet’s file this under a new category called “Jews Not Helping”: Christmas Trees Pulled From Washington’s Sea-Tac Airport Following Complaint.

It seems a Seattle rabbi threatened the Sea-Tac airport with a lawsuit unless they built an 8-foot menorah to “balance the message” of the Christmas tree decorations. Since lawsuits aren’t such warm fuzzy means of communication, the airport instead simply removed the trees, leaving the rabbi and the rest of Washington’s Jewish community looking like overeactive, Santa-hating meanies.

Rabbi, haven’t you heard? Chanukah is not the Jewish Christmas, which means there’s nothing balance out. And while Chabad’s ginormous menorahs certainly are lovely at many points around the globe, keeping them out of the world’s airports seems like pretty good idea. Besides, who wants to compete with tacky?

Streusel Bars from Odessa…Mmmm

streuselbarsI whipped up a pretty fabulous Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup without having to go out to grocery store last night, and I started thinking maybe I was something special. But then this Jewish culinary savant emails me, asking if I’ve seen her blog, Cooking With Yiddishe Mama.

Not only is it full of scrumptious recipes from the Old Country like warm tomato salad and honey chicken, it’s written in charming Russian-accented English and contains this wisdom to stop us in out in our instant-latke mix tracks: Cooking is not just a bunch of recipes, it’s our history, and we might know our history better. Let’s try to learn!

The Yiddishe Mama is actually Ukraine-born and Minneapolis-based Alla Staroseletskaya, and she’s got one impressive resumé — cooking’s only her hobby, for Pete’s sake. Stop by her place for mouth-watering holiday ideas.

Hey Alla, can we come to your place for Chanukah? I’ll bring the soup…

Madonna and A Mohel Dilemma?

madonnaandchildRumor has it that Madonna wants to get her adopted baby boy circumcised, presumably so he’ll look like all the other kids in the JCC locker room come time for basketball season.

The Kabbalah Queen brought one year-old David Banda home from Malawi a few months ago in spite of global criticism, and like any Jewish(ish) mother, deems it necessary for her son to join the covenant of Abraham. However, David’s biological father, Yohane, is vehemently opposed to such an act since this the boy was already baptized in Africa. “This goes against the Christian religion and is not something we would ever consider in Africa. We don’t ever get circumcised here. I would urge her to think again.”

(Sorry, Yo, scissors beat water every time. That and y’know, Madge’s bank account worth more than the entire GNP of your country.)

Of course, Jewish law states that a boychik be snipped on the eighth day of life, not 14 months later, so it’ll be quite interesting to see how a rabbi rules on this decidedly unorthodox brit milah. Since Madonna not actually Jewish, she just makes up her own rules anyway, doesn’t she?

Anti-Semitic Iranian TV…Whoda Thunkit?, a D.C.-based research institute that provides translations of Middle Eastern media and objective analysis therein, gives us a glimpse of what we’re missing on Iranian basic cable:

An Iranian sci-fi film titled “The Land of Wishes,” part of a series, which aired on Iranian Channel 1 on October 20, 2006. In it, an evil queen, adorned with a large Star of David and sitting on a throne in the “Black House” (which is also marked with a Star of David) engages in a battle of “virtual warriors” with a young girl who seeks to free the masses the queen has enslaved. When the queen is defeated, her technicians die struggling to rescue a “medal” – also a Star of David.

It’s sort of a V Is For Vendetta meets The Protocols of the Elders of Zion with the production quality of those snail-paced, melodramatic Lost in Space episodes from the 50’s. Watch it here — it’s sort of hilarious, in a “if these people had access to acting lessons and decent screenwriters, maybe their culture wouldn’t be so backasswards” kind of way.

