…the Jewish parent’s Hanukkah-time invitation to share his or her culture comes with the best of intentions. And it probably began as part of a midcentury urge to assimilate Jews, Christians’ older siblings in the Judeo-Christian tradition, into the American mainstream. Hanukkah, as a holiday that fell around Christmastime and involved gift giving, albeit on a lesser scale, was useful for that pluralist project.
“Hanukkah was an acceptable site for Jews to translate themselves into American civic space,” said Lila Corwin Berman, who teaches Jewish history at Temple University, in Philadelphia. “In the 1930s and 1940s, Jews exploited new media to explain themselves to non-Jews. On radio programs, such as ‘The Eternal Light,’ Jewish leaders told the Hanukkah story and tailored it to fit American expectations: It became a story of underdog heroism and a celebration of light, themes that fit well with an American ethos and Christmas practices.”
Mark Oppenheimer, “Jewish Parents’ Other December Tradition: Explaining Hanukkah at School”, The New York Times (20 December 2014), A17.