Keeping Christmas Shopping Safe for Christians

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Oh, Focus on the Family, if you weren’t so scary and powerful, I’d call you the gift that keeps on giving, since truly, there is always something new with you.

This year, for example, you bring us Stand For Christmas to help us figure out how “Christmas-Friendly” various chain retailers are. By “Christmas,” you of course mean “Christian,” and by “friendly,” you mean, “explicitly excluding Muslims, atheists, Jews, Wiccans, or anyone else horrible like that.” (And by “Christian,” you mean, “crazy fundamentalist who makes everyone else who identifies as a Christian look bad,” natch.)

Wonkette helpfully went through a bunch of the reviews, though I found some good ones on my own as well. A few nuggets:

Eddie Bauer:

  • “I was made to feel very uncomfortable by their employees who would only respond to my ‘Merry Christmas’ with a ‘Happy Holidays’. If they know I believe in Jesus, why can’t they just wish me a Merry Christmas???”

American Eagle Outfitters:

  • “Was wished a Happy Hanukkah as I left the store. When I stopped and explained I was Christian, the lady at the counter told me ‘Happy Holidays!’ This was very offensive!”
  • “They gave me a King James Bible after I wished them Merry Christmas. I’m going back again tomorrow.”
  • “On black Friday the store in Lithonia Ga was playing Christmas music throughout the store. I noticed because it was actually an overtly Christian song that said Jesus Christ over and over! The sales ladies were very nice and it was a wonderful experience.”

Best Buy:

  • “Just bought an ipod from Best Buy, but then learned of their anti-Christmas/pro -Eid al Adha actions. I so regret having purchased from them. Best Buy, give glory to the one who has allowed and attributed to your success…Jesus Christ, not Mohammed!”
  • “It’s so rude that Best Buy has a Muslim Wish on the front of their WebFlyer. This is America! Wish us a Merry Christmas! I will not be shopping at Best Buy ever again!”
  • “In your flyer advertising Black Friday the weekend before Thanksgiving, you had nothing regarding Christmas..instead you had Happy Eid Al- Adha…a muslim religious Holiday. This is the United States of America, founded on Chrisitan principals, not Muslim. I am disgraced by this and will not shop your stores until you recognize the religious holiday that prevails in the U.S. – Christmas!”

Banana Republic:

  • “I’m so sad, because I like their clothes! And I’m sad for their employees who are told not to say “Christmas”. Many of them must be conflicted. They are mostly young people, so I wonder, does it harm their faith? Add to the prayer list….
  • “Since you are only selling “Holiday Gifts” and I only buy “Christmas Gifts”, there will be no need for me to shop in your store.”

The Gap:

  • “I was completely disgusted by the commercial on tv for the GAP. Not only was Christmas so casually mentioned, but to push the idea that it’s ok to do whatever feels right is so obviously against God and His Word. I for one will no longer shop at any company affiliated with the GAP. I pray that others choose to join as well. I also encourage others to pray for the people involved that God could reach them in some way and change their hearts and minds.”
  • “You have offended the U.S. majority (Christians) by equating the birth of Christ with Wiccan soltice. I’m curious as to to buying power of Wiccans compared to the buying power of Christians? This Christian respectfully WANNUKAHS to cancel my GAP credit card in person in my local store. Other Christians – please let your local store manager know in person of your decision to no longer support their stores.”
  • “Just heard about Gap deciding against Christmas. They are comparing Christmas to cults and witchcraft and encouraging folks to celebrate the ‘holiday’ in whatever manner they see fit. Come on, Gap, take a stand for what is RIGHT – you benefit from our Christmas dollars for Christmas gifts. Because of their stand on Christmas, I won’t be buying anything from Gap this year. Come on Gap! Celebrate Christmas! Jesus died for EVERYONE!”

Obviously, this list can be useful for people who want to know how “Religious Pluralism-friendly” a chain retailer might be. Though, really? What’s with all the shopping anyway?

94 Responses to “Keeping Christmas Shopping Safe for Christians”

  1. Well. I sympathize about the GAP ad. I have to say though, I wish I liked Best Buy better, since It’s nice that they bothered to explicitly wish a happy Eid to our Muslim neighbors.


    KRG · December 2nd, 2009 at 8:55 am
  2. As a Pagan who celebrates Solstice, I was thrilled to see the GAP ad. I also don’t mind if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukkah or just plain Happy Holidays. I don’t assume to practicing the only religion.

    What I do find just hilarious is the comment about offending ” the U.S. majority (Christians) by equating the birth of Christ with Wiccan soltice”. Anyone who knows their history knows that the Jesus was not born in December, but his birth date was moved to coincide with the Winter Solstice (with an “s”!) to convince more Pagans to follow Christianity.

    I also find it absurd to think that the US was built on Christianity. Wasn’t the entire concept about freedom of religion and freedom from religious persecution? In fact, who would know better than our very first President?

    “The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian Religion.” 1797 the treaty of Tripoli, signed by President Washington, and approved by the Senate of the United States

    Thank you for this post. It certainly got my morning started with a laugh! Sometimes things are just so ridiculous that you have to laugh at them or loose your mind.


    MrsB · December 2nd, 2009 at 9:22 am
  3. Wow. It used to be that the serious Christians protested against the commercialization of Christmas, but now the tables have turned, and the unholy marriage between Christianity and capitalism that defines the modern Republican Party is finally complete.

    But I feel bad for the Muslim community, which is now on the way to having its religious holiday coopted by commercialism, just as happened first to the Christians and then to the Jews. But fortunately, Eid al-Adha shifts backwards by about 11 days each year, which may be fast enough to outrun even the rapidly expanding “holiday” shopping season.


    BZ · December 2nd, 2009 at 9:58 am
  4. BAHAHAHAHAHAHA – Gotta love the Christians who freak out about Muslims and Pagans – SHHHHHH – no one tell them that Jesus was actually born in Mesopotamia – the modern day Iraq/Iran (and no, they didn’t have blonde haired blue eyed cross wearers imported in for that event) and their high holy day of Christmas is actually an adoption of the pagan holiday of Yule (anthropologists have determined context clues to support the birth of Jesus in July) to which they pay honor to by having Father Christmas – an elf/faerie God the central figure.
    That’s right – DAMN the GAP – it’s all their fault people are finding out about this hypocrisy.


    Amy · December 2nd, 2009 at 10:13 am
  5. “You have offended the U.S. majority (Christians) by equating the birth of Christ with Wiccan soltice.”

    MrsB got their first, but the blame for this goes to the early church, not the Gap. This woman’s about 1,500 years too late. And I have to wonder, does she have a Christmas tree in her house?


    em · December 2nd, 2009 at 11:40 am
  6. There is anti-Muslim sentiment in this country. Much of it is based on ignorance or recent history, but I think the substantial bulk is plain historical antipathy. Especially for the evangelical community, which perhaps more than other sects of Christianity has a strong affinity towards other Christians in the world, relations with Islam are in nothing less than a state of war. Imagine if there were Jews in Africa being exterminated by Muslims in the hundreds of thousands. This type of stuff gets reported on Christian broadcasts every day – kind of how al Jazeera loops bloody images from Iraq and Gaza. With Christians it is more subtle, they don’t wear their antipathy on the sleeve, but scratch the surface, hand one a brewsky and your neighborhood Catholic will tell you exactly what we should do with the Muslims.

    This is not a sentiment we can or should brush off as simple bigotry. Muslim friends of mine, educated, secular but traditional, have spoken privately to me – assuming that as an observant Jew I would agree – that converting Christians to Islam is actually quite humane (the alternative being killing them at some future point).

    The minaret ban in Switzerland is the tip of the iceberg with regard to anti-Muslim feeling in Europe. The Europeans will overturn the ban, but that will just push more people into the anti-Muslim camp (“we tried it the legal way, now…”) Some in the Church (big C, Catholicism) are relishing a fistfight with Islam in Europe as a way to bring people back to the faith. I don’t think the Church is strong enough to take on Islam, even if it wanted to. That said, the last few encounters between the two tore the Ummah apart at the seams for a millennium, while Europe flourished, so who knows.

