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War Against Christmas 2009: A Jewish Perspective
Peggy Epstein with friend
I live in a very quaint downtown area where colonial era townhouses line the street. Last weekend's blizzard transformed it into a veritable winter wonderland, with the normally busy street empty enough for my neighbors to walk or cross-country ski to the few restaurants, bars, and movie theatre that were still open.
As I walked Peggy, my four month-old puppy, down through the snow, she spotted another dog with a few college students. As they sniffed each other, we exchanged the usual pleasantries about the breed and age of our dogs.
He asked why. I replied this is still a majority Christian nation and I respect that. Without missing a beat, he corrected me: "America is not a Christian nation, it's a diverse nation!"
With the snow still floating down, I was not willing to suffer frostbite to deprogram him. So I parted by asking: "If you think that diversity is so great, why does it make you censor yourself from uttering the most harmless niceties?"
When I was a freshman in high school a dozen years ago, my Hebrew confirmation class went to a larger day-long seminar of sorts with several other confirmation classes from reform and conservative synagogues.
One exercise put on by another congregation had a Jewish girl wearing a blonde wig and fake southern accent play an unenlightened high school choir director trying to make her students sing Silent Night. She kept insisting that only these songs were truly holy enough. My fellow students were given tips on how to complain that this was a violation of the First Amendment. We then taught her Hanukkah songs.
Although I had not become politically aware at that time, I distinctly remember being disgusted by the whole exercise.
Back then, the idea of attacking Santa Claus Is Coming to Town had not been developed—which shows just how far the Scrooges have advanced in the War Against Christmas.
American Jewish antipathy towards Christmas is a relatively new phenomenon. As Steve Sailer has pointed out, Jews wrote many of the most celebrated Christmas songs, such as Silver Bells, White Christmas, and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
Similarly, the elevation of Hanukkah as a major Jewish holiday is an equally recent phenomenon. My grandmother told me that the idea of celebrating Hanukkah was completely absent from the Jewish community during the 1940s and 1950s. She gave presents to my father at Christmas in part because didn't want him to believe that Santa Claus was anti-Semitic.
My guess is that the original elevation of Hanukkah was a ploy to get the increasingly affluent Jewish population to purchase gifts, rather than an attempt to undermine the importance of Christmas. But demanding that this minor holiday now be treated as equal to Christmas clearly is such an attempt.
I believe that Jews should celebrate and contribute to the secular aspects of Christmas, and not interfere with Christian celebration of its religious parts.
And this is not because of our supposedly joint Judeo-Christian heritage is under attack from "secularists". I once heard a prominent neocon argue that Jews, as well as Muslims and Hindus, needed to unite against these "secularists" who were collectively engaged in a war against Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, and Diwali. But of course the elevation of the latter three is a major part of the War On Christmas and America's Christian identity—not on a generic "people of faith".
At an Indiana public school's "Holiday Show", second grade students were to sing "Allah is God", though no other religions were mentioned. Fortunately, nationwide protest removed the offending line. But it did not turn it back into a Christmas show.
When Rep. Steve King introduced a resolution to recognize the importance of Christmas, nine Democratic Representatives actually voted against it. (The nine: Woolsey, Lynn [D]]; Lee, Barbara [D]]; Stark, Fortney [D]]; DeGette, Diana [D]]; Hastings, Alcee [D]]; Ackerman, Gary [D]]; Clarke, Yvette [D]]; Scott, Robert [D]]; McDermott, James [D])
However, resolutions to recognize the importance of Ramadan and Diwali were unanimously passed.
Jews should not defend Christmas because Hanukkah and Judaism will be the next target of "secularists" but because America's secular and shared national identity was strongly influenced by its Christian—mainly Protestant—heritage. This heritage created a culture that Americans of all faiths can and have benefit from and take part in.
What about the religious aspects of Christmas? While I have no desire to attend Christmas Mass, I recognize the secular aspects of Christmas that I enjoy are dependent upon the spiritual origins of Christmas. I can enjoy listening to religious Christmas songs Silent Night or Joy to the World just as I can appreciate Ode to Joy or Da Vinci's Last Supper without worrying that a pogrom is on its way.
Perhaps more importantly, I do not believe that a small minority of the population should feel entitled to completely undermine the institutions of the majority because it somehow doesn't feel "included".
The War against Christmas is just one front in the War against America and against the West—which Jews have a vital interest in defending.
Marcus Epstein [send him mail] writes from Alexandria, VA.