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Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Jew on Christmas

Dahlia Lithwick has a fun piece on Slate about which Christmas specials Jewish parents do and do not allow their children to watch.

Our three-year-old does not like to watch TV all that much, so we have not had this particular problem. But she has been trying very hard lately to understand about this holiday that we do not celebrate but that so many other people (including two of her best friends) do celebrate. Her curiosity is further piqued because her Jewish preschool is across the street from a church with a Christmas tree lot and a giant inflatable Santa. She is not upset by this--no "Why can't we have lights on our house" or "I want Santa to come to my house" (at least not now--come see me when she is eight). But she has been asking a lot of questions. Of course, my wife and I both try to be sanguine about the fact that Jews are a minority in American society and, as such, are going to be surrounded by many of the majority's practices. So, at least for now, I do not feel as if we are struggling too much with how to explain it all to our daughter.

Finally, just because it's fun and I agree with Dahlia that this is the best Jewish song of the season:

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 18, 2008 at 04:56 PM in Culture | Permalink


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One of the Christmas traditions of my wife and I is to pop in the South Park Holiday CD shortly after Thanksgiving. For a socially conservative Christian and sometimes fellow traveler (in certain ways) of (the more reasonable) elements of the religious right, that's strange but, one of the clear lessons of Christianity - one lost on too many of its adherents - is that life is paradoxical.

The question is of interest to me because my son married a Jewish woman and my two grandsons (who I am not old enough to have!) are being raised in the Jewish tradition. Because my father's family were German Jews who floated away in the new country, mu daughter-in-law says her mission in life is to bring the Esenbergs back to the tribe. Since she married my only son, I think she's probably going to succeed!

But, on Christmas, she is a fusionist. They do the tree and her view is that Jesus was an historic figure who, if not divine, is worth paying attention to. Their house is festooned with Christmas lights and Stars of David. Santa visits little Aidan and Caleb. I understand that this is a level of assimilation with which everyone will not be comfortable, but it works for her.

I've seen friends handle it a variety of ways. One of the most memorable, to me, was a Jewish woman who married a lapsed Catholic. They put up a heck of a Christmas tree but then festooned the top (where the angel or Star of Bethlehem is supposed to go) with a Mickey Mouse head. I suppose I could have taken offense at that, but it was her way of placing a boundary on the extent of her assimilation.

Don't you have to respect that?

Posted by: Rick Esenberg | Dec 18, 2008 11:51:38 PM

Here is a more upbeat nomination for the best Jewish Christmas song (though your kids will have to be a little older to appreciate it):


Posted by: Steven Lubet | Dec 18, 2008 5:14:07 PM

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