THE JEWISH NEWS
DECEMBER 22. 1989
To Jewish Living
Guidelines For The December Dilemma
By RABBI IRWIN GRONER
Rabbi Irwin Groner is rabbi of
Congregation Shaarey Zedek and
the author of this month's To Our
Readers.' For each issue of
L'Chayim, a rabbi, Jewish educator
or other notable will present an
overview of the month's theme.
In the life of the American
people, December is a happy
month, for it brings holiday spirit,
parties and presents. To American
Jews, December brings a
troublesome problem. The
magnitude of the Christmas
celebration and the power of the
commercialized Christmas spirit are
a challenge to Jewish integrity and
to the wisdom of Jewish parents.
Some may prefer to evade the
challenge and ignore the
consequences. But all of us
recognize that this season awakens
in us a sense of being apart.
This separation from the rest of
American culture may either evoke
a response of painful exclusion, or it
can express, in a significant form, a
thrilling awareness of one's spiritual
identity and unique heritage. Shall
this month awaken in us a feeling of
deprivation, or shall it fortify wihin
us a heightened sense of Jewish
dignity and self-worth?
To consider one issue, no doubt
our schools will again violate the
American principle of the separation
of church and state. There will be
carols and pageants and symbols of
the Christian religious holiday. And
the painful question will again arise
in many homes: What do we do?
Each person has to answer this
question, and similar ones,
according to the dictates of his own
conscience, with a view toward
individual circumstances, and taking
into consideration what is
practicable. I have a few
suggestions that are based on the
experiences of rabbis in various
communities. I submit them in the
form of questions and answers.
Is Christmas a national holiday
which Jews can observe, to some
degree, in good conscience?
Christmas is not a national
holiday. It is an important Christian
holy day which celebrates the birth
of Jesus, the Christian Messiah.
Christmas is not in the same
category as Thanksgiving Day,
Fourth of July, Veterans Day, or any
other American holiday. Christmas
is a sacred festival for those who
follow the dictates of their faith.
Is it not true that many
Americans consider Christmas to be
a national holiday?
Responsible community leaders
deplore the secular perversion of
the Christmas season and try to
overcome it. Thoughtful clergymen
are dismayed by the commercialism
of the Christmas period and seek to
reaffirm, among their followers, its
fundamental religious teaching.
What about the Christmas tree?
The Christmas tree is a symbol
which, for many Christians, has
important religious meaning. This
Continued on Page L-2
Artwork by Danny Fenster, age 5, of Huntington Woods. Son of Rose and Buddy Fenster.