    What’s a simple Jew to do? Some of you here stand in solidarity with Muslims against this “Christian country”, because you feel threatened by Christianity. Others think the Jews should mediate between the two, using our influence among both sides. Quite frankly, as long as things don’t get too rowdy, I don’t care. I am not threatened by evangelical Christians. I welcome their practical support for Jews and for Israel. I smile when they give me their pamphlets and politely refuse; I think it’s wonderful that pamphlets have replaced pogroms. I have nothing against Muslims, though I do believe they would kill (or convert, it’s “humane”) every single Jews of Israel if they could.

    I’m not going to advise the Christians how to push back on Islam in a more sophisticated manner than complaining about some stupid coupon flyer, but I do think Christian resistance serves a useful purpose to provide some balance and symmetry against an ascending (and increasingly radicalized) Islam. As long as the Jews have Torah and nukes, and can send both sides to hell if need be, I’m quite content to let them sort our this battle for global religious domination on their own.


    Avigdor · December 2nd, 2009 at 1:24 pm
  7. I have never understood the rage Jews have at simply accepting that this is a nominally Christian country in terms of its overwhelming Christian population, most (though certainly not all) who celebrate this holiday on some level.

    When Israel treats its non-Muslim gentiles (I am being reasonable in my demands) with the same respect and inclusiveness that the U.S. treats its Jews, perhaps we can have some basis for registering a complaint.

    Until then, I have to view the complaints of the Christians of too much multi-culturalism with sympathy.

    As long as I may opt out, I have no complaints. And so far, I have not been made to be a part of anything overtly Christian since an unfortunate and somewhat traumatic first grade experience.


    DK · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:07 pm
  8. And I would add that perhaps if one–just one– Muslim country treats its non-Muslim gentile citizens (I try to be reasonable in my demands) with the same multi-cultural respect that the U.S. treats its non-Christian citizens, I will take their complaints more seriously as well.


    DK · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:09 pm
  9. I have never understood the rage Jews have at simply accepting that this is a nominally Christian country in terms of its overwhelming Christian population, most (though certainly not all) who celebrate this holiday on some level.

    Agreed.

    When Israel treats its non-Muslim gentiles (I am being reasonable in my demands) with the same respect and inclusiveness that the U.S. treats its Jews, perhaps we can have some basis for registering a complaint

    if one–just one– Muslim country treats its non-Muslim gentile citizens (I try to be reasonable in my demands) with the same multi-cultural respect that the U.S. treats its non-Christian citizens, I will take their complaints more seriously as well.

    Is there not a bit of chavunism in these statements?

    The American system works wonderfully in the USA, but maybe other countries/cultures have their own values and ideas about how a society should function. Why does the entire world need to worship at the alter of American “multi-culturalism?”


    Jonathan1 · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:19 pm
  10. DK writes:
    And I would add that perhaps if one–just one– Muslim country treats its non-Muslim gentile citizens (I try to be reasonable in my demands) with the same multi-cultural respect that the U.S. treats its non-Christian citizens, I will take their complaints more seriously as well.

    Turkey?


    BZ · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:29 pm
  11. DK writes:
    I have never understood the rage Jews have at simply accepting that this is a nominally Christian country in terms of its overwhelming Christian population, most (though certainly not all) who celebrate this holiday on some level.

    This post isn’t about that — the rage here is all Christian.


    BZ · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:29 pm
  12. Why does the entire world need to worship at the alter of American “multi-culturalism?”

    I am really arguing the opposite. I am asking, “Why does the U.S. need to worship at the alter of a severe, religious minority-driven, disproportionately Jewish, interpretation of separation of church and state/public space?”

    If this outcry were coming more from even the Liberal Christians, I would take it more seriously. But it is often usually from Jews, Muslims, or atheists frequently of Jewish descent.


    DK · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:33 pm
  13. Jonathan1, are you endorsing the way Muslims treat their minorities? I’m not attacking, just wondering. I actually agree with you. I would favor giving Arabs in Israel ger toshav status, versus citizenship.


    Avigdor · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:34 pm
  14. BZ wrote,

    This post isn’t about that — the rage here is all Christian.

    But the push that is driving the multi-cultural culture and subsequent reaction is disproportionately Jewish.


    DK · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:35 pm
  15. Love this post! Really well-framed. Thanks Danya!


    Jacob · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:35 pm
  16. @DK Why does the U.S. need to worship at the alter of a severe, religious minority-driven, disproportionately Jewish, interpretation of separation of church and state/public space

    I agree.


    Jonathan1 · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:36 pm
  17. But the push that is driving the multi-cultural culture and subsequent reaction is disproportionately Jewish.

    The push is coming from stores trying to expand their markets to non-Christian customers. This is not a church/state issue; it’s totally in the private sector.


    BZ · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:37 pm
  18. And for that matter, American Jews (some not all) should stop celebrating Christmas every Chanukah–it’s embarrassing.


    Jonathan1 · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:37 pm
  19. Jonathan1, are you endorsing the way Muslims treat their minorities? I’m not attacking, just wondering. I actually agree with you. I would favor giving Arabs in Israel ger toshav status, versus citizenship

    Baruch HaShem it’s not my job to determine if the way non-Muslims are treated in Muslim countries is good or bad, but IMHO we’re too quick to hold up the 2009 USA as the model society.

    I wouldn’t say that Arabs in Israel shouldn’t be citizens, but I agree that the Meretz model for Israel makes no sense, and there is nothing wrong with admitting as such.


    Jonathan1 · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:42 pm
  20. What’s the point of this post?

    I’m sure that laughing at all the morons, or whatever, is really fun for some of us, but I guess I’d hope that if jewschool bloggers were to address issues of pluralism and holidays and diversity and so forth, they’d do it in a thoughtful and nuanced way, instead of just cut-and-pasting silly comments for us to laugh at. Enough with the knee-jerk stuff.


    miri · December 2nd, 2009 at 3:17 pm
  21. The push is coming from stores trying to expand their markets to non-Christian customers. This is not a church/state issue; it’s totally in the private sector.

    It spills over. It always does. It didn’t start there.


    DK · December 2nd, 2009 at 3:20 pm
  22. DK, your arguments almost reads, “Muslims in other countries treat their non-Muslims badly. Do we should treat our non-Christians badly.”

    I am proud to say that America is a country that has become an increasingly religiously pluralist society, especially over the course of the 20th and into the 21st century. Without sounding too triumphalist, we’re great at treating everyone nice. What’s wrong with that?

    I can’t imagine what makes these folks feel so threatened by “Happy Holidays!”


    David A.M. Wilensky · December 2nd, 2009 at 4:08 pm
  23. John Gibson’s The War on Christmas is a worthy read for people wanting to understand why the Christian majority feels increasingly marginalized — that as opposed to that pathetic fall-back line “I don’t understand why…[etc.]“


    Halfsours · December 2nd, 2009 at 4:23 pm
  24. I would add that stores with advertisements and greeting policies of “Happy Hannukah,” “Happy Eid al-Fitr,” “Happy Diwali,” but only “Happy Holidays,” are being preferential toward minorities, which has great potential to beget resentment.


    Halfsours · December 2nd, 2009 at 4:26 pm
  25. –that is only “Happy Holidays,” in lieu of “Merry Christmas.”


    Halfsours · December 2nd, 2009 at 4:28 pm
  26. DAMW, Christians are upset that stores which say “Merry XMas” get sued or pressured into saying “Happy Holidays”, while there is no such opposition to stores that wish “Happy Hannukah”, etc. They feel reverse-oppression by vocal minorities, while being asked to sit there as a hyper-tolerant majority and take it. Their holidays are publicly suppressed, while they are expected to express joy and appreciation for the holidays of others.

    There are some Jews who, whenever they see a “Merry Xmas” sign in a store window get all bent out of shape, start petition drives, call management, get on the local news, file court injunctions, etc. The real question is, what is so threatening about Christian holidays in this day and age to American Jews? It is a weird, quaint, simmering knee-jerk remnant of anti-Semitism of centuries past.


