The Grinch Stole Chrismukkah

Hanukkah and Christmas Are Irreconcilable Holidays

I’m No Kill-Joy: Jordana Horn doesn’t want to steal anyone’s holiday fun. But she believes you simply can’t celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.
nate lavey
I’m No Kill-Joy: Jordana Horn doesn’t want to steal anyone’s holiday fun. But she believes you simply can’t celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.

By Jordana Horn

Published December 22, 2011, issue of December 30, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Even the reason that the piece triggered such a deluge of commentary is up for debate, depending on your perspective. Over lunch at a kosher restaurant, an observant friend of mine said: “You know why people responded that way to your post? Because they know they’re doing the wrong thing by putting up a Christmas tree in their home, and they feel guilty about it, and ashamed of themselves.” But in an e-mail correspondence with someone opposed to the piece, I was told that I was to blame for the volcanic response, because my prescriptive posture of what people “should” or “shouldn’t” do was a hurtful one.

And what do I think now, with a few days removed? Well, I don’t think that I single-handedly divided the Jewish community as much as I highlighted a split within it — and it’s a Grand Canyon-sized rift that will not go away simply by us refusing to acknowledge it, and one whose dangers can be dealt with only by facing it full on.

All over modern America there are many, many intermarriages and many, many unaffiliated Jews. I was recently in Los Angeles, and while driving around Beverly Hills I saw many homes with Christmas wreaths on their doors just inches away from mezuzahs. To riff off Ben Franklin, I’m not entirely sure if those doors I saw are open doors or closed ones.

There are those who contend that those doors are wide open and that cultural fusion exemplifies a brighter future of tolerance and understanding. These people call me, in various words, the Hanukkah equivalent of a grinch, whose dissension is in active opposition to peace, love and all things good. Contrary to my detractors’ suppositions, though, I’m very much a proponent of tolerance, and believe that a pluralistic Judaism is a strong Judaism.

That being said, though, I do feel strongly that it is incumbent upon each of us to closely examine what he or she does — and does not do — Jewishly, what that means to each of us and why. My fear, and one that I expressed in my original piece, is that a Christmas-tree-in-the-living-room tolerance seems to stem from a lack of understanding of Judaism: that it’s evidence of confusion rather than of fusion. In efforts to be everything to everyone, I wonder if we, as Jews, risk dissolving into nothing.

I still feel strongly about this, but I was challenged by the responses to the piece and was forced to examine my own views — as were, I believe, its readers. In a way, the discussion the piece triggered was so much more valuable than the piece itself. People read it and responded — viscerally, passionately, defensively, eagerly — all in an effort to explain their viewpoint to others, and possibly, even to themselves. Just like in the time of the Maccabees, we all ended up asserting anew our boundaries and sacred spaces. And that was, although not in the same way as in days of old, its own rededication.

Jordana Horn is a lawyer, journalist, aspiring novelist, and many other things, but is not celebrating Christmas.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.