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The Rabbi With The Christian Roommate, And Other Stories Of Our Forward Readers’ Christmas Trees

Do Jews put up Christmas trees? Absolutely — and absolutely not.

On November 29, we asked our readers to share whether or not they put up a Christmas tree in their own homes. Many commented on our Facebook post or emailed us to share their stories. Here are a few that spoke to us:

“I confess to this guilty little pleasure. I married a christian and we celebrated the holidays of both faiths. Further I think it taught the children tolerance and understanding. Let’s face it, its a joyous time of year celebrated by the vast majority of citizens in our country. It makes no sense to me to turn our back on the celebrations but rather join in regardless of your beliefs. Its a step towards assimilation and reducing mistrust.”

Michael Goldberg

“My dad’s family was Greek Orthodox— we always put up a beautiful “Hanukkah Bush” at Grandma and Grandpa’s, with my mom’s blessing. I agree it teaches tolerance and multiculturalism. I’m “all grown up” now, and have an electric menorah and no tree due to two cats, but wholeheartedly participate in Christmas at work— and have learned all about Ramadan — and think I’m a more complete person because of it. Happy Holiday to you and yours Mr. Goldberg!”

— Katrina Gabelko

“I used to look down on my Jewish friend whose Jewish parents had a xmas tree. But when I married a Catholic man I started celebrating xmas with him and he celebrated Hanukkah with me.Our lucky son got to celebrate both winter traditions.”

— Helen Flood

“I have had a Christmas tree in my home when I have lived with non-Jewish roommates. I may have one this year because I suspect my roommate is going to get one. I’m a rabbi. She pays her rent and has as much right to the shared living room as I do. I think it’s going to be very nice. Somebody doesn’t think I should be living with a Christmas tree, how about sending me $100,000 so I can afford to live in the Bay Area without a roommate? Psychiatric chaplaincy doesn’t pay that much.”

— Jeremy Sher

“My mom and her 5 siblings, in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, prevailed upon my maternal grandparents to allow them to decorate a tree at Chanukah and Christmastime. They had a great time with the decorating activities and, just as they were finishing the effort, they sighted, out the front window, my great grandparents coming up the street in their horse-drawn buggy. Without a moment’s delay, out the back window flew the newly-decorated tree, never to grace their living room again.”

— Jerome S Zacks

“My mother told me the story of her first tree. He father died when she was a child. Her mother was seeing a Christian man. Small town, her grand parents founded the synagogue, orthodox. The man told my grandmother the kids should have a tree, for the happiness not religion. He got a tabletop one. When the grandparents came to visit through he store front, my grandmother would ring a signal bell. They kids would roll the table in the other room. Her first and only tree.

Years later my mother and sister worked decorating trees for Wanamaker in and around Philadelphia.

We moved to Florida, our neighbor went in the hospital just after Thanksgiving, my mother and I went and got a small tree, decorated it and brought it over for the family.

The idea of a stranger giving gifts, without true regard to your behavior is good. People should feel loved or cared about.”

— Steve Martin

“Although Jewish, my mom always had a Xmas tree. When I married, I continued to put up a tree. When my son was 3 I decided to not confuse him and to be committed to Judaism, I stopped having a tree. He’s 37 now and a practicing orthodox Jew. I’m glad I gave up the tree.”

— Gail Neer

If you want to read more about Jews and Christmas, check out My Jewish Learning or JewFaq.

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