When Worlds Collide
What happens when Halloween and Shabbat fall on the same night?
SHELLI LIEBMAN DORFMAN
his year, the struggle over whether
Jewish children should celebrate
Halloween, a holiday with pagan roots,
is complicated by the holiday falling on
the eve of Shabbat this year, Oct. 31.
Some Jews do not believe in trick-or-treating on
any night of the week; others do not observe
Shabbat whether or not it coincidei-with
Halloween. So, the dilemma falls to the group of
Jewish kids who, in a different year, would sepa-
rately celebrate both.
Some families are torn between wanting their
children to enjoy both celebrations and the con-
tradiction of lighting candles, then abandoning
the spirit of Shabbat to scour the neighborhood
begging for treats in observance of a non-Jewish
Here's how some local Jewish families and lead-
ers grapple with the dilemma:
Candles And Candy
"My preference is that they don't dress up and
don't go out, but if they are going to, they could
do it before sundown and be home before Shabbat
begins," said Rabbi Norman Roman of Temple
For some families, lighting Shabbat candles and
enjoying Friday night dinner together before
trick-or-treating seems a fair compro-
"We will begin Shabbat together and,
after dinner, we will take our kids out,"
said Audra Averbach of West Bloomfield.
"Our kids always trick-or-treat because
to us Halloween is an American tradi-
tion, not a religious holiday."
But the Friday night timing of this
Halloween posed a new discussion in the
Averbach home. "We received a -letter
from Hillel [Day School of Metropolitan
Detroit], where our daughter Hallie is in third
grade," Averbach said. "While we know the kids
are not allowed to come to school in costume, the
letter talked about the choices parents must make
since Halloween is on Shabbat.
"The letter made me stop and question what we
were going to do about Halloween."
The family decided. "We are going to allow our
children to trick-or-treat, but we are not going to
make it a big deal this year," she said. "We will
not decorate our house on Halloween because it is
on Shabbat. And the kids [including Zachary, 5,
and Noah, 1] will not wear costumes that are
ghoulish or spooky, because of Shabbat."
Averbach, who converted from Catholicism,
said, "I know Halloween has a connection to the
church and once included pagan rituals, but we
don't celebrate it for any religious reason. My kids
are so proud to be Jewish, and they trick-or-treat
just because it's fun."
And this year, when they dress in costume, they
will remember, she said, that "we are putting
Shabbat above Halloween."
Halloween is what remains of the ancient festival
of Samhain, celebrating the Celtic New Year with
and the lighting of
bonfires to ward away
termed, 'All Hallow's
Eve," is the first of
three days of
including All Saints
Day and All Souls
"This is the under-
lying reason for not
Silberberg of Sara Tugman Bais Chabad Torah
Center. "It is because it runs contrary to the verse
in Leviticus that says, 'Don't follow the
customs of the gentile.' Jews have to
remember we are a different kind of peo-
ple and should identify as being differ-
Other aspects of the holiday have been
deemed contrary to Jewish values,
including the element of idolatry.
Following the conquering of Britain by
the Romans, the worship of Pomona, the
goddess of fruit and trees, was included
in the Halloween celebration.
Magical practices to manipulate or dupe and the
once-common Halloween practice of using magic
to look into the future also make the holiday
unacceptable in Jewish tradition.
"Some may say this is a secular holiday, but kids
need to know this is something that is quite
paganistic and not something we, as Jews, do,"
Rabbi Silberberg said. "Even though they clearly
don't do it for paganistic reasons, we can't ignore
While typically rabbis do not encourage trick-or-
treating, Rabbi Roman has some suggestions to
In Halloween costumes from last
year are Hallie, 8, Zachary 5,
and Noah Averbach, I.
bring Judaism into the mix for those who are
going to do it anyway.
"If asked, I would tell them it's not a Jewish
thing to do, but if they are going to trick-or-treat,
there should be a lesson involved in it," he said.
"Maybe they can invite some kids who normally
wouldn't have the opportunity to share a happy
time with friends. Or they could call a senior citi-
zen residence and ask if they would like some kids
to dress up and bring smiles and youthfulness to
A tzedakah (righteous act) component is impor-
tant. "They . could take a coffee can and ask people
to donate pennies to .a specific cause. Or they
could take a percentage of their candy and deliver
it a senior home or children's facility."
Rabbi Roman suggests that even those who typ-
ically do not donate some of their trick-or-treat
candy should sift through it and remove non-
kosher items for donation.
Who's Teaching The Kids
Jewish schools, youth groups and agencies typical-
ly do not even approach the Halloween subject.
"Maybe the fact that many schools exclude
Halloween discussion from their classrooms does-
n't allow kids to even realize the basis of the holi-
day," said Jill Greenbaum of Southfield. "[My
children] know simply that it's not a Jewish holi-