Dear Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz and Evan,
I’m writing to bring you up to date on Evan’s recent report about Chanukah, A Light of Hope in the Darkness. While it was clearly the product of a great deal of effort, it seems that Evan remains confused about the important role Chanukah plays in his heritage – despite the many hours we’ve dedicated to the holiday in class. I wanted to make you aware of my concerns so that we can work together toward a solution before things get out of hand.
Evan’s class spent two weeks learning about Chanukah – we made latkes, played dreidel, lit the chanukiyah, and learned about the history of the holiday: about Judah leading the Maccabees to victory over a powerful enemy and the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days. The students were then asked to write a short report, putting themselves into the Chanukah story as soldiers in Judah Maccabee’s army.
We all know that Evan is a creative child – it’s part of what makes him such a pleasure to have in class. This report, however, seems to be a garbled product of that creativity, combining his excitement for Chanukah with his excitement for a certain inescapable secular holiday that’s just around the corner.
Below are my notes on Evan’s report. Please take some time over the holidays to review them together with him:
• The Middle East is not in “a galaxy far, far away.”
• The Maccabees were a rebel army that used guerrilla tactics to win back their rights from an evil empire – but they did not have a “rebel base,” or a “fleet.”
• The menorah was a holy object, and it would never have been used as a weapon.
• While it is true that Chanukah is the “Festival of Lights,” and that the Maccabees used swords in their battles, the term “light sabre” is not a part of the holiday story.
• Jews are not “reform Jedis.”
• The Seleucids from the Chanukah story may well have been an evil empire – but the territories they controlled were all on the planet Earth, and real.
• (Most rabbinical sources agree that) the emperor did not have “super powers” of any kind.
• Judah (or Yehudah) the Maccabee was a heroic leader of a rebel army – but he was a human being of average size and normal complexion, who spoke with proper syntax and did not disappear into thin air when he died.
• Hoth is not a month on the Hebrew calendar.
• (Most rabbinical sources agree that) Judah did not perform “Jewish mind tricks” in order to defeat Antiochus – who did not “explode” after Judah lit the menorah – which he did not do with a flamethrower.
• God’s name is not interchangeable with “The Force.”
• No Jewish prayers include the word “Chewbacca” (Rabbi Gold was not happy).
I applaud the skill behind Evan’s illustrations. He clearly put a lot of time and effort into them. I’m happy to put them up on the bulletin board with the rest of the students’ work, but I think everyone involved would be happier if Evan’s drawings more closely resembled those of his classmates, and were a shade less blasphemous. Maybe over the holidays you can work on drawings that contain more of the Chanukah stories and games we learned about in class, and fewer images of robots being decapitated in the Holy of Holies.
While Evan’s confusion might be understandable, I think it’s important that we work quickly to correct it by reinforcing at home the message we’ve been delivering in school: that this December, millions of people around the world will gather with friends and relatives to celebrate a cultural (and, for many, spiritual) experience greater than themselves, and to retell those tales of bravery and rebellion that still define so much of our culture and so many childhood memories. Could a movie do all that?
Happy Chanukah, and all the best!
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