Should Jewish children trick or treat?

Each year the discussion surrounding Halloween festivities surfaces in conversations with Jewish educators around the country. Seemingly, regardless of socio-economic background or location, the same issue arises.

So we’ve asked three Jewish educators:

Should we permit our children’s participation in Halloween festivities?

BSL_Headshot.JPGFor me, the answer is clear. Our job is to inform; it is the parents’ job to determine what is permissible for their children. Just as we teach our children how to observe Shabbat and Kashrut, we should teach them about the history of Halloween. What individual families decide to do with this information is, and should be, up to them.

Halloween is viewed by many as a secular holiday, no different than Thanksgiving or July 4th. However for some, the holiday’s Pagan origins set it in another class altogether. Those who think that Jewish children can go trick or treating, including myself, have no problem separating Halloween’s origins from what it has become–an American holiday of collecting candy and dressing up.

Opponents to this idea believe that regardless of its current place in American society, Halloween’s origins are not only non-Jewish but really anti-Jewish.

For me, the argument can be made if this is something that we should be supporting as Jews. With that said, I believe firmly that we must find a balance of our American culture and our Jewish heritage, and there are ways to find a “happy medium.”

Primarily, a family should make the commitment to sending their children to religious school, should Halloween occur on a day when school is in session. If after school individual families trick or treat, I believe that’s fine. Many of us struggle with our own Jewish identity and I am impressed when families can find this middle ground. For each family, what is acceptable is different, as it should be.

As educators, we must teach about the secular world while never casting judgment, something we see too frequently. It is our job to inform, and it is the parents’ job to decide. As long as we are able to maintain this separation, we reacting in the best interest of our students.

Posted on October 28, 2007

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