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Of Chinese Food, The Spirit Of Giving And A Very Jewish ‘Christmas’

Jack Morgan
Ron Aaron Eisenberg, Gina Eisenberg

Christianity dominates American culture, and most especially at Christmas.

But by no means is every American Christian. This was brought to the forefront perhaps most publicly when, during confirmation hearings, now Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was asked this by Senator Lindsay Graham, “Where are you at on Christmas day?”

After some back-and-forth, as she tried to better understand the question, he interrupted her…

“Nah, I just asked you where you were at on Christmas.”

Kagan and most everyone there broke out into sustained laughter, then she finally responded, “You know, like all Jews I was probably at a Chinese Restaurant.” And there was more sustained laughter.

While it’s hardly true that all Jews are at Chinese Restaurants on Christmas, like most generalizations, there’s some truth behind it.    

Ron Aaron Eisenberg and his wife, Gina Galaviz Eisenberg, have brought their three young children to Taipei Restaurant. For Ron in particular, there’s nothing new about the tradition.

“I grew up in Cleveland; this brings back a lot of memories because my family would go out, as far back as I can remember, four, five, six years old, we’d go to China Gate Chinese Restaurant. My brother Jim, my mom and dad and I would have Chinese food.”

“So, while a lot of folks have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, you’ve got egg rolls and whatever else,” I responded.

“Sure—egg rolls, spare ribs, hot and sour soup.”

I continued, “and so those things are the tastes and the smells of…Christmas? To You?”   

“Well, to December 25th.”

Again—it’s not Christmas to everyone.

“Well, it’s a lot of pressure on kids who aren’t Christian, who see on television…Christmas being showcased or marketing reasons, and we in the Jewish community sometimes there’s pressure to make Hanukkah a much bigger holiday than it really is.”

Previous to our meeting at Taipei, Ron, Gina and the children spent their December 25th doing charitable work by lending a hand at a local shelter.

“The Roy Maas Youth Alternative Emergency Shelter, the Bridge.”  

Gina can’t cite a long Christmas Chinese food tradition in her family.

“I grew up Catholic, and so in January I started the conversion process, and so I made the commitment to do that. And so now it’s a new tradition for me.”

She thinks it’s a good day for setting an example.

“The spirit of giving is year-round, not just December 25th. And I think it’s a great lifestyle and a great religion to raise the children in so they can learn early to give back rather than receive.”

Back at the Kagan hearings Lindsay Graham put it this way.

“That’s what Hanukkah and Christmas is all about.”

“Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!” said Gina.

“…to one and all!” said Ron.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii