JCC Newsletter – Vayishlach

It is by now common knowledge that many popular Christmas songs you hear being piped through shopping malls the world over were written by Jews. ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ by Johnny Marks, ‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’ by Mel Torme, ‘White Christmas’ by Irving Berlin represent just a few in the panoply of jingles created by people who had never celebrated the holiday at all. The 2018 PBS documentary ‘Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas’ goes into further detail around the how’s and why’s of this paradoxical cultural phenomenon. Thankfully, the perennial December bane of every Starbucks barista ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ possesses no nexus to the Jewish people.

However, less well known is that the Jewish people’s contribution to Christmas goes far beyond the musical into the illuminating. In 1902, a young immigrant named Morris Propp tried desperately but without success to find a job that permitted him to observe Shabbat. Absent the ability to secure gainful employment that complemented his sense of religious duty, Morris went into business on his own and soon found himself transitioning from selling gas mantles to these newfangled electric bulbs.

To provide some context, by the early 20th century there existed a custom of attaching lighted candles to Christmas trees. This was by all accounts a terrible idea. People usually kept the candles lit for no longer than 30 minutes at a time, kept an eye on the tree the whole time, and always had a bucket of sand or water at the ready in case of fire.

Sensing opportunity, Morris Propp along with other Jewish entrepreneurs sparked the interest of the American public into using electric lights instead, an idea which took hold and remains an annual holiday tradition the world over. So the next time you visit Tokyo Mega Illumination or Miyashita Christmas Park, know that you have Morris Propp’s uncompromising fidelity to Shabbat to thank for the display you experience.


Kabbalat Shabbat
Friday, December 9th
Services: 6:00pm
Dinner with reservation: 7:00pm

Kabbalat Shabbat in honor of Raji Krishnaswami z”l
Friday, December 16th
Services: 6:00pm
Dinner with reservation: 7:00pm

Shabbat Parshat Vayeshev
Kiddush Sponsored by the Bass Family in honor of David’s arrival back on Japanese shores
Saturday, December 17th
Services: 10:00am
Kiddush: 12:00pm

Kabbalat Shabbat
Friday, December 23rd
Services: 6:00pm
Dinner with reservation: 7:00pm

Shabbat Parshat Miketz/Rosh Chodesh Tevet/6th Day of Hanukkah
Three Torah Take-Out!
Kiddush Open for Sponsorship
Saturday, December 24th
Services: 10:00am
Kiddush: 12:00pm


Community Hanukkah Celebration
Sponsored by Arron Besant and Hotaka Matsui
Sunday, December 18th
3:30pm – 7:00pm at the JCJ
Registration Details

If you have an idea for an event or a topic you would like to share with others, please visit our website.


Please join us for our Friday Night Bonenkai on December 23rd when as part of yet another Christmas tradition dreamed up by non-Christian marketers, we will dine on Chinese food. Please reserve on our website.

We were honored to host Ambassador Raphael Harpaz and Maya Yaron of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Asia Pacific Division. May the bonds between Israel and Japan continue to go stronger.

Okaerinasai to our hometown Samurai Blue after their loss in penalty kicks to Croatia. We were feverishly praying for Japan outside of the Croatian Embassy which is down the block from the JCC but alas, to no avail.

Yiddish Club with Jack Halpern: Meetings have started monthly in-person at the JCJ. Please contact Jack at jack@cjki.org if you are interested to join. All levels are welcome, from beginner to advanced. Much more than just language, the club enjoys exploring Yiddish culture as well.

Shabbat Parshat Vayishlach
Candle Lighting: 4:09pm
Havdala: 5:10pm