December 24, 2012 by Benji
This morning I was sitting in my office working on some real estate deals. I signed an email to a client with Merry Christmas. A few minutes later he called me to respond to the email. At the end of the conversation he asked me why I said Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays since I don’t celebrate Christmas. I was surprised by the question, and responded that my wishing Merry Christmas was not about my beliefs, but about his.
It got me thinking about this subject. I realized that I do celebrate Christmas… sort of.
My grandfather came to the United States in the late 30’s narrowly avoiding World War II. He became a Rabbi in Akron Ohio. During his tenure as rabbi of the community there was a disagreement between him and a congregant. The congregant said to the board of the synagogue “the Hungarian Rabbi comes here and thinks he can do this”. My grandfather with his grace and eloquence said, “in Hungary I was not a citizen, I was not allowed equal rights or opportunities. Here in the United States, I am a citizen with equal rights. Please refer to me as the American Rabbi, who you hired!”
I remember my mother telling me that story, but it didn’t mean much to me as a child. This holiday season I thought about how amazing it is that I am living in the United States a Jewish person, who has equal rights as the people around me. I have clients who are Jews, Christians, Muslims, atheists and I’m sure other religious beliefs. All of us are equal here.
When I say Merry Christmas to someone, I am not just wishing them a wonderful Christmas; what I am also saying is I celebrate your holiday, my holiday, our similarities, our differences and this amazing country that affords us the rights to live together with our beliefs.
On that note, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year.