    Avigdor · December 2nd, 2009 at 4:40 pm
  27. Someone (DK, I think?) said that Jews in (North) American have no right to complain, since we get pretty much the same treatment here as Muslims and other religious minorities do in Israel.

    While I feel you made an interesting point, I have to disagree- the United States in fundamentally an irreligious, secular country, at least in terms of law- and Israel is not. Israel, from legal standpoint, is a Jewish state. The two cannot be compared the way you compared them.


    Ilanit · December 2nd, 2009 at 5:26 pm
  28. DAMW wrote,

    Without sounding too triumphalist, we’re great at treating everyone nice. What’s wrong with that?

    The problem is that we don’t always treat the Christians fairly. That is the problem. We sometimes overreach in our concern for tyranny of the majority and create tyranny of the minorities.

    This is a major problem for many in this country, and frankly, I think they have a point sometimes.

    To paraphrase Halfsours, do we truly seek to understand?

    Look at this here post that we are discussing. Was there ever a post on Jewschool that actually sought to reference where the complaints about the so-called “War on Christmas” are actually reasonable? Is referencing the more absurd complaints the proper way to evaluate our opponents?

    For instance — one of the complaints of the Christians is that the other holidays in “Happy Holidays” are not — in fact — equivalent to the relatively High Holiday of Christmas.

    Chanukah is a non-Torah, minor holiday celebrating a fundamentalist uprising against democratic-leaning Liberal Jews.

    Kwanza, a recent black nationalist construct, is not celebrated by most Africans, American or otherwise, because the days do not become longer in the southern majority of Africa this time of year. They become shorter.

    On top of the relatively minor standing of these holidays in their communities, the populations that celebrate any of these holidays are miniscule compared to the majority of Americans who celebrate Christmas.

    That is the setting. On top of that, there are excessive behaviors reported far beyond insistence on equality.

    Do we pay attention with that? Are we concerned with that? Or are we going to be content to ridicule the most outrageous reactions and not even acknowledge or discuss the more reasonable and lucid complaints?

    It is both victimy and aggressive to not give one’s more reasonable opponents a fair shake and hearing. The fact that we consistently decline to do so when discussing the “War on Christmas” suggests that they may very well have a point. Why are we so quick to deny, mock, and dismiss through selective retrieval of the most outrageous of complaints?


    DK · December 2nd, 2009 at 5:59 pm
  29. Since this issue WILL come up in the weeks to come, watch for Jews and atheists (mostly from a Jewish background as someone mentioned) launching lawsuits and picking media fights against local police departments and city halls displaying Christian themes on their lawns.

    As Jews, instead of fighting public displays of celebration for monotheistic faiths, we should be encouraging them. I, for example, will be asking to put up a menorah next to the christian display at my city hall.

    As pluralistic as most Jews today are, do we support the wicca putting up an idolatrous display in public? Maybe “support” is the wrong word. Would we stand by their right to do so in court? Religious pluralism says “yes”. Jewish law says, “hell no”.


    Avigdor · December 2nd, 2009 at 6:02 pm
  30. Avigdor, you wrote, “Christians are upset that stores which say “Merry XMas” get sued ”

    Please provide ONE source of someone getting sued.


    ML · December 2nd, 2009 at 6:39 pm
  31. Avigdor writes:
    There are some Jews who, whenever they see a “Merry Xmas” sign in a store window get all bent out of shape, start petition drives, call management, get on the local news, file court injunctions, etc.

    And while you’re at it, please provide a source for this… for a STORE (i.e. a private business), which (under U.S. constitutional law) is very different from a government institution such as a public school.

    The real question is, what is so threatening about Christian holidays in this day and age to American Jews?

    Also, when are you going to stop beating your wife? You’re assuming that stores that say “Happy Chanukah” are doing so in response to Jewish demands. I would greatly prefer that Chanukah be kept out of the annual capitalist winter festival, along with all other religious holidays.


    BZ · December 2nd, 2009 at 6:53 pm
  32. Avigdor writes:
    As Jews, instead of fighting public displays of celebration for monotheistic faiths, we should be encouraging them. I, for example, will be asking to put up a menorah next to the christian display at my city hall.

    As pluralistic as most Jews today are, do we support the wicca putting up an idolatrous display in public? Maybe “support” is the wrong word. Would we stand by their right to do so in court? Religious pluralism says “yes”. Jewish law says, “hell no”.

    If this were Wikipedia, it would get a weasel words tag. “Public” has two distinct meanings that you’re blurring together: “out in the open” and “the public/governmental sector”. The former type of public religious expression is protected by the free exercise clause; the latter is prohibited by the establishment clause. Christians (or Chabad, or Wiccans) can do whatever they want out in the open, but not with my money.


    BZ · December 2nd, 2009 at 6:57 pm
  33. You’re saying that national retail chains are avoiding “Xmas” language not because of threats of religious discrimination lawsuits, but because they want to piss off as many Christians as possible? That’s an interesting idea.

    I’ll stop beating my wife when you stop sodomizing your dog.


    Avigdor · December 2nd, 2009 at 7:12 pm
  34. DK and Avigodor-

    I’m not sure I completely understand your “But what of the poor Christians?!” complaints here. In my experience, companies don’t seem to be afraid of putting Christmas EVERYWHERE. There are lights (which, for the record, I think are very pretty), there are Christmas songs in stores (which drive me completely bonkers after a couple weeks) and people who don’t know me frequently wish me Merry Christmas or ask me what I’m doing for Christmas. That is certainly the dominant attitude in places I’ve lived (OK, not when I was going to school at Brandeis).

    For the record:
    - Stores are not open to discrimination suites for wishing customers “Merry Christmas.” They have the right to freedom of speech, just like everyone else.

    - It is not discriminatory for people to not acknowledge your holiday in their greetings to you for the month preceding it. Stam.

    - Stores that wish people Happy Holidays or Happy Channukah or Happy Kwanza or Happy Eid are really just trying to expand their market base. They’re not afraid of discrimination suits. I promise. They may be afraid of alienating their non-Christian customers, but them’s the breaks.

    - I haven’t really found too many Jews who make a stink about this publicly. A number will express annoyance in private, but I’m not sure how many actively campaign against Christmas.

    - Division of Church and state is good for the Jews. Stam. Nativity scenes in front of the police station make a definitive statement about what the values of the town are. It really sucks to be made an outsider in your own home. Also, why should my tax dollars go towards it? Sparkly lights cheer me up, but nativity scenes just make me feel squirmy.


    Shoshie · December 2nd, 2009 at 7:58 pm
  35. I agree with Shoshie (except for the “after a couple weeks” part).

    The people complaining about the “War on Christmas” are in no way prevented from celebrating Christmas themselves; they’re whining because they don’t have the power to get everyone else to do it too. And the substance of their complaints is ludicrous. The 4th of July is a holiday that all Americans share (unless there are still a few Royalists lurking somewhere), and yet I can’t imagine getting upset if a cashier didn’t wish me a happy Independence Day.


    BZ · December 2nd, 2009 at 8:36 pm
  36. DK wrote:
    And I would add that perhaps if one–just one– Muslim country treats its non-Muslim gentile citizens (I try to be reasonable in my demands) with the same multi-cultural respect that the U.S. treats its non-Christian citizens, I will take their complaints more seriously as well.

    Does the phrase “non-Muslim gentile citizens” include or exclude Jews? I am finishing up a three-month stint in Morocco. Every Yom Kippur, representatives from each city’s local government visit their city’s synagogue, at which point the city’s rabbi makes a misheberach for the king and his family, and recites an eil malei rachamim for the previous two kings. Multiple Moroccans have told me the story of King Mohammed the Fifth protecting Moroccan Jewry from the Nazis. Moroccan non-Muslims and Westerners are permitted to eat publicly during Ramadan, which is the only state-required religious observance (I think). There is a separate family code for Jews so that they are not obligated in Islamic family law.

