SANDLER SONG DEMEANS HANUKKAH?
So saith Binyamin Jolkovsky, founder and editor of Jewish World Review. (JWR is a source of major content of Jewish interest and features syndicated columns by writers such as Charles Krauthammer and has provided a home and expanded audience for pieces by bloggers like Chayyei Sarah and, um, My Urban Kvetch.)
In this piece in the Washington Times, Jolkovsky says that the song is an "embarrassment" and that "Hanukkah is about a lot more than menorahs or potato latkes."
His latter point is well-taken. I would say that many Jews are unaware of the military victory component of the holiday--the miracle of the oil, and the consequent "license to fry," gets all the buzz. There should be more of an emphasis on the "true meaning" of Hanukkah. (Certainly there are enough movies about the "true meaning" of Christmas, but that kvetch is for another post.)
But I am going to respectfully disagree with his assessment of Sandler's "Hanukkah Song." In a season where the airwaves are completely saturated with 47 different versions of "Santa Claus is Coming To Town," if all we have in our Jewish holiday music arsenal is the annoying and oft-lampooned "I Have a Little Draydel," then the musical iteration of the season is lost on us.
Whether or not you liked Big Daddy (and I did, even though Jon Stewart played only a minor role), I think Adam Sandler's done something important. He created a song to fill the radio niche and inspire Jewish pride, however raunchy and irreligious. It's hard to make meaningful Jewish music that's catchy and Top-40 ready. (Some people might say that's a good thing, that it prevents us from becoming Godless Americans.)
But living as Jews in America, the reframing of Judaism in a contemporary pop context lends a relevance and resonance to our tradition, as vital to Generation X as it is to Generation Y, Z and whatever Generation comes after Z (do we go back to the beginning?). The union between contemporary and traditional is the constant mission of webzines and blogs like Jewlicious, Jewsweek, Jewschool and the soon-vanishing Protocols, print mags like Heeb and JVibe, and the proliferation of T-shirt companies who emblazon apparel with slogans both shocking and pride-inducing.
Some may count it as an intermarriage of sorts, an assimilation into American culture that will inevitably mark the demise of the Jewish people as a definable entity, but I prefer to think of it as incorporating American culture into traditional Judaism in a way that resonates and inspires the New Jew of 2004 and beyond. But I tend toward the radical that way.
Do I think that Adam Sandler is the emblem of all things Jewish and American? Hardly. And, for all the Jews in entertainment, I'm not sure who our pop role model should be. But this is one thing Sandler did right. Like it or not, he's left a legacy to the Jews in America who were always flipping the channels on their radio, hoping to hear someone playing their holiday song.