Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
Around Thanksgiving, my baby girl had the first continuous cough we had ever experienced (thanks, daycare!) and, just to be safe, I took her to our pediatrician’s office.
Since it was just before Thanksgiving, our regular pediatrician was out and we saw a different doctor. This alternative doctor apparently had just fulfilled a rotation on my wife’s unit in the hospital and asked, “Oh, I’m so sorry, does that mean you are stuck with the baby and your wife has to work all Thanksgiving?”
(FYI, I never feel “stuck” with my baby.)
Me: No, she gets Thanksgiving off, because she knows she’s always going to work Christmas.
Doctor: That sounds terrible! Why does she always have to work Christmas?
Me: Well, we’re Jewish, so she doesn’t mind, since we don’t celebrate that holiday.
While the doctor listened to my child’s lungs, I explained how for our family, Christmas has as much meaning as any other day of the week (except it’s quieter and more movie-filled, sometimes with a good helping of Chinese food). As the doctor took my child’s temperature, I explained to her how we celebrate Hanukkah around the same time, but it’s not the most major holiday on our calendar (which she was surprised to learn — after all, she knew it was around Christmas and lasted eight nights… must be a big deal, right?). As the doctor peered in my child’s ears, I explained how we followed the lunar calendar, with a leap month thrown in to boot, so Hanukkah could fall as early as Thanksgiving and as late as Christmas. The doctor clearly wasn’t understanding the concept, so I thought I would explain that our holidays move “sort of like how Ramadan moves.”
At which point, I received a quizzical look.
Me: “Do you know the Muslim holiday of Ramadan?”
Doctor: “Um… no.”
All of a sudden, I was no longer merely a representative for all the Jews in the universe, but also for an entire other religion. I spent about ten minutes explaining what little I know about Ramadan to the pediatrician. At no point did the doctor seem judgmental about all these things I was telling her, only curious. It was a good conversation.
After our impromptu lesson on various faiths’ holiday traditions, the doctor declared that my child’s face was simply filled with regular old daycare mucus, and we did not need to address any major health issues.
We smiled and thanked each other before we went to part ways. She asked me to send her regards to my wife, and that was almost it. Just as she went to close the door, the doctor turned around and said:
“Wait! You don’t even have a Christmas tree in your house?!”
Pronounced: KHAH-nuh-kah, also ha-new-KAH, an eight-day festival commemorating the Maccabees’ victory over the Greeks and subsequent rededication of the temple. Falls in the Hebrew month of Kislev, which usually corresponds with December.