It’s the most wonderful time of the year — the time for film studios to start promoting their holiday-themed (read: Christmas) films. This year will be no different, judging from the two Christmas-themed movie trailers that have already been released (“Four Christmases” and “Nothing Like the Holidays”). But with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) occurring this week, and next week’s Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement, and the holiest day of the year for the Jews) fast approaching, it’s reasonable to wonder where the Jewish holiday films are.
When I was younger, I went through what many Jewish kid goes through: Christmas envy. I wanted a holiday that everyone appeared to celebrate, where miracles could happen (one guy delivering toys to everyone in one night? Impossible!) and where every family was always happy no matter what. Why did I want this? Well, quite honestly, I saw it in the movies. Films like “A Christmas Story” and the unbelievably sappy “It’s a Wonderful Life” reminded me that no matter what, I was different. I would never get a Christmas tree or have Santa visit my house.
Let me clarify — I am not ashamed to be a Jew in any way, and never was. It’s just that South Park had it so right when its token Jewish character sang “it’s hard to be a Jew on Christmas.” It can be tricky to hang on to your Jewish pride when faced with an endless barrage of Christmas images aimed at you by the media.
Maybe the problem is that Judaism in the movies has become a joke — literally. The customs and traditions of my people are mainly played for laughs — the beards, the black hats, the “oy vey” whines. Never have I seen a film that truly celebrated Judaism and its traditions without mocking them. In a predominately Christian society, what’s so wrong about wanting to see films with Jewish families living, loving and celebrating what makes us who we are?
If, as Mel Gibson — who I won’t even get started on — once spouted out, “the Jews run Hollywood,” why hasn’t there been a film for us, featuring our traditions and our holidays? Oh, and “Eight Crazy Nights” does not, and should never, count. Admittedly, the Jewish High Holidays aren’t exactly fodder for big-budget flicks or box office bucks (and apparently they’re also not important enough to cancel class for). But why teach Jewish children that the things they believe in are any less important than those of their Gentile friends?
It’s an unavoidable fact that cinema has a powerful effect on the masses. To demonstrate to Jewish kids everywhere that there are others like them out there is a powerful thing. Perhaps fighting to see one Jewish holiday film seems like a trivial cause, but it’s about more than that. It’s about fighting to see my family up there, to see the rituals I have been performing since a toddler portrayed as something magnificent, not to mention just as important as any other holiday.
I’m through being forced by Hollywood to embrace the holidays of religions other than my own. The values of our holidays and the holidays of the masses are virtually the same: Recognize what’s important in your life and resolve to be a better person. If that’s not “It’s a Wonderful Life” material, I don’t know what is.