A holiday challenge

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It's Christmas morning. You wake up and reheat a stack of last week's delicious latkes. You watch a rerun of "It's a Wonderful Life" and think, "It's great to be a Jew on Christmas Day."

Sound unfamiliar?

More usual is waking with a sinking feeling that day. Once again, we're on the outside looking in, a minority group in a Christian society.

This year, we challenge you to adopt a new attitude. Rather than wallowing in Dec. 25 alienation, look at it this way: Here you have a whole Monday to be with friends and family, watch that silly soap opera, catch that matinee you haven't had time to see, or go ice skating with the kids.

What's more, you have a rare opportunity to break free from the daily grind and to consider what really matters. Take time to write in the journal that's been collecting dust, or to read the novel that's been perched on your nightstand for months.

Or you might want to contact a friend whose phone call you've been lax in returning. With much of the day on your hands, you'll have more time than usual to listen to what's really going on in his or her life.

What's more, if tzedakah truly represents the essence of being Jewish, Dec. 25 offers more than the usual share of opportunities for Jews to engage in good deeds.

Because the day is holy for Christians, any community service we choose to provide not only helps those in need but relieves those volunteers who want to share the holiday with their loved ones.

A story on Page 4 of this week's paper — which offers myriad ideas for volunteering — makes it impossible to say "I'd like to help out but I just don't know how."

The story explains, for example, how you can get involved by delivering food to shut-ins through the Salvation Army — or by serving food at a homeless shelter.

Of course, if you're set on including the proverbial Chinese dinner in your Christmas Day schedule, we suggest the kung pao (not the spicy chicken but the kosher comedy event). Some of the proceeds from that annual San Francisco event go to Family Link, a hospitality house for families of people with AIDS.

This year, follow this fried and true prescription for holiday sulkers: moo shu, movies and mitzvot.