For assignment 3 I was given the winter sub-theme of Hanukkah.
At first I was at a loss like many others in the class as to who I would interview and observe. I figured my best bet was to of course interview people who celebrate the holiday because they would have the most knowledge about it. I took to the University of Minnesota student groups pages and found the Hillel Jewish Center and started sending out emails to people involved with the center. I waited a few days and didn't hear back from anyone so with time running out I needed to find other options.
My roommate remembered a past classmate of hers was Jewish and is involved with some student groups here on campus so she directed me to a guy named Brandon for my first interview.
For the next interview I took to the popular blogging site tumblr and created a post looking for someone that would be interested in the interview and found a woman named Lauren to take part. I know the interviews were supposed to be in-person but I figured that finding someone on tumblr would be a great way to find someone that I have absolutely no connection with.
Last was the expert interview. Originally I had played on interviewing a man named Zac who is the head of the Hillel Center, but as previously mentioned he never responded back to my email. Instead I got in contact with a Jewish girl named Mandy who spent a semester in Israel studying abroad.
The interview process was a great experience for me. Given that I am not Jewish and do not celebrate Hanukkah I know little to nothing about the holiday so I figured it would be best to learn the history of it. In the words of interviewee Lauren....
"It's a long story, but the short version is that the Greeks took over lands where the Jewish people were living in Alexander the Great's time. During this time, he let all the people under his rule worship and live the way they were accustomed Some Jewish people assimilated to the Greek culture and some did not. But then a while later, Antiochus began to oppress the Jews, desecrating the temple by slaughtering pigs (non-kosher animal) on the alter, murdering them, and prohibiting religious practice. Eventually, two groups rose together to fight back against Antiochus. The Jews won and in celebration returned to the temple. However, the oil left to fill the menorah had mostly been desecrated by the Greeks and there was only enough left to burn for one night. But God kept the oil burning for eight days and eight nights while they made more oil for the menorah. The holiday celebrates the miracle of the oil, not the victory over the Greeks."
Then I followed up with these questions....
What does the word Hanukkah stand for?
- Brandon said that "translating the word into English it means dedication which refers to the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem"
What is your favorite part about the holiday?
- Brandon and Lauren agree that their favorite part is being with family and other Jews.
- Mandy's favorite part is the food!
What traditions do you engage in each year?
- Mandy: "Every year my mom and I eat latke's with apple sauce, sour cream, and fried bologna.
- Brandon: "Lighting the candles on the menora
- Lauren: "Playing dreidal with my family"
Then I dug a little deeper with questions like...
- The general public is not as educated in the holiday of Hanukkah as they are of other holidays such as Christmas, what could be done to change that?>
- What is most important to you about the holiday of Hanukkah?
- Lauren needs a way to educate non-Jewish people about holidays in Jewish culture because "everyone thinks Hanukkah is our most important holiday when in reality, it's not a huge deal."
- Mandy needs a fun way to teach kids at a young age about Hanukkah
- Brandon needs a way to get more Jewish people to celebrate and get more involved with the holiday
The answers to these questions really helped open my eyes to the holiday. The answers came to a general consensus that Hanukkah is not the most popular holiday in Jewish culture as I and I'm sure many others have assumed. Jewish people put other holidays such as Yom Kippur and Passover ahead of Hanukkah. It's actually Americans who make a huge deal out of it because it is seen as the Jewish equivalent of Christmas. In Jewish culture people place more importance on The High Holy days, Yom Kippur, Passover, and Rosh Hashanah.These are the holidays they want to raise awareness about because in reality Hanukkah is seen as not that big of a deal. The interviewees all believe that to raise more awareness of Hanukkah it's got to be more important to the Jewish people first. There is also a need to educate people more about the different Jewish holidays.
As to why it is not heavily recognized this has to deal with it not really being one of the bigger holidays in Jewish culture and the fact that their culture represents such a small percentage compared to how many Christians there are that celebrate Christmas.
I wasn't sure what I could observe seeing as Hanukkah isn't for a few more weeks so instead I created a survey on surveymoney.com and asked people to rank the holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Easter based on how much knowledge people have about it.
These were the results. According to this survey, to little surprise 80% of surveyors placed Hanukkah in fourth place for holidays they are least knowledgable about. The top row of numbers are the ranking placements and the rows underneath say the position that each surveyor ranked the holidays in.
Lastly for the experience portion I thought of different traditional Hanukkah activities I could engage in. I asked my roommate to play me in a game of dreidel, a traditional game played during Hanukkah. I don't own an actual dreidel so I made one out of a tissue box and we played rolling the tissue box and collecting pennies. Neither of us have ever played this game before but it was definitely a lot of fun and made us very competitive.