A Hallmark Chanukah?

Oy vey.

Move over mistletoe, there’s a menorah in the room.

But before we take on Hallmark for its depiction of Jews, let’s give Hallmark credit for doing the right thing after it did the wrong thing.

After the Hallmark Channel rejected four Zola ads featuring two women kissing at their wedding, the reaction was swift as #boycotthallmarkchannel made the rounds. On Dec. 15, the Hallmark Channel announced it would reinstate ads featuring same-sex couples.

Hallmark CEO Mike Perry issued this statement: “Hallmark will be working with GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) to better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands.”

“Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.”

Now, if we could deal with the Jew in the room, Joel, who had to pretend not to be Jewish for most of the Hallmark Channel’s first Chanukah movie on Dec. 14. “Holiday Date” told the story of Brooke, who doesn’t have a boyfriend to bring home for the holidays, so she hires a Jewish actor named Joel to play the part of “Mr. Christmas.”

Joel has never celebrated Christmas. But he seems to have spent every December in an isolation chamber on Mars. He tries to blend in, but he fails at making a gingerbread house and doesn’t know the words to “Deck the Halls.” He can’t even fake a “Fa, la, la, la la.” But why should he have to? Just to make strangers comfortable?

It’s a little creepy the way Brooke’s parents eye Joel, suspicious of what he’s hiding. He’s hiding that he’s Jewish.

Really? In 2019? We all know the terrible history of Jews having to hide that they were Jewish to save their lives and we’re being “entertained” by a Jewish person who has to hide the fact that he’s Jewish.

Joel finally confesses – as if it’s a bad thing – to being Jewish. He ends up teaching the family Chanukah songs and traditions, which they joyfully sing along and celebrate.

Why not give us a movie that actually celebrates the season of light with a Jewish family sharing what it’s like to light a menorah or fry latkes or sing the dreidel song to gentiles who feel some guilt over not knowing what gelt is.

The Jewish people I know aren’t confused over Christmas. They’re inundated with it their entire lives. My Jewish husband knows the words to more Christmas carols than I do.

Jews are bombarded with Christmas decorations, traditions and songs. Let’s not forget that Jews wrote so many of them: “White Christmas,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “The Christmas Song” and more.

Sadly, this first attempt by the Hallmark Channel wasn’t really a movie about Chanukah, which celebrates not compromising your religious identity. The movie ends when Joel gives Brooke a necklace with two charms: a menorah and a Christmas tree.

Oh no, I ruined the ending.

As if you couldn’t see it coming.

That’s the joy of Hallmark. You know it’s going to end happily ever after.

It’s great that Hallmark made an effort to be more inclusive. Now maybe they could include more Jewish minds and hearts in the making of future movies so they can truly reflect the Jewish version of the values Christians celebrate – family, love and the importance of community.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Hallmark movies. An app on my phone alerts me to when I can watch “Jingle Around the Clock,” “A December Bride” or “A Very Merry Mix-Up.”

The movies are cheesy, kitschy and schmaltzy. They all have the same plot: someone has to save Christmas, work over Christmas or make a deal with an angel to help a cynic become joyful again. The product placement is as subtle as a sledgehammer. The main couple falls in love, kiss and it ends happily ever after. It’s like Disney for adults.

Let’s hope the folks at the Hallmark Channel talk to more Jewish people about what their happily ever after looks like. Until then, be warned that another attempt to create a Chanukah classic, “Double Holiday,” airs on Dec. 22, the day Chanukah starts.

The last attempt wasn’t a complete failure.

At least they served brisket.

Read Regina Brett online at cjn.org/regina. Connect with her on Facebook at ReginaBrettFans. 2019 Ohio SPJ Best Columnist.


Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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