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NHS Men's Club presents:

Chinese Dinner December 24th at g pm. Please RSVP to mensclub@nhs-cba.org

The Men's Club of Northern Hills Synagogue will continue its own many-year tradition and a tradition of American Jewish life by preparing a kosher Chinese dinner for the congregation and the community on Tuesday evening, December 24, beginning at 6:00 p.m. The Men's Club chefs will present a rich variety of dishes representing different styles of Chinese cuisine.

Guests will have an opportunity to light their own Hanukkah menorahs, in recognition of the third night of Hanukkah, which occurs that evening, and fried foods will be featured in the dinner menu. A family-friendly film will follow dinner. There will also be children's activities and Rummikub for those who would like to play. There is a charge for the dinner, and reservations are due by Monday, December 16, at 931-6038 or (e-mail) Mensclub@nhs-cba.org.

The fondness of American Jews for Chinese food has been the subject of many jokes and also of scholarly research. Culture historians have suggested several reasons for this phenomenon. One is that, in some American cities, Jewish neighborhoods were close to Chinese neighborhoods. Another consideration is that the Chinese, unlike many European peoples, did not have a history of anti-Semitism, so Jews felt safer in Chinese establishments.

Also, although Chinese food was highly problematic in Jewish traditional terms (before the development of kosher Chinese food), featuring ingredients such as pork and shrimp, it was considered "safe treyf," because it generally did not involve mixtures of meat and milk, and because the problematic foods were often chopped or wrapped up. Finally, as the sociologists Steven M. Cohen and Samuel Heilman have pointed out, American Jews "created a modern Judaism that embraced and emphasized cosmopolitan and universalistic values. …Along with attendance at theaters, concerts, museums, and universities, Jews regarded eating at Chinese restaurants as a sign that they possessed the sophistication and urbanity so central to both modern society and to modern Jewish culture."

A special feature of the American Jewish love of Chinese food is its peak on December 24-25. Like most Americans, American Jews usually have had a day off from work on December 25. Without their own family holiday observances on that day, they sought out other forms of entertainment. For many years, movie theaters and Chinese restaurants were the only such opportunities available.

Whatever the twists, turns, and logical gaps in the development of the American Jewish tradition of watching films and eating Chinese food on December 24-25, the food and the experience are wonderful, and Northern Hills Synagogue's Men's Club is very pleased to be part of the tradition.

Please RSVP to mensclub@nhs-cba.org.


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