Dear corporations, Hanukkah is not the same as Passover.
I’m Jewish, and despite your large-scale flogging of our holy days on popular television, I still love our religion and traditions. I think you’re good for us.
But even if you manage to wedge your religion and religion-inspired business ethics into every second of your giant advertising campaigns, the truth of the matter is that the rituals and names we use to refer to the ancient Jewish holiday are far more meaningful than the capitalist ones you’ve branded.
Hanukkah was chosen for the Jewish people so that they could practice the holiday without having to engage with the story of the suffering Moses endured as he had to deliver the now-recovering biblical figure of Moses from the Red Sea.
Passover, the Jewish people’s annual commemoration of the enslavement and (eventually) liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt, features erev Shabbat (the fourth day of the Hebrew month of Nisan) when worship takes place.
The specific name of the holiday is Passover, derived from their migration from Ethiopia and their arrival in ancient Egypt. During that week of abstention, which we call the “feast of freedom”, Jews traditionally give special gifts to their guests, many of whom will be relatives and fellow citizens.
You may not know this, but one day before your ubiquitous holiday promotions begin, your own employees in America might be celebrating a holiday called Sukkot, which commemorates the time when ancient Israelites fled ancient Egypt and their first king, Bakhit, began the economy of the land.
The Sukkot holiday would be useless to you if you did not have one side of your brain dedicated to core principles such as greed, self-interest and the pursuit of those two righteous images: “austerity” and “respect”. It is on this side of your brain that you need to move your message off of how much we give for free and into how much we give for your profit.
I applaud companies for making it easy for us to make our own decisions and express our beliefs. We value that idea, and you have done your best to use our traditions in the service of your own profit-making goals.
But that doesn’t mean we view you as our true friends, and it certainly doesn’t mean we regard your cultural appropriation as an act of “great kindness”. To most Americans, you are a rival, alien entity.
You are the cover of your magazine articles about Bumble that use the word “wholesome” in front of the glorious slaughter of innocent babies, and you are the faces of the people whose business you are in selling products.
But, in the eyes of most of the Jewish community in America, you are despised, an enemy who threatens our sacred traditions and our tradition-filled lives. You are the forces in our lives who stand in the way of our ability to communicate with each other about what matters to us.
Celebrate Hillel Day. Play your songs. Celebrate Kwanzaa, Leviticus, Thanksgiving, St Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Celebrate the things that are in our most significant spiritual traditions. Resist anything that is not.
I don’t hate you for not liking us – I love you for fighting for freedom and tolerance, and for your kindness.
Thank you for that, and I will always love you.
You do deserve our respect, and if I wanted to write a script for a commercial, one I could send to your advertisers, I would tell you to:
We’re the Hanukkah spirits that literally melted the pterodactyl in your commercial about plastic bags.