The excitement over Hallmark introducing two Hanukkah movies to its Christmas lineup this year was dashed when it became apparent that they contained within them some of the oldest antisemitic canards, according to The Washington Post. While the two movies did mention Hanukkah and had Jewish characters, they were far from complimentary or positive about the Judaism and the Jewish people.
In one of the films, Holiday Date, a woman hires a Jewish actor to act as her boyfriend and join her at her family’s home for Christmas. The trouble begins when the family realizes that he may not know how to celebrate the holiday.
The Jew is portrayed as a mischievous, unreliable, outsider who doesn't belong – despite his efforts to fit in among the Christian family – reflecting the century old claim, seen in Nazi propaganda and 9/11 conspiracies.
Double Holiday follows the same lines – a Jewish female named Rebecca is organizing her work Christmas party with her office rival to get a promotion. The two “learn that while the traditions and celebrations are different, the feelings of holiday and celebration and family and togetherness are the same,” The Washington Post wrote.
Hanukkah stands only in relation to Christmas – but not independently. The festival of Hanukkah in fact is a hindrance to the characters being able to celebrate Christmas as usual.
Rebecca has to forget her Hanukkah plans to organize the party with her male, Christian counterpart – but she only does so with the agenda of promoting herself at work, without pure intent.
These two movies stories’ portray Jews and Christians as clearly different – and the Jew not fitting in, despite their efforts.
The Jewish characters are forced to observe Christmas, having to accept that they must succumb to the dominant faith, rather than practice their own.
The CEO of Hallmark, Bill Abbott, tried to defend these decisions. “It’s hard if we start to… make movies based off of specific holidays… because we don’t look at Christmas from a religious point of view, it’s more a seasonal celebration,” he said on The Hollywood Reporter’s “TV’s Top 5” podcast explaining that the network wanted to attract “the broadest audience” they could, The Washington Post reported.
Hallmark is far from “avoiding controversy” with these choices, as Abbott claimed in his interview.
These movies are strengthening stereotypes at a time when antisemitic hate crimes are on the rise throughout the US and Europe. Suggesting Jews cannot proudly celebrate their own Hanukkah and instead must join in the Christian spirit and assimilate into the Christian cultural mainstream and hide their Jewish identity is highly problematic.Jews should be proud of the Hanukkah miracle they are celebrating and not feel they need to join in the Christmas celebrations; Christmas is a Christian holiday – Hanukkah is a Jewish one!