The last of the Halloween candy has been eaten. The harvest moon is a radiant memory. The family festival of Thanksgiving has drawn us closer together. All of these warm seasonal memories can mean only one thing: It’s time for the Christmas haters to shift into high gear.
Who are the Christmas haters? Well, if we are to draw a conclusion from the hundreds of heartfelt and articulate commentaries currently on display on the Internet, they fall loosely into these self-identified groups: Jews, atheists, secular humanists and pagans. While many Jews, atheists, humanists and pagans make an effort to distinguish themselves from members of the other unhappy groups, there is a tremendous amount of overlap between the groups. For example, the word Jew can be used to designate a devout adherent of Judaism or simply anyone who has grown comfortable with Jewish customs, sentiments, perspectives and rhythms. In short, there are religious Jews and there are ethnic Jews and the ethnic Jews might also be atheists or pantheists or Wiccans or heaven knows what.
A 1998 poll of Los Angeles Jews commissioned by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles revealed that only 41 percent of respondents were firm in their belief in any sort of willful conscious deity. The 1990 National Jewish Population Survey makes clear that only half of American Jews are affiliated with any Jewish congregation. Jews are most likely to join a synagogue when they have school-age children, often because of family pressure; they see the synagogue as a place where their children can receive an education in Jewish heritage, an education the parents themselves are ill-equipped to communicate because of their own meager religious educations and because of a lifetime of holding Jewish rituals, or any organized Jewish life, at arm’s length. After their sons have had their Bar Mitzvah, most Jews dump their synagogue memberships. The odd reality is that these parents sought out a synagogue to imbue their children with religious beliefs that the parents themselves do not hold dear. The American Jewish Yearbook estimated the total number of American Jews of all descriptions to be 6,155,000 in 2001. That would mean that Jews are about 2.1% of our total population. To put that in perspective, there are more fundamentalist Christians living in the southern states commonly called the Bible Belt than there are Jews of any description on the entire planet.
In her handbook God-Optional Judaism author Judith Seid quotes a rabbi who says of his congregation, “Probably more than half of them are atheists or agnostics.” These Jews are, it seems, unbelievers in search of a culturally defined comfort zone; they are the children and grandchildren of the great wave of Jewish immigration that broke on our shores in the early Twentieth Century; their numbers swell the great mass of unaffiliated, unreligious Jews. These Jews maintain an emotional attachment to the mood and rhythms of Jewish life, but also cling to their parents’ and grandparents’ socialist utopian fantasies, including socialism’s notorious hostility toward religion. It is these Jews who form the hardened spear tip of annual jabs at expressions of Christian spirituality at Christmas time. Now throw into the mix a bunch of enthusiastic atheist zealots and a handful of showboating Wiccans eager to share the stage with any recognized religion and you have the nucleus of a nasty seasonal tradition of trashing Christmas.
Why Do the Jews Hate Christmas?
For many Jews, their grudge against Christmas begins in September, or thereabout, when their employers do not allow them Yom Kippur as a holiday from work, even though it is the most important holy day of the Jewish calendar. These Jews must take a vacation day for their observances.
In her essay Christmas, shmistmas! an unhappy Penelope Trunk informs us that “as workers, Jews have to observe Christmas. It’s a weird day to have off from work. No stores are open. There’s nothing on TV. Most restaurants are closed. It’s a boring day, a good day to be at work . . .But we are forced to take a holiday.” She goes on: “Given the nothingness of Christmas to most Jews, it is absurd how much Christmas cheer the Jews partake in just to fit in at the office. . . Jews are having to be someone they are not in order to fit in...”
For many Jews the Christmas season brings the December Dilemma, for it is then that those who do not celebrate the holiday must acknowledge their marginality. Resourceful Jews have responded with a host of adaptive behaviors: going to Chinese restaurants and to movie theaters are the most popular. There is also Klezcamp in the Catskills, Matzo Balls for singles, gambling in Atlantic City or time away in Florida. Some go to comedy clubs such as Kung Pao Kosher Comedy on Christmas Eve in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The shows are sold out. Experienced Jews buy their tickets two months in advance.
Kung Pao Kosher Comedy was begun a decade ago by Jewish comedian Lisa Geduldig as an antidote to “getting Merry Christmas’d to death” as she put it. At Kung Pao, comic lines like “When the millionth person says ‘Merry Christmas’ to you, don’t you feel like replying, ‘Fuck You’?” excite enthusiastic applause.
According to Rabbi Joshua Plaut such angry material arises from an anger toward Christmas, what the rabbi calls “Claus-trophobia.” Last year Geduldig took her show to Los Angeles and plans to take it to New York this year.
The Jewish Forward announces “Noisy Night” events on Christmas Eve such as Jewsapalooza, which feature new-wave klezmer and songs such as “What I Like About Jew” and “It’s No Fun to Be a Jew at Christmas.” Jewish museums nationwide remain open on Christmas and may attract their largest crowds of the year.
That thunderclap moment when a Jewish child first encounters the bounty of a Christian child’s Christmas gifts is now a staple of modern Jewish comedians. Lewis Black, performing on Comedy Central, recounts such a moment and then recalls, with barely contained anger, that for Hanukkah his parents “gave me a top. They said it was a dreidel, but I knew . . .it was a top!”
The perpetually cranky Ed Asner, who thinks President Bush is a war criminal while simultaneously proclaiming that Joseph Stalin has been “misunderstood,” tells us of his childhood Jewish trauma: “I learned there was no Santa Claus when I came home from temple one December day and there weren’t any presents.” Perhaps it was this early encounter with the inequitable distribution of Christmas presents that led to Ed’s life-long infatuation with socialist systems of wealth redistribution.
In his essay Beating the Christmas Blues: One Jew’s Guide to a Merry X-mas, author Seth Brown declares that “we live in a Christmas-laden society” and “Christmas is a royal pain in the tuchus.” “By far, the most painful aspect of Christmas has always been the music,” he laments. “You’re just out at the bookstore for some enjoyable downtime and then up come the strains of Christmas music. I never expect it the first time each year, but my beautiful classical music has been tossed in favor of some classic Christmas song that echoes in my head as, ‘Jesus and Santa and Rudolph and everyone else celebrates Christmas except you.” As for Christmas Day, Seth Brown says he looks forward to it with great anticipation every year. “Oh, I used to think of Christmas Day as the culmination of the entire depressing Christmas season. But you know that on December 25th, when the rest of your town shuts down and puts up blinking lights, the Chinese restaurants are going to be open. And in those Chinese restaurants, there will be Jews. Lots of Jews.” He rhapsodizes, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s something wonderful about a restaurant filled with Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas. It just feels right. I can’t explain it . . .it’s not just a feeling of solidarity, but you look around at Goldberg, Mandelbaum, Shapiro, Rosenblatt, Weinman . . .”
Clearly, Mr. Brown has found his comfort zone and he expresses the sentiments of countless other Jews in search of a comfort zone. If Chinese food isn’t kosher, they don’t care. Only about 25% of Jews observe any kosher guidelines, the rest are happy to feast on pork rolls and pork ribs and pork fried rice. At Christmas time it’s a case of “any pork in a storm”; they are contented to eat treif, the scripturally unclean food of the gentiles.
It’s easy to imagine that a collective of such disgruntled Jews might use a sympathetic organization like the American Civil Liberties Union to carve out an even larger comfort zone for themselves by using relentless litigation to press visible expressions of Christian spirituality into the shadowed margins of our national life. As Seth Brown says, “Jesus was just a mediocre carpenter.” Steven Bayme, director of Jewish Communal Affairs at the American Jewish Committee puts it more politely: “Christmas is a holiday of another faith, rooted in historical events in which Jews reject theological significance. We do have a real theological difficulty with this; we disagree on whether or not Jesus was the Messiah.”
The Campaign Against Christian Culture Begins
At the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs website (www.jcpa.org) Steven Cohen enlightens us to the fact that “American Jews, in their struggle to win and assure their full acceptance in the larger society, have long placed church-state issues at the top of their political and community relations agenda.” Mr. Cohen does not explain how the rigorous Jewish campaign to marginalize Christianity in a culture that is 86% Christian will “assure [Jews] their full acceptance.”
Prior to the great wave of Jewish immigration in the early part of the Twentieth Century, Americans were comfortable with a sense of themselves as a Christian people. This didn’t sit well with the newly arrived Jewish foreigners. According to Mr. Cohen the assertion of the native Americans that they were a Christian people “drove Jews into an alliance with more secular, non-religious elements in American society who were long seeking a more thorough and clear disengagement of church and state.” By “non-religious elements” Mr. Cohen is referring to atheists, who comprise a mere 0.4% of our population and also what was then a rapidly expanding godless religion that went by the name of Secular Humanism.
At first blush, the expression “godless religion” might appear a contradiction of terms. Furthermore, our culture is now so thoroughly saturated with the values of Secular Humanism that almost no one living can remember when it was a young, upstart, insurgent philosophy being promoted for the express purpose of marginalizing religious people and Christian perspectives.
Secular Humanists have long promoted the false notion that Secular Humanism simply “emerged” from human history, that it is the collective gift of history’s most enlightened thinkers, that it is the bright light of modern intellects who shunned the superstitious nonsense of a bygone (Christian) era. No Secular Humanist today ever refers to his comfortable collection of attitudes as a religion. But that was not always so.
In fact, Secular Humanism did not simply “emerge,” it was consciously invented; it has founding documents; it has a manifesto; its inventors boldly declared their infant philosophy to be a new religion. It is now the de facto establishment religion that shapes the curricula and the texts in every public school classroom in America.
In 1876, Felix Adler, a former rabbi, toiled like a Trojan to create the Society for Ethical Culture in New York City. This society spawned kindred societies that were later combined into the American Ethical Culture Union, which was also an invention of the same Dr. Adler. It was this American Ethical Culture Union that promoted a vision of a godless universe inhabited by humans who imagined themselves to be the standard for measuring all things.
In 1929, a Unitarian preacher named Charles Potter created the First Humanist Society of New York. A year later Mr. Potter penned Humanism: A New Religion in which he boldly declared, “education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday-schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?”
The humanist program got a big boost from the influential educator Horace Mann. In 1933, thirty-four prominent Americans signed the Humanist Manifesto, among them the educator John Dewey. The Humanist Manifestospurned Christian beliefs and explicitly endorsed in their stead the humanist values of materialism, rationalism and socialism as the new cultural foundation of America. The Humanist Manifesto made explicit the humanist objective “to elevate, transform, control, and direct all institutions and organizations by its own value system.” Their agenda was to tear down Christian values and elevate godless materialistic socialism; they have been wildly successful. Humanism provided the organizing principles around which educators, steeped in the writings of John Dewey, would sally forth and make Secular Humanism the dominant philosophy of America’s public schools. Humanism, as a stealth religion, has succeeded in becoming America’s de facto state-sponsored religion. It was a brilliant end run around the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment; while feigning neutrality, the new religion pushed Christian values into the shadows and replaced them with a grab bag of different, secular values. John Dewey proclaimed humanism our “common faith,” but it is a faith that seeks to obliterate all other faiths; it is nakedly hostile to Christian values. Humanist Manifesto III was released in 2003; it reiterates the humanist belief system: its faith in the perfectibility of humans and the finality of death.
Steven Cohen continues: “Protecting the religious neutrality of the schools and other public spaces emerged as a central doctrine of the Jewish defense establishment. It enjoyed broad public support by mid-century among second- and third-generation Jews.” By “protecting the religious neutrality of the schools,” Cohen means the triumph of the values of the new self-proclaimed religion of Secular Humanism over the Christian values that had guided the nation since its birth. The Jews and the Humanists joined forces to sweep Christian sensibility from public life; it was a campaign brimming with bigotry. Secular does not mean value-free; humanism is bursting with values, ideas, and perspectives that are anything but neutral.
According to Steven Cohen: “Separation of church and state is but a part of a strategy on the part of modernizing Jews to establish a religious ‘neutral zone’ where religious and ethnic tolerance is a supreme value.” By “neutral zone” he means a comfort zone for Jews and atheists who are less than three percent of America’s population. This comfort zone has been created at the expense of almost four centuries of Christian culture on this continent. The public square has been artificially transformed into a mere marketplace, a kind of cultureless culture, flavorless, merely commercial, and uninspiring. We know that this transformation was artificial because the majority of our people are now under the boot heel of relentless litigation and threat of court order to behave in ways that are unnatural for them. A public square that was the product of the spontaneous expressions of the people who live there would naturally blossom with the symbols and rituals of their spiritual life. But try getting such a natural and spontaneous and organic society past the ACLU.
Cohen continues: “For many Jews, being a good Jew meant being a good liberal; and being a good Jew and a good liberal also meant being a vigilant separationist.” This agenda was some assurance that young Jews would not be exposed to Christian sentiments, but it also meant that 86% of the population was put on a strict diet of godless humanist values. Why Jews thought that promoting this alien agenda would increase their acceptance by the very same society that they were forcing to live unauthentic lives is anyone’s guess.
Mr. Cohen tells us that “also fueling Jews’ separationism is their relative secularity, at least when measured in terms of the frequency of religious service attendance, with probably the lowest attendance rate of any major religious group in the United States. . .Jews score lower than other Americans on conventional measures of pure religiosity. Hence, they have less impetus to support religious accomodationism.” In other words, Jews as a group are not a very spiritual people and they would feel much more comfortable if everyone around them would please just shut up about their heartfelt beliefs; if you have any religious symbols, then keep them out of sight. These Jews are determined to have their comfort zone and they will defend it with litigation.
Jews overwhelmingly oppose school vouchers. On the one hand, they don’t want Christians to be demonstratively Christian in the public schools, but they also don’t want Christians to get a Christian education in a non-public school funded by Christian taxpayers. Everyone must remain on the Secular Humanist plantation.
How the Jews Trash Christmas
In addition to the doleful seasonal chorus of Jews whining about how they are being victimized by Christian holiday cheer, there are other purposeful techniques used to trash Christmas. Here are several of them.
Technique Number One: Delegitimization
According to the Lubavitch-Chabad movement, headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, righteous Jews are obligated to stamp out Christmas. Their literature quotes Hebrew text (Likkutei Sichos 37:198) to remind us that “...according to the known Jewish ruling...Christians are idol worshippers.” The Lubavitcher handbills go on to quote Rambam Mishne Torah - Hilchos Melachim 10:9 to the effect that “A gentile...is liable for the death penalty...if he has invented a religious holiday for himself...The general principle is we do not allow them to make new religious rituals and to make ‘mitzvahs’ for themselves by their own devices...and if he does make some new ‘mitzvah’, we lash him, and inform him that he is obligated with the death penalty for this...” It’s pretty heady stuff. Who knew that the Jew up the block might believe that you deserve death for having a merry Christmas or at the very least a severe ass whipping. The Lubavitchers proudly carry on their anti-Christmas campaign in cities around America. Their Noah’s Covenant website at www.noahide.com/paganism.htm goes on for pages spinning out their conviction that Christianity is just a cryptic revival of ancient pagan cults that “were notorious for practicing witchcraft, forced prostitution, self-mutilation, human sacrifice to false gods, and even burning children alive.” Someone should take these Jews aside and explain to them that the Baptists gave up forced prostitution months ago and the Methodists definitely do not sacrifice humans to false gods. As for the Lutherans and that whole child-burning thing . . .it was only little Jimmy.
But seriously folks, it’s strange to hear such slanderous nonsense from the same people who took offense at the totally bogus Protocols of the Elders of Zion hoax; some people are slow learners. Under the heading The“New Testament”: Pagan Revenge these Orthodox Jews make their case that Christianity is just a latter-day pagan cult. It’s worth a read, but it’s too long to include here, so you decide whether they are clever anti-Christian propagandists or just profoundly stupid. In any case they have illustrated the technique of delegitimization, a close companion of which is the next technique.
Technique Number Two: Misinformation
The Christmas story is a simple story; millions of children hear it for the first time every year. They have no difficulty understanding it.
Many centuries ago, the Christmas celebration had not yet found a place in the Christian calendar. It could have found a home somewhere in the spring. We know that Joseph and Mary were traveling to their hometown to pay a tax and these taxes were collected in the warmer months. The calendar decision was finally made by Pope Julius the First in 336 AD. In an effort to strengthen the infant faith in an unconverted world, Julius chose to celebrate the mass of Christ on December 25th, the day of the winter solstice on the old Roman (Julian) calendar. The night of the winter solstice is the longest night of the year; from that moment onward the hours of daylight increase. It was the pope’s intention that the celebration of the Nativity be associated with the natural emergence of the world from the chilly darkness of winter toward the increasing light and the new life of spring. The symbolism was charming.
The symbolism of the solstice wasn’t lost on the pre-Christian pagans; all sorts of people created calendars and pegged celebrations to the winter solstice. It was the intention of the early Church to imbue these pagan festivals with Christian significance and to direct existing pagan feelings of reverence toward those things revealed in the New Testament. It also protected Christians from being wooed back to the old pagan celebrations. Along the way, Christmas, the festival of Christ, incorporated a few artifacts, such as a Yule log, a decorated evergreen and lots of candles. They remain with us like pieces of antique furniture put to new purposes.
All of this is understood by any fair-minded person, but the Lubavitcher-Chabad literature deliberately conflates the pagan and Christian festivals. The Lubavitchers send out their missionaries to preach weird sermons about how Christianity is a revival of ancient cults seeking to lead the pious Jew astray. Their website complains that other rabbis have criticized them for expressing their beliefs so clearly and for being so forthright as to actually call what they are doing an “anti-Christmas campaign.”
Some people need to be reminded what a cobbled-together thing Judaism is. The Jews began their moral evolution as a violent, xenophobic band of pork-eating polytheists. Yahweh was their god of war, the Hebrew Mars. To enforce a disciplined monotheism on them, a caste of priests centered all Jewish ritual life in the temple in Jerusalem. Kosher laws evolved over time. After the destruction of their temple and the dispersion of the Jewish people, the Jews reinvented a Jewish life centered on Torah study and guided by rabbis (teachers). The pagan Egyptians and Babylonians, among whom the Jews dwelled for so long, gifted to the Jews some of their most cherished traditions. For example, the Egyptians were practicing circumcision for religious purposes long before the Jews; the Jews adopted this practice and invested it with their own meaning. No one calls the Jews neo-pagans for doing this; their adaptation of circumcision is thought to be inspired: the Jews captured a cultural form and made it their own.
Another example: The story of Noah and the flood is a blow-by-blow retelling of the Babylonian legend of Gilgamesh. In the Jewish retelling of this tale it becomes the threshold event of a new covenant between God and his chosen people. It’s an inspired reshaping of an ancient story. No one calls the Jews born-again Babylonians for doing this.
But Christmas is now the annual high-water mark of a rising tide of nonsense aimed at Christian believers. It is at this time each year that the voices of disgruntled Jews are joined by the chorus of witches, pagans and the aggressive advocates of atheism.
Enter the Pagans
In her essay Reclaiming the Season: Yule, Jehana Silverwing echoes so many other non-Christians: “How do we deal with Christmas when our children ask about it? Should we, as Pagans and as Witches, merely content ourselves with removing the crèche, while leaving the other accoutrements alone?” It’s a tough question. Silverwing explains that “The situation which presents itself for current-day Pagans and Witches at this season is multiple . . ., we share with the Jews the difficulty of raising our children in a culture geared more to Christmas than to our specific holiday.” She notes the unintended irony of a Supreme Court decision: the law allows local governments to display Nativity scenes on public property only when the emotional impact of such scenes is diluted by the presence of objects and symbols deemed by the Court to be non-religious, such as plastic reindeer, inflatable Santas, Kwanzaa knickknacks, blow-molded snowmen and the ever-popular Christmas tree.
Rather than clutter up a sacred symbol, many towns have chosen to cease mounting Nativity displays. The pagan Ms. Silverwing says, “The crèche is not my religious symbol, but that tree standing there proudly bedecked is. By removing all but the Pagan symbols, we are allowing towns to declare that the Pagan symbols are NOT spiritual/religious, and have no more than passing associations to the season.” For Silverwing and her fellow pagans the tree and the Yule log are living religious symbols invested with spiritual meaning. The American Religious Identification Survey estimated that the community of Wiccans had shot up to over 134,000 by 2001. That’s a seventeen-fold increase in a decade. These witches and their witchcraft religion are here to stay, so we are now stuck with the irony that the Supreme Court has bounced the baby Jesus from the courthouse lawn but left in place the sacred symbols of the Wiccans. Can you say, “Weird Republic?”
Yes, Virginia, There Is an American Atheists, Incorporated
Meanwhile, American Atheists, Inc. is exercising its First Amendment rights by picketing Christmas displays on public property. Christmas is their busy season; it’s their best chance to grab a little on-camera time in their local television markets. On their website they quote “local American Atheist and state-church separation activist” John Messina who has a grudge against San Jose, California’s annual “Christmas in the Park” display. Mr. Messina complains that “It is now blatantly obvious that the winter festival is being used to promote Christianity.” The hyperventilating atheist declares that “the crèche must be removed.”
This is how the American Atheists, Inc website describes the offending display: “There are elves, reindeer, lighted trees, even the Aztec Quetzalcoatl . . .and the baby Jesus.” Well, that is offensive. It’s one of those hodgepodge horrors that have been forced upon communities by foolish court decisions. So now an effigy of the blood thirsty feathered serpent deity Quetzalcoatl sits on public display at Christmas time, but the atheists are getting cranked about the little pink baby Jesus. They planned a protest at the Christmas-in-the-Park crèche; they urged members to attend: “Picket signs and other material will be provided, and there will be an informal lunch after the demonstration.” Gee, it sounds like a church social.
Technique Number Three: Invent an Anti-Christmas
In New York City the Christmas season begins with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which winds its way down Broadway to the throbbing heart of Manhattan’s sprawling marketplace. Santa Claus, the living embodiment of abundant gift giving, beckons the crowd to follow him and spend generously in Herald Square.
The day before the parade, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the third and reigning Sulzberger to hold the position of publisher of the New York Times, gave the gay actor, Harvey Fierstein, a spot on the op-ed page of America’s leading liberal newspaper. Mr. Fierstein had been chosen by Macy’s to portray Mrs. Claus in their parade, or so Mr. Fierstein claimed.
Mr. Fierstein began: “According to legend, New York lore and two major Hollywood flicks, Macy’s Santa is the real deal. And tomorrow, to the delight of millions of children, (not to mention the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court), the Santa in New York’s great parade will be half of a same-sex couple.” Exactly why Harvey imagines that millions of children will be delighted to learn that Mrs. Claus is being portrayed by an aging male anal erotic in a red dress, only he could say. Perhaps this is one of his fondest fantasies.
Fierstein goes on about his favorite subject: himself. Yes, he will be Mrs. Claus, “Me! Harvey Fierstein, nice Jewish boy from Bensonhurst, dressed in holiday finery portraying the one and only Mrs. Claus. Won’t America get a kick out of that?”
Well, yes . . .a kick in the face. But what does it matter to a not-so-nice Jewish boy from Bensonhurst that he is making a mockery of a cherished tradition? Fierstein spends the remainder of his op-ed piece making a pitch for homosexual marriage; it reads like something from the Barbra Streisand website. He concludes: “Happy holiday and remember to wave to me on my float. I’ll be the man in the big red dress.”
With that grotesquery over with, it was time for the city to deck itself out in holiday decorations. In Manhattan, which I called home for seventeen years, the decorations included evergreen displays on the lamp posts. Every other display commemorated Hanukkah, even though Hanukkah may have come and gone in November. My most outstanding memory from those years was walking around Columbus Circle after dark and witnessing a crew of Parks Department employees struggling to attach the largest menorah I had ever seen to the base of the column atop which stood a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus. It was a moment fraught with symbolism: the year that Columbus claimed America for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella was also the year that these monarchs expelled all the Jews from Spain. The giant menorah planted at the base of the monument smacked of reverse triumphalism.
Given the considerable amount of cash and effort expended on these Hanukkah displays and to making sure that they are displayed every bit as prominently as the Christmas displays, any visitor from another planet would assume that Hanukkah was every bit as important to the Jews as Christmas is to the Christians. Would they be wrong?
Christmas is the second most holy observance of the Christian calendar, second only to Easter. Hanukkah, by contrast, has little, if any, religious significance for the Jews. Hanukkah was not given by God in the Scriptures; it has no source in a direct command in Scripture. The Festival of Lights itself commemorates a nasty culture-war confrontation between Judah Maccabee and his followers and a Syrian military force. The Maccabees prevailed in 165 BC, thereby reclaiming the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and casting off Hellenist culture in the bargain. The Jews felt obliged to rededicate their temple, but they only had enough lamp oil for a single day. According to Jewish legend, the oil burned for eight days and nights. This was interpreted as a miracle and a sign of God’s love for the Jews.
In places where Jews live far from large Christian populations, such as Israel, Hanukkah is observed with little more than perfunctory candle lighting. In her essay, I’m dreaming of a disillusioned Jewish Christmas, author Elana Risen-Markovitz writes of Hanukkah: “Now, this little holiday has turned into a nationwide Jewish frenzy to beat non-Jews to the best toys. Arbor Day is practically of greater religious significance to Jews than Hanukkah. Even the most religious Jews, who go to temple every chance they get, don’t consider Hanukkah a worthy holiday to spend in synagogue.” She goes on to poke fun at Jews who guiltlessly adorn trees in their homes and who “are so confused that they feel it is only appropriate to adorn this blatantly Christian tradition with a bit of Jewish flair, such as a shocking Star of David plopped on the top of the tree.”
Ms. Eisen-Markovitz laments: ”You may wonder what there is to sing about on Hanukkah. Trust me, I wonder as well, but I’ve found that content doesn’t matter. What really matters is that all holidays get equal representation, right? So, thanks in part to Adam Sandler, we sing about dreidels, celebrities, lights, potatoes and dreidels...well, mainly just about dreidels. But that’s okay, as long as we have songs just like Christmas. Maybe this year there will even be Hanukkah carolers roaming the snow-laden streets in yarmulkes and Star of David earmuffs.”
She is saying that Hanukkah has been enormously inflated so that Jewish children won’t feel deprived at Christmas time. It’s an understandable and a very human thing to do, even though it makes its practitioners look silly. It’s not so charming when Hanukkah inflation is used as a bludgeon to batter down the Christian holiday.
