Last year, during the pandemic, I eavesdropped the most brilliant piece of classroom third-rail navigation I’ve ever seen in my life.
This was in my then-third grader’s Zoom music class (we’ll leave for another day any discussion of the crime against humanity that is “grade-school Zoom music class”).
This is always a fraught time of year for grade-school music teachers: They wanna sing Xmas songs, most of the kids wanna sing Xmas songs, but the constant Othering definitely grinds away at the Jewish kids (esp. when they try and “include” you be singing the “Dreidel Song”; that song is crap, and we know it. The Xmas songs are way better).
So in my daughter’s class, the teacher shows this slide: it’s an unremarkable middle-aged White dude, “Mitchell Parish.” Who the heck is Mitchell Parish? Well, he was born in Lithuania, and brought here by his parents, who were Jews (my daughter immediately perks up; Jews! Like us!) and he was a popular songwriter in New York in the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s—and he wrote the lyrics to “Sleigh Ride”!
*advance to next slide*
*kids sing “Sleigh Ride”*
*EVERYONE IS A WINNER!*
My daughter felt seen, gentiles got their Christmas carol, and no one had to sing the goddamned “Dreidel Song.”
So there’s the trick to getting to sing Christmas carols in public school:
Start out with a brief bio of the Jews who wrote your Xmas song
(all your favorite Xmas songs were written by Jews; you’re welcome).
Heck, you can do a whole Winter Concert—featuring “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and “Run, Run Rudolph”—on just a single bio slide: All four of those classics were written by the same Jew (the inimitable Johnny Marks, whose Jewish brother-in-law was the guy who created Rudolph to begin with).