Two people in the NASCAR industry wished me a “Happy Hannukah” this season. It happens just about every year.
How the last name “Giangola” can be mistaken to be Jewish is beyond me. But I don’t mind one bit.
When someone assumes a person is Jewish, certain stereotypes are at play. Being dumb or a failure aren’t among them. Folks are sizing me up as a smart, successful guy. Even if that’s widely off the mark, I’ll take it. Hey, Jesus himself was born, raised and died a Jew. Count me an unofficial member of the Tribe.
A few years ago, walking with a friend past a half-lit menorah, she wished me a happy Hannukah.
“Uh, my name ends in a vowel,” I said. “Isn’t that a clue I’m an Italian Christian?”
She answered, “Well, you know, you work in the New York office, so I just thought…”
Now that cracked me up. Jerry Seinfeld couldn’t have written that. I work in New York, therefore I am a Jew.
Which brings me to the unique Christmas gift I received this year: Turns out, I am Jewish. Well, a wee bit. I'm not doused in the Manischewitz, a la Victory Lane; it's just a schpritz.
You see, my brother James, who lives in Brazil and could be considered loveably eccentric in some ways, recently had a DNA test to determine his ultimate roots. I could have saved him the time and money . Go far enough back into investigating your respective family trees, and all human beings hail from a nice couple in West Africa.
Nonetheless, I couldn’t get to James in time. He turned over his blood, and the tests came back: the Giangola’s are 3% Semitic (or as the nice official scientific-looking pie chart says: 3%, ASHKENAZI JEWISH.)
I’ll now accept the Happy Hannukah greetings, mention my brother’s blood test, and hum a song ever-present in the malls this time of year such as “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” All written by Jews.
A year from now, next to our tree, you’ll see the menorah many assumed I’ve always had.
Indeed, we are much more alike than different.
Peace and goodwill toward you all, whether a tree or line of candles lights up your living room. Shalom and Amen.