    It seems like multi-cultural respect to me.


    Eliana · December 2nd, 2009 at 9:00 pm
  37. The 4th of July is a holiday that all Americans share (unless there are still a few Royalists lurking somewhere), and yet I can’t imagine getting upset if a cashier didn’t wish me a happy Independence Day.

    Especially if you were speaking to the cashier in question around the 7th of June.


    Desh · December 2nd, 2009 at 9:05 pm
  38. The 4th of July is a holiday that all Americans share (unless there are still a few Royalists lurking somewhere), and yet I can’t imagine getting upset if a cashier didn’t wish me a happy Independence Day.

    The issue would be a little more like if someone wished us Happy Independence Days in order to include Canada Day. Yes, I know, it’s different, but it feels misplaced to them in that way.

    Eliana, accommodating religious minorities is not what I am talking about. It would be like when Ramadan is in February for all stores and public officials in a Muslim country avoid saying, “Happy Ramadan” in order to include Tu B’Shvat.

    Shoshie wrote,

    I haven’t really found too many Jews who make a stink about this publicly. A number will express annoyance in private, but I’m not sure how many actively campaign against Christmas.

    Are you kidding? Even in my hometown, which is (or was) only 2% Jewish, my Mom got all sorts of flack from Jewish parents over the years for not calling her secular public school Christmas music program a “Winter Program.” There were two Jews in the school at any time…sometimes four…and usually one Chanukah song out of solidarity. And still, these Jews demanded it be called a “Winter Program,” like they lived in Scarsdale or Potomac.

    Maybe this is a child of musicians who to this day do very well in December, but can’t we all stop complaining about Christmas and go back to making money on it?

    Read where the sources complaining about Christmas are coming from. Even the oh-so-hipster Jews with their “Chrismakwanakah” or whatever…it’s the same thing. Often Jewish driven.


    DK · December 2nd, 2009 at 9:42 pm
  39. DK writes:
    Even in my hometown, which is (or was) only 2% Jewish, my Mom got all sorts of flack from Jewish parents over the years for not calling her secular public school Christmas music program a “Winter Program.”

    STOP CONFLATING PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND BUSINESSES. They’re not the same thing. When Shoshie wrote “I haven’t really found too many Jews who make a stink about this publicly”, this was referring to stores (based on the entire rest of the comment), not government institutions.

    The Establishment Clause has been incorporated, so that it extends to state and local governments too (including school districts, no matter how many Jewish students they have). Not to stores, though.


    BZ · December 2nd, 2009 at 9:58 pm
  40. Shoshie, also, most of the articles that detail the Jewish role (among others, to be sure) in the “War on Christmas” are not articles we will find friendly, but they do seem to make a strong case that the Jewish role in this push is significant. I can give you links, but they are easy to find on your own.


    DK · December 2nd, 2009 at 9:59 pm
  41. DK writes:
    Shoshie, also, most of the articles that detail the Jewish role (among others, to be sure) in the “War on Christmas” are not articles we will find friendly, but they do seem to make a strong case that the Jewish role in this push is significant. I can give you links, but they are easy to find on your own.

    I googled and found these articles (and thank you for not linking to these antisemitic sites – ugh!), and all of the specific examples they give (as opposed to generalities like “The truth is that the Jews continue to hate Jesus Christ and all that he stands for to this day”) are regarding government actions, not private businesses. Stop playing bait-and-switch.


    BZ · December 2nd, 2009 at 10:06 pm
  42. BZ, fine, it’s two different things.

    But the change in the private sector is inspired by the same people who push for it in the public sector.

    Why pretend it isn’t? Who is getting so angry about the Christian-Right’s demand for Christmas in the private sector? Well, look at this here post. Look at who is yelling back at them. Why? If it isn’t a problem, if it isn’t our agenda, why are we so up in arms about the Christians’ demand for Christmas in the private space?


    DK · December 2nd, 2009 at 10:08 pm
  43. DK- Basically, what BZ said regarding schools, courthouses, police stations, city halls, etc. vs. businesses. There’s a HUGE difference, legally. Also, economically, since my money pays for the former institutions, but not the latter. There’s also a difference between legally requiring government institutions to abstain from displays of religion and businesses electing to use pluralistic greetings and decor.

    If my child felt alienated because there was a Christmas concert, you betcha I would complain. Just like my mother complained when I was called out for missing school on Shavuot. Just like my mother complained when the public school sponsored girl scout troop made christmas magnets and I felt excluded. I can’t ever remember her complaining about being wished a Merry Christmas, though.

    Also, my quick google search turned up satire of the War on Christmas and extraordinarily hateful websites, which I would never dream of defending. These are the sort of people who have deemed the War on Christmas. Your average, sane, Christian doesn’t really care.

    Oh yeah, and I still didn’t find any examples of businesses being sued into saying “Happy Holidays.” Airports, courthouses, schools, yes. But those are a different matter, entirely.


    Shoshie · December 2nd, 2009 at 10:15 pm
  44. Just like my mother complained when I was called out for missing school on Shavuot.

    No, not like that at all. Nothing to do with what we are talking about.

    Your average, sane, Christian doesn’t really care.

    I think you are mistaken, and you Jews should stop deciding what your rank and file Christian cares. They don’t complain (in public), but they very well may care. They turn out to care a lot of times when we Jews assume they do not.


    DK · December 2nd, 2009 at 10:22 pm
  45. @DK: I hear what you’re saying.


    Jonathan1 · December 2nd, 2009 at 10:27 pm
  46. Just like my mother complained when the public school sponsored girl scout troop made christmas magnets and I felt excluded

    Isn’t this proving DK’s point?


    Jonathan1 · December 2nd, 2009 at 10:39 pm
  47. Airports, courthouses, schools, yes. But those are a different matter, entirely.

    Why?

    Why are they entrely different matters? Because the U.S. Supreme Court categories schools differently than privately-owned businesses makes the effect of a “Merry Christmas” sign at a school’s entrance different than the effect of such a sign at a Walmart entrance?

    Not every 12-year-old is a Constitutional Law scholar.


    Jonathan1 · December 2nd, 2009 at 10:48 pm
  48. Really now – every private citizen and company is entitled to his or her or its own holiday-related salutation. That these fundies and their enablers continue to fail to get this only shows a totalitarian mindset on their part. You don’t wish me the CORRECT greeting? Well I SUE YOU!!!

    Any cases like this should be laughed out of court.

    I am reminded of an old Daily Show sketch where Ed Helms interviewed this frum bokher (named Moishe Goldstein – er, Aaron Friedman) with a Yiddish accent about some war on Christmas. The bokher had no idea what he was talking about, but when wished a Merry Christmas, he replied with the same. A mountain is being made out of a molehill.

    Hag Urim Sameah.


    B.BarNavi · December 3rd, 2009 at 1:13 am
  49. Jonathan1 writes:
    Why are they entrely different matters? Because the U.S. Supreme Court categories schools differently than privately-owned businesses makes the effect of a “Merry Christmas” sign at a school’s entrance different than the effect of such a sign at a Walmart entrance?

    Yes.


    BZ · December 3rd, 2009 at 10:03 am
  50. DK writes:
    But the change in the private sector is inspired by the same people who push for it in the public sector.

    You and Avigdor have had multiple opportunities in this thread to provide a single example of Jews “pushing” against Christmas displays in the private sector. I’m still waiting.

    Why pretend it isn’t? Who is getting so angry about the Christian-Right’s demand for Christmas in the private sector? Well, look at this here post. Look at who is yelling back at them. Why? If it isn’t a problem, if it isn’t our agenda, why are we so up in arms about the Christians’ demand for Christmas in the private space?

    If Christmas (and the whole “holiday season”) vanished forever, I wouldn’t shed a tear. If I had a choice of shopping in two side-by-side otherwise-identical stores, one of which was playing Christmas music (including and especially of the secular variety) and one of which wasn’t, I’d go with the one that wasn’t. (The same is true for Chanukah music, btw.) But I wouldn’t write an angry letter to stores with Christmas displays or organize a boycott (I just don’t care that much) or threaten to sue (for what? they’re not breaking any laws).

