The Hallmark Channel is known for its “happily ever after” movies that are easily digested (like a spoonful of honey) and terminally predictable. I have been a fan of their romantic movies for 10 years, knowing what the plot always entails. Boy meets girl, they have some relationship issues, and the last five minutes of each two-hour movie is the segment where the boy and girl work it out! If only real life could be so straightforward and easy. The Hallmark Channel goes into full gear with their holiday season of all day, everyday movies in the month of December.
According to a New York Times article, “Hallmark, under increased scrutiny for its noticeable lack of diverse stars, is somewhat widening its offerings this season beyond all-Christmas, all-the-time: “Holiday Date” and “Double Holiday” each have their very own Nice Jewish Lead for the Not Jewish Other Lead to fall in love with.” This translates into using Jewish characters as a sprinkling of interest for the Hallmark-devoted viewers. In other terms, there are samplings of Chanukah themes used in these movies, such as menorahs, dreidels and a platter of latkes.
How thoughtful of Hallmark to romanticize the cultural mashup of the two holidays, Xmas and Chanukah! Wouldn’t it be nice if the holiday movie channel would devote an entire plot line to celebrating Chanukah exclusively? The big mistake that always occurs at this time of the year is the idea that Chanukah is the Jewish Xmas.
What makes these movies more harmful is explained in a Washington Post article about Hallmark holiday movies, “There’s just one problem: Neither movie is a Hanukkah movie. They are Christmas movies with Jewish characters. And they rely on some of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes in the book.”
The subtle innuendos of stereotypical depiction of Jews are so woven into the fabric of Western culture that they can be used in a harmless little Hallmark movie. The movie plots celebrate assimilation, anti-Semitism and sheer ignorance. As if to say that Chanukah only exists in relation to Xmas. Chanukah actually exists because we fought against assimilation into every culture that wished otherwise.
All of this brings us to the big plot, what is Chanukah all about anyway? Is it a holiday of latkes and jelly donuts with enough presents to supply a fulfillment center? Is it an eight-day holiday that happens to fall out in December, when the world is decorated in Xmas lights?
The story of Chanukah is all about a clash of cultures. The Greek regime which ruled over Israel was determined to systemize an elimination of Jewish life, law and liberty starting with Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and bris milah. The Greeks devoted themselves to hedonism and total obsession of self without any presence of G-d.
It was the battle between these two ideas that defined the war of the Maccabees. However, there were many Jews who were seduced by the secularism, athleticism and self-love of the Greeks. They are known as the Hellenists and they disappeared through a total immersion into the Greek culture.
The victory of the Maccabees was the triumph of warriors that refused to assimilate no matter how alluring the environment was at the time.
I wish I could propose to the Sapirstein/Stone/Weiss families that they should have an American Greetings Channel as a direct competition to Hallmark. In 1906, the families emigrated from Poland to Cleveland, Ohio, where they began selling postcards imported from Germany. American Greetings Corporation is the second largest greeting card company in the world, while Hallmark remains in the number one position.
The American Greeting Card families support Jewish causes in the US and Israel, including the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, the Telshe Yeshiva (Wickliffe, Ohio), Yeshiva University, and Telshe Stone in Israel. ArtScroll publications bear the family names, including the Stone Chumash and Tanach and the Sapirstein Rashi. The family members’ philanthropic efforts have been associated with Orthodox Zionist and modern Orthodox causes.
I think that this American greeting card company has the potential to make the best Chanukah movie without compromising our heritage, religious practices or even a good latke recipe!
In the light of the season, as alluring as it is with its secular beauty, we must celebrate the true meaning of Chanukah. Chanukah is a time to revel in the bliss of eternal existence within your Judaism and G-d. The great Greek empire is no longer, and we find ourselves in the American dream that now has dangerous motives of complete assimilation and bitter anti-Semitism. It might be the time to shut off the Hallmark movie or just change the channel or…pick up a Stone Chumash and start learning!
Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.