A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to be Jewishby Joshua Eli Plaut
Christmas is not everybody’s favorite holiday. Historically, Jews in America, whether participating in or refraining from recognizing Christmas, have devised a multitude of unique strategies to respond to the holiday season. Their response is a mixed one: do we participate, try to ignore the holiday entirely, or create our own traditions and make the
Christmas is not everybody’s favorite holiday. Historically, Jews in America, whether participating in or refraining from recognizing Christmas, have devised a multitude of unique strategies to respond to the holiday season. Their response is a mixed one: do we participate, try to ignore the holiday entirely, or create our own traditions and make the season an enjoyable time? This book, the first on the subject of Jews and Christmas in the United States, portrays how Jews are shaping the public and private character of Christmas by transforming December into a joyous holiday season belonging to all Americans.
Creative and innovative in approaching the holiday season, these responses range from composing America’s most beloved Christmas songs, transforming Hanukkah into the Jewish Christmas, creating a national Jewish tradition of patronizing Chinese restaurants and comedy shows on Christmas Eve, volunteering at shelters and soup kitchens on Christmas Day, dressing up as Santa Claus to spread good cheer, campaigning to institute Hanukkah postal stamps, and blending holiday traditions into an interfaith hybrid celebration called “Chrismukkah” or creating a secularized holiday such as Festivus.
Through these venerated traditions and alternative Christmastime rituals, Jews publicly assert and proudly proclaim their Jewish and American identities to fashion a universally shared message of joy and hope for the holiday season.
See also: http://www.akosherchristmas.org
"Fascinating. Plaut means so well and covers so much ground. After 207 pages, I am a Hanukkah maven. Ask me anything."
"Hanukkah, a once-obscure Jewish festival that—conveniently falling in December—has been built up to become a response to the 'December dilemma', the puzzle posed for non-Christians by Christmas. The dilemma is no more, suggests Rabbi Plaut. December now features traditions that are both distinctively American and inventively Jewish. And one last Jewish Christmas custom—volunteering to work or help the needy so that Christian neighbours can enjoy the holiday—trumps the rest, distilling the essence of the season."
"In this short, informative and illuminating book, Plaut traces not only the changing attitude of American Jews to Christmas but the holiday’s symbiotic influence on Hanukkah as well."
"A Kosher Christmas is a unique observation of American Jewry and the ambivalence Jews face as we simultaneously try to integrate ourselves into American culture, while helping to shape aspects of it at the same time."
"With humor and insight Rabbi Joshua Plaut, Ph.D. recounts the meaning of Christmas to American Jews. This 'only in America' account should be read by Jews and non-Jews alike but especially by those of us who have always felt a little bit guilty for enjoying Christmas."
"A Kosher Christmas—full of entertaining and intriguing anecdotes and tales of Jews reconciling their traditions and values with the pervasiveness of Christmas culture—is a fast-paced read that anyone who grew up around holiday celebrations of all stripes will enjoy."
"Providing more than a Jewish cultural history, Plaut opens discussion on the way that the US Jewish response to Christmas, which he calls culturally unique, paved the way for the identity politics of other minorities to be expressed in the all-important December holiday season. Recommended."
- Rutgers University Press
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Meet the Author
JOSHUA ELI PLAUT, an ordained rabbi, holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Judaic Studies. He is the author of Greek Jewry in the Twentieth Century, 1913–1983 and has documented Jewish life and popular culture through photography, oral history, and ethnography.
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