The Chanukah Dilemma

By Kate Gordon, Vice-President, Plateaupians for Peace

‘Tis the season of the holiday card. Will you offend your non-Christian friends by sending a Christmas card? Is it too politically correct to send a generic holiday card? Or should you just stick with the always safe New Years’ card? I recently had a conversation with a fellow P4P friend about holiday cards that really caused me to pause and think about this simple piece of mail and hot it affects my identity to my own religion- Judaism.

She was wondering about the etiquette around sending Jewish friends a Christmas card. She had been told by someone that it might be inappropriate to do so. But why is this? Is it considered a faux pas or inconsiderate? In this wonderful world of religious and cultural diversity, political correctness seems to be the new wave of including all while simultaneously offending none. Political correctness has been blamed for diminishing the Christmas spirit, aka the “War on Christmas”. But by the plethora of lights, Starbucks red cups, trees, Christmas songs being played in stores and displays in all major stores from October to January, I personally don’t think the war on Christmas truly exists. But maybe that’s a great subject for another blog.

And this constant display of Christmas is really what I as a Jew, struggle with. It is not Christmas I have a problem with. I think it is a lovely holiday that the majority of those I know and love celebrate. I love the smell of a pine tree in a warm house, hot apple cider and candy canes. I don’t understand egg nog though. That just sounds gross. Iunderstand the significance of the religious aspect of Christmas as well as the secular celebration. As a Jew, these are not offensive.

What I do struggle with is the onslaught of the holiday on my senses that begins right around Halloween and continues through January. I walk into a store and see decorations. I hear Christmas songs on the sound system. The holiday parties that are held at my children’s school are full of what I consider “Christmas” activities. For those that celebrate Christmas, people say, “but a tree, snowmen, snowflakes in windows, they have nothing to do with CHRISTmas”. That may be the case for them. But if one takes a step back, they are allrelated to the holiday. At no other time of the year do these exist except during the Christmas holiday. But…

This is a major holiday for the majority of our country. And who am I to say that it must be reined in because of how it makes ME feel. Because my friends feel the same dilemma when wondering if they would offend me by sending me a card. Which brings us back to the dreaded “holiday card”. After pondering on why it would be inappropriate to send one to your Jewish friends, I come to one conclusion.

Bring ‘em on!

Why? It comes down to sharing one’s life with their friends and family. It’s about bringing joy and light into the time of the year where we have the least amount of light, especially in the Pacific Northwest. And for me, that is what the holidays are really about. Family and friends coming together to provide light and love in a time of darkness.

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Celebrating Diwali

By Archana Sunil

There are many stories to share about why Hindus celebrate Diwali or Deepavali (Row of lamps). Growing up in India I remember it being about Lord Ram returning to his kingdom Ayodhya from exile with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman. But it wasn’t until I came to America and met Indians from other parts and faiths of India that I realized there were several other stories around Diwali. I’ve attempted to share just a few here.

Let’s start down in the southern states. There was once an evil demon Narakasura, son of Bhudevi(Goddess Earth) and Lord Vishnu. His power and strength grew over time and eventually intimidated the Devas (heavenly gods) and he attacked their kingdom. When all efforts failed to subdue Narakasura and his evil deeds, especially the torture of women, the gods turned to Lord Krishna’s wife Satyabhama for help. Satyabhama was the only one who could kill Narakasura as she was an incarnation of Bhudevi. Narakasura had been granted the boon of only being killed by Bhudevi and none else. Satyabhama did not take long to slay Naakasura and redeemed the Earth of Narakasura. Another version of this story says that Narakasura was slain by Lord Krishna. Either way, Deepavali/Diwali in South India is celebrated with rows of oil lamps to honor this event.

Let’s go further up to the northwest state of Punjab, where the Sikhs of India hail from. Sikhs celebrate Diwali to commemorate the release of their sixth Guru Hargobind and 52 other princes from the Gwalior fort under Mughal Emperor Jahangir. He had been arrested for political reasons. True to his faith he however prayed for several days for the recovery of his oppressor from an illness. In return Jahangir ordered his release. But Guru Hargobind refused to leave without the other 52 Hindu princes and kings who had also been held captive. It was negotiated that whoever could hold on to the Guru’s cape would be allowed to leave with him. The guru then had a special cape made with 52 tassels so that every single person could hold on to his cape and leave the fort. When they arrived in Amritsar he saw that they were celebrating with lamps and sweets and they joined in the celebration, thus giving us the story behind why Sikhs celebrate Diwali. It is also known as Bandi Chod Diwas (The Day of the prisoner’s release).

