Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Why Soviet Jews Have "Christmas" Trees

    Interesting story from Tablet Magazine...

Why Soviet Jews Have “Christmas” Trees

The secret story of a secular celebration

As a young Jewish child in Moscow in the 1970s, Regina Blekh spent December anticipating what all Soviet children looked forward to: the New Year’s tree, a “magical” night when “Ded Moroz” (pronounced Dzed) brought presents with the help of his granddaughter “Snegurochka” (Snow Maiden). Although the Santa-like Ded, with his long white beard and red robe, along with the tree, may look a lot like Christmas, this was a decidedly secular holiday in Soviet times, open to all ethnicities, including Jews.
All Soviet children and families celebrated this holiday, and young Regina was no different. She remembers her excitement as she wondered to her parents what Ded Moroz would bring to her. This is the only holiday she remembers from childhood, she told me, as her parents hid from her many aspects of their Jewish identity, fearing discrimination under the Communist regime. For her family, however, the New Year’s tree was not a conflict for their Jewish identity, and that night Regina could celebrate just like everyone else.
This changed, however, when they decided to leave Moscow in 1981, part of the first major immigration wave of Soviet Jews to the United States. The family traveled through Vienna and Rome with the support of the immigrant aid organization HIAS, and landed in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, where Regina’s grandparents had resettled shortly before them. There they adjusted to new realities, as they were suddenly viewed as “Russian” by Americans, and as “Jews” by other Russians, all the while never quite Jewish enough for some of their American Jewish neighbors.
In Brooklyn, the Blekh family, like many other Soviet Jews, continued celebrating New Year’s with a tree, but they also decided to send their only daughter to yeshiva instead of the local public school, giving her the Jewish education she would have been unable to receive in Moscow. It was in yeshiva, Regina explained, that she learned more about the Jewish holidays, including the High Holidays  of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which were especially important for her grandfather.
But she also learned that some traditions she grew up with might not be so easily accepted in her new world, such as the New Year’s tree—which remained the most important holiday for her. She understood that she shouldn’t talk about it with her new Jewish friends and classmates, despite its importance to her, as the tree made her stand out as different and marked a point of potential conflict with more observant Jews. After all, in the United States, trees meant Christmas, a holiday Jews did not celebrate.
Another Soviet Jewish immigrant to Brooklyn, who emigrated from Tashkent, Uzbekistan around the same time, described the angry reaction from her more religious Jewish neighbor, who knocked on her family’s door and explained that Jews do not decorate for Christmas. Although her family was celebrating New Year’s and not Christmas, she told me, they decided to keep the decorations hidden inside in the future.
As for Regina, when her family asked her if she wanted to keep a tree in their Brooklyn home, she said of course. “To me, it was very important. It signified the holidays,” she explained. “I never understood that there was even a connection between Christmas and the tree. To me, it was New Year’s and New Year’s was the big holiday and that is what I celebrated. But at the same time, I knew instinctively that it was something taboo.”
Regina didn’t want to stand out, and understood that her New Year’s tree had to be kept a secret from some of her new Jewish friends. While being in the United States freed her family from many of the restrictions they faced in the Soviet Union, some of their Russian traditions, it turned out, weren’t so accepted in her new home. For Regina, her New Year’s tree was an early, and valuable, lesson in immigrant life.
Still, while many things may have changed for Soviet Jews living in the United States since they first arrived, customs like the New Year’s tree remain — a tradition Regina and many other immigrants continue today.
Natasha Zaretsky is a cultural anthropologist, and writes about the Jewish diaspora in Argentina and New York, the politics of Jewish memory in the aftermath of violence, and contemporary struggles for citizenship and belonging. She is currently the Aresty Visiting Scholar at the Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life at Rutgers University.

And, on a much lighter note, this is a really cool video from the same website.
In fact, it's kind of funny, (in more ways then one), because I was recently just 
thinking about this particular segment from Saturday Night Live, which I remember 
watching some time ago already, but did not know how to find it. 
(Maybe God really does have a sense of humor after all). Check it out...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Miracle Worker (The Helen Keller Story)

This is what seems wise: "Be compassionate as God is compassionate... When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you..." -Lk 6:36; 14:13-14
Helen Keller lost her sight and her hearing at a very young age; and so this poor, little innocent thing, became so scared, angry, and frustrated, because she could not communicate with the outside world anymore. And it would seem, that God sent a compassionate, understanding, and wise angel, (in the form of Ann Sullivan), who loved her very much, and changed her life.
When I think of complaining, I remember this story, and this poor little girl; and these two beautiful souls...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

All In With Chris Hayes - The school year is officially cancelled in one Michigan town...

