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Arts Featured

The sounds of celebration: Greenhill’s approach towards the holiday season

With the holiday season at hand, the senior pod is adorned with snowflakes and white paper. Ugly Christmas sweaters are on display, menorahs are lit and the Fine Arts Department is poised to deliver its annual holiday concerts.  

The Greenhill community prides itself on celebrating many different religions freely, and when it comes to holiday celebrations faculty members and students try to be mindful of diverse representation. Greenhill students and faculty celebrate many different holidays this time of year, including Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the Fiesta of Our Lady Guadalupe. 

With many different religions come many different celebrations.

“For the most part, I feel represented in my Jewish beliefs,” said senior Ross Rubin, co-president of the Jewish Studies Club. “We used to not get many holidays off, but now we get either Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah off.”

Since so many holidays occur around the same time, some students feel that equal representation is difficult to maintain.

 “It’s hard to determine whether individual religions are being treated with equal respect,” said junior Kaiti Ness. “In Greenhill in general, some holidays are celebrated more than others, but everyone can celebrate their religions freely.” 

Greenhill faculty members are motivated to diversify holiday celebrations, such as the winter choir concert and the annual holiday sing-a-long.

“I’m very proud of our mindfulness of inclusivity,” said Head of Fine Arts Terry Martin. “I think it’s very much a part of who we are and obviously what we’re constantly trying to do is find a way for the sing-a-long to be a celebration.” 

The holiday sing-a-long is a performance by choir, band, orchestra, and the improv troupe that includes holiday songs and a skit and song combination about latkes. The latke song is performed by Jewish members of the improv troupe in a celebration of the classic Hanukkah dish.

“I’ve been doing this since sophomore year and the latke song makes everyone happy and makes the Jewish kids feel represented,” said Ross.

While the latke song has been a staple of the sing-a-long for more than ten years, the Fine Arts Department recently reevaluated the content of the skit portion.

“Perhaps early on, there was the feeling that the Yiddish accents or the stereotypical rabbi character were a little over the top and stereotypical, and I think that has been dialed back some,” said Mr. Martin.

However, members of the Jewish Studies Club have not voiced any concerns regarding the characterization of the rabbi. Instead, some feel that the changes may not have been necessary. 

“I can see where they’re coming from, [but] as the Jewish Studies Club president I kind of know every Jewish kid here and I haven’t had any complaints,” Ross said.

“I can see where they’re coming from, [but] as the Jewish Studies Club president I kind of know every Jewish kid here and I haven’t had any complaints,” Ross said.

Despite the diversity of each individual student, new choral director Lucik Aprahamian thinks the winter choir concert binds religion through common themes. 

“Since we have such plurality and multicultural, secular viewpoints, I like to focus on light,” said Dr. Aprahamian. “It is a common element that pretty much all cultures have and can relate to. Not all the music is light related, but there is a thread through it all.” 

The holiday concert program includes Israeli, Christmas, Hanukkah and folk music. The variety of music has increased with support from the new choral director.

“I don’t think there’s been a pushback,” said Kaiti. “I guess we do only sing Christmas or Hanukkah songs, but we try not to stick to only Christmas music or music in English in general. [Dr. Aprahamian] is really [into] the variety of different languages that we sing.”

While some students have concerns with representation in the holiday season, they also feel that Greenhill does a good job trying to represent many cultures. 

“We all have our own traditions and we can live together with those traditions,” said Dr. Aprahamian. “Getting rid of tradition altogether is not reflective of who we want to be as people and as a community.” 

Story by Avery Franks and Jothi Gupta

Photo courtesy of Caroline Greenstone

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