Vardhaman Mahaveera was the 24th and the last Tirtankara (teacher) of Jainism. Born to a royal family in the state of Bihar, he gave up all worldly comforts in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. After about twelve years he eventually attained Kevalnyan, enlightenment, and continued his journey for the next thirty years teaching others what he had learned and experienced. He passed away and attained Nirvana(liberation) at the age of 72. There was darkness all around and his followers lit oil lamps to overcome the sadness. So Diwali for Jains hence became a reason to celebrate the removal of darkness with light and of ignorance with wisdom and knowledge. The Jain new year starts the day after Diwali – Pratipada. So feel free to wish a Jain friend ‘Happy New Year’ too.

And finally, one of the most popular stories around Diwali from the northern parts of India – the return of the beloved Prince Ram to Ayodhya after fourteen years in exile. Prince Ram had been exiled to fourteen years in the forest by his father King Dasharatha who had to fulfill a promise he had made to one of his queens in a battle. As Prince Ram prepared to leave, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana insisted on joining him. The three lived in the forests for fourteen years amidst many adventures. The most significant one being Sita kidnapped by Ravana, the ten headed King of Lanka. After several fights and struggles Sita was rescued by Ram and Lakshman with the help of several local kings and their armies including the monkey God Hanuman. When they finally returned to Ayodhya they were welcomed with rows and rows of oil lamps, colorful flowers, sweets and other festivities. The people lovingly crowned them King and Queen of Ayodhya.

Whatever the story behind each family’s Diwali, there is one thread that runs through all of them. Like many other Hindu festivals Diwali celebrates the victory of good words, thoughts and actions over evil; the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.

I wish you all a lifetime of health, wealth and peace. Happy Diwali and Deepavali!

Issaquah / Sammamish Reporter: Celebrating unity and love / Sammamish residents gather for traditional Ramadan dinner

By Nicole Jennings, June 24, 2017:

“Throughout history, religious differences have torn people and entire nations apart.

Even in recent months, headlines have been full of hate crimes and acts of terrorism, both across the ocean and here in Washington.

But on the evening of June 16, about 100 people of many different faiths gathered at the Pine Lake Community Center in Sammamish to celebrate a traditional Ramadan Iftar dinner with the local Muslim community. Although half the people at the dinner were not practicers of Islam, they came together in a show of unity to demonstrate that the bonds of love and friendship are stronger than any differences between people.”

Read full article

Happy Ramadan Greetings 

Written by Yasmine abdeldayem – a Sammamish resident and P4P member . 

Ramadan, the most sacred and blessed month in the Islamic calendar, begins today. For 30 days, from sunrise to sunset, millions of Muslims all around the world will abstain from eating and drinking. It’s been jokingly referred to as The Hunger Games on social media.   

For observers of Ramadan, this voluntary self-deprivation is the best reminder of all the blessings we have in life. We often take for granted blessings such as being able to reach for a cold glass of clean water wherever we feel the need, or making a mid-day drive-through run to Starbucks. Being freed from the constant thought of feeding the body frees up one’s mind and soul to what’s most important — being truly present. This is what I believe is the ultimate goal of this Godly detox.

Growing up in Cairo, fasting as a child was something we all aspired to do. While not required by our faith to fast until puberty, most kids start to practice much earlier. It gave us a sense of pride to do something that only grownups are required to do.

Four years ago, my seven-year-old son – who moved with us to Washington as a three-month-old baby – asked me why we fast. As I was explaining to him how it makes our hearts more compassionate, he immediately and enthusiastically said he wanted to give it a try as well. I was proud of this desire in him, and did not want to shut it down. It reminded me of the Stanford marshmallow experiment, where researchers tested children on delayed gratification with the promise of a bigger marshmallow.  My son’s reward would not be more marshmallow, but something much higher. 

My son was a first grader then and we were the only Muslim family in his school. I knew his experience would definitely be different from the one I had as a child. When I was growing up, I practiced fasting with almost every kid in my school. I negotiated with him the same way my mom did with me when I was his age. “How about you have breakfast as early as you wake up in the morning, skip snack time, and then have lunch with your classmates?” He gladly accepted my deal.

