Hold the Hamsas

Chanukah-time approaches; a time Americans have succeeded in transforming into a gift-giving season. In classic old-person fashion, i am unable to restrain myself from noting that When We Were Kids, Chanukah “gifts” consisted of a gold-foil-wrapped piece of milk chocolate with a Jewish star or the Israeli flag stamped into it. This was received every night for eight nights, along with, on either the first or last nights, or on “rich” years both the first AND last nights, a plastic dreidle with several pieces of candy inside it. Plus, Gram always made latkes, yummy with either sour cream OR apple sauce. Now comes –quarterly — The Source for Everything Jewish, a catalog of gift-stuff. And in the current edition, they’re offering at least a dozen examples of hamsas.

Yes, HAMSAS.  i’ve been to Israel just once, and that was 30 years ago,  but i recall seeing ZERO hamsas on Jewish people’s doors, hanging in their windows, or around their throats or wrists. i DID see some in windows and on doors in Muslim neighborhoods of Jerusalem and in Bethlehem. When did the hamsa become a “folk tradition,” used to ward off the “evil eye,” among JEWS?! i have a sneakin’ suspicion that this “tradtion” was cooked up in, like, 1983, by Hamakor Judaica (publisher of The Source for Everything Jewish), with an assist from their pal Mammon.

It just seems very UN-Jewish to be walkin’ around swinging your Evil-Eye-Warder-Offer, doesn’t it? Plus, they’re corny-lookin’. One of the little descriptions in the catalog says the things are “intended to bring health and promote healing…” and points out that there’s even a little “protective eye” decoration on it .

YIKES! Isn’t G-d our protection? And what’s with the way the hand is always portrayed in these hamsas? Middle three fingers down and together, thumb and pinky splayed outward; G-d is throwing gang signs, now? 

Plus, how Jewish could it be? It starts with a “ham!”

So, for Chanukah, give me a chocolate coin, spin me a dreidle, fry me a latke, but, please, hold the hamsas.

Nice Headline, Sports Desk!

A very belated bleat of praise to Record sports copyeditor Phil Colangelo, who came up with a great headline back on Oct. 18 after our NFL Giants, who had won several consecutive games, were beaten by the New Orleans Saints, thanks mostly to the play of their QB, Drew Brees.
The head: “Hot Brees Blows Away Giants’ Unbeaten Mark.”
G-d, I wish I’d written that.

Tomorrow in your Record …

Don’t miss my story on this guy i found (this dead guy, i mean) in … where else? … a Newburgh graveyard.
Well, a New Windsor graveyard, to be precise: Calvary Cemetery, a 5-minute walk from my house. Strolling through there one day for no reason (as one does), Tim and i noticed a plot for these priests called the Josephites who used to teach future seminarians in New Windsor. i guess for the Josephites, the tradition is, wherever you fall, that’s where you’re buried. So among these identical modest granite headstones, that lie like 16 shoeboxes on the ground, there’s one for a Charles R. Uncles, born Nov. 8, 1859. It was the only one of interest to me because it was half-hidden under a low yew bush, and i had to pull away some branches to read his name. On a big stone at the entrance to that plot, it said that he was the first black man ever to be ordained as a Catholic priest in the U.S.! Other than that historic distinction, he had another mighty achievement: He was one of 5 founders of the Josephite Society, which continues to this day with its mission of evangelizing and serving black Americans.

Since tomorrow is the 150th anniversary of his birth, i figured, let’s get this in the Record!
i got some info via a phone call to this great 80-year-old Josephite now in a retirement home in Baltimore, Father Ed Mullowney, and the Josephite Archives sent me photos. i think the paper is teasing it on Page One, and running it on the front page of the Communities section.
Cool, right?