Christmas Through Jewish Eyes

Walking down Jaffa Road in Jerusalem for the first time on a Christmas morning was quite a cross-cultural experience for me. The most anticipated and unique day of the year in my home country was just another humdrum business day in Israel!

This year I'd like to offer a pair of articles to help us see Christmas through contemporary Jewish eyes. First, this complaint from orthodox Jews about a large Christmas tree that was set up this week outside Jaffa Gate for a Christmas bazaar. In their eyes it was idol worship in a central place of the Jewish people, something like an altar to Baal.

A more irenic tone was struck this week by Rabbi Benjamin Blech from Yeshiva University in New York. In his essay he identifies secularism as more of an enemy to the Jewish people than Christianity, and even concludes "I really love this season," as it may prompt Jews to meditate on the differences between their faith and that of their neighbors.

God bless Rabbi Blech for seeking out common ground in the face of huge skepticism and hostility from his tradition. But I was left with a few questions after reading his account:

My parents told me many times how much they dreaded the Christmas season.

Living in a little shtetl in Poland, they knew what to expect. The local parish priest would deliver his sermon filled with invectives against the Jews who were pronounced guilty of the crime of deicide, responsible for the brutal crucifixion of their god and therefore richly deserving whatever punishment might be meted out against them.

No surprise then that the Christian time of joy meant just the opposite to the neighboring Jews. The days supposedly meant to be dedicated to

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