In America, the tale of Judah Maccabee has been refurbished. He is presented to Jewish children as a culture hero, a man who resisted the attractions of Hellenist culture as they must now resist the blandishments of the phony messiah Jesus. This instruction takes place in private. In America it is part of a larger public assault on a culture rooted in another faith and it has done considerable damage to the host culture.
Of course, Jews are quick to defend every dimension of Hanukkah inflation. It’s their festival, after all; they can do with it what they wish. But imagine how the Jews would feel if the Christian community were to dust off the memory of some better-forgotten monk or hermit who was once a fountain of vile anti-Semitic drivel, and then made a really big deal about him every year during Yom Kippur? Wouldn’t the old guy’s “Watch out for the Jews” message seem hostile and creepy? Well, watching Jews turn little Hanukkah into a parody of Christmas is creepy, and the “Watch out for Jesus” message is wearing a bit thin. If almost half of the Jews in America weren’t atheists or agnostics, then the Jewish community would be impervious to the glitter of Christmas. But they want to have it both ways: they reject Christianity while simultaneously embracing its secular rituals. That’s not a sign of robust mental health.
Writing in The Menorah in 1890, Rabbi Kaufman Kohler observed: “How can a Jew, without losing self-respect, partake in the joy and festive mirth of Christmas? Can he without self-surrender, without entailing insult and disgrace upon his faith and race, plant the Christmas tree in his household?”
Rabbi Jeremy Schwartz pulls no punches; he’s a proud Jew and he wishes that Christmas would just go away. In his missive “December Event,” the rabbi tells us that “It will come as no surprise to many that Chanukah, traditionally a relatively minor holiday, has assumed much greater importance for many Jews as a counterweight to the onslaught of Christmas, with its music and decorations, sales and Santas barraging us from every angle.” (emphasis added)
Onslaught of Christmas? Barraging us from every angle? The rabbi goes on to tell us that “The Christmas season in North America is a harsh reminder that Jews are a religious minority in the world.” He instructs us that “Chanukah celebrates successful Jewish resistance to assimilation and the influence of non-Jewish cultures.” By “non-Jewish cultures” he means America.
In his sermon What We Can Learn from Christmas, Rabbi Barry H. Block tells us that “At the Christmas season...we find ourselves isolated. We are assaulted by violations of separations of church and state.” He hastens to add: “Of course, most public manifestations of Christmas don’t break the law. And yet, many of us feel uncomfortable, and more than a little out of place.” The rabbi continues, “The Christmas season is the most blatant reminder that we are a religious minority in America.”
This common Jewish sentiment turns to paranoia in Andrew K. Mandel’s commentary “Shalom Santa.” First Mr. Mandel tells us that the Christmas story “as related to generations of children through cartoon specials and annual retellings, is actually multifaceted: Santa Claus, the North Pole-dwelling, sleigh-riding bearer of gifts for the world’s children; the Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol featuring the miserly and bitter Ebenezer Scrooge; the wholly evil Dr. Seuss’s Grinch Who Stole Christmas. All these tales demand respect for the Christmas celebration and consequently denounce non-celebrants, including Jews.”
In other words, the vast 86% majority of America’s population who are Christians are doing something bad to the Jews by fostering a spirit of generosity at Christmas time because it reflects badly on those Jews who don’t give a rat’s rump about Christmas. This is amazingly narcissistic; does Mr.Mandel also believe that Yom Kippur makes Christians look like heartless brutes because they don’t get into the spirit of atonement when that holiday rolls around?
Mr.Mandel’s paranoia deepens: “. . .the Grinch and Scrooge tales clearly rebuff people who don’t appreciate Christmas . . .Although these characters may not have been intended to be Jewish, the stereotypes depicting Jews as greedy and selfish, and the correlations between these images and those of the nasty and self-centered Grinch and Scrooge, help foster the ‘Jew as evil outsider’ connotations.”
Amazing. Mr.Mandel blew buckets of money on a Harvard education and this is what his cultivated mind produced.
The Separation-of-Church-&-State Pretense
As we have seen, there are many people in American society who do not wish to be reminded that their perspectives and sensibilities are those of a small minority. They feel uncomfortable when the vast majority of citizens celebrate customs that are not their customs, they feel that the larger society is intruding on their inner peace. They wish for themselves a vastly enlarged and inviolable comfort zone.
But asking most of society to shut up and keep their customs and symbols out of sight will only bring these minorities the avuncular advice to behave like adults and let other people be themselves. So the campaign to diminish the scope of Christian religious expression in American public life, which is the real motivation for the assault on so many American traditions, must be disguised as some other high-minded motivation, such as the preservation of some constitutionally mandated barrier between all matters governmental and all matters religious. The United States Constitution contains no such mandate.
What the Constitution has to say on the matter of religion is summed up in a single sentence of the First Amendment. Here it is: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” That’s it. The first clause is commonly called “The Establishment Clause”; the second clause is called the “Free Exercise Clause.” The framers included this sentence in the very first amendment because they understood that the free exercise of religion was central to American life and was the engine propelling early emigration to America. The Establishment Clause was intended to restrain Congress from ever favoring one Christian sect over another as the official, state-sanctioned, religion of all America, as the English crown had declared Anglicanism the state-favored religion of England. Both clauses were intended to promote religious freedom.
At the time the Constitution was created, the first purpose of education in America was Christian religious instruction. The early settlers believed illiteracy to be harmful because it kept from people the wisdom of the Bible. This instruction was mostly private. Publicly-funded schools did not appear until the mid-Nineteenth Century. The Bible was commonly used for reading instruction; ministers commonly doubled as schoolteachers. “True religion,” said George Washington “affords government its surest support. The future of this nation depends on the Christian training of our youth. It is impossible to govern without the Bible.”
A half century after the Constitution became the law of the land, Christian values permeated the schools. School children read from McGuffey’s Readers, authored by minister William Holmes McGuffey. These books were very Christian in tone. About ninety million of them were sold over their lifespan.
The Constitution has nothing to say about education, which was left to the states under the Tenth Amendment. Congress did express an interest in education in the Northwest Ordinances of 1785 and 1787. Article III of the Ordinance makes the position of Congress clear: “Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” Private schools with religious affiliations remained the norm until the Nineteenth Century. Boston became the first city in America with an entirely publicly-funded school system in 1818. Government-dominated schools, as we know them today, date from as recently as the 1850s. These new schools did not increase student enrollment, but they did succeed in destroying a magnificently diverse array of private schools because their sponsors could not afford to support the private schools while also bearing the increased burden of taxation needed to fund the one-school-fits-all government academies.
The lesson to be learned from this history is this: Even after more than two centuries of unrestrained religious instruction in America’s schools, there never emerged in America an “established” religion as the framers understood that term. Most Americans were Christians, to be sure, but they clung to their sectarian differences and they left their neighbors in peace. American society was composed of religious minorities; it was not in the organic nature of American society to produce a dominant religion. Since Congress was barred from establishing an official American church, and because American society couldn’t naturally produce a dominant religion, it follows logically that there was never any danger that one religious sect would come to hold sway over all the other sects.
So, when some people fret that a pink plastic blow-molded baby Jesus on the courthouse lawn is tantamount to Congress establishing an official state-sanctioned religion, well . . .those people sound more than a little bit nuts. In truth, they don’t care how dopey their arguments sound, because their real purpose is to sweep the baby Jesus out of sight. These people want to create a bigger comfort zone for themselves. To achieve their goal, all they need to do is shop their silly arguments around until they find a sympathetic judge who shares their sensibility.
The Menorah Shuffle, or Duping the Dopey Goyim
The Christmas haters are an odd lot. The Jews among them want all manifestations of Christian faith to vanish from the public sphere, or else they demand equal representation for Jewish symbols at Christmas time, even as they acknowledge that Hanukkah has little more meaning for Jews than Arbor Day, except as a convenient bludgeon with which to beat back Christian symbolism during this Christian high-holy season. The atheists, many of them nominal Jews, want everyone’s symbolism to be swept into the trash bin of history. Everyone wants his own comfort zone.
The campaign to ridiculously inflate Hanukkah as a kind of anti-Christmas is especially tough for these latter-day Judah Maccabees when Hanukkah, which is determined by a lunar calendar, lands way early in November. November’s left-over Hanukkah menorah looks a bit desperate jammed in there among December’s festive ornaments. In public parks, on courthouse lawns and in classrooms across America, menorahs hold a spotlight position even as crèches are denied an appearance during the Christmas season. Here’s an example:
The Painted Rock Elementary School, in Poway, California was anticipating an exciting holiday season; the students had rehearsed their performances for the enactment of the Hanukkah story. Another play, telling the Christmas story, was scheduled for a later date. After the Hanukkah play had been performed and enjoyed by everyone, it was abruptly announced that the Christmas play had been cancelled. When asked why the Christmas story had been dumped, the school district bureaucrats said lamely that it was “too central” to the Christian faith.
