How should Jewish parents handle Halloween festivities?

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Parents and Children,

seymourforweb2The first few months of the school year are filled with so many wonderful beginnings. In a Jewish school, the holidays come one after the other with hardly a minute to spare. We have been so busy! And now, the holidays have ended … ALMOST.

Each year, I make sure to comment on a very special “American” holiday. Halloween, Oct. 31, is a holiday that we do not celebrate at most Jewish schools. It’s not a Jewish holiday, although the religious aspects of the day have been long forgotten in society.

Historically, the eve of All Saints’ Day was also called All Hallows Eve. All Saints’ Day had its origins in 837 C.E., when Pope Gregory IV ordered the church to celebrate a day in honor of all saints. Over time, the holiday became focused on witches, death, skeletons, etc., but today, Halloween has been diluted to the point that it’s very much a part of the American experience for most of us. And yet, while the roots in All Saints’ Day have long been lost, the debate among Jews continues.

Rabbi Daniel Gordis, in his wonderful book “Becoming a Jewish Parent” (which I highly recommend), raises a number of thoughts about Halloween but says: “In the final analysis, what we do about Halloween may not be important. How we think about it, how we talk about it, and what our kids’ reactions to the issue tell us about their identities — those are the crucial issues about which we ought to think and speak very carefully.”

Rabbi Gordis asks: “If not participating is going to make our kids resent being Jewish, are we doing enough to fill their lives with positive Jewish moments, with a deep sense of identification, with supportive and loving Jewish community?” In other words, if we want our children to have a positive Jewish identity, then we — the adults in their lives — need to think and plan for wonderful Jewish moments that create memories and reasons to be proudly Jewish.

How you choose to handle this holiday is a family decision, but let me offer my yearly recommendation. On Nov. 1, RUSH to every store that sells costumes and get great ones for dress-up and especially for Purim — our time to dress up! The post-Halloween sales are fantastic.

Shalom … from The Shabbat Lady.

Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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