Jews & Christmas

What attitudes toward Christmas tell us about modern Jewish identity.

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Today, thousands upon thousands of American Jews have become vested in Christmas through the doing of mitzvot--volunteering in soup kitchens and hospitals, visiting the homebound, preparing or delivering Christmas meals, buying Christmas presents for the poor, or substituting for colleagues at work. Increasingly, volunteerism has become an established means of combining the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world, with the Christmas message of bringing joy to the world.

Who would have imagined that this once-feared holiday would become an occasion for many American Jews to proudly affirm their identity both as Americans and as Jews?  

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Rabbi Joshua Eli Plaut, PhD is Executive Director of American Friends of Rabin Medical Center, representing Israel's premier hospital in the USA. He is a historian, photo-ethnographer, and cultural anthropologist, and is the author of the forthcoming book, Silent Night: Being Jewish at Christmas Time in America: Proclaiming Identity in the Face of Seasonal Marginality.