In truth, the two stories are similar; both the Hanukkah and the Christmas stories are “miracle” stories. In the Hanukkah story a single day’s supply of lamp oil burns for eight days so that the Jews can rededicate their temple; in the Christmas story a virgin birth brings a holy messenger into the world. Both stories are about God’s love: The Hanukkah story is about God’s love for the Jews; the Christmas story is about God’s love for all humanity.
One mother, who had grown sick of the double standard, called the Pacific Justice Institute for assistance. Attorney Brad Dacus explained to the bureaucrats that the mere mention of religion is not a promotion of religion and therefore does not violate the First Amendment; an acknowledgement is not an endorsement; teaching about cultures and beliefs is not indoctrination. “All the school district is doing is informing the children of the story,” said Mr. Dacus. “Therefore, the school is enriching the children’s education and giving them an understanding of other people.”
So what was the real reason that the school slammed the door on the Christmas story after the completion of the Hanukkah story? “It happened because they wanted to play it safe,” explained Brad Dacus. By “playing it safe” he meant avoiding unwanted litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union, whose lawyers are understood to be the self-appointed guardians of the ever-expanding Jewish and Secular Humanist comfort zones. The real problem with the Painted Rock drama program was that one of the plays was Jewish and the other one felt uncomfortably un-Jewish.
So every child in the Painted Rock Elementary School got a rich lesson in the symbolism of the menorah, and that was it. There was “no room at the inn” for anything Christian.
Here’s another example: The New York City schools have a written policy which permits the display of the Jewish menorah in its public schools, but excludes nativity scenes. A while ago, when Harold Levy was the chancellor of New York City public schools, the Catholic League got their hands on a copy of a memo on holiday displays issued by Mr. Levy’s general counsel. The memo stated that “The display of secular holiday symbol decorations is permitted. Such symbols include, but are not limited to, Christmas trees, menorahs, and the star and crescent.”
The Catholic League protested this policy because it would place the Jewish menorah and the Muslim star and crescent on display, but not the Christian nativity. “They are discriminating against Christians; we’re contemplating a lawsuit,” said League spokesman Patrick Scully at the time.
Things heated up when the Catholic League received another memo that Principal Fran Levy had issued to the teachers of the Thomas Jefferson Magnet School of Humanities in Flushing, New York. In her memo Ms. Levy urges teachers to “bring in Muslim, Kwanzaa and Jewish secular symbols.” She added, “I would like to display these religious symbols equally.” Ms.Levy seemed oblivious of the fact that Kwanzaa is a black nationalist observance, not a religious holiday. A young Reverend Al Sharpton had praised this blacks-only ritual, which begins the day following Christmas, as an excellent way to “de-white-ize” Christmas. Ms.Levy’s memo made no mention of any Christian symbols. A Christmas tree had been put up in Ms.Levy’s school, but Ms.Levy had ordered that it be taken away.
Ms.Levy and her fellow travelers rejected the League’s demand that a nativity scene be displayed alongside the other symbols, which the League contended were religious symbols, not secular symbols. Schools chancellor Harold Levy responded that “The Supreme Court has previously refused to permit erection of a nativity scene on public property.” Mr.Levy was blowing smoke and the Catholic League knew it; they fired back a letter to Levy citing a 1984 high court ruling that “religious symbols placed next to secular symbols pass constitutional muster because the government is not endorsing religion.” The nativity scene that Harold Levy had alluded to had stood alone in a government complex. When Mr.Levy was subsequently asked if he believed that a nativity scene could be displayed in a New York public school if grouped with other religious and secular symbols, the League was told by his spokeswoman Margie Feinberg that Mr.Levy was reviewing the matter. Mr.Levy continued to “review” the matter until his tenure as schools’ chancellor expired.
Harold Levy has since moved on. New York has a new mayor, Mayor Bloomberg, and a new schools’ chancellor, Mr. Joel Klein. Mr.Klein shares Mr.Levy’s cultural perspectives. Mr.Klein allows displays of the Jewish menorah in New York’s 1,200 public schools, but denies Christians the opportunity to display a single nativity display. Mr.Klein defends his lopsided favoritism by asserting that the menorah has a “secular dimension.”
Mr.Klein’s argument is that menorah displays, even extravagant ones, are more acceptable in public schools because they are less religious than nativity displays; this is the most common defense of menorah inclusion and crèche exclusion. The strength of this argument depends on whether or not the menorah is a time-honored religious symbol of the Jews, or just some value-free artifact with no particular pedigree as a symbol of the Jewish faith. How might we resolve this question? Fortunately, there are devout Jews who have created some very helpful websites to explain Judaism and Jewish history to the large number of nominal Jews who haven’t a clue about these things. These websites are very instructive.
According to Jewish legend the first menorah was created for the Tabernacle in the Wilderness by the craftsman Bezalel, who followed the precise instructions given to him by Moses. It is described in Exodus 37:17. When King Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem, the menorah was moved to that location. The menorah appears on Judean coins minted during Roman rule. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Roman general Titus in the year 70 AD and the menorah was carried to Rome as a trophy of war. It is depicted on the Arch of Titus which commemorates the Roman victory.
According to the website www.shofar.org, “When the Second Temple was destroyed, the menorah, and not the Magen David (Star of David), as so many erroneously believe, became the principal decorative art symbol of the Jewish faith. It appeared on Hellenistic sarcophagi lids and on ossuaries (bone caskets). It was sculpted in relief on the facades and over the doorways of some early synagogues. It was even painted on Jewish tombs in the catacombs of Rome and carved into the rock walls of Judean burial catacombs.” From the days of Moses to the present Jewish calendar year of 5749 is a long time. For most of that time it has been the menorah and not the Star of David that has been the symbol most closely associated with Judaism.
By contrast, the six-pointed star was a pagan symbol that predated Judaism; it had long been used on kabalistic artifacts, but it was not closely identified with Judaism. It was not until the emancipation of Jews after the French Revolution that educated European Jews began the search for a symbol to represent them in the way the cross identified their Christian neighbors. They finally chose the six-pointed star, the Magen David, the Shield of David. Many Jews accepted this symbol because of its previous associations with kabalism, even though it had few previous religious associations and is not mentioned in the Torah even once. The star was adopted by the Zionist movement in 1897. “Theodor Herzl chose the Star of David because it was well known and because it had no previous religious associations,” we are told at www.angelfire.com. The choice of the star as a symbol on the flag of Israel was controversial as late as the 1940s. “Even though the Magen David is known as the Jewish symbol, the Jewish people have another symbol which is the ‘menorah’ which is also the emblem of the State of Israel and its origin is already in the Bible,” says www.ukmda.org.
So there you have it. As a symbol of the Jewish faith the menorah has an ancient tradition; as a religious symbol it is far older than the Christian cross. As a symbol of the Jews the six-pointed star is a comparative new comer, a junior member of the team, perhaps even an upstart. And yet, there is the menorah on display in countless public school classrooms while the cross and the baby Jesus are kept locked in a trunk in the basement.
When asked about this favoritism toward the Jewish faith, William Donohue, president of the Catholic League replied: “It’s the most rank example of discrimination against Christians that I can offer in the ten years I’ve been at the Catholic League. It was two years ago that a Catholic woman who was teaching in a public school in Queens, New York City contacted the Catholic League and said that the principal there said it’s OK to invite teachers to bring to schools Jewish and Islamic religious symbols. And as far as the Christians were concerned, well, they can bring a Christmas tree. We thought it was an anomaly, maybe an exception to the rule. I found out otherwise. They had a written policy at the Board of Education.”
When Mr.Donohue appeared on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, host Joe Scarborough inquired of Mr.Donohue: “What do the New York City lawyers tell you? What’s their justification for saying its OK if you’re Jewish to bring your religious symbol in. It’s OK if you’re a Muslim to bring a religious symbol in, but if you’re a Christian, you can’t bring that symbol into our school, because that symbol alone will undermine our constitutional rights?” Mr.Donohue replied, “They’re trying to claim that there’s a game here, that somehow the menorah became a secular symbol. And it’s insulting to Jews who practice their religion, and there are millions in this country, to claim that it has a purely secular value. The same is true of the Islamic crescent and star, which is the functional equivalent of the crucifix in the Christian religion. The fact of the matter is we’ve gone on with this for too long, and I blame Christians in part who are 85 percent of the people in this country who have allowed the Christmas tree to be a substitute for the crèche and the nativity scene. It’s about time we had a wake-up call and educated people and stop with the atheists who claim that they’re value neutral. A lot of atheists in this country have hatred in their hearts for Catholics. Why don’t they just admit it?”
A federal lawsuit was filed last year  by the Thomas More Law Center challenging New York’s policy of encouraging the display of menorahs during Hanukkah and encouraging displays of the star and crescent during Ramadan, but then slamming the schoolhouse door in the face of Christians who wish to display anything other than a tree at Christmas. The tree is a mere decoration, something as barren of meaning to Christians as tinsel; it certainly doesn’t have an ancient pedigree dating back to Moses, as the menorah does.