    But the reason I care enough to push back against the “war on Christmas” frame is that the people orchestrating this rage (such as Bill O’Reilly) are playing the same shell game that you are, conflating the public and private sectors. They create a narrative of persecution, that stores are being prevented from wishing their customers “Merry Christmas”, and then everyone (Christian, Jewish, whatever) can unite against this straw man and agree that it would be unreasonable to try to prevent stores from celebrating Christmas. Then, when legitimate constitutional challenges are raised against public-sector religious expression (around Christmas or the rest of the year), they can tap into this frame and say “There you go again, with your war on Christmas!” and dismiss these complaints as manifestations of the same straw man and therefore equally unreasonable.


    BZ · December 3rd, 2009 at 10:28 am
  51. And for the record, I think insisting on equal time (or any time) for Chanukah or other holidays in the public sector is stupid. I say this for two reasons:
    * As has been noted, Chanukah is in no way analogous to Christmas, and it’s bad for Chanukah to turn it into the Jewish Christmas. (People who know I’m Jewish wish me Happy Chanukah around December 25 even in years when Chanukah is at the beginning of December.)
    * This doesn’t solve the underlying church-state issue (that government should not be funding or promoting religion), and in fact makes it worse, because it accepts the premise that government-sponsored religious expression is ok, and means that the government is now promoting two religious instead of one (which is twice as bad).


    BZ · December 3rd, 2009 at 10:33 am
  52. are playing the same shell game that you are, conflating the public and private sectors.

    But there’s no actual difference between the “public” and “private” sectors.

    Even more, why does it bother anybody that government might sponsor religious activities? Are they simply constitional purists? Why would it bother any Jew if, say, there was a Christmas tree in front of city hall?

    The USA is a predominately Christian country, and we should let the Christians celebrate Christmas in peace–even in the “public” sphere.

    American currency says “In God We Trust.”

    The Declaration of Independence talks about certain rights “endowed by our Creator.” Should we have lawsuits to change to the Declaration of Independence because it’s a public document with religious references?

    People who know I’m Jewish wish me Happy Chanukah around December 25 even in years when Chanukah is at the beginning of December

    This happens to me too, and it’s embarrassing. Why do Gentiles know Chanukah and not Shavuout? Why do we insist on celebrating Christmas every Chanukah? American Jews should stop feeling so insecure and let the Christians enjoy their holiday.


    Jonathan1 · December 3rd, 2009 at 11:58 am
  53. But the reason I care enough to push back against the “war on Christmas” frame is that the people orchestrating this rage (such as Bill O’Reilly) are playing the same shell game that you are, conflating the public and private sectors. They create a narrative of persecution, that stores are being prevented from wishing their customers “Merry Christmas”, and then everyone (Christian, Jewish, whatever) can unite against this straw man and agree that it would be unreasonable to try to prevent stores from celebrating Christmas. Then, when legitimate constitutional challenges are raised against public-sector religious expression (around Christmas or the rest of the year), they can tap into this frame and say “There you go again, with your war on Christmas!” and dismiss these complaints as manifestations of the same straw man and therefore equally unreasonable.

    This really cannot be emphasized enough. There is a political agenda at work here (and that “War on Christmas” book was part of it and a journalistic hack job at that) that, if it were to achieve its end goal, would not only be bad for Jews but bad for anyone who doesn’t buy into a very specific version of Christianity that is not shared by a majority of Americans.

    I have absolutely nothing against Christmas. I even enjoy some of the decorations and lights (and cookies). But it’s really tiresome and annoying when a group tries to turn itself into a persecuted minority because it only controls 95 percent of the public sphere instead of 99 percent. War on Christmas? Have you been to the mall lately? Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind what time of year it is and what people are celebrating? Give me a break. Are Christians really being hunted down by evil secularists (code word for Jews) because nativity scenes are at churches instead of at town hall?


    em · December 3rd, 2009 at 12:03 pm
  54. Even more, why does it bother anybody that government might sponsor religious activities?

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    It’s the law. The supreme law of the land. What do you make of the fact that our founders (none of whom were Jewish) saw this as the absolute very first thing they wanted to say when they wrote the Bill of Rights. That’s how important it was to them. Maybe, having lived under state-sponsored religion, they had a pretty good idea of what they were trying to avoid.

    Bit of trivia: Christmas didn’t even become a federal holiday until the mid-1800s. The Puritans discouraged its celebration. Many early Americans thought it was a royalist British leftover that had no place in their new country.


    em · December 3rd, 2009 at 12:09 pm
  55. Jonathan1 writes:
    But there’s no actual difference between the “public” and “private” sectors.

    Explain.

    Even more, why does it bother anybody that government might sponsor religious activities? Are they simply constitional purists? Why would it bother any Jew if, say, there was a Christmas tree in front of city hall?

    Separation of church and state is one of the principles on which this country was founded. If people don’t like that, they can start a campaign to repeal the First Amendment, but until then, the Constitution stands.

    And if you want to have a say about American policy, you can move to America. :-P

    The Declaration of Independence talks about certain rights “endowed by our Creator.” Should we have lawsuits to change to the Declaration of Independence because it’s a public document with religious references?

    The Declaration of Independence is a historical document with no legal force. There are no references to a “Creator” in the Constitution.


    BZ · December 3rd, 2009 at 12:15 pm
  56. BTW, “happy holidays” (in December) goes back to before most Christians were aware of Chanukah and before Kwanzaa existed; “the holidays” originally referred to Christmas and New Year’s.


    BZ · December 3rd, 2009 at 12:17 pm
  57. Why would it bother any Jew if, say, there was a Christmas tree in front of city hall?

    There are Christmas trees in front of town halls and state capitol buildings all over this country. There is one in front of the White House. Every town I’ve ever lived in holds Christmas parades and does big public tree lighting ceremonies.

    There is no “War on Christmas.”


    em · December 3rd, 2009 at 12:17 pm
  58. “Isn’t this proving DK’s point?”

    No, because it was at a PUBLIC school.

    “Not every 12-year-old is a Constitutional Law scholar.”

    Well, fortunately, it’s not 12-year-olds who tend to sue people or legislate policy. And while people aren’t required to be Constitutional law scholars in order to file a lawsuit, I really hope their lawyer is at least familiar with the document. And I really really hope that those who are legislating policy are as well.

    There is a difference between the public and private sector. It’s in the First Amendment. Which happens to both prohibit government institutions from supporting a religion AND protect stores’ rights to wish you a Merry Christmas, if they want.

    Ultimately, I really think it’s all about capitalism. Do you have a larger religious minority base that you want to feel more comfortable in your store? Or do you have a larger fundamental Christian base that will get pissy when you wish them a “Happy Holidays”? Or is the manager of your store just supremely annoyed at the fundamentalist Christians who seem to think that they have a Constitutional right to every person’s mind and body in the USA?

    “I think you are mistaken, and you Jews should stop deciding what your rank and file Christian cares. They don’t complain (in public), but they very well may care. They turn out to care a lot of times when we Jews assume they do not.”

    So maybe they haven’t told me their true thought because I’m a Jew (BOOGA-BOOGA!), but my Christian friends that I’ve talked to about this issue think that it is just as ridiculous as I do.

    “Who is getting so angry about the Christian-Right’s demand for Christmas in the private sector? Well, look at this here post. Look at who is yelling back at them. Why?”

    BZ totally made a much more eloquent response here than I will, but here’s the thing. The Christian Right has no right to dictate how other bodies express religion. They just don’t. They can whine about it. They can talk about the de-Christianization of America. They can use their money to boycott stores that aren’t practicing the way they want. THAT is totally their right. And I support their right to do those things, 100%. But those stores have every right to ignore the militant Christians. And I have every right to think that the militant Christians are being whiny and ridiculous.

