Thursday, December 21, 2006

"Dear Rabbi, Merry Christmas" - An Excerpt

Whoever would have thought that Christmas cards were such a loaded issue? I certainly didn’t, five years ago when I innocently responded to a forum poll on Christmas versus holiday cards. Not only was I flamed for writing that it bothered me – a religious Jew – to receive religiously-oriented Christmas cards from people who know that I’m Jewish, but I wound up feeling so unwelcome as a result, I never went back.

The next year, on another completely unrelated forum, the subject came up again. This time, I knew enough not to express my own opinion, but I did ask people why they felt the way they did. An interesting pattern emerged: there were those who sent cards based on what the recipient celebrated, and then there were those who sent cards based on their own celebrations, as a way of sharing the joy of their holiday. And, they said, if someone was offended by that, it was the recipient’s fault for 1) being too sensitive, or 2) not accepting the card in the “spirit” in which it was intended.

If I receive a religious Christmas card from someone who knows I’m Jewish, in what “spirit” is it, exactly, that I’m supposed to accept it?

What many of these well-meaning folks don’t seem to realize is that while there is no particular religious implication of a Christian receiving a Chanukah card, there is a huge religious implication of a Jew receiving a religious Christmas card – and even some secular Christmas cards. What they don’t seem to understand is that the very celebration of Christmas is antithetical to religious Judaism, and no matter what “spirit” they’re sent in, they sometimes come across as veiled conversion attempts, or at least reminders of the common (but not exclusive) Christian belief that the only way to G-d is through the Christian messiah.

It has become an issue that both bothered and intrigued me, and as any good writer would do with an intriguing, controversial issue, I brought it into my next novel.

So here, for your pleasure, is an excerpt from As in Days of Old. Anonymous rebbetzins may find this excerpt particularly amusing.

(General disclaimer – this is uncorrected, unedited, may go through some revisions before it reaches publication, etc.)


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