The Virtual Musical Advent Calendar, December 23: It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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11 Responses

  1. Mike Schilling says:

    The composer Felix Mendelssohn, the grandson of the famous Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, was baptized and raised as a Christian, since his father felt that assimilation was necessary for success, which helps explain both why he wrote Christmas music and why the idea of Jews celebrating Christmas just like normal people leaves a bad taste in some of our mouths.Report

    • Hey, there’s three more days and then you never have to see these again.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Jews celebrating Christmas leaves a bad taste in some people mouth’s because Felix Mendelssohn’s dad decided to be an assimilationist, or in any case to have his son baptized and raise him as a Christian?

      Learn something every day.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Jews celebrating Christmas is a step towards assimilation, and we can see where that leads.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        So you’re saying that Felix Mendelssohn is not necessarily specifically on the minds of most Jews who worry about assimilationist tendencies? Point is, unless a person’s already worried about it, I’m missing why considering Felix stands out as something to make you worry about it. If you’re already worried about it, then Felix is just one more case of what you don’t want to see (for reasons you already know). But if you’re not, what is it about Felix in particular that makes people go from not worrying to worrying?Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

        What about “helps explain” (as opposed to, say, “is the proximate cause of”) is unclear?Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        It seems to me one of two things could be going on here. The problem with Herr Mendelssohn had little to do with his decision and everything to do with the society he was in: it was actually the case that being true to Judaism at that time hindered success, to say the least. There were heavy pressures to assimilate, or just deny one’s faith and culture altogether, if not convert.

        It seems to me two things could be going on with reactions to contemporary Jews who partake in certain aspects of winter celebrations that are associated with Christmas. People could think that they are bending to pressures still around today that are vestiges of the outright force that Jews in past centuries faced to assimilate, or their assimilation could simply be reminding people of those pressures. I’ve been asking in these threads about the nature of the pressure that people feel to conform in an attempt to better understand the how it feels to be Jewish today in the midst of Christmas. I haven’t gotten much response. People say that there is pressure to conform, but they don’t say much more about it. The threads, to me indicate more overt pressure from coreligionists not to, tbh.

        The other thing that could be going on is a feeling that today, with so much freedom to act as we please, it’s a dishonor to the struggle of people like the Mendelssohns and all other Jewish families of earlier times to blithely participate in non-Jewish celebrations (assimilate) because it feels good, when people before had to sacrifice so much in order to choose not to do that. I completely understand that reaction. The only problem is, no one other than them, is them. I’m guessing most people who do this are pretty aware of this history; the reality is that how they feel today is how they feel. And I guess how you feel about how they feel is how you feel too, so fair enough. But it seems to me that the thing to be concerned about is not anyone’s free choice to celebrate as they choose, but the ways in which that choice is weighed upon by the dominant culture in unwelcome ways. No one should feel pressured to celebrate in any way they’re not comfortable with, but at the same time, whom does it help to look askance at people who are doing what works or feels good for their own family?Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        ..Maybe I should have read it as “that his father lived in a society that made him feel that assimilation was necessary for success,” (or even just general knowledge that that is how society was) rather than Mendelssohn himself specifically feeling that way. I honestly thought you were saying that you know a fair number of people who are bothered by the specific example of Felix Mendelssohn. Obviously, I didn’t think you were saying that most were, though for it to be on their minds doesn’t mean it’s the proximate cause. I’m just not clear, as I’ve said multiple times now, what you were saying about the role the specific example plays in how many people’s thinking.Report

  2. Michael Drew says:

    I’d say everything about “helps explain” is unclear. I guess I never had any sense of what part you were saying the example of Mendelssohn plays in any group of people’s thought on the matter of a size worth considering as a group rather than as individuals, or even your own, as an example that is of greater note for its demonstrative badness than any of, what, at least hundreds of families in that place at that time doing the same thing to get by. The issue was the extraordinary pressure they faced to assimilate, not anything about Mendelssohn, right? That’s just a famous name. Or no? The issue is the degree of pressure not to be Jewish that existed in the society, especially if you were looking to be upwardly mobile, is it not? If the issue is that we need to have the conversation about how different things are or aren’t today, then maybe that’s the issue. I’m not really equipped to participate in that discussion, but, as I say, I’ve been asking the questions.Report