Attorney Robert Muise observed, “This case will decide whether public school officials can enforce a policy that shows preference for Judaism and Islam, but disfavors Christianity. Can Christianity be erased from the public school? Can‘Christ’ be removed from Christmas? We will soon find out.” The Law Center’s legal motion asserted that New York’s policy favored the Jewish and Islamic faiths while conveying to school children the impression that Christianity is something of which their school disapproved. That is exactly what it does. It’s a scummy little message and it smacks of religious bigotry. Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center said that, “New York City’s policy seeks to de-Christianize Christmas and redefine our nation’s religious heritage. The Thomas More Law Center is determined to protect the important celebration of Christmas from such discrimination and censorship.”
In any case, to claim that the menorah is anything less than the most time-honored symbol of Judaism is preposterous. To whine that at Christmas time Christians are somehow upstaging the Jews and the pantheists and the latter-day revivalists of the blood-drenched altars of Quetzalcoatl is the worst sort of bad manners. To complain about how Christians celebrate the birth of Christ in a nation that Christians created is sniveling, snotty, selfish and small minded. There isn’t a single one of these minorities that doesn’t appear less dignified when behaving this way.
The Damage They Have Done
The rancor that non-Christians now bring to each Christmas season has soured its traditional festive mood considerably. Every year they gate crash the party and demand to share the spotlight with their minor holiday (Hanukah), their racially-exclusive celebration (Kwanzaa), and their compulsion to sweep the town square clean of all religious symbolism (atheism). The unpleasant and unauthentic way the great majority of Americans must now observe the birth of their savior is a monument to the smallness of spirit of the Christmas haters. These complainers have coalesced into an umbrage industry and they are never idle. Here are a few examples of the mischief they have wrought in recent years.
In Eugene, Oregon the city manager, Jim Johnson, asked city employees to stop displaying Christmas trees or decorations in public spaces or places shared with other workers. The irony of his request was lost on no one. Oregon is one of the largest exporters of Christmas trees, but if even one of those green things appears on a certain courthouse lawn, watch out!
Local firefighters filed a grievance challenging the ban. They said that Christmas trees are a tradition in fire stations. Jim Johnson grudgingly allowed the firemen to put up a Christmas tree for two days: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He said the trees could go up after eight in the morning but must be gone by 8 AM of December 26th. Furthermore, Mr. Johnson declared that if even one person objected to the tree, then that tree must be removed. So, just one religious bigot could trash a tradition by casting a heckler’s veto.
Kensington, Maryland excluded Santa from its tree-lighting ceremony because of only two complaints. What began as a well-intentioned desire to be sensitive to minority sensibilities has emboldened these minorities, some of them as small as a single person, to assault the sensibilities of the majority and to claim an entitlement to sweeping veto powers over community events. When the majority won’t discard its traditions, the malcontents grumble that the majority isn’t being “inclusive.” Well, a celebration is for celebrants; if anyone doesn’t want to join the celebration, then they can go to a movie or a Chinese restaurant.
While we are on the subject of the sensitive person’s veto, the South Orange Middle School, in South Orange, New Jersey, cancelled a much anticipated class trip to see an enactment of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol because of an objection by a single Jew. The school’s principal, Kirk Smith, offered a lame lie to explain away the last-minute cancellation; he said the Dickens classic didn’t square well with the school’s curriculum. No one believed him. A single parent had objected to the story’s “Christian theme” and that was enough to wreck the trip, but Kirk Smith didn’t have the guts to admit that South Orange Middle School has an unwritten “one grumpy Jew” rule.
If I seem a bit petulant it’s because both of my children were the victims of educational malpractice at this particularly wretched outpost of PC hypersensitivity. It was at South Orange Middle School that my son’s Language Arts (please don’t call it English) teacher looked by wife straight in the eye and told her that it was his mission in life to “save black boys,” and then proved it by making every assignment a lesson in black liberation. It was at South Orange Middle School that a former principal painted a target on my son’s back by distributing a school-side letter to all students and parents that labeled my son a troublemaker because he and I had granted an interview to conservative columnist Paul Mulshine of the Newark Star Ledger after I had criticized this school’s left-leaning curriculum. The following day my son was the target of threats that were incited by the principal’s inflammatory letter. I rushed to the school to rescue my son from the school’s office where he had taken refuge; I kept him home until the crazies had cooled off. It was at South Orange Middle School that I pulled my daughter out of class, never to return. I home schooled her for a year and then placed her in a private school, but that’s a story for another day. Suffice it to say that struggling with these new-age utopians made me a soldier for sanity.
So what was the real reason for canceling the much-anticipated trip to see Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? The single Jewish parent’s objection that the story has a “Christian theme” would be simple religious bigotry if that was the reason, but the only discernable theme of the story is the redemptive power of charity. Surely charity is a Jewish value; Jewish philanthropy is legendary. Perhaps the words “Christian theme” mean something here that is completely detached from theology; perhaps they are code words for some bogeyman of the Jewish psyche.
When I cross referenced the words “Jew” and “Scrooge” on my computer it produced two thousand references. A whacking big number of them were copies of Adam Sandler’s The Hanukah Song which includes the couplet “Some people think that Ebeneezer Scrooge is, Well, he’s not but guess who is: All three stooges.” And what is it that some people think that Ebenezer Scrooge is? They think he’s a Jew.
Now recall Andrew K. Mandel’s paranoid vision that “stereotypes depicting Jews as greedy and selfish, and the correlations between these images and those of the nasty and self-centered Grinch and Scrooge, help foster the ‘Jew as evil outsider’ connotations.” Apparently, Jews who share Mr.Mandel’s paranoid vision believe that A Christmas Carol is cryptically anti-Semitic. Columnist Cal Thomas took note of the South Orange Middle School trip cancellation and said he couldn’t find a distinctly Christian theme in the Dickens story, to which blogger Max Jacobs (common-sense.blogspot.com) responded that “you don’t have to dig deep into that story to find blatant anti-Semitism, so a Jewish parent has every right to keep their (sic) kids from having to see it. Ebeneezer Scrooge is a businessman who doesn’t celebrate Christmas and is ‘shown the light’ of the error of his ways and converted. Do I need to draw you a picture?” Max himself is described on this blogspot as “The smart, hip, young and brash one.”
So, never mind that Scrooge never sets foot in a church, never mentions Jesus, never offers a prayer, and never mind that his family is happily celebrating the approaching holiday in a very secular fashion and never mind that Scrooge’s sour demeanor is explained by his own early heartbreaks and bitter experiences and you just focus your entire attention on the haunting idea that Scrooge must really be a crypto-Jew whom Dickens has created to smear the Jews. How sad that the Christmas joy of so many children could be taken hostage by a single Jew who may be gripped by this paranoid vision. You can bet that the children of the South Orange Middle School will never again be offered a class trip to this Dickens classic.
In the name of “inclusion” there is a campaign afoot to erase all visible signs of Christmas from the Christmas season. The city of Pittsburgh has dumped the now controversial word “Christmas” and will henceforth celebrate “Sparkle Days.” Some schools across America are crushing their student’s free expression by prohibiting the exchange of greeting cards; public institutions are doing likewise. In the state of Washington, King County executive Ron Sims demanded that all employees stop saying “Merry Christmas.” He backed off when uproar ensued, but he continued to caution everyone that greetings should be “in a respectful, inclusive and sensitive manner.” Two thirteen-year-old girls were suspended from their Rochester, Minn. middle school because they wore red-and-green scarves and said “Merry Christmas” in a school video. Last year, at New York City’s Jesse I. Strauss Elementary School, the song We Wish You a Merry Christmas was changed to We Wish You Happy Holidays, even as Hanukkah songs were still being sung two weeks after the end of Hanukkah. The school was festooned with Hanukkah decorations and the story of Hanukkah was discussed. It was only the story of Christmas that was never told. Books touching on a secular Christmas were relegated to a remote corner.
At the beginning of 2000 the Anti-Defamation League issued a pamphlet called The December Dilemma: Guidelines for Public Schools During the December Holidays The “guidelines” that these Jews thought appropriate would impose a virtual prohibition on the use of the word Christmas and the elimination of any explanation of the Christmas holiday. Their pamphlet was yet another weapon in the campaign to cleanse all signs of Christian culture from American public life. If the pamphlet catches on, then more schools will become as culturally lopsided as the Jesse I. Strauss Elementary School. But the Jews understand that if there were no Christmas there would be no December Dilemma. Long before the ADL used it, this expression had become a time worn catch phrase for Jewish discomfort at Christmas time. The ADL literature has little to do with observing the law and everything to do with expanding a Jewish comfort zone at the expense of others.
Two years ago, in St. Paul, red poinsettias were banned from City Hall because someone was offended by them. Surely these offending plants must be a Christian symbol. After much rancor, white poinsettias were permitted into the courthouse and City Hall, but not red ones.