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Once again, this is why the whole austerity thing is a bunch of nonsense!
Every single state in the nation has a "RAINY DAY FUND". End of story. This is a big one. Because, there are literally billions, if not trillions of dollars combined, in all the rainy day funds throughout the country. So, what the heck is going on here? And, except for a few decent people, nobody seems to be credibly investigating this, on a large scale.
It's absolutely incredible. Why are they seemingly sitting on all this money? Is it some kind of massive cover-up? Damn well, seems like it. But why? This is a potentially huge (yet little known) news story. Yet, nobody seems to care. Or, pay any attention to it.
At least not right now, anyway...

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Afterlife Investigations

Absolutely incredible and fascinating documentary, worth watching, for anyone with an open mind.
With that said, I think one still has to be very careful regarding anything dealing with the supernatural.
For instance. I definately would not recommend anyone experimenting with a Ouji board, for example.
Like anything else, one has to use common sense, and good judgement. Because, with most of these documentaries dealing with the afterlife, the supernatural, and the like, is that, they all too often fail to recognize, that there very well may be such a thing as "evil" on the other side, as well. For instance. Hitler himself, was into the paranormal; as well as, the occult. And was extremely evil. And deceitful. (A big part of the very nature of evil, and the demonic realm). And lucky for us, it may have even eventually destroyed him. Ironically. Because, there very well may be certain spiritual laws built-into the very fabric of the universe itself, that he violated. Like mass murder, for example! However, I think God may give a certain discernment, wisdom, guidance, and protection, to those whose heart is in the right place. The Bible itself, (the Christian Old Testament, in particular), gives some good examples of this. Such as, with the stories of Joseph and Daniel for instance. They had some very powerful spiritual gifts. Like, the interpretation of dreams, and being able to see into the future; As well as, a profound psychic insight, which gave them a deep understanding of things, and the like, that they used in a very positive way. And yet, what does it all mean, really? One thing I know for sure though, is that there usually is some kind of price to pay, for those who can see (and understand) things, that most other people cannot. Because, it can often make one a target, by some really deeply disturbed, and criminally-bent individuals. So, it is usually like a mixed blessing. (For instance, criminals who are schizophrenics, for example, often have that side of their brain working, but because they're schizophrenics to begin with, they are usually off in some way, because they are also more often then not, quite delusional. But, never-the less, they can sometimes pick-up on those who are strongly psychic, and when they are extremely evil, they will also quite often target them in some way, because among other things, they are usually afraid that they will be exposed, if they have done something criminal for instance).
Fascinating subject though, whichever way you want to look at it. For sure. And, it could also very well be the reason why so many people down through the ages have used religion as a tool - to manipulate, control, and brainwash people, even into thinking, that what is white is really black, and what is black is really white, and in the same manner, if your a politician with extreme views and beholden to special interest money for instance, they will often try to convince their constituants that what is good (such as social justice and the like), is really bad. Because, it is quite possible that in reality, they are really just schizophrenics! (Without any concern for anyone else except themselves). And, it very well may be one of the reasons why they are so fascinated with religion to begin with, and/or the supernatural, and how (like snake oil salesmen) just see it as a means to an end.
But that is another topic...

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Blogger, and Google Chrome...

I noticed recently, that there may be some issues viewing my Blogger profile with Internet Explorer 10. (The latest version of this web-browser, which already comes pre-installed with Windows 8). However, it seems to work just fine using the Google Chrome browser, for some reason. It could be, maybe, that Blogger is more compatible (and possibly works better) with Google Chrome, because Blogger was originally designed by Google, in the first place. (Even though, I have noticed some similar advantages and somewhat better functionality with a couple of my other online accounts as well, which are not Google related at all). So, if you are having some difficulties navigating through my blog, you may want to try viewing it in Google Chrome, if you already have it installed on your computer. If you don't already have it installed, it is free to do so. And I think it is a great alternative to Windows Explorer anyway, which is still probably the most popular, and/or, commonly used browser by those searching the web. Although, from what I understand, Google Chrome has been quickly gaining ground over the years, and is  becoming increasingly more and more popular; As well as, the web-browser of choice, by many...