    And ultimately, militant Christian groups thinking that if they just whine enough, they can get what they want, is bad for the Jews. Because they want us all to convert. Because they’re invoking our names now (Shut up, Bill O’Reilly), but ultimately they don’t care about Judaism and our values and our way of life, except when it intersects with theirs. And when it deviates, watch out, because then they’ll be throwing KJV Bibles in our faces and asking why we hate baby Jesus so much.

    Also, it’s not just Jews complaining about the War on Christmas:
    www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2009/11/13/war_on_christmas/index.html
    www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/18/american-family-associati_n_362714.html
    thinkprogress.org/2009/11/17/afa-gap/

    Now, I’m totally stereotyping with the names here, but it seems like a good chunk of liberal non-Jewish America thinks that the War on Christmas is dumb. Why are you defending it?


    Shoshie · December 3rd, 2009 at 12:26 pm
  59. Shoshie writes:
    And when it deviates, watch out, because then they’ll be throwing KJV Bibles in our faces

    No way – the KJV is too liberal.


    BZ · December 3rd, 2009 at 12:34 pm
  60. Oh, another note. The Gap, which encompasses Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Piperlime, was founded by a couple of Jews. This isn’t just about getting Christians to say Merry Christmas. This is about getting EVERYONE to buy into Christmas and Christianity, even if it’s not their holiday.


    Shoshie · December 3rd, 2009 at 1:08 pm
  61. And if you want to have a say about American policy, you can move to America

    Lol, BZ. Fair enough.


    Jonathan1 · December 3rd, 2009 at 1:11 pm
  62. Well, fortunately, it’s not 12-year-olds who tend to sue people or legislate policy

    Just like my mother complained when the public school sponsored girl scout troop made christmas magnets and I felt excluded.

    That’s great. Had she wanted, your mother had a sound legal basis to go after the girl-scout troop leader. Kol HaKavod.


    Jonathan1 · December 3rd, 2009 at 1:15 pm
  63. Yes, Jonathan, she would have. I’m not entirely sure why you’re saying Kol HaKavod. It strikes me as mocking, though I’m not sure what you’re so offended by.

    She didn’t go after the troop leader legally, for what it’s worth. She called up the troop leader and asked for future activities to not involve religion or religious holidays. Generally, these things only escalate to the court level when those wishes aren’t respected.

    I’m not sure what America you’re thinking of, where the poor wittle Christians are so persecuted by the big bad Jewish minority, but it’s certainly not the one I grew up in.


    Shoshie · December 3rd, 2009 at 1:33 pm
  64. It’s the law. The supreme law of the land. What do you make of the fact that our founders (none of whom were Jewish) saw this as the absolute very first thing they wanted to say when they wrote the Bill of Rights.

    Look, I really don’t care about Chirstmas one way or another–and I don’t think that Avidgor or DK do either. Christmas, though, seems to be a big deal to the vast majority of Americans, and if they lightly bend some 1st Amendment prohibitions in its celebrations, it doesn’t bother me, and I think we look like a bunch of crybabies taking such matters to court–apparantly it bothers a lot of people here. Fine.

    I love how the Constitution/Law is invoked here, btw. Are all of the Jewschool Constitutional Advocates also defenders of: guns on the streets (2nd Amendment,) the death penalty (8th Amendment,) the federal government’s ability to regulate/prohibit marijuana trade (the Commerce Clause,), prohibiting same-sex marriage in California (Proposition 8, as upheld by the California Supreme Court.)

    The supreme law of the land is the supreme law of the land.


    Jonathan1 · December 3rd, 2009 at 1:37 pm
  65. I am willing to concede that the “war on Christmas” in the private sector may be overblown to some degree, in the sense that many Jews are simply doing their thing.

    Additionally, I do recognize that there is a difference in behavior in terms of how Jews approach the private and public sectors. And I think that we should agree to disagree on our view of the Jewish tendency to whip everyone into a severe adherence to our understanding of separation of “church” and state in the public space, but we should recognize that the Jews are indeed the significant promoters of that ideology in a legal sense, and otherwise.

    I would add that at times we sometimes hear things differently than intended. For instance, when Christians say this is a “Christian country,” we think it means the same thing as when Jews say Israel is a Jewish country.

    But we have to remember that American Christians–even most right-wing American Christians — do not have the same goal of disfranchisement for Jews that traditional Judaism and the Jewish state imposes on its non-Jewish residents or citizens.

    To be a non-Jew, or to some degree even an ardently secular or Liberal Jew in Israel, is a much different situation than being a non-Christian in the U.S.

    I saw firsthand a store in Tel Aviv swarmed by cops for violating the law by being open on Yom Kippur this fall. Even in secular Tel Aviv. I have been told that non-emergency vehicles risk getting stoned if they are driving on Yom Kippur. In Tel Aviv. “The bubble.”

    My point is not to denounce Israel or claim that they need to be like the U.S. I am just saying that we have to remember that even right-wing Christians, never mind moderate Christians, do not usually mean the same thing we mean when they say it is a “Christian country” as when we (or Israelis, rather) say that Israel is a “Jewish country.” They are more often talking about within the confines of western Liberal democracy where everyone may opt out, not a Liberal democracy by Middle Eastern standards.

    Considering our history here, I think we should generally give Christians the benefit of the doubt, and not assume they are aggressively “trying to convert us,” or trying to disfranchise us.


    DK · December 3rd, 2009 at 1:54 pm
  66. Jonathan1, bringing up the 2nd amendment here is a distraction. What BZ and Shoshie argued when bringing that was that it was the law, not that they bestowed any kind of moral blessing on it. I happen to disagree with the right to bear arms, but I’m not about to start a court case challenging someone’s right to; the right exists. Now, once the 2nd amendment is repealed, then I would. And as BZ said, if these guys want to repeal the 1st, they can go ahead.
    In other words, I have enough respect for the Constitution to draw a distinction between what I agree with and what I don’t while still maintaining its legal superiority.


    renaissanceboy · December 3rd, 2009 at 6:45 pm
  67. DK, conservatives use the “this is a Christian country” argument to force the ideals of the religious right on the rest of us. That’s what they mean when they say it.


    renaissanceboy · December 3rd, 2009 at 6:46 pm
  68. I love how the Constitution/Law is invoked here, btw. Are all of the Jewschool Constitutional Advocates also defenders of: guns on the streets (2nd Amendment,)

    There is an unresolved machloket about the parsing and interpretation of “A well regulated militia(,) being necessary to the security of a free State”. It’s not clear that the 2nd Amendment protects individuals carrying guns on the streets.

    the death penalty (8th Amendment,)

    The definition of “cruel and unusual punishment” is also not entirely resolved. But yes, the Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty in certain circumstances. But even if it’s not unconstitutional, that doesn’t mean it should be provided for by law. “The Constitution does not prohibit legislatures from enacting stupid laws.” –Thurgood Marshall

    the federal government’s ability to regulate/prohibit marijuana trade (the Commerce Clause,)

    I’ve never heard anyone claim that the federal government didn’t have this power. There’s no constitutional issue here (except insofar as drug laws are inconsistently applied, so there may be an equal protection issue). The drug laws as written may be problematic from a policy standpoint, but see the Marshall quote above.

    prohibiting same-sex marriage in California (Proposition 8, as upheld by the California Supreme Court.)

    There’s no question that the current California constitution prohibits the recognition of same-sex civil marriages. No one claims otherwise. I would support amending the California constitution to change this. Likewise, as renaissanceboy said, people who take issue with the Establishment Clause should be honest and either say that they want to amend the First Amendment or make a civil disobedience argument (which amounts to the same thing).


    BZ · December 3rd, 2009 at 8:41 pm
  69. Come on, BZ. The bottom line is that the 2nd Amendment allows for the right to bear arms, on some level. The framers clearly thought that the death penalty was protected under the 8th Amendment, and the Court has upheld that idea in all but certain specific instances.

    The fact that those things are Constitutional really doesn’t make them good ideas, or mean that stores should sell guns, or that states should execute people . . . and the fact that the Establishment clause prohibits Christmas celebrations in the public schools doesn’t mean that Jewish mothers should prevent a bunch of little Girl Scouts from making Christmas magnets.

