Friday, November 22, 2013
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Alex Kaplan on Vayeshev
Just twelve days from now, we’ll be celebrating something that hasn’t been celebrated in over a hundred years. That’s right, happy Thanksgivukkuh! Hanukkah this year begins on the evening before Thanksgiving. According to some calculations, the next time that will happen will be in 75,000 years. So enjoy it now while you can!
It’s great because there is no “December Dilemma” this year, where Hanukkah and Christmas bump up against each other. Jews feel no tension between Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. We can proudly celebrate both that we are American and that we are Jews. We can eat Latkes and Turkey together! And they both end in “key.” We can call it Laturkey!
In the Joseph story, which begins with my Torah portion of Vayeshev, Joseph faces his own version of the December Dilemma. He is sent to Egypt, where he hides his background, takes on an Egyptian name and wears Egyptian clothes. But, despite the pressures to fit in, he never forgets who is he and where he came from.
This reminds me of my favorite basketball player – New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire. Aside from being an all star, he is one of the few Jews in the NBA. That is, if he is Jewish. Amare Stoudemire has claimed he has Jewish roots in his mother's family heritage that his mother "mentioned that somewhere back in her lineage there might be some Jewish roots." His mother isn’t actually Jewish, but Amare has visited Israel several times and wants to apply for citizenship there.
Stoudemire was named an assistant coach of the Canadian basketball team for the 2013 Maccabiah Games, giving him an opportunity to return to Israel. Last July 2013, Stoudemire met with Israeli president Shimon Peres, who urged him to join the Israel national basketball team.
So it’s hard to say that he’s Jewish, but Stoudemire certainly really is interested in learning about it. He really likes Jews.
And what’s not to like! I like him too. And I liked him even before I knew about the Jewish thing. Now I like him even more because he is so proud of his background, even if it is a very distant background. It makes me even more proud to be a Jew.
I’m proud to be Jewish for lots of reasons. I love the holidays and the food – especially latkes and matza ball soup. My cousin Jake really likes matza ball soup, even more than I do! I’m also proud of my Jewish community, where everyone is nice and people take care of one another. I’m proud of Israel too.
With so much to be proud of, it’s great that we’ll get one more thing to be proud of in just a few days – a chance to celebrate Hanukkah and Thanksgiving together!
For my mitzvah project, I’m going to be baking and selling cupcakes and cookies to raise money to find a cure for Leukemia. I also did the Leukemia walk called “Light the Night” in Norwalk last month. I am doing this in honor of my dad, whose been battling Leukemia for 18 years.