When Hanukkah is not enough: Jews consider their place in Christmas culture

By Student Rabbi Jonathan Falco

December in America is unlike any other month. The cold bite of winter finally sets in, the sky grows dark earlier and consumerism abounds.

A confluence of all these factors gives way to the general feelings of cheeriness that characterize this holiday season. In just about every city, it seems as though we are inundated with fake icicles and the fresh smell of evergreen furs while Nat King Cole takes over the radio and becomes the elevator music a la mode.

Nativity scenes fill suburban lawns and neighbors quietly compete for the best display of Christmas lights in the neighborhood. Every year around this time, many American Jews begin wondering, “What is my relationship to this joyful holiday season that purportedly stems from a holiday that is not my own?”

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Legally speaking: Let’s discuss simple steps to plan for estate administration

By B. Scott Skillman

Preparing for last wishes and estate administration is a topic relevant to us all and one most of us tend to delay or avoid confronting. Over the next several months (with the approval of the UHC board), I intend to present a series of articles about things we all can do — no matter what age or phase of life — to assist our families in the event of our incapacity or passing.

There are simple steps we can all take to help our families should we be unable to make decisions about our care or final arrangements. We need not fear these steps or hesitate to take them.

Although these moves ultimately deal with our passing, they are essential life choices. These choices convey our thoughts about how we wish to handle difficult decisions and take the stress of such decisions away from our families or life partners who otherwise might be forced to confront them due to a lack of clear communication on our part.

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Jewish community marks Kristallnacht 80 with CANDLES talks, Theater 7 reading at UHC

As communities observed the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht on Nov. 9-10, the attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue and rising incidences of hate crimes across the western world added urgency to the declaration, “Never again.”

In Terre Haute, UHC member and Kristallnacht survivor Walter Sommers spoke at CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, where he serves as a docent, and participated in a candle-lighting the honor the victims of the Holocaust.

A day later, UHC and Theater presented a staged reading of This Side of Eternity: The Story of Kristallnacht, by former Terre Haute resident Christopher Bibby.

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UHC religious school students greet the holiday by reviewing a new Hanukkah book

UHC religious school students may be few in number, but they’re always game for a holiday challenge. When the call goes out, the class is on the scene to build a sukkah, set the Pesach table or, when a new Hanukkah book arrives over the transom, step in as literary reviewers.

Race Up Mount Ram: A Hanukkah Story (48 pages) from Eclectic Ivri Press, by Melissa Berg, tells the story of Chayim, a resolute underdog who calls upon all his resources to climb Mount Ramon in Israel’s Negev Desert and become Champion of the Maccabees.

Chayim’s opponent is the popular favorite Rimon, who, needless to say in this tortoise-vs.-hare story, learns to regret his lackadaisical approach to training.

Sunday school elementary school instructor Jennifer read Race Up Mount Ram to religious school students Sophie and Garrett on the morning of Hanukkah eve and patiently moderated the thoughtful discussion that followed.

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