    I’ve never heard anyone claim that the federal government didn’t have this power.There’s no constitutional issue here

    Ironically, even though you’ve never heard of anyone claiming that the federal government didn’t have this power, there have been many cases before the Supreme Court on this issue, and there are textbooks full of cases on the controversy over the Commerce Clause, but I was referring to Gonzales v. Raich. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzales_v._Raich

    I am now being honest: I have no problem with the Establishment Clause. I just don’t think rabbis should threaten to sue airports over not allowing a Menorah next to a Christmas tree.

    abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=2715008&page=1

    (I know that the Court has ruled that Christmas tree displays are permissible in such public places, but this case represents the type of atmosphere that leads people to talk about a “War on Christmas.”)


    Jonathan1 · December 3rd, 2009 at 9:11 pm
  70. The bottom line is that the 2nd Amendment allows for the right to bear arms, on some level.

    And I think the National Guard should have the right to bear arms, to protect the US from foreign invasion.

    The framers clearly thought that the death penalty was protected under the 8th Amendment, and the Court has upheld that idea in all but certain specific instances.

    “Protected”? No way. “Not prohibited” at most. (The death penalty isn’t prohibited by the 12th, 23rd, or 27th Amendments either.) There’s nothing stopping Congress and all the states from abolishing the death penalty.

    The fact that those things are Constitutional really doesn’t make them good ideas, or mean that stores should sell guns, or that states should execute people . . . and the fact that the Establishment clause prohibits Christmas celebrations in the public schools doesn’t mean that Jewish mothers should prevent a bunch of little Girl Scouts from making Christmas magnets.

    These aren’t parallel. Borrowing from the other thread, there’s a difference between choosing not to do something that is permitted (but not required) and choosing to do something that is prohibited.

    Ironically, even though you’ve never heard of anyone claiming that the federal government didn’t have this power, there have been many cases before the Supreme Court on this issue, and there are textbooks full of cases on the controversy over the Commerce Clause, but I was referring to Gonzales v. Raich.

    Ok, I stand corrected.

    I just don’t think rabbis should threaten to sue airports over not allowing a Menorah next to a Christmas tree.

    I agree. As I said earlier, I think they should be trying to get rid of the Christmas tree altogether, not add a menorah next to it.


    BZ · December 3rd, 2009 at 9:59 pm
  71. “Protected”? No way. “Not prohibited” at most.

    Is there a legal difference?

    And I think the National Guard should have the right to bear arms, to protect the US from foreign invasion.

    But the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment allows for more than just the right for the National Guard to bear arms.

    there’s a difference between choosing not to do something that is permitted (but not required) and choosing to do something that is prohibited.

    I just don’t think there’s a practical difference when it comes to Christmas celebrations . . . but, not unusually, I don’t seem to be convincing anybody else . . . so I’ll drop it.


    Jonathan1 · December 3rd, 2009 at 10:45 pm
  72. Jonathan,

    I’m curious what you’d do if you had a child who was involved in activities where he or she was asked to participate in Christian crafts, songs, etc. If you were Shoshie’s father, would you tell her to just go ahead and make the Christmas magnet because it doesn’t mean anything? (And then what? Would you put it on your fridge? Give it to a friend? What?) Would you tell her to sit quietly in the corner while the other girls did the craft? Would you call ahead before each meeting to see what the planned activity was and bring your own supplies so your kid could do a religiously appropriate activity? Would you just tell her she couldn’t join Scouts?

    If your kid’s music class was singing Silent Night and Come all ye faithful in the “winter” pageant, would you ask that she be excused? Tell her to go ahead and do it?

    What would you do if a school refused to give an excused absence for Shavuot or Sukkot because they’d never heard of it and the other Jewish kids were in school that day? (This has happened to someone I know.)

    You seem to think that Jews are too worked up about this stuff, but I’m genuinely curious what you would do. (And don’t say move to Israel. I prefer to live where I have religious freedom.)


    em · December 3rd, 2009 at 11:21 pm
  73. I’m curious what you’d do if you had a child who was involved in activities where he or she was asked to participate in Christian crafts, songs, etc

    I’d probably tell him/her to participate in the activity, or maybe I’d ask for him/her to be excused–I can’t say for sure because I’ve never been in that situation; I wouldn’t try to stop the activity, though.

    If you were Shoshie’s father, would you tell her to just go ahead and make the Christmas magnet because it doesn’t mean anything

    I probably would, really. But I’m certain that I wouldn’t try to stop the Girl Scout troop from making those magnets.

    If your kid’s music class was singing Silent Night and Come all ye faithful in the “winter” pageant, would you ask that she be excused? Tell her to go ahead and do it?

    I’d probably tell her to go ahead and do it.

    What would you do if a school refused to give an excused absence for Shavuot or Sukkot because they’d never heard of it and the other Jewish kids were in school that day? (This has happened to someone I know.)

    That’s a different situation than trying to prevent Christmas celebrations in public schools.

    You seem to think that Jews are too worked up about this stuff, but I’m genuinely curious what you would do. (And don’t say move to Israel. I prefer to live where I have religious freedom.)

    Like I said, I wouldn’t get so worked up about this stuff.


    Jonathan1 · December 3rd, 2009 at 11:31 pm
  74. em writes:
    If your kid’s music class was singing Silent Night and Come all ye faithful in the “winter” pageant, would you ask that she be excused? Tell her to go ahead and do it?

    Why do schools have to have “winter” concerts anyway? Why not just do non-seasonal music like the other concerts?


    BZ · December 3rd, 2009 at 11:31 pm
  75. If I was a storeowner, I’d be honest. I’d put a sign saying, “Happy Shopping Season”. Cause that’s what they’re really trying to say. Spend money, biatch. Otherwise you’re family won’t love you. At least not as much.


    shmuel · December 4th, 2009 at 12:23 am
  76. em (me) wrote:
    What would you do if a school refused to give an excused absence for Shavuot or Sukkot because they’d never heard of it and the other Jewish kids were in school that day? (This has happened to someone I know.)

    Jonathan replied:
    That’s a different situation than trying to prevent Christmas celebrations in public schools.

    It is, but it’s not totally unrelated. We’re expected to go along and get along and not make any problems for anyone, but when we need something, it’s seen as asking for special treatment.


    em · December 4th, 2009 at 4:40 am
  77. It’s different because asking for an excused absence for Sukkot doesn’t affect Christian childrens’ Chirstmas celebration.

    Preventing a class full of 10-year-old Christians from singing “Silent Night” does. (But if your 10-year-old child sings Christmas songs at your Christian neighbor’s house it won’t bother her; if she sings such songs in school she’ll be scarred forever because her First Amendment sensibilities would be so damaged.)

    Making Christmas crafts and magnets; singing Silent Night and Come all ye Faithful. This things just aren’t so horrific (to me, at least.)

    We’re not talking about Czarist Russia, where Jewish boys were dragged out of their homes, placed in schools that forced them to become Christians, and then drafted for 25 years into the Russian army. We’re talking about 2009 USA.

    But, we just won’t agree on that, so I’ll let you have the last word if you want . . .


    Jonathan1 · December 4th, 2009 at 10:42 am
  78. “I probably would, really. But I’m certain that I wouldn’t try to stop the Girl Scout troop from making those magnets.”

    Why not? There was a very simple solution. We still made magnets, just not explicitly Christmas ones. Some kids chose to make Christmas themed magnets, and that’s totally OK. But many kids didn’t. And little Shoshie felt less left out.

    Being a kid is hard. These days, I wouldn’t care. Even in high school, I didn’t complain about Christmas break. But how do you explain to an 8 year old about the nuances of assimilation? They don’t get it. All they know is they’re celebrating Christmas at school. So why can’t they celebrate it at home? Or, conversely, all they know is that they’re doing something they shouldn’t be, that isn’t them and their experience, and feel uncomfortable. That’s not a situation they should be forcibly put in. It’s destructive, and goes on to perpetuate the very feelings of victimization that you claim to be against.


