We should not be the lost tribe

One of the reasons that I started this blog is because very little is written about the Jewish people who live in Hawaii.   While we might be a minority in this diverse island culture, we are still a vibrant, active community who deserves appropriate representation and coverage by our local media.

Most people don’t even know we exist. In Hawaii we are an anomaly.

Community events, local elections and school activities are scheduled with no regard to our most religious holy days like Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur or our widely popular festival, Chanukkah.

I don’t expect the local public to stop functioning on our account. That would be ridiculous. But it would be nice if they tipped a nod in our direction every once in a while.

The community in which I grew up in Southern California in the 1960’s had very few Jewish families. I know what it’s like to be one of the few Jewish kids in a school, but at least they knew we existed. I got to sing the dreidle song in our school holiday program every year. And while I might have sung it a bit off-key, I sang it with pride in the opportunity to represent my family and my Jewish community.

The first time I suggested that the holiday program at my daughter’s school be about more than Christmas it started a HUGE controversy. Luckily they have come a long way since then and we are quite comfortable with the season. They actually listened.

Local media Christmas coverage begins long before the Thanksgiving turkey is defrosted, yet there is nothing written about Chanukkah. It cracks me up that the Kapolei “Holiday” parade only represents Christmas and is often scheduled during Chanukkah.

This Saturday was no exception. Yom Kippur came and went with little  acknowledgment from our local media. The Star Advertiser features their religion page on Saturday, a perfect opportunity to feature the Jews’ most holy of holy days.

Instead their lead story was, “Church leaders learn to set physical limits.” They included a poem submitted by a local Jewish woman in the briefs at the bottom of the page.

There are so many stories they could write. Here’s a few great angles they could have chosen:

Yom Kippur and the primary election were on the same day. How did Jews vote?

Governor Lingle attends services at the local reform Jewish Synagogue. (Hello?)

Jews fast on Yom Kippur, where were they breaking that fast this year?

And these are just a few good ideas. I recently learned that on Rosh Hashanah a few weeks ago, several of our Temple members were at Magic Island for the ritual of Tashlich and ended up saving a drowning child’s life while they were there. That might have made a good story.

Instead it was posted as a brief in the Police section, never mentioning the mitzvah performed by this group of people who happened to be at the right place at the right time—-because they were Jewish!

Local TV news isn’t much better. Hawaii News Now briefly mentioned the primary election dilemma and Rosh Hashanah was brought up in connection with the businessman who was arrested in relation to charges of human trafficking. Nice!

I don’t think we are left out on purpose. I think we just don’t exist for most people in Hawaii. That cracks me up too.

There are communities on the mainland where their schools are actually closed for the Jewish Holidays, like we close the schools for Good Friday here. Except they close the schools there because too many people would be absent and it isn’t worth the money it takes  to operate on those days. Good Friday is a state holiday in Hawaii. Explain that one!

Thus, my blog was born, to give our local community a voice outside of ourselves. Being Jewish in Hawaii is definitely a unique experience, one that certainly needs to be shared with more than just my fellow local Jewish community.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Laurie Hanan
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 06:58:32

    Thank you for putting into writing what the Jewish community has been saying! My (Filipina) sister-in-law in New York was shocked that schools here are not closed on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Their daughter, who goes to public school, gets those days off-and she is not even Jewish. Here, the temple sent a letter to the schools, asking that they take the High Holy Days into consideration when assigning homework to their Jewish students. My daughter was given what seemed to be a double portion of homework on those days. She came to services, but sat in the temple library doing her homework.

    You may be generous in thinking the media has simply overlooked our dynamic community and the newsworthy events you mentioned. Something isn’t kosher in Paradise.

    Reply

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