So, I was surprised when I opened an email message today from Spirit Airlines with the subject line: “Don’t Passover These Low Fares From $19.80* One Way!” At first I thought it was a spoof message from a Jewish humor website. I read the rest of the message and was surprised by the many references to the upcoming holiday of Passover.
The many references in Spirit Airline’s email to Passover even made question if I had been religiously targeted by the airline. Was it because I had three trips in March with Spirit Air and they noticed my yarmulke? Was it because I have “rabbi” in my email address? I wondered if any other major company had ever conducted a promotion tied into Passover.
The Spirit Airlines Passover promotion is also odd because it was launched the day before Passover. If the company’s intention was to get people to book their Passover flights with Spirit, it’s too late for that. Most of the qualifying flights in the promotion have dates in May and June. Perhaps, the Spirit marketing department should have considered a Shavuot sale (no obvious puns there). The other thing that is odd is that I didn’t receive an Easter promotion from Spirit Airlines even though that (more widespread) holiday takes place this weekend too.
A little research on the Web showed me that Spirit Air used the same silly pun (“Don’t Passover These Deals”) last year in a marketing email. So, I guess their marketing team isn’t that creative after all. And they really overdid it on the kitsch (no need for the “Mazel Tov!” greeting at the end of the ad).
My only comment after flying Spirit thrice last month is that air travel shouldn’t feel like such a PLAGUE (no leg room!), the gate agents should act like the mean PHARAOH forcing me to pay extra for each carry-on bag I bring on board, and I yearn for the days of FREEDOM when complimentary drinks and peanuts were served on flights. Hmmm, maybe there really is a Passover connection with Spirit Airlines!
Headline: Iran Defeats Israel at Oscars; Kim Jong Il’s Ashes Defeat Seacrest
Iran beat Israel in the Foreign Language category at the Oscars this month, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded the Iranians what happened in Iran (née Persia/Shushan) at the end of the Purim story when Haman thought he was a big winner too. In other Academy Awards news, Sacha Baron Cohen’s wife Isla Fisher is reportedly upset that her husband took pancake mix out of the couple’s pantry without asking her first. Baron Cohen, as his character from the movie The Dictator, threw the pancake mix at Ryan Seacrest claiming it was the late Kim Jong Il’s ashes. In an odd twist of fate, Baron Cohen is now sleeping on Seacrest’s couch (and making him pancakes for breakfast each morning).
Headline: Braun Was Juicing, But Not Like That
Ryan Braun claims the whole juicing allegation was just a Shabbat Kiddush misunderstanding. The Milwaukee Brewers all-star admits that he was juicing, but only because he was asked to say the blessing at his cousin’s bar mitzvah.
Headline: Limbaugh Erroneously Claims Jewish Support
Right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh mistakenly thought that Jews were overwhelmingly supporting him after he heard loud singing emanating from a local synagogue on the Purim holiday: “Hava Narisha Rush Rush Rush!!” he heard them singing enthusiastically.
Headline: Trump Brand to Include Purim Pastries and Passover Vodka
For Jewish people who already enjoy Trump hotels, Trump golf courses, Trump reality TV shows, and Trump beauty pageants, you can now enjoy the Trump brand when it comes to Jewish holidays too. The Donald’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism, recently tweeted her own hamantashen recipe along with photos of her delicious looking triangular pastries. And if you need a drink to wash those hamantashen down, there’s always the Donald Trump brand vodka, which will now be kosher for Passover! No word yet on what Trump is planning for Shavuot (“Billionaire Blintzes” perhaps?).
Cantor Eyal Bitton – Rock Me Maccabeus (Falco Cover)
Aish – Chanukkah Rock of Ages
Fountainheads – Light Up the Night
Maccabeats – Miracle (Matisyahu Cover)
Pella Productions – Holiday Party (Tonight, Tonight)
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert – Can I Interest You in Hanukkah
Six13 – Hanukkah Rights
Jew-Z – Hanukkah Groove
Perhaps if they could just find enough electricity at Candlestick Park for one quarter of the football game, it would miraculously last for all four quarters?
Here is the article I wrote for Patch.com about the “Five Things You Should Know About Hanukkah”:
While Christmas is among the top two Christian holidays in terms of importance, Hanukkah is considered a minor holiday for the Jewish people. Nevertheless, it has become one of the more widely celebrated Jewish holidays and it is certainly a favorite among children.
Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Jews over the Syrian Greeks in 164 BCE (Before Common Era) and is celebrated by lighting one additional candle in a candelabrum, called a hanukkiah (or menorah) for eight days. The holiday is also known as the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah means rededication and refers to the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its defilement by the Syrian Greeks in 164 BCE (or BC).
Beginning in 167 BCE, the Jews of Judea rose up in revolt against the oppression of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire. Judah the Maccabee was the leader of the Jewish army. Judah and his followers were able to capture the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been turned into a pagan shrine. They cleansed it and rededicated it to God. Following the rededication, they observed an eight-day celebration, which was patterned after the autumn harvest festival of Sukkot. The Jewish people were not able to properly celebrate Sukkot during the siege and thus observed it in the winter, which later became Hanukkah.
The Miracle of Oil Story
A much later story written by the rabbis of the Talmudic period claims that the eight day festival of Hanukkah was to celebrate the miracle that a small amount of oil that was only enough to keep the menorah burning for one day actually lasted for a full eight days.
For the most part, Hanukkah is a home-based holiday with many rituals that take place in the home rather than the synagogue. Central to the holiday is the lighting of the hanukkiah, an eight-branched candelabrum. Each night of the holiday (beginning this year on the evening of Dec. 20) an additional candle is added to the menorah. It is also customary for children to play a dreidel (spinning top) game during Hanukkah.