Not so funny is MEMRI’s translation of Ahmanijhad’s latest speech in which he claims that “America’s straw-like strength and satanic rule over the world is about to be annihilated” and that the Iranian people are willing to show us “the way to salvation” once we stop supporting the “murderous Zionists.” Considering the official opinion that Bush’s war strategies in Iraq might be a little, um, delusional, it seems that Iran and its crazy silver-tongued terrorist president are gaining a fast hold on the part of the world that would really like its Jewish neighbor to go b’bye, in a big “boom” kind of way.

Bond Over Borat Equals Way Less Than 007

oo7Y’all know I had been all set for weeks to take El Yenta Man to see Borat last night. I picked the closest theater (40 minutes away), booked the babysitter and figured we had just enough time for tapas and a martini before the 7:50 show.

But then El Yenta Man came home saying that several people at work all told him variations of the same thing: That while Borat was funny for a little while, they found it exploitive, and the derivation of humor from the humiliation of others made them feel “dirty.” Admittedly, one person I know used the exact same word — “dirty” — to describe his experience of the movie, but I figured he just didn’t get it because he’s not Jewish. Neither were any of the naysayers at El Yenta’s Man work. You Jewish readers who have admonished me for not seeing it yet — is this a case of people not getting the joke or is it really that disturbing?

Since he was the birthday boy and all, he decided he didn’t want to feel dirty — like that, anyway — so we eschewed the tapas/martini plan and drove to a theater 20 minutes further to see Casino Royale, the new James Bond flick. And since he was the birthday boy and all, I chose not to remind him that we agreed not to see anymore James Bond movies because the last one sucked so hard.

I hoped maybe Daniel Craig’s presence would lend a fresh air to a tired, tired formula, but instead he had none of Pierce Brosnan’s debonair charm and IMHO comes off as a psychopathic head case with his heavy breathing and Aryan blue eyes. The movie was humorless, stupid and violent, made even more offensive by several extended sessions of straight gunfire in surround sound. I don’t care if Borat actually f*cks a sheep wearing Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie on camera, nothing is more disturbing that someone having their testicles whipped by a one-eyed sadist on a screen 20 feet tall. Except maybe the blatant product placements wandering aimlessly through the film.

So suffice it to say El Yenta Man’s birthday was a bust: We paid for five hours’ worth of babysitting fo Taco Bell and a bad movie. Next year, we’ll go bowling. Maybe by then Borat will be out on DVD…sigh.

Passover in December?

whendoweeatListen, I’ve lived on the fringes of Jewish culture for decades, first in the hippie netheregions of Northern California (where there are plenty of Jews, but they’re too busy meditating at Spirit Rock to join a temple) and now on an island in the coastal South so Christian we are the first Jewish family our neighbors have ever met.

So forgive me for being a little slower than my New York- and Israel-based blogging peers (have I earned the right put myself on their level after almost three years wandering around the JBlogosphere like a — well, a lost Jew?) and missing the Movies Important the Jewish Experience on the first, and in most cases the second, round.

In my usual pace of cinematic catch-up (I saw Schindler’s List five years after its release and Paper Clips a mere few weeks ago) I rented “When Do We Eat?” which, thankfully is still in the new releases section. (And while I may be the last Jew on Earth to see Borat, El Yenta Man and I have a date for the 7:50 showing TONIGHT! so I may actually end up ahead of myself — movie-wise, anyway.)

I had already read mixed reviews about this story about a dysfunctional family seder involving sex, drugs and matzah balls, but I had no idea it was going to be the highlight of all the DVD’s I viewed this year. You can find out actors’ names and the basic plot, as well as impressive tidbits about the screenwriter somewhere else; let me just recommend it highly to any Jew who has been bored to tears at a seder, wished for more meaning and less schmaltz in their family’s traditions and can laugh at what American Judaism has become in the last half a century. Be sure to watch the rabbi roundtable in the special features. Rent it, rent it now, even if it’s barely latke season and the Passover dishes are buried somewhere in the garage.

(Speaking of packed garages, all the Yenta shtuff is here in the inlaws’ house. Father-in-law is not happy about it. I’m thinking of dosing him with Ecstasy — do you think it might help?)