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Hanukkah

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Human beings have been paying attention to the ebb and flow of daylight for a very, very long time. Stonehenge, that iconic circle of stone slabs in Great Britain, was built sometime between 3000 BCE and 2000 BCE. Its central sight-lines point to the location where the summer sun rises on the summer solstice (June 21), and where the winter sun sets on the winter solstice (December 21).

In the fifth century BCE, in Persia, December 21st was the most important holiday of the year. It was called Shabe Yaldā, which means "birthday eve." According to Persian mythology, the god Mithra...

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I have spent all day today running errands in Jerusalem. I went in and out of shops. In and out of offices. And the inescapable conclusion is that the Jewish state is completely enthralled with Hanukkah.

There is a Hanukkah menorah in McDonald's, there is one in the butcher shop. There are public menorah lightings in every conceivable setting. Children walk around with a little crown topped by a cardboard candle. The Hanukkah jelly doughnut is sold in varieties that defy imagination. I had one with kiwi filling, covered with green cream and a green cherry on top (Roladin Bakery,...

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I get asked a lot if I’m “half.” Often, people are referring to my mixed Caucasian and Asian American heritage, their curiosity sparked by my Korean last name on my Jewish business card or by whatever other seeming tip arises on a given day. Other times, particularly as the holidays overlap in December and my family brings out our menorah alongside our Christmas tree, people ask whether I’m “half Jewish,” assuming my dual holiday celebration must mean some part of me is not Jewish. They couldn’t be more wrong.

I grew up active in my synagogue, doing everything Reform Jewish kids do...

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“A candle is a small thing. But one candle can light another. And see how its own light increases, as a candle gives its flame to the other. You are such a light.” -Moshe Davis and Victor Ratner

When our children were younger, we wanted to find ways to make the value of Hanukkah more than receiving a gift each night. One night, we invited non-Jewish friends to share in our holiday, another night was designated as Family Game Night, and yet another night was reserved for a community-wide celebration, where we brought an unwrapped gift for someone in need. While we tried not to...

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One day after a Girl Scout Brownie meeting, my wife received a call from an irate mom accusing our third-grader of ruining her daughter’s childhood: “Mimi announced in front of all the girls that there is no Santa Claus!” My wife apologized, but in Mimi’s defense, pointed out that sooner or later they would realize that Mimi was right. The woman didn’t want to hear about truth. In her view, a cherished Christmas custom had been spoiled.

Mimi is now 30 and married to Wes, a Jew-by-choice. As they are expecting their first child in February, I thought this would be a good time to ask...

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