Do you see what’s happened? What at first pretended to be a high-minded movement to maintain a separation between church and state has devolved into bitter arguments about whether red tropical plants are stealth religious symbolism. Does anyone in their right mind believe that red poinsettias threaten America with an impending establishment of state-sponsored religion? Matters have degenerated in this manner for one reason alone: the campaign against Christmas was never really about guarding against government favoritism toward a single religious sect; it was always about driving Christmas and Christian culture into the shadows. When thirteen-year-old girls can be suspended from school for wearing red-and-green scarves and saying “Merry Christmas” it’s time to admit that Christian culture ensnared in a barroom brawl with a bunch of obnoxious religious bigots.
By posing as victims of Christmas festivities, these small-minorities-with-big-priorities have taken advantage of the generosity of the greater Christian culture. What began as a big-hearted attempt at inclusion has ended with the Christian majority being told it’s time for them to leave their own party. What began as an offer of friendship has ended as a parasitic relationship with the host culture being eaten alive.
Perhaps Christian culture can never reclaim a civic space uncluttered with alien artifacts. Perhaps the only way for entire Christian communities to come together and be their authentic selves is to privatize the most meaningful aspects of their community lives. They could do this by agreeing to move entire community-wide functions into private venues, thereby depriving dissonant voices of any opportunity to naysay the spiritual life of the larger community. Let the complaining minorities live their own lives and perform their own rituals well out of sight and beyond earshot; leave them wondering where the rest of their community has gone – no hard feelings. And isn’t it odd, that with so many Jews complaining about what a heavy burden the Christian festivities are on them, that not one of them has ever suggested that Christians could lighten that burden by avoiding Jewish merchants during the Christmas shopping season? Perhaps that’s because so many Jews depend upon shopping Christians for their financial survival: generous Christmas spending at Jewish-owned businesses pays for Bar Mitzvahs, memberships to synagogues and donations to Hadassah, not to mention donations to Israel.
The “Hurt Feelings” Scam
President Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a secular national holiday in 1870 to celebrate a philosophy of “goodwill toward men.” It is certainly a celebration of good will; charitable giving swells during the Christmas season. It is a time of genuine caring and introspection and generous gift giving. The spirit of the season unites families and puts people in touch with their better selves. It strengthens social bonds; it deepens an appreciation of tradition. So it is with heightened concern that we are confronted each Christmas by the dark animus of the Christmas haters who resent the traditional religious and cultural practices of their own society, who dream of creating a more “rational” clockwork utopia. Christmas should be cherished as a force for social cohesion. Instead, the Christmas haters are drawn to this bright holiday by a mean-spirited impulse to dim its light and warmth.
Here’s a classic quotation that recapitulates the entire devolution of the phony church-state separations campaign. It’s from Anne Chernin, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County in Florida: “We have safeguards in a pluralistic society because we don’t want one religious group dictating what is good for all the people. We really believe that a society where everyone is allowed to flourish, including the minority, is a much better place to be. The important thing is to put oneself in the shoes of a child who is being made to feel different.”
Her first sentence appears to be a simple recitation of every separationist’s first article of faith, but it masks a few absurdities. Just which religious group has the power to dictate what is good to all people? Who is she talking about? Ms.Chernin wisely doesn’t name the potential “dictators.” In fact, no such group exists; both Christianity and Judaism are fragmented into sects. I once heard an Orthodox Jew only half-jokingly refer to Reform Jews as “Christians.” Among the Jews there are the Orthodox, the Conservative, the Reform, the Reconstructionist, the Renewal, the Hasidic, the Ultra-Orthodox, etc, etc. One branch of Judaism identifies its sects by the stetls (small villages) their forebears once called home: Satmar, Ger, Bobov, Belz, etc. There were lots of stetls. It would take pages to name all the Protestant sects. So no group is capable of dictating to “all the people,” or even to just the Jews. Or is Ms.Chernin using the term “one religious group” to mean all Christians collectively? That’s equally absurd. All of those Christian sects could never reach an agreement about the meaning of “what is good.” Questions like that are the reason there are so many sects to begin with. Christians had free rein in America for centuries and there never emerged an “establishment” national religion. It simply isn’t in the nature of things for that to happen.
Ms.Chernin’s second sentence merely describes the status quo. Minorities in America are free to flourish right now; that’s why persecuted minorities chose to emigrate to America.
Her concluding sentence, which is a plea on behalf of “the child who’s being made to feel different,” is an appeal to the generosity of the Christian majority not to make Jewish children “feel different.” Is she kidding? Or is she just pretending to be a Jew?
For millennia Jews have gone to considerable lengths to make themselves distinctly, even ostentatiously, different from their gentile neighbors; it was a point of pride with them. Throughout their exile in Egypt, the Jews clung tenaciously to their distinctive language and mode of dress. There is nothing in Torah that requires Jews to wear black hats, black waistcoats, black gabardine pants, black shoes, untucked white shirts, full unclipped beards and tzitzit. They do it to be distinctive in appearance. As one Jewish website tells us: “The tzitis is also distinctive, since it gives the Jew a special garment that cannot be found among the gentiles.” The men with their bobbing payot and the women in their stiff sheitles do not exactly blend into the crowd. Men wearing bushy shtreimelech or tall mink spodikem on their heads would stand out at, say, the Mall of America or anywhere west of the Hudson River. Even in middle-class suburban towns, boys wearing yarmulkes (kippah) are distinctive. Would a gentile child sense that something was a little different if he visited a Jewish home and found the kitchen equipped with two refrigerators, two stoves, two sinks and two china cupboards? In short, being different is a point of pride for Jews who aren’t trying to hide their distinctive heritage.
To gain deeper insight, I went to the AskMoses website at www.askmoses.com which includes the very helpful article What’s the difference between a Jew and a Non-Jew? In the first sentence we are told that “The basic difference between a Jew and a Non-Jew is: A Jew is, and has the ability to be, Godly; a non-Jew has the ability to be spiritual.” Non-Jews, we are told, possess an Animal Soul which allows them to be spiritual and productive, but only a Jew has Neshama, which is “a Godly spark,” with which the Jews alone “were given the ability to actually connect with God Himself. . .” Well, bless my gentile Animal Soul, Jews are definitely different.
As you can see, amongst themselves Jews openly acknowledge what distinguishes them from all gentiles. They acknowledge that they are a people apart, with a unique history. The most religious among them glory in these differences. Assimilated suburban Jews, like Ms.Chernin, are simply conflicted and confused; they want to be different when it suits them, but they want to be “just like everybody else” when it doesn’t suit them. They want to be different, or not, at their convenience, even if that means jerking around the Christian majority. It’s long overdue for Christians to wake up to this scam; it’s time for the tail to stop wagging the dog. This isn’t anti-Semitism, it’s just insisting on good manners.
At the AskMoses website the question is asked, “Is there a way to explain anti-Semitism?” to which the answer is given that “it is part of God’s master plan for us to be hated by the rest of the world. The adversity is what keeps us unique, separate, and focused on our mission.” (Emphasis added)
The Jewish scholars at AskMoses enlighten us to the fact that “Much of Jewish integrity centers on rejecting foreign religions and ideologies . . .Negative Mitzvah #10 forbids a Jew from examining, studying, browsing or perusing the tenets, key points and definitions of any belief system outside of Judaism. Negative Mitzvah #47 stipulates that an intellectual ‘fence’ be constructed around Judaism’s belief system, so you don’t come to a point where an idea foreign to Judaism makes enough sense to you that you believe it over the Jewish approach to the same idea.” And you expect these people to be broad-minded about Christian festivities at Christmas time? It won’t happen. They will defend their comfort zone until the last crèche is safely in the dumpster.
This Jewish perspective goes a long way toward explaining why Hanukkah gets showcased in so many schools while the baby Jesus is kept under wraps, why the Christmas story gets cancelled after the Hanukkah story has been completed, why the class trip to a Dickens’ classic is protested because of its frightening “Christian theme.”
From the Jews’ perspective the protesting Jew is simply being observant, loyal, and consistent. But to the Christian communities that are struggling to maintain their festive traditions, these protesters are a headache. At their worst, they are obnoxious bigots.
The cultural traditions of gentile America mean nothing to these Jews; they are focused solely on inflating their comfort zone, that wonderful homey Jewish feeling, haimisher Yiddishkeit. They have a well-worn Yiddish aphorism: Er shmekt nit un er shtinkt nit (“He doesn’t smell and he doesn’t stink.”) which is used to describe the goyim (gentiles) as an inconsequential and unimportant people. A gentile is but a simpleton with a goyisher kop, a queer gentile mind.
The Exclusive Nature of Religion
So, being different is an important dimension of Jewish psychology and culture. It is, in fact, essential. If a Jew weren’t different, then he wouldn’t be a Jew. Probably, what many Jews really don’t want is to be excluded. But every religious observance must be, to some degree, exclusive. The American Christmas season is more inclusive than most December observances; does any Christian feel included in Hanukkah? Hanukkah is about God’s love for the Jews. Period. It commemorates the rejection of non-Jewish cultures.
