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116http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2012/10/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---10_12_2012
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 10_12_2012
10/10/2012 10:21 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
October 12, 2012

 

Have you ever heard of a “Kosher Christmas”? Now you’re going to point your finger at me and ask, “What are you thinking? It’s not even Halloween yet!” We don’t observe Halloween or Christmas (not that there’s anything wrong with them). But, the holidays are coming and it’s better to address them head-on rather than avoid them. In year’s past, it was called the “Chanukah-Christmas Dilemma” and numerous classes were held on the topic. This year, we’re going to do better than that.

                On Thursday, October 11, 2012, at 7:15pm, Rabbi Joshua Eli Plaut, Ph.D. will be with us at Congregation Beth Israel, to present his new book, A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to Be Jewish. This is the first book to be written on Jews and Christmas in America, and is the product of 20 years of research, comprising a serious, analytical yet fun survey of 150 years of Jewish responses to the holiday season, with an emphasis on the past 30 years. Rabbi Plaut is the full-time executive director of the American Friends of Rabin Medical Center, and serves as the spiritual leader of the Metropolitan Synagogue in Manhattan.

                But, here’s the real seasonal dilemma. Thursday, October 11th is also the Vice-Presidential debate. So, please take me up on my suggestion. Record the debate. Come see and hear Rabbi Plaut first, and then go home and watch the debate. That way you’ll be prepared for the winter holidays and the November election.

                With an introduction by Jonathan Sarna, Rabbi Plaut’s new book is a sensation. In his book, Plaut writes on eating Chinese food, citing humorist Molly Katz, “For no reason that has ever been clear to anyone, Jewish people adore Chinese food; as foreign as caffeine and cream are to our bodies, soy sauce is to our cure. Never mind chicken soup; when Jews need comfort, solace or medicinal nourishment, we dive for moo shu pork.”

                On a serious note, Plaut writes that as early as 1885, the “American Israelite”, Cincinnati’s premier Jewish newspaper, published an article about Jewish participation in mitzvah work on Christmas. The article reported, “It is the custom here (Cincinnati), as in other cities, to provide a hearty meal for all the poor children of the vicinity during the Christmas holiday…Many of our Hebrew families, recognizing that the movement was to make children happy, set aside all question of faith and doctrine and contributed very liberally in money and material.”

                Plaut’s book is a great documentary on the American Jewish experience vis-à-vis the winter holidays. And, rather than call it a “Chanukah-Christmas Dilemma”, American Jews have long sorted out the ways that they can and do participate in meaningful mitzvot to satisfy particular and universal aims.

                Though it’s only mid-October, Congregation Beth Israel is planning its annual mitzvah opportunities to volunteer support at local hospitals, The Beacon, and Ronald McDonald House on Christmas Day. Look at the new Bulletin and future e-news for information about how to participate. For now, load up the DVR to record the debate and come here Rabbi Plaut on Thursday evening. ‘Tis the season to be at Congregation Beth Israel for meaningful adult education in a community of friendship.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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