    Shoshie · December 4th, 2009 at 10:51 am
  79. And little Shoshie felt less left out.

    Wait, I thought the issue was that little Shoshie’s mother stopped the themed-magnet event because of the First Amendment implications therein? Isn’t that what everybody is writing about above?

    Being a kid is hard. These days, I wouldn’t care. Even in high school, I didn’t complain about Christmas break. But how do you explain to an 8 year old about the nuances of assimilation?

    I just don’t see this as tragic as do you.

    What would you do if a school refused to give an excused absence for Shavuot or Sukkot because they’d never heard of it and the other Jewish kids were in school that day? (This has happened to someone I know.)

    And, you know what, if the school really didn’t want to give my child an excused absense, I’d probably drop the subject, and I’d tell my child that celebrating Shavuot or Sukkot (to me) was far, far more important than having an unexcused absence on my school record. Maybe I’m just a coward. Ok, now I’ll really let you have the last word . . .


    Jonathan1 · December 4th, 2009 at 11:01 am
  80. I don’t think you’re a coward. I just wanted to know how you saw yourself handling such a situation.

    It does create confusion for younger kids. You can end up feeling like you’re supposed to pretend to be Christian in public. Particularly because it’s not just one thing, but a constant thing during the whole month, every where you go. Right now, my kid is bringing home two or three Santa pictures a day from daycare. I haven’t said anything because it’s kind of a placeholder daycare until we can move into our permanent home, but if it was a place he was going to be for several years, I’d probably ask if they could put out some other things for the kids to draw. Not take away the Santa pictures, but at least put out something else as well. Which I just don’t see as being really whiny and demanding, and which sounds like the solution reached in Shoshie’s Girl Scout troop.

    You read that part, right? The Girl Scouts who wanted to make Christmas magnets still got to do so. No one was deprived of their Christmas magnet. I actually doubt she would have had any sort of legal claim because the courts have found repeatedly that Christmas trees and Santa Claus are “secular” symbols of the season, not religious, but what’s wrong with saying “This situation made me uncomfortable. I hope in the future we can handle it differently”?

    No, it’s not czarist Russia, but that’s actually the point. This is America, and we have just as much right as any other American to try to make the country that we want, even if the thing we object to doesn’t quite reach the horrific oppression threshold. The outraged Christian shopper can boycott Best Buy because they put out a “Happy Eid” sign and Shoshie’s mother can call the troop leader and each one can think the other is ridiculous and we’ll just keep hashing it out.


    em · December 4th, 2009 at 12:06 pm
  81. >>>By “Christmas,” you of course mean “Christian,” and by “friendly,” you mean, “explicitly excluding Muslims, atheists, Jews, Wiccans, or anyone else horrible like that.”

    >>>“DK, conservatives use the “this is a Christian country” argument to force the ideals of the religious right on the rest of us. That’s what they mean when they say it.”

    America is obviously a Christian country. Between 90% and 95% of Americans celebrate Christmas. Secular government, Christian country. (Now that wasn’t so hard to accept, was it?)

    Why on earth should Majority Religious Group A try to “include” members of other religious groups in Group A’s holiday? A holiday that members of those other religions don’t even celebrate?!


    Eric · December 4th, 2009 at 1:03 pm
  82. It’s different because asking for an excused absence for Sukkot doesn’t affect Christian childrens’ Chirstmas celebration.

    Preventing a class full of 10-year-old Christians from singing “Silent Night” does.

    These Christian kids are free to sing “Silent Night” any time they want – they just wouldn’t be doing it as part of an organized school activity. This doesn’t impede their Christmas celebration in the way that one would think of impeding the celebration of any other holiday. But Christmas (in its American manifestation) is different from any other holiday because it is fundamentally imperialistic: in order for people to feel like they’re celebrating the holiday, they have to not only celebrate it themselves but impose it on other people. No other holiday has its own words (“grinch”, “scrooge”) to refer pejoratively to people who aren’t celebrating it. And therefore the parallel breaks down — the imperialistic aspects of Christmas are not worthy of the same respect that we accord to each other’s holidays and observances (see the meta-pluralism section of Hilchot Pluralism Part VI).

    (But if your 10-year-old child sings Christmas songs at your Christian neighbor’s house it won’t bother her; if she sings such songs in school she’ll be scarred forever because her First Amendment sensibilities would be so damaged.)

    10-year-olds actually do understand the difference, albeit without the constitutional language. They can understand the difference between being in one’s own home, in someone else’s home, and in a shared/neutral space, and they’re aware of when being in school (which is supposed to be a neutral space that belongs to everyone) feels like being a guest in someone else’s home. I think I grasped this when I was 5.


    BZ · December 4th, 2009 at 1:41 pm
  83. Eric writes:
    Why on earth should Majority Religious Group A try to “include” members of other religious groups in Group A’s holiday? A holiday that members of those other religions don’t even celebrate?!

    They shouldn’t, but the presumption is that stores (which might or might not be run by people of Group A, and might or might not be targeting their marketing to Group A) should be celebrating Group A’s holiday (and no others). Which they are of course free to do, and members of Group A are free to make this a necessary condition for their shopping at those stores (and considering those stores “friendly”) – that’s the free market. But they’re still assholes.


    BZ · December 4th, 2009 at 1:48 pm
  84. Nice piece, but re: your concluding Adbusters link… it’s a shame about their antisemitism! Really… And I’m normally someone who takes umbrage at accusations of lefty antisemitism. This is a little old, but since they published this, Adbusters have been dead to me:

    canadiancoalition.com/adbusters01/

    Just so you know!


    htrouser · December 5th, 2009 at 2:37 am
  85. BZ wrote (a million comments ago):
    As has been noted, Chanukah is in no way analogous to Christmas, and it’s bad for Chanukah to turn it into the Jewish Christmas.
    I beg to differ. Chanukah is *exactly* the Jewish Christmas. It’s a solstice holiday that falls on the 25th of the winter month. Lights are lit. Why would anyone think that they’re different? Cf. Yerushalmi Avoda Zara 1:3.


    Amit · December 5th, 2009 at 6:53 pm
  86. [...] “Keeping Christmas Shopping Safe for Christians” (Jewschool) and “New Website Helps You Avoid Jew Stores” (Wonkette) examine the [...]


    Sexy Hanukkah Music, Gilad Shalit, & a Focus on the Family Boycott: this week's Shavua Tov | TC Jewfolk · December 5th, 2009 at 7:49 pm
  87. Amit has an important point. From either a secular or Liberal perspective, the only non-controversial thing about Chanukah is that it is a solstice holiday.


    DK · December 5th, 2009 at 8:58 pm
  88. DK, you should be wary about calling anything “non-controversial” on this forum. No matter where the bar, we manage to clear it.


    Desh · December 5th, 2009 at 10:11 pm
  89. As a Jewish Christian, I find it terribly sad that believers have to resort to rating merchants on how well they support their faith. Isn’t Jesus more than strong enough to be who He is without needing Wal-Mart to endorse Him? Instead of this wasteful culture war, wouldn’t serving people in need be a better use of our time and money…and a better reflection on the gospel?


    David Heitman · December 6th, 2009 at 8:57 am
  90. Dave, I’m not gonna be the one to do it, but I pity you the comments that are about to appear.

    I hope they don’t, but I fear they will.


    David A.M. Wilensky · December 6th, 2009 at 2:41 pm
  91. I was at Bed Bath and Beyond today, and they were selling three different styles of gift cards: “The perfect Christmas gift”, “The perfect holiday gift”, and “The perfect gift”.


    BZ · December 6th, 2009 at 8:27 pm
  92. The thing I like best about Chanukah is that it is a solstice holiday. The whole civil war thing leaves me cold. (And what do you think a light that grows and grows and is lit by something called a “shamash” is supposed to represent anyway?)


    Yeilah · December 6th, 2009 at 11:39 pm
  93. Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11 (1797)

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.


    ML · December 8th, 2009 at 10:35 pm
  94. wow… what a hilarious post! Thank you Danya.


    Oren · December 9th, 2009 at 11:31 am

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik