For some, not a holy day, but still a busy day

If your stockings are hung by the chimney with care, with chestnuts roasting on an open fire, you’re probably not making reservations at a Chinese restaurant for tomorrow. But for many people of the Jewish faith, Christmas means getting a really good table in Chinatown.

If your stockings are hung by the chimney with care, with chestnuts roasting on an open fire, you’re probably not making reservations at a Chinese restaurant for tomorrow. But for many people of the Jewish faith, Christmas means getting a really good table in Chinatown.

The chosen people have a number options in choosing what to do on a Gentile holiday. The Jewish calendar has many significant religious holidays. Hanukkah is not one of them.

Bryan Fogel is one part of a two-man, traveling comedy show called The World of Jewtopia, playing the Kimmel Center over the holiday weekend. Fogel remembers being a kid during the Christmas season and feeling let down by Hanukkah.

Fogel: Eight days of gefilte fish and spinning a dreidle. Christmas has got it beat hands down. This show is trying to bridge that gap with humor. It’s an alternative to Chinese food. Which is how Jews spend Christmas – with Chinese food.

Last year a comedian named Cory Kahaney played up that fact by creating Moo Shu Jew, an evening of Jewish comedians served with a full Chinese banquet at a restaurant in Chinatown. Its first year sold out at 271 tickets.

Kahaney: This is a Chinese restaurant that said they sat 300. I believe they do seat 300, but 300 Asians, not 300 Jews. I would say 271 sold out that facility.

She expects more this year. Kaheny is hosting the event at a larger restaurant on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the same times as the World of Jewtopia. Bryan Fogel says it’s no contest.

Fogel: We’ve definitely got the Moo Shu Jew beat. We were the most successful comedy in LA, in Chicago, in Florida. Our show has been seen by a million people – I don’t know if Moo Shu Jew can compete with that, but if they can: bring it on, Moo Shu Jew.

The two events share one big perk, and that is the city itself. Kahaney says Christmas Eve is the one time of year when the streets of Philadelphia are mostly Jewish.

Kahaney: Great thing about Christmas eve, there’s no traffic, and there’s parking. We really are the only people out. We own the city. A few Chinese restaurants, the Jews, and maybe an errant Indian family. It’s terrific.

But it’s not all punchlines and kung pao this weekend. Some earnest action is also on tap. More than 400 Jewish teenagers are convening in Valley Forge for a weekend of community advocacy training through an organization called BBYO. Regional director Ian Kandel says two Holocaust survivors from New Jersey will talk on Saturday about their experiences.

Kandel: They were roughly the same ages of these teens when they had to really step up and mature quickly and find strength. There’s a lot of themes there that will resonate with the teens.

Kandel says the conference moved to Valley Forge from Ocean City, Md., last year to be closer to the resources of a city like Philadelphia.

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