The requisite Christmas tree rant

12.12.06

Since this story about a Chabad Rabbi who threatened to sue the Seattle-Tacoma airport unless they took down their Christmas trees has been getting so much media attention, I figure I’d better weigh in with my two cents.

My opinion? Quite simply, Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky is a first-degree horse’s ass. Why?

  • Displaying a Christmas tree is harmless. It’s not forcing anyone’s faith on anyone else. It’s merely displaying it. It’s no more a threat to me as a Jew than a display of a menorah would be to a Christian. And if Rabbi Bogomilsky is so threatened by a friggin’ tree, then perhaps he ought to re-examine his personal faith rather than rallying against the world.
  • I’ve always been uncomfortable with Chabad’s campaign to display menorahs everywhere at Chanukah. To me, it’s propagating the myth that Chanukah and Christmas are somehow related, or in competition, or have something to do with one another. Chanukah, as Rabbi Bogomilsky ought to know full well, is not a major religious holiday, and the fact that we’ve allowed it to become part of the generic “holiday season” and a symbol of gift-giving, commercialism and one-half of the semi-merged “Christmakah” is bad enough. This is worse.
  • It’s not a competition. It shouldn’t be a competition. This isn’t about “my symbol is bigger than your symbol”. If people are proud of something, they should be allowed to express that pride without some other group feeling the need for one-upmanship. Judaism shouldn’t be about one-upmanship at all.
  • Rabbi Bogomilsky is claiming to speak for all Jews with this stunt, which I personally resent an awful lot. Who voted him spokesperson of North American Jewry, anyway?
  • I like Christmas trees, okay? I think they’re pretty. I think the lights and decorations are pretty. I enjoy looking at them. I know it’s not my holiday, and I’m not going to run out and get a tree for my living room or anything… but why shouldn’t I be allowed to get enjoyment out of someone else’s holiday?

Bottom line? I’m glad the trees are back, and I hope everyone learns to chill out and enjoy whatever holiday or holidays they choose to celebrate.

For more on the subject, see last year’s rant about the whole “Happy Holidays” / “Merry Christmas” debate.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 DaninVan 12.13.06 at 6:14 AM

Amen, Sari! I’m glad that I’m not the only one having less than charitable thoughts about the good Rabbi.
I put a string of blue LED lights on the front of the house as a token. Looks really nice from the street.

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2 John Palubiski 12.13.06 at 2:45 PM

I’ve no decorations at all.

You see, I,ve got this whole holiday theme figured out.

Instead of spending wads of cash on tress and lights, I simply scoot up to my brother’s place ( already decorated) and enjoy Christmas there!

I do, of course, compliment him on his exterior lights and interior decor, but not before I ask for a beer!

For a couple years I actually did put up a tree. Thing is, after a couple weeks, and even with regular watering, the needles just fall right off.

Come January, when you undo the decorations, take the thing down and cart it our the back door, the friggin’ carpet is just covered with green/brown needles.

Takes about 2 hours to vacum up.

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3 John Palubiski 12.13.06 at 6:53 PM

To be honest, what I’ve come to hate about Christmas decorations these past few years are those inflatable santas snowmen and candles you see on every second balcony in town.

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4 Annmarie 12.14.06 at 11:53 PM

Well we celebrate both in our household.. Hubby’s Menorah goes up first, and he lights a candle each day for 8 days and we have a Hanukkah Dinner with our friends..On December 24th my Christmas tree goes up, I attent mid-night Mass and we have a Dinner on Christmas day with family & friends..We are both happy to celebrate our special days..
PS. He also loves my tree. thinks it looks pretty.. Happy Holidays? Merry Christmas..
Cheers

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5 red rabbit 12.16.06 at 10:02 AM

Yay for Christmas trees, a longstanding pagan tradition predating Christianity by eons. Let’s put the X back in Xmas. With love from your resident atheist. And having a blast on the dark continent.

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6 josh 12.16.06 at 7:37 PM

Some people don’t understand that calling one Rabbi an ass is calling all other rabbi’s asses as well. Pretty disgusting and self-centred, IMO.

If someone doesn’t understand the purpose of putting up hanukiahs everywhere, then apparently they don’t know what half of hanukah is about.

As for the other half, it’s about the Jews beating away the all-powerful Greeks and the Greek influenced Jews who prefered forcing a foreign lifestyle and non-Jewish culture onto Jews. Hanukah is about celebrating the Maccabean victory over both these types of people.

Hanukkah, like Purim, are major holidays, in fact, one of the few that will still be celebrated after the others are dismissed when mashiach comes and the temple is rebuilt.

Xmas trees are pretty, but why do you want to stick around and see those everywhere rather than wandering through the streets of Israel and seeing Hanukiahs from most balconies?

Hanukah sameach to all.

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7 segacs 12.16.06 at 11:02 PM

Some people don’t understand that calling one Rabbi an ass is calling all other rabbi’s asses as well. Pretty disgusting and self-centred, IMO.

Josh, chag sameach, but that is ridiculous! People – rabbis or otherwise – are individuals.

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8 josh 12.17.06 at 8:37 PM

Individuals part of a distinct group.

It’s like the Neturei Karta cult, ‘between us’ we can ridicule them about them desecrating God and the lives of the dead martyrs of the Shoah, but we have to limit how much public criticism we let out since A) they look like us, B) not get sucked into saying something like ‘those Jews are bad, but the rest of us are okay’, C) no matter what we might expect of others, non-Jews hearing crticism of distinctly garbed Jews internalize, even to a limited extent, that Jews are bad.

Couple that with the Jimmy Carter anti-semitic bullshit and the fact that opinions are not clear cut against his drivel and we have a very weird situation.

So openly criticising any distinct representative of the tribehas repercussions on all of us.

A frayliche Hanukah to all!

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9 segacs 12.18.06 at 3:12 AM

You may have a problem openly criticizing Neturei Karta. I don’t.

In fact, I would argue the opposite: if there is such a thing as a Jewish collectivity, then we have a collective responsibility to distance ourselves as much as possible from the Neturei Karta and everything they stand for. They’re about as good an argument for bringing back the cherem as I can think of, IMHO.

But I don’t believe in collectivity. Once we agree that we’re “all alike”, we’re inviting others to see us and treat us that way. I speak for me, you speak for you. We may both be Jewish, we may even both agree on quite a few things, but we are two separate individuals and that’s the way it should be for Jews, Christians, Muslims, and anyone else in the world.

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10 DaninVan 12.22.06 at 7:18 AM

Josh; we’re NOT in a majority over here (thankyou for inviting us to Israel but actually, I quite like it where I am) and gasbags like Bogomilwhatever just stir up animosity and misunderstandings; you KNOW the press never get the story straight, eh? He was grandstanding, plain and simple, with his lawsuit threat.

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