To celebrate the legend of the miraculous cruse of oil that kept the menorah lit for eight days, it is customary to eat foods fried in oil. The most familiar Hanukkah foods are latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts). Small pieces of chocolate in the shape of small coins are also traditional treats during the holiday.
Likely as a response to the gift-giving custom of Christmas, Hanukkah has evolved into gift-giving holiday as well. Some families exchange gifts during each night of the holiday, while other families may only give one gift over the course of Hanukkah. It is customary to send Hanukkah greetings cards to friends and family.
There have been many video parodies of Rick Perry’s campaign ad turning it into a meme on the Web. But I’ve noticed that the best way to mock Rick Perry and his homophobic, “war on religion”-paranoid message is to do nothing. The video mocks itself.
When I was choosing the background music for my video parody with the video’s editor Adam Luger we tried to come as close as possible to the background music in the original Rick Perry commercial. However, we were unable to determine who composed the music. Well, it now appears that the joke’s on Rick Perry because that background music was inspired by none other than Aaron Copland. Jewish? Check! Gay? Flaming! Member of the Communist Party? You betcha!
Paul Schied writing in the Harvard Political Review first reported that the music heard in the background of Rick Perry’s “Strong” ad was composed by Aaron Copland, a prominent composer who was Jewish, outwardly gay, and a member of the Communist Party. It turns out that Schied’s music majoring roommate detected the Copland composed music. It turns out that the music was inspired by Aaron Copland, but is actually a “cheap knock-off of sorts of Copland’s Appalachian Spring according to The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross.”
|The background music in Rick Perry’s ad was inspired by composer Aaron Copland who was gay.|
So, for those of you keeping score at home, Rick Perry’s campaign ad (which was originally created for the Iowa television market but quickly went viral on YouTube) has him proclaiming that it’s wrong for gays to serve openly in the military when kids can’t celebrate Christmas in school, but has him wearing a jacket that looks like the one worn by Heath Ledger in the gay romance movie “Brokeback Mountain” and features background music inspired by a gay, Jewish composer. You just can’t make this stuff up!
Here’s my video response:
My first thought was of the gay men and women currently serving in uniform who are risking their lives in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe to protect our country. I immediately decided to film a parody of Rick Perry’s video. I wanted it to be a spoof of his video in order to show the ridiculousness of his message.
The response to my video has been great so far. After only 15 hours there have been about 800 likes and only 10 dislikes with almost 5,000 views. The most meaningful aspect has been the comments on the YouTube video. One viewer wrote, “i’m an atheist but i would sure would vote for rabbi jason over any of the idiots that are postulating themselves if i could.” Another wrote, “As a non religious person raised as a christian in the church, i strongly support this, I have friends of all religions and believe our differences is what makes this country great! THANK YOU FOR YOUR EDUCATED WELL THOUGHT OUT OPINION.”
I have been pleasantly surprised that there have not been more negative, hate-filled comments in response to my video. I will not censor any comments because I believe it’s important that everyone sees the hate that exists in some people’s hearts and the ignorance that exists in their minds. Here’s a comment that made me feel very good this morning: “Bless you, Rabbi! Thanks for retaliating in such an intelligent, focused, and humorous video! Every time I’m reminded that there are people like you in this country, I have hope for it again… Hope you and your family have a bright and beautiful Hannukah! Cheers! -from Agnostic, Gay, Christopher :)”
Here is the video, which was filmed and edited by Adam Luger:
Our Jewish kids in public school have to watch as their peers celebrate Christmas — a holiday they don’t observe. They have to sit quietly as the Christian students pray in school. That just seems uncomfortable.
As President, I will fight to end this crazy talk that there’s a war on religion. And I will fight anyone who discriminates against others simply because of their sexual orientation.
Intelligence made America strong. It can make her strong again.
I’m Rabbi Jason Miller and I think it’s too cold to film a video outside in Michigan in the winter. Who approved this?
I also tuned in to Saturday Night Live following a 25-hour fast and then watching my Detroit Tigers lose in their first game of the ALCS to the Texas Rangers. I thought it was funny that Ben Stiller opened his monologue with a Yom Kippur reference and stated that “My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Irish-Catholic, which means according to the Torah I’m not actually Jewish, but according to all mirrors I am.”
Julie used Ben Stiller’s line to argue that not all Jews would interpret the Torah as saying that he’s not Jewish. She’s correct that Reform, Reconstructionist, and — based on a recent survey — many Conservative Jews believe that one parent is enough for Jewish status. However, Ben Stiller’s mother, Anne Meara, actually converted to Judaism before giving birth to Ben. That means that Ben would be considered fully Jewish.
According to Anne Meara’s Wikipedia entry, “Meara was raised Catholic in an Irish American family, and converted to Reform Judaism six years after marrying Stiller. She has long stressed that she did not convert at Stiller’s request… She took the conversion seriously and studied the faith in such depth that her Jewish-born husband quipped, ‘Being married to Anne has made me more Jewish.'”
True, there will be many who say that Meara’s conversion was in the Reform tradition and might not have included immersion in a mikvah (ritual bath). It is, however, possible that it did include immersion and should be regarded as a kosher conversion. That would mean that Ben Stiller is not a patrilineal Jew as Julie Wiener maintains.
What is most interesting is that while Stiller (who is married to the non-Jewish Christine Taylor) should regard himself as a full member of the Jewish people because of his mother’s conversion before his birth, he used his mother’s former faith for laughs. And that is something that Anne Meara did for years in her comedy routine with Jerry Stiller.