Who am I and why am I writing this blog? I am a rabbi, historian and ethnographer. I am also the author of the recently published book “A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to Be Jewish,” (Rutgers University Press, October 2012), which is the first book to be written about American Jews and Christmas. ‘A Kosher Christmas,’ the product of 20 years of research, is, according to a review by Publisher’s Weekly, “ a serious, analytical yet fun survey of 150 years of Jewish responses to the December holiday season, with emphasis on the past thirty years.”
If not celebrating Christmas, what then is a Jew to do on Christmas in America? How is a Jew to respond? These questions are at the heart of what the mass media and Jewish communal leaders in the United States commonly refer to as the December dilemma. The lure of Christmas entices some Jews to become involved in the nonreligious aspects of Christmas and other Jews to reject it as a stepping stone toward assimilation. This latter group promotes adopting the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah as the sole medium for display of Jewish seasonal joy, a holiday that, like Christmas, can be adapted to reflect American values and ideals. “Christmas or Hanukkah?” is a difficult choice forced each year on many Jewish parents, children, leaders, and educators.
So, why am I starting this blog? I want to host a forum for what I see, do and hear and postings about what you see, do and hear! So let’s begin:
Trend alert! The Christmas season is almost upon us. After all, it Halloween has come and gone and Thanksgiving is almost upon us! That means we have just a few short weeks before the public squares, streets, and shops are festooned with Christmas trees, nativity scenes, wreathes, images of Santa Claus, snowmen, and reindeer. Music will soon be piped into every shopping mall. That said, there are a lot of exciting things happening in the New York City scene leading up to Christmas. A heads up for the few Hanukkah Harrys that always appear at Santa.con (more on this at a later time)! Trending Christmas Eve comedy shows are in sight and, of course, don’t forget the myriad of Chinese food options throughout this City. As the weeks go by, we will be surveying the scene and letting you know what is out there! Also, feel free to write in about what you are doing (because you’ve wanted to dress up as Santa for a holiday party, right?) and what you have done in the past. Let us know which Chinese restaurants get you salivating – and which comedy shows have you laughing uproariously! And if it is a time for volunteering or for celebrating activities of purely Jewish creation, we want to know!