Just a Jew. Named Mitch. Writing about his feelings.

Archive for December, 2010

Be Careful of Child Thieves in Trees

Posted by JewMitch on December 26, 2010

So when I was a kid, there was this parking lot for a Jewish community center that was directly across the cul-de-sac where I grew up (actual Google map photo above).  It was a really cool parking lot, in the sense that it had ramps and was usually empty of cars – the perfect place for a kid to ride his bike or rollerblade.  So naturally, I’d want to go there on afternoons to play.

This was fine with my overprotective Jewish mother, except for the fact that there was a thin row of trees that separated my cu-de-sac from the parking lot, and to her, this seemed like the perfect place for child abductors to hide. Although, these weren’t ordinary child abductors who wanted to kidnap kids, rape them in white vans and then murder them.  These were members of the White Slave Trade.

My mother was very big on instilling a fear of the White Slave Trade in me from the time I was a small child.  Apparently, in Potomac, Maryland (one of the nicest and safest communities you can imagine), there was a large gang of international child thieves, who would kidnap kids from the parking lots of Jewish community centers and then sell them into the white slave trade.

As much as I could figure out, the White Slave Trade mostly took place somewhere in Asia – where there was a premium for skinny boys with fair hair and blue eyes (my hair was lighter then).  I never fully got the gist of what would happen if you were sold into the White Slave Trade, but it seemed to involve performing unpleasant sexual acts and doing a lot of chores.  Similarly, my mother loved to tell me that I should be extra afraid of ever going to jail, because the other inmates would consider me to be a “pretty boy.”

So, whenever I went to the parking lot to play – my mother would always instruct me to inspect the trees to make sure there was no one hiding there to steal me away.  Now, if this was some thick forest outside of a Walmart parking lot near a prison, that would be perfectly logical advice.  Except this was Potomac, Maryland – outside a Jewish community center, in daylight, and it was a single row of trees.

I was retelling this story to a friend the other day, and he commented that if there really were child thieves in these trees, you’d think that the authorities would be able to do something about it.  “Oh yes, we know there’s an international gang of child slave traders operating out of that row of trees by the Jewish community center – there’s just nothing we can do about it.”

Needless to say, I kept my guard up and thankfully made it out of Potomac alive.


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The Joy of Chanukah

Posted by JewMitch on December 18, 2010

In honor of Chanukah — a classic JewMitch re-post. This column originally appeared in my law school newspaper, and actually triggered a huge First Amendment debate due to a metaphor I included about a handjob. Enjoy. Happy Chanukah!

With Chanukah (pronounced Hanoo-KAh) right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to write a column dedicated to Chanukah, otherwise known and “The Festival of Lights,” otherwise known as “The Jewish Response to Christmas.”

Chanukah is a holiday that is very similar to Christmas, except that the Jewish people follow a lunar calendar and this causes Chanukah to fall on different random dates each year. This year Chanukah begins on December 8th, which is just in time to coincide with finals.  Hooray!

Also, Chanukah differs from Christmas in that it is eight days long, and Jewish children receive a different present each night. When I was little, my parents used this fact to try to explain to me why Chanukah was better than Christmas. “You get eight whole days of presents, Mitchy! Now aren’t you glad you aren’t one of those goyim?”

Not knowing any better, I would nod my head, put on a kippah and bless the Chanukah candles. Although, I later learned the many ways in that Christmas is infinitely better.

The main reason that Christmas seems better is because it is a one day orgy of infinite present receiving bliss. Christian kids get all their presents in one swoop and sometimes even stay up all night in anticipation.

On the other hand, Chanukah is an eight day long drawn out process, which resembles a bad hand job given in high school. You’re really excited and there are some nice moments, but then there are some bad moments, and by the end you just wish it was over already.

Unlike the joy of receiving all of your good and bad presents at once, where the good ones greatly overshadow the bad ones; Chanukah forces you to only receive one present a night – and you know that only one or two of them will be good. And my parents would always try to disguise the good presents by wrapping them in strange ways. The result was that I would spend all day spasmodically awaiting present time, only to incorrectly chose a crappy present and have to wait another 24 hours to try again.

To further elaborate on this point, let me list some of the worst presents received: a girl’s diary with hearts on it (because I liked to write), pencils (because I liked to write), a pad of math games, and a dustbuster shaped like a robot (which would have been cool now, but sucked when I was thirteen).

One favorite game of my parents was to purchase a 2-part present and wrap each part separately. So, when I finally found the box that Legal Enforcers for Sega Genesis was in, I ended up spending the rest of Chanukah praying that I would find the box that the Legal Enforcers Gun was in. (While it was possible to play Legal Enforcers without the gun, that would be as much fun as going to an all paraplegic ballet).

I’m sure some of my Jewish readers would argue that Chanukah isn’t really about presents, that it’s about some miracle or something. Let me take the chance to correct them now. Of course Chanukah is about presents. Saying otherwise is like saying that Labor Day sales are really about celebrating labor.

But, let’s get back to my highly scholarly comparison of the two holidays. Another great benefit of Christmas is that Christmas songs are much better than Chanukah songs. While I’m sure that many of my Christian readers are not as much of a fan of Christmas music as I am, I think they just don’t realize how bad many Chanukah songs are.

The highlight of Chanukah songs is probably, “I Have a Little Dreidel,” whose lyrics are simply: “I have a little dreidel / I made it out of clay / And when it’s dry and ready / Then dreidel I shall play!” Doesn’t that sound like fun?  Doesn’t it make you want to make things out of clay and then wait for them to dry?  They should have just written a Chanukah song about watching paint dry or doing laundry.

Although Chanukah still can be fun. You get to eat gelt, which are chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. I think I was told that they were to make the holiday sweet, but the image of Jewish children actually eating fake money still makes me laugh. And other cultures wonder why Jews are so good with money.

And I guess the real benefit of Chanukah is that I learned it was better to wish for a bunch of small easily wrapped things, rather than only one or two big things. My Chanukah wish lists are still filled with CDs and video games that feature scantily clad girls either fighting each other or playing rigorous games of volleyball. And while Chanukah is much less exciting as a result, it taught me how to lower my expectations and defer gratification for certain things until I could afford them myself.

Those crafty Jews, they’re always up to something.

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