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December 26, 1986 - Image 33

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-12-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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STARK HICKEY FORD

who may see a Christmas tree
in their window or lights hang-
ing from their house.
He differentiates, however,
between a Christmas tree or a
nativity scene and Santa
Claus; for he feels that Santa
Claus is the folkloric, child
orientation within Christmas.
"I don't think it's bad for a
Jewish child to be intrigued by
Santa Claus. If your kid wants
to sit on Santa Claus' lap like
every other kid does, I don't
think there's any harm in that.
But I think that it's important
that a Jewish parent say,
'Look, this is going to be fun
and what we're doing is shar-
ing in something that non-
Jewish people use as part of
their Christmas celebration."
Comess-Daniels has found
that many parents who have
not been consistent with
Jewish tradition feel pressure
to compete with Christmas.
"In fact, that's so antagonis-
tic to Chanukah. If Chanukah
is a celebration of religious
freedom, then why on earth
would Jews feel compelled to
blur some of the beautiful dila.
tinctions between one religion
and another?
"When people bow down to
the media pressure and peer
pressure, it destroys the salad
bowl versus the melting pot. In
a melting pot, we all amalga-
mate into something and as-
sume that there are no longer
any. differences. In a salad
bowl, we each contribute a

"For a Jewish
family to adopt
symbols that
religious
Christians believe
are reflective of
their values, is an
insult to them."

flavor to what America is all
about. The minute we think
that we have to have every-
thing in common, America is in
trouble."
Whether to have a salad
bowl or melting pot can also be
an issue within interfaith
households. "That's where it
has to be 100 percent honest," •
said the rabbi. He suggests
that the parent say something
like, "I'm Jewish and daddy
isn't; so during this time of
year, I celebrate Chanukah
and daddy celebrates Christ-
mas." And you tell the child
about each holiday. `So you can
celebrate the both or choose
one or neither; if you want to
someday, you can make a
choice.' The challenge of that is
to include the honesty that
Chanukah is not the magnifi-
cent, awesome holiday of
Chriitmas; it's a minor holi-
day!'
Rabbi Daniel Gordis of the
University of Judaism, the
Weet Coast affiliate of the Con-
servative movement's Jewish
Theological Seminary of
America, deals. more with the
questions parents have when

,

they have converted to
Judaism. (It is the policy of the
Conservative and Orthodox
movements not to perform in-
terfaith weddings.) Is is often
the case, he said, that during
the holidays, couples face the
dilemma of whether or not to
celebrate Christmas with their
Christian relatives.
"That's the question I deal
with all the time — all the
time. The problem comes up
when the couple has children;
do they go to the grandparents'
house?" He recommends that
when it's not going to cause
unbearable family strife or
tension, that the Jewish family
not go to celebrate Christmas,
but have their Christian rela-
tives come and celebrate
Chanukah. However, "there's
no hard and fast rule."
Jews can make the same
statements during Chanukah
as Christians can during
. Chiistmas, but in a very differ-
ent way, said Gordis.
"We can make a statement
about how important our reli-
gion is to us. We can make a
statement about how much we
• love each other. Just learning a
song together and sitting
around the menorah talking
about what it means to be
Jewish, is meaningful."
Not all Jewish families feel
Christmas is an issue. Rabbi
Abner Weiss of Orthodox Beth
Jacob Congregation in Beverly
Hills, Calif., feels that children
in the Orthodox community
"don't have that kind of prob-
lem.
• "I suspect that Christian
clergyman are facing the same
problem with their children —
how to separate the commer-
cialization of Christmas from
its religious core." '
Merchants have also found
an untapped resource in gift
buying for Chanukah, ex-
plained the rabbi. "In New
York, it's not called Christmas,
it's called Chanukah-
Christmas or Christmas-
Chanukah by the merchants
and by the media."
In fact, said Weiss, laughing,
"I remember a 'Peanuts' comic
trips about 15 years ago, in
which a little child sits on
Santa Claus' knee and. Santa
Claus says, Wu, mein. kind
(meaning, "so, my child" in
Yiddish), what do you want for
Christmas?"
"And I detest the sending of
Chanukah cards, because that
says it all, doesn't it?"
But what about the non-
religious, assimilated Jew who
feels that Christmas has be-
come a secular and American
holiday?
Responded Weiss, "I would
say that this is a very sad thing
for the Jewish community and
for them. I think that saying
it's an American holiday is a
cop-out. At this time of year,
there is always someone who's
saying, 'We have a family
which has a Christmas tree
and Chanukah candles.' I
think that people who have a
little bit of both end up with
nothing of either."

AND STAFF
WISHING ALL THEIR FRIENDS &
CUSTOMERS A JOYOUS HOLIDAY
SEASON AND A HAPPY. NEW YEAR!

538-6600

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