I did not have a chance to email my son’s teacher to explain ahead of time. Part of me was worried my son’s fasting at school might not go over well, and as a result, my son might get the wrong impression. I have to admit I was also worried I would be judged as a mother – for being too strict and depriving my son necessary nutrients. I hoped his teacher might not even notice. After all, he was only going to skip snack. 

At pick-up time, the teacher asked to speak to me for a minute. He said he noticed that my son skipped snack, and when he asked why, my son explained that he is fasting until lunch. I was about to start my long pre-meditated explanation when the teacher surprised me. He said he was amazed that at age seven, my sweet boy was capable of showing such a great deal of self- control. He called him “noble.”

I will never forget how my son’s eyes beamed with joy. I will always be grateful and thankful for that moment with his teacher. He knew my son was practicing his faith and that in Islam, children are not required to fast. And, he knew that as a mother, I was doing what I believed to be best for my child.

This year marks the tenth year my family and I will observe Ramadan in Seattle. The kids are so looking forward to the late festive dinners (called iftars) with friends on weekends. Moreover, this Ramadan will be special to many Muslim kids, as most of it falls while school is still in session. I hear some of my friends with older kids are worried about how their teenage kids will observe Ramadan on long school days. Others are concerned about safety, especially given President Trump’s statement on Ramadan.

I urge my Muslim neighbors who are observing Ramadan, especially those who are members of Plateaupians for Peace, to include non-Muslim friends in festivities. Share with them what this month means to your family.

For my non-Muslim neighbors, if you know a Muslim family in your kid’s school or in your neighborhood – or even better, if you are a teacher – make it a point to educate all children about what this blessed month means to Muslims in your community. Extend Happy Ramadan greetings.

Below are some resources to aid with that:

Ramadan Greetings 

Ramadan Fact-sheet

Ramadan For Kids 

It’s Ramadan, Curious George 

Under The Ramadan Moon 

And last but not least, a world leader does Ramadan greetings right 

Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter: Plateaupians for Peace to host seminar on how to have peaceful political discussions

Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter, March 27, 2017 by Nicole Jennings:

In these times of disputes, drama and bad feelings at the national political level, it can seem preferable to avoid discussing current events with family, friends and colleagues so that a blow-up does not occur. But Sammamish activist group Plateaupians for Peace wants those conversations to occur — just in a tolerant and respectful way.

That’s the theme of the Plateaupians newest event on March 30, a civil disagreement workshop at the Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in Sammamish. The Plateaupians are partnering with the Good Samaritan to host the seminar, which will educate attendees on how to have peaceful disagreements about politics.

Plateaupians co-founder Sarah Hawes Kimsey said that the workshop was necessary because “we need to learn how to listen better and to disagree” in a way that leads to finding common ground. “Instead of moving apart, we need to move together,” added Loreen Ehlers, a Plateaupian and member of the Episcopal church.

Read more at http://www.issaquahreporter.com/news/plateaupians-for-peace-to-host-seminar-on-how-to-have-peaceful-political-discussions/

We’re proud of the City of Sammamish for this Proclamation

City of Sammamish Proclamation:

In the wake of a contentious and discordant national election, we take this moment to pause and reaffirm our principles and values.

As your City government, our role is to bring people together and not divide them. Our job is to be welcoming of all people and all ideas in recognition that we truly are stronger and smarter together. We need to recognize certain essential principles and conduct our government and hopefully our lives consistent with those principles.

Consequently, as your City Council, we pledge:

-To do all we can to foster civil discourse.

-To ensure that City services are always provided in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

-To foster a community that always encourages people to achieve their potential and help others to do similarly.

-To protect our air, water and other parts of our natural environment to protect the health and futures of our families and future generations.

-To welcome, without reservation, new people from all parts of our world, with an abiding faith in their potential to be part of and strengthen our community.

-To never marginalize or demonize any person or group of people.

-To respect and listen to people and their ideas.

-To understand that we have a responsibility not just to ourselves but to others in our region including many who are not as fortunate.

-To do all we can to ensure that our children will inherit a world that includes all of the good that the world our parents brought us into had.

-To encourage that our national, state and regional leaders uphold these same values.

We commit to regularly remind ourselves of these principles and to judge ourselves and our City by our adherence to them.

~Proclaimed, this 13th day of December, 2016.