Kwanzaa is a racially exclusive celebration that goes on for a week. It’s for blacks only. The first principle of Kwanzaa is Umoja: “to strive for and maintain unity in the black family, the black community, the black nation and the black race.” The seventh principle is Imani: “to believe in our hearts in our black people. . .” Kwanzaa observances include libations such as “For our black people, the original people.” The words “original people” are not borrowed from any science text, but from the ultra-racist theology of the Nation of Islam.
Kwanzaa websites stress that “It is important that the kinara [candelabra] not be confused with the menorah,” and “you should not mix the Kwanzaa holiday or its symbols, values and practices with those of any other culture. This would violate the integrity of the holiday.” In other words, Kwanzaa is as hermetically exclusive as any Hasidic ritual. One Kwanzaa website gives home decorating tips: “The kinara, along with other symbols of Kwanzaa should dominate the room, which should be given an African motif.” Would little Shlomo feel different in this environment? You bet he would, but no Jew has ever said that the black nationalists were making Jewish children feel “different;” they only kvetch about Christmas.
At the www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org we are told that “The greetings during Kwanzaa are in Swahili. Swahili is a Pan-African language and is chosen to reflect African-Americans’ commitment to the whole of Africa and African culture.” This racially-exclusive seven days is accorded respect in classrooms across America. But imagine the uproar if people of the Caucasian persuasion chose to observe a seven-day celebration of their own “commitment to the whole of Europe and European culture.” Suppose they rededicated themselves to the “unity of the white community, the white nation and the white race”? Would the schools respect such a holiday? On what grounds could they reject it, after they had accepted Kwanzaa? Black people have every right to be proud racial patriots, but this right is not theirs alone and their right is not superior to that of any other people.
And yet, Christians and their Christmas holy day are treated with disrespect at every turn. The campaign to strip Christmas of its sacred message continues apace. Yahoo!Greetings offers the public 443 Christmas cards, of which only 9 are religious (2%), while 26 of its 33 Hanukkah cards display the Magen David and are clearly religious in tone (79%). American Greetings makes matters worse with its line of vulgar and sexually suggestive Christmas cards. Does the tag line “It’s Christmas. Hope yours doesn’t suck” capture the essence of Christmas for you? For some reason American Greetings neglected to distribute cards with sentiments such as “Hope your Hanukkah isn’t really scummy.” Only Christians are fed the dirt sandwich.
Central Michigan University publishes a calendar that identifies the December holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Las Posadas. Only Christmas warrants an asterisk next to it. If you click on the asterisk shown in the on-line version of the calendar, up pops “How to celebrate Christmas without offense,” which helpfully informs Christians that “It is inappropriate to decorate things with Santa Claus, or reindeer or other ‘Christmas’ decorations.” It suggests that good ideas for decorations during the Christmas season include snowflakes, snowpeople and poinsettias “to give a feeling of the winter,” even though the birth of one of history’s most influential religious leaders and the personal savior of many millions of people is what Christmas is really all about. For that “winter feeling” grab a Yule log and hang out with the Wiccans.
Please note the university’s confidence that Jews, blacks and Mexicans are perfectly capable of observing their respective celebrations without offending anyone. Only Christians are singled out for the special admonition and prohibitions. It’s that season again folks.
In 1984, the company that Walt Disney created got a new chairman and chief executive, Michael Eisner. Mister Eisner’s gift to the company was something it had never had before: a pornography mill called Miramax Films. The 2003 Christmas season offering from Miramax is a film called Bad Santa.
The film stars Billy Bob Thornton as a foul-mouthed self-hating drunk who teams up with a dwarf to steal from stores while working as a mall Santa. He is also cruel to children. The dialogue includes over 250 strong obscenities. For example, in one scene a child asks of Santa, “You are really Santa, right?” to which Santa replies, “No, I’m an accountant. I wear this as a fucking fashion statement!” In another scene Santa Claus enjoys anal sex with a girl in a mall dressing room. Later on, Santa tells a female bartender, “I’m an eating, drinking fucking Santa Claus,” to which she responds, “Prove it.” Moments later they are having hot pumpin’ intercourse in a parked car. In yet another scene, Santa relieves himself while posing with children for holiday photos.
Said Russell Scott Smith, film critic for the New York Post, “The movie is so depraved it would make the Farrelly brothers blush.” Billy Bob Thornton described it to the Post as “the dark side of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’”
The film’s director, Terry Zwigoff, granted an interview with Mim Udovitch, the film critic for the New York Times. From this interview we gain some insight into what sort of people would make such a mean-spirited film. The critic asked the director, “What was Christmas like around your house?” Zwigoff then describes his isolation as a Jew in a small Wisconsin farm town and the confusion of Christmas trees and Hanukkah candles in his home after his uncle married “a woman who wasn’t Jewish.” Udovitch remarks that “A Christmas movie is something of a departure for you. What attracted you to this film?”
Zwigoff had taken over the film after it had been developed by the Coen brothers. He tells the critic that his agent sent him the script and he loved it immediately. “We took it to a few studios who promptly turned it down. After a couple of months of that, I got a call from Bob Weinstein saying his brother and he . . .wanted to make a film with me. They read it right away and said they wanted to make the film. And they never wavered from that. There were many times when I would look around me on the set and think: I can’t believe they’re letting me make this.”
Angela Dawson, writing for Entertainment News Wire, observed that “While other actors might shy away from such controversial material, Thornton relished the opportunity to try something different.” Billy Bob remarked, “I’ve tried to make choices that make me happy in my career.”
Soon after his fifth wife, Angelina Jolie, adopted a Cambodian orphan, Billy Bob left her. With wife number five gone, Billy Bob has gotten closer to his sons William and Harry, from his fourth marriage. Thornton says he took his boys to see the family-friendly film Elf rather than his own R-rated Bad Santa. Demonstrating a flicker of wisdom, Billy Bob opined, “I’ll probably keep them away from it for a few years, at least.”
This film’s history is like the opening line of a bad ethnic joke: “So these four Jews (Zwigoff, the two Weinsteins, and Eisner) decide to make a Christmas movie that trashes a cherished Christmas icon. . .” Would these four businessmen ever consider making a movie about, say, a bearded Hasidim who buggers a young girl behind a synagogue during the Yom Kippur service? Of course not! That would be meshugge. It would be too reminiscent of the imagery in such hideous films as The Universal Jew made during the Nazi era. And yet, they were eager to make Bad Santa.
Perhaps you could send Michael Eisner a Christmas card and include a note about how you feel about him making a buck polluting the Christmas season. American Greetings has just the card. It depicts Santa’s elves doing Santa’s laundry. They hold up his underwear and exclaim, “Man! You think that a guy who can deliver toys all over the world in one night could at least learn to wipe himself a bit better.” That’s Mr.Eisner’s kind of humor.
It should be clear to you by now that all of the arguments used to diminish the public celebration of Christmas are shams. There is no danger of an establishment of a national religion; there never was such a danger. Minorities in America are free to practice any faith they wish; we are a nation of sects. The “umbrage” crowd and the “hurt feelings” people are, in reality, bigots masquerading as victims; their campaign against Christmas is low and sly and contemptible. Acceding to their demands would be a victory for bigotry and hate.
Many of the same people who jabber incessantly about the importance of keeping the baby Jesus off the courthouse lawn because his presence there hints of governmental favoritism are the very people who cheer when billions of our tax dollars, taken from us by force, are lavished on Israel, an officially Jewish nation with a religious symbol on its flag and a law on its books that prohibits anyone who is not a Jew from ever being elected to the nation’s highest office. (There are 142,000 Israeli Christians.) That’s billions of our dollars to subsidize Judaism, but don’t you dare put the baby Jesus in the town square. So what’s good for Jews in Israel is bad for Jews in America; when Jews are in power, then church-state union is good, but when Jews are a minority, then church-state separation is good. Got that, goyboy?
We see now the true mindset behind the annual anti-Christmas campaign; there is nothing principled about it. Those Jews and atheists, pagans and Secular Humanists, Muslims and Wiccans who assault Christmas seek to share its bright light even as they strive to dim it. The great community of American Christians must stop treating them as though they were people with a genuine grievance. They don’t have a genuine grievance: they are bigots!
Merry Christmas to all,
And to all, a good fight.
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December 12, 2003
Note to the Reader: Permission is granted to quote from this essay, with attribution. Readers may also make and distribute a reasonable number of free copies of this essay, with attribution. Reproduction for profit is prohibited.
Second Note: The web pages quoted in this essay were found by a search engine. Going directly to the websites may not produce those same pages. For example: I found the AskMoses site by typing the words “Jew” and “being different” into the Google search engine, but going directly to AskMoses did not produce the same pages, which are archived.
Recommended reading: Persecution by David Limbaugh, published by Regnery Publishing, Inc. It’s an account of the current assault on the Christian faith in America.