Progressively Speaking: Christmas is coming, so what do Jews do?
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here
Analysis

Progressively Speaking: Christmas is coming, so what do Jews do?

Rabbi Charley Baginsky reflects on the Jewish perspective of the festive season

I’m asked to comment on a lot of things that have the potential to be controversial, but there is nothing that gets more comments in my inbox than when I talk about Jews and Christmas.

My personal relationship with it also seems to antagonise or delight an already heated debate. After all, I am the rabbi who was born on Christmas Day. My mother is even called Mary.

But it is not only the auspicious date of my birth that has shaped my thoughts on this topic. I grew up in a family where my mother had converted and so my Nana, a very religious Catholic, would want to mark the day. My children’s father also converted and so they, too, have a mixed faith family, for whom Christmas is very important.

But all of us – unless we are completely cut off from the world – know Christmas is coming. We feel it, we see it and we hear it for a good six weeks before it is upon us. Personally, it is an annoyance – reminding me that, since I no longer live in Israel, it is impossible to have a party on my birthday.

But I know for many others it indicates some well-deserved time off is coming. Many love the chance to have a day when all those whom they care about are off work and school and can be together. Equally, there are Jews who feel the profound loneliness of this time of the year and we must be there for them.

But now the perennial question – should we have a Christmas tree?!

Each of us has to walk those negotiations in our own way. There are no Christmas decorations in my house – they would detract from my birthday, obviously! But the children will visit their non-Jewish family during the season and will take them presents and, I am sure, feast on the chocolate on their trees. It is also important for us to recognise that, for some Christians, decorations and trees are trappings that distract from a holy time
for them.

For me, the principle lies in shalom bayit – the essence of this time is bringing light into what is a cold and dark world at the moment. So whether you have a menorah, a tree, both or neither, I’m wishing you all light in this time.

  • Rabbi Charley Baginsky is chief executive officer of Liberal Judaism
Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments