25 thoughts on “Port of Seattle Brings Back Christmas Trees, Refuses Menorah – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. As I commented in the Seattle newspaper, the Port authorities’ complaints that ‘if we allow a menorah we’ll have to allow everything and we’re all too busy right now’ to be a bit daft. How many religions have a winter solstice celebration? The Muslims don’t, Sankrati decorations can be postponed until after New Year (it falls on the 14th) and I don’t think there are enough Zoroastrians passing through Seattle to make Mithras much of an issue. Maybe something for the neo-pagans (who are probably quite happy with a tree) and something for Kwanza or whatever that is. Stick up a menorah or chanukiah (saves money since there’s only one day where all the bulbs have to be screwed in) and Bob’s your uncle. (My parents say ‘fartech’ but I can’t find it in any list of Yiddish expressions.)

  2. Antiquated Tory: Is “Bob’s your uncle” some sort of Anglo idiom? Never heard that one. And as for “fartech” that might be “fartig:”

    Fartig! As in, “That’s it . . . Fartig! (Translation: Finished, Done, Over with, nothing left to talk about)

  3. Thanks to Antiquated Tory & Jason, I’ve learned some great new idioms & phrases. Love that Word Detective site.

    In fact, when I was a kid I can remember opening the dictionary to look up the meaning of one word & 45 mins. later I’d looked up so many other words, I couldn’t remember what word I’d originally wanted to look up. The wonderful world of words.

    Thanks.

  4. I really don’t understand this decision. I’ve lived either in New York City or the SF Bay Area for the last twenty-five years, so I just can’t believe there are large cities in this country that wouldn’t put up a menorah instantly if asked. What is the big deal?

    The Chabad rabbi is right to feel insulted. Seattle Airport screwed up.

  5. I think Seatac used very poor judgement in removing the Christmas trees, and heads should roll as a result. America is, for the most part, a Christian nation and most of us find what happened at Seatac most offensive. A similar kafuffle occurred in Toronto a few years ago when “activists” wanted to have the Christmas tree removed from the town hall. Someone then proposed calling it the Holiday Tree. That was the last straw for Mel Lastman, Toronto’s mayor at the time who is also Jewish. He passed a bylaw so the tree could only be referred to as a “Christmas” tree. Well done Mel. I have no objection to also displaying something in the airport to recognize a Jewish holiday also occuring in December, but removal of the Christmas trees was truly boneheaded.

  6. America is, for the most part, a Christian nation

    If you mean that the religion of most Americans is CHristianity you’d be right. But if you mean that America is a “Christian nation,” then you’d be dead wrong. Our Constitution made sure that this could never be the case.

    If that is so, then why not have a national religion as many other countries have? Religious instruction as part of public school curriculum as we used to have when I was a kid? Why not bless our Lord Jesus C. at the beginning of the school day? Why not broadcast church sermons on public TV & radio?

    The answer is that we have a Constitution that rules us & not religious law. It governs religious expression in public spaces, not religion itself. I personally find Christmas trees deeply annoying. Did you ever stop to think how the minority among you might feel about yr obnoxious, overbearing religious rituals & observances?? And don’t tell me I’d better get used to it because the majority rules & you’re the majority. No, that’s not the way it goes according to the Constitution. Thank God the Founding Fathers came up w. such a document. Otherwise, the non-Christians among us would find it insufferable to live here.

    I’m sorry to blow off steam like this since it appears that we basically agree on the issues. But I just don’t like Christians assuming they can ram their traditions down everyone’s throat and that the rest of us should like it.

  7. I generally love Chabad and would ask you to reconsider your perspective in the future. Jews have lots of differences with each other (even or especially Chabad folks) but the world says “they are all just Jews.” So as this Golden Age progresses (believe me this is better than Spain) we need to keep making more friends among Jews. Our differences are in no danger of being extinguished. We are reconstructionists, but as my friend Jackie Katz says “They (orthodox) are a part of me and I am apart of them.”

    The great miracle of Chanukkah is today. More than 2,000 years later with each candle lit, we dedicate ourselves to Judaism and Jewish life. As my wife, Elinor Levine says, this is the truly remarkable continuity of the Jewish people. Bye doing these acts (and having these debates we are following the plea of the most recent Chabad Rebbe: “make Israel where you are.”

  8. If we are going to take affirmative steps to make the United States lest overtly Christian because not all of its citizens are Christians, then can we please make Israel less overtly Jewish since their is a substantial minority in Israel that is not Jewish. How do Jews treat their religious minorities when they are the majority? Are they sensitive in celebrating Jewish holidays in Israel so as not to make the non-Jewish minority feel excluded. Although I have never been to Israel, somehow I doubt it. Don’t get me wrong I don’t think Israel should be less Jewish but I do believe that a country’s long standing traditons should be preserved, including Christmas in the United States and the rest of the Western world including South and Central America. Surely now that Jews have their own state reserved to them they can be more tolerant of the traditions of countries inhabited mostly by gentiles. Please don’t ba a grinch.

  9. If we are going to take affirmative steps to make the United States lest overtly Christian because not all of its citizens are Christians, then can we please make Israel less overtly Jewish since their is a substantial minority in Israel that is not Jewish.

    I’m afraid there is a serious flaw in yr. analogy. America was not created as a Christian nation. Though it has always been majority Christian, the Founding Fathers wisely understood that one of America’s greatest strengths would be its diversity of religious outlook. No one religion would dominate.

    While I’m prob. in profound agreement with you in yr sense that Israel should do much much more than it has to embrace & acknowledge the Israeli Arabs (Muslim & Christian) & Druze communities, one cannot say that the State of Israel was created w. anywhere near the religious-political philosophy of America. After all, it was created as a JEWISH state.

    Now, unlike most Jewish and Israeli rightists I feel that Israel’s minorities should play as significant a role as ethnic minorities play in the life of the U.S. And I feel religions other than Judaism deserve recognition in the Israeli political system. I am also profoundly suspicious of the Orthodox Jewish monopoly on the definition of what Judaism is & who is a Jew. All that being said, Judaism must play a key role in the State of Israel. I did not say a dominant role or a monopolistic role. But it must be a central element.

    I wouldn’t be more happy than if every Israeli student was required to learn about all the religions other than his/her own practiced in Israel. That would go a very long way toward sensitizing everyone to the traditions of those they are not familiar with.

    Surely now that Jews have their own state reserved to them they can be more tolerant of the traditions of countries inhabited mostly by gentiles.

    I’m sorry but this is a ridiculous statement. Because Jews have a State of their own, Jews living in the Diaspora should feel content if the mainstream culture excludes them? Sorry, but I’m not buyin’ it.

  10. Dear Mr. Silverstein,
    Please allow me to clarify my position. I am not advocating that Jews be excluded from the mainstream of American life. The point that I am trying to make is that there are some elements of main stream American life that are derivative of America’s Christian past, such as Christmas. While it is now widely commercialized and secularized, Christmas is still widely popular and ubiquitous during this time of the year. This despite the fact that America is now more ethnically and religiously diverse. This is actually not as paradoxical as it may seem. The rapidly growing Hispanic community is predominately Catholic, Muslims believe in the virgin birth and Christianity is so alien to eastern religions that most adherents do not view the Christian underpinnings of Christmas as a threat to their beliefs. I do understand that the underlying Christian theme of Christmas does pose problems for most Jews, however I do not believe that the appropriate response is to try and restrict the practice of Christmas. While Jews should not be excluded from the mainstream of American life, the fact is that America is 98% gentile. Americans do not celebrate Christmas so as to exclude Jews. Jews can participate if they wish, although most choose not to. No country outside Israel has been more accommodating of Jews than the United States. The least Jews in America can do is put up with the ancient and benign American tradition of Christmas. Jews don’t have to celebrate Christmas but should not try and prevent others from doing so publicly. If America becomes so diverse that Christmas is no longer widely practiced then it will wither away and disappear. But until that time Jews should not actively try to precipitate its demise. As I mentioned in my last post, Jews do have their own state generously funded by American taxpayers. If the holidays are too big of a burden for some Jews to bear then they should immigrate to Israel. As I also mentioned in my last post, I have no problem with Israel being a Jewish state. However, I do not believe the fact that Zionists founded Israel as a Jewish state means that there is a “serious flaw in my analogy.” The fact that Israel was founded as a Jewish state does not change the fact that there were non-Jews living in that region prior to 1948. Most of the minorities living in Israel had no say in the country’s founding and did not choose to live in Israel or be incorporated into the state. Likewise, the only way Israel can remain Jewish is if it prevents the non-Jews who fled during the Israeli war of Independence from returning. So if we are to be truly liberal, which most Jews are when it comes to America, it is axiomatic that the majority cannot decide by itself to exclude the minority. Therefore regardless of how Israel was founded, minorities in Israel should have the same right as minorities in America, and therefore I believe that the analogy I made was apt. However, like a said, Jews are the majority in Israel and Israel is a Jewish state. Therefore Jewish customs and traditions should be respected and preserved in Israel. America however is not a Jewish state and Jews should be more accommodating of its established traditions. If I am in error please let me know. I enjoy enlightened discourse.
    John Schneider

  11. I do not believe that the appropriate response is to try and restrict the practice of Christmas.

    Where have I said that was my intent or goal? “Practice Christmas” all you like. Just don’t shove it down my throat on public property like Seatac airport. And if you do, then expect that I’ll come back & tell you I want my religion respected as much as yours is when you display Christmas trees there.

    the fact is that America is 98% gentile.

    Is it now? Try taking a look at this set of demographic stats from Wikipedia which make clear that you are far off the mark. American is only an 80% Christian country. The rest of us range from Jews to Muslims to non-believers. Your 98% figure, while I know you are trying to be sensitive to the religious minorities among us, reveals the troubling hegemonic assumptions that most American Christians make about the complexion of their nation.

    No country outside Israel has been more accommodating of Jews than the United States.

    While it is true that the U.S. has been accommodating of Jews & other minorities, the nation doesn’t get “extra credit” for this. Tolerance & “accommodation” of minorities is at the heart of our nation. It is not something we award to them out of a sense of noblesse oblige.

    And you are wrong in saying “no country outside Israel has been more accommodating of Jews.” Perhaps no modern country. But medieval Spain enjoyed a special flowering of Jewish life called the Golden Age which one could argue was an even more creative & profound expression of Jewish culture, religion, arts and philosophy than anything produced here.

    The least Jews in America can do is put up with the ancient and benign American tradition of Christmas.

    Majoritarian religion is not “benign” unless it accommodates to the full expression of minority religious beliefs. And it is not up to Jews to “put up with” such a tradition. You either treat us as full religious co-equals or you violate the Constitution which established this nation. The Constitution does not call on any minority religion to “put up with” a national religion. It calls all religions essentially equal before the State. And I like it that way.

    Jews do have their own state generously funded by American taxpayers.

    Yes, and this is precisely part of Israel’s problem. America’s generous funding of the Israeli military & its indirect support of the settlement enterprise creates both a dependency & a noxious effect on Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. I wish such funding either didn’t exist or were substantially reduced. Israel should “pay its own freight” if it wishes to wage constant war against its neighbors/enemies.

    But PLEASE don’t dare tell me that because America has agreed to become Israel’s “enabler” that I as a Jew owe anything to Christian America. That’s preposterous & insulting on its face.

    If the holidays are too big of a burden for some Jews to bear then they should immigrate to Israel.

    You have officially crossed over the line fr. being merely annoying to being deeply offensive and borderline anti-Semitic. The holidays are an enormous burden on Jews and the 20% of Americans who are not Christian. If you think we’re going to take a powder because our discomfort offends you, think again. This is my country as much as it is yours or any other Christian’s. You’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands if you want to take it from me. And you don’t get the right to tell me whether or not I can be an American thank God. Men far wiser than you determined those rules long ago & they found yr views abhorrent, again thank God.

    the only way Israel can remain Jewish is if it prevents the non-Jews who fled during the Israeli war of Independence from returning.

    That is wholly speculation on yr part. You do not know how many non-Jews would return to Israel if they could & you do not know if the number would be sufficient to render Israel a state with a Jewish minority.

    At any rate, the issue of Return will largely be moot when issues are finally resolved between Israel and the Palestinians. As a result of the peace agreement signed, a certain number of Palestinians will in all likelihood return to Israel. But not in numbers sufficient to threaten a Jewish majority. And if peace succeeds I have no doubt that more Palestinians might choose to live in Israel as some Jews might wish to live in Palestine. But that decision & the right to make it depends on whether peace succeeds or fails.

    it is axiomatic that the majority cannot decide by itself to exclude the minority.

    You’re arguing with the wrong person fella. I’ve already said here I feel that Israeli minorities deserve the same rights & protections accorded to minorities in the U.S. including religious freedom. Oh & btw, according to yr logic (which I don’t accept) one could argue that those minorities who do not like a Jewish State have the right to leave the country should they choose. That’s what you’d prescribe for Jews who can’t abide Christian hegemony here.

    But as I said, I dispute this contention not just regarding American Jews, but I’d dispute it regarding Israeli minorities. They deserve all the rights & privileges of Israel’s Jewish citizens.

    America however is not a Jewish state and Jews should be more accommodating of its established traditions.

    No, wrong again and yes, you are “in error.” Your Christian traditions are not “established.” The Constitution doesn’t ‘establish’ Christianity as anything other than one of many potential American religious traditions.

  12. Dear Mr. Silverstein,
    I understand that you are indignant over a perceived Christian hegemony in the United States. The point that I am trying to make is that, if we are to follow your approach, the minorities in Israel are entitled to the same indignation over a Jewish cultural and religious hegemony. You try to side step this issue by claiming that Israel was founded as a Jewish state. By who? Not by the Israel minorities, they had no say. Surely the majority cannot decide to exclude the minority. So it does not matter how the Zionist majority founded Israel. It only matters that there is a substantial minority within Israel that is not religiously or culturally Jewish. You have stated that minorities in Israel should have the same rights as minorities in the United States. Okay, then Israel minorities have the same right to resist a Jewish cultural and religious hegemony just as you as a minority in America have the same right to resist a Christian hegemony. And you would agree with me that the Jewish hegemony in Israel is pervasive. Lets start with the Israeli flag. It has a Star of David. That is reflective of the Jewish citizens of Israel but not the religious and ethnic minorities. We need to add a cross, a crescent, and probably various other religious symbols so as to reflect the actual diversity of Israel. Furthermore the notion of Israel as a state should be divorced from any concept of Judaism. Israel should be officially secular since it is not religiously or culturally homogenous. Prominent Jewish intellectuals and Jewish organizations have long advocated that the concept of a nation state based primarily on ethnic and religious identity is an anachronism that should be done away with. Does this apply to Israel as well? You appear to be willing to include Israeli minorities in Israeli life to some extent, but want to ensure that the Israeli mainstream is pervasively Jewish. Now as I have made clear, I personally have no problem with Israel being Jewish. However, if I were you, I would be wary of advocating a system of minority rights that you are not willing to apply to the Jewish state. It only makes Israel seem less enlightened or inclusive and it gives the impression that Jews aren’t willing to grant the same rights to minorities when Jews make up the majority. Surely it is not anti-Semitic to point out perceived hypocrisy.

  13. if we are to follow your approach, the minorities in Israel are entitled to the same indignation over a Jewish cultural and religious hegemony

    They ARE entitled to object to such hegemony. They are entitled to better treatment by the Israeli State. They ARE entitled to full religious/cultural expression. But they are NOT entitled to believe that Israel is America because it isn’t.

    They’re certainly welcome to side with the one-staters attempting & failing to turn Israel into an amalgam of Jews, Muslims, Christians & Druze somehow living together under a single political authority. But as I said, this idea is a non-starter. Not only is it a bad idea in the current context, it is absolute anathema to the vast majority of Israelis.

    Surely the majority cannot decide to exclude the minority.

    That IS what happened in Israel in general terms. But it is a mistake to claim that the minoirty is entire excluded. Israel does make some provisions for its minorities, but they are entirely too little. And to imply as you do that this has not happened in many other places in the world is an unfortunate error. It certainly doesn’t make what Israel did right–but it places the act of dispossession in a broader context.

    Lets start with the Israeli flag. It has a Star of David.

    You want to change the Israeli flag–go right ahead. It’s fine with me. It will be very hard to get the majority of Israelis to agree to this change. But I have no objection though have 6 or 7 diff. religious symbols on a flag does seem sort of messy.

    Furthermore the notion of Israel as a state should be divorced from any concept of Judaism.

    Spoken like the true dilettante that you are. You admit that you have never visited Israel. Which makes it especially difficult for you to understand the feelings & attitudes of the Jewish majority. You can speak fr. yr soapbox all you like about what Israel should or must do on this or that subject. But like most theorists on this subject, your ideas are completely ungrounded in any sort of reality that an Israeli Jew can relate to. So go on propounding theories about what is just & right. They will drop into the well fr. which we will hear their very faint echo as they disappear into the water below.

    Prominent Jewish intellectuals and Jewish organizations have long advocated that the concept of a nation state based primarily on ethnic and religious identity is an anachronism that should be done away with.

    Pls. do tell us who these prominent, influential Jewish intellectuals & organizations are. Noam Chomsky? Very influential–upon the 2% of the world’s Jews who embrace his ideas. As a character in Hester Street says: “You can’t piss on my back and make me think it’s rain.” You’re spinning pipe dreams about Jewish attitudes toward Israel. You know the vast majority of Israeli Jews & the world’s Jews reject anti-Zionism. Trying to suggest anything else is intellectual dishonesty.

    Surely it is not anti-Semitic to point out perceived hypocrisy.

    No, it is not. And I didn’t use that term to describe such criticism of Israel. I largely, but not completely, agree with your critique. I used the term ‘anti-Semitic’ to describe yr claim that I should leave America if I can’t manage to accept Christian dominance.

  14. Dear Mr. Silverstein,
    In your previous posts you state that Israeli minorities are entitled to the same rights as minorities in the United States. But in your latest post you say “But they (Israeli minorities) are NOT entitled to believe that Israel is America because it isn’t.” This proves my point. You are willing to grant Israeli minorities some rights, but not the same rights as minorities in the USA. Israeli minorities cannot enjoy the same rights as American minorities if they are living in a state that is based on Jewish identity. Do you really think an Israeli minority would read your latest post and not be outraged? You even admit that the founding of Israel has been less than equitable to non-Jews, however your latest post calls me a “dilettante” because I do not “understand the feelings & attitudes of the Jewish majority.” What about the feelings and attitudes of the non-Jewish minority? I do not have to visit Israel to know that minorities in Israel have deep and festering grievances. You started this debate as an advocate of the minority, but have ended this debate by defending the Jewish state based on the feelings and attitudes of the Jewish majority. This is great if you are Jewish, but most non-Jews would view this as unacceptable. I believe that this proves my point. The debate on the minority-majority relationship, regardless of what country you are in, is based more on whether you are in the majority or minority as opposed to any sort of transcendent fundamental right and any person who tries to pretend otherwise is a hypocrite. Your approach to this matter is not truly liberal, but is based on your own ethnic self-interest. You were adamant in resisting any preference toward the Christian majority of the United States, but insistent on preserving the Jewish cultural and religious hegemony in Israel. Your justification for this, that the United States and Israel where founded different, is unconvincing. While the Constitution does prohibit a state-church, the founding fathers where nowhere near as hostile to Christianity nor the Christian majority as you are. You do not have to have a doctorate in American history to know that the founding fathers did not think like the ACLU. Do you really think that the founding fathers would be up in arms over the Christmas holiday to the same extent as you are? Likewise, you can only defend the dominance of the Jewish majority in Israel by implicitly claiming that the Zionist founders of Israel where less enlightened, less liberal, and less inclusive than the founding fathers of the United States. This is hardly a reason to be pro-Israeli, especially if you are not Jewish.

  15. This will be my last comment on this matter as we’ve both exhausted everything we could possibly say on the subject.

    Your justification for this, that the United States and Israel where founded different, is unconvincing

    “Unconvincing” to whom?? To you? Perhaps. But certainly not unconvincing to the millions of Jews in Israel and the millions more living in the Diaspora. The fact that Israel and the U.S. are in their very founding and very nature “different” is not something that convinces or doesn’t convince. It is quite simply a fact. You may not like this fact. But it is one nonetheless.

    I may find the American dispossession of Native Americans morally repugnant, but it is part of our heritage as a nation. The same holds true for Israel. There are moral issues in the creation of nations that must be struggled with but they can never be undone, nor should they be. These are facts. They happened. You don’t undo the facts by changing the nature of the nation–returning all of it to the Native Americans from whom we stole it. But somehow you try to come to terms with it & do justice within the framework of said nation.

    the founding fathers where nowhere near as hostile to Christianity nor the Christian majority as you are.

    You mischaracterize my attitude entirely. If Christians are tolerant and respectful of my religion I am entirely respectful of theirs. If they are not, I have nothing but scorn for them. I ask for reciprocity. If I receive it, I return it.

    You do not have to have a doctorate in American history to know that the founding fathers did not think like the ACLU.

    Your statement indicates you certainly do not have a PhD in American history. The ACLU and its founding principles are deeply embedded precisely in those notions of the Founding Fathers which you claim they would not recognize. If the Founding Fathers could come back to us now they would feel entirely comfortable with the ACLU. Much less so with evangelical Christians.

    Do you really think that the founding fathers would be up in arms over the Christmas holiday to the same extent as you are?

    Actually, many of those Founding Fathers would be deeply uncomfortable with the Christmas debate as posed by Fox News. They would be deeply uncomfortable with an in your face public display of Christmas. Religion for these individuals was meant to be an entirely private & personal experience. Not at all a public one.

    And I certainly believe that if they could ever embrace the idea of a public Christmas (unlikely as that is), they would certainly expect that this same public arena should embrace a public Hanukah as well.

    you can only defend the dominance of the Jewish majority in Israel

    An entirely inaccurate characterization of my position & you know it.

    the Zionist founders of Israel where less enlightened, less liberal, and less inclusive than the founding fathers of the United States.

    The founders of Zionism were trying to solve an entirely different problem than were the founders of the U.S. Of course, in trying to resolve their particular problem Zionists chose a different solution than the one proposed by our Founding Fathers. You are the one making the value judgments about one solution being better or worse than another. Not I.

    This is hardly a reason to be pro-Israeli

    There are millions of people throughout the world who see these things differently than you. Besides I am uncomfortable w. asking people to be ‘pro-Israeli’ since it might imply being anti-Palestinian. Rather, I’d ask that people reflect an openness to the national rights of both peoples. And there are many tens, if not hundreds of millions of people in the world who do feel this way. Unfortunately, you appear not to be among them. But I don’t think this is a tragedy fr. which Israel can never recover.

  16. Dear Mr. Silverstein,
    This will be my last post as well because I believe I have made my point. You rebutted my suggestion that Israel have a more religiously inclusive flag by stating, “it will be very hard to get the majority of Israelis to agree to this change.”
    You rebutted my suggestion that Israel truly grant equal rights to all citizens by becoming a secular state by stating that, “it is absolute anathema to the vast majority of Israelis.”
    You don’t defend these matters on what is fair to all Israeli citizens, but on what is in the best interest of the Jewish majority. That is fine, I understand where you are coming. As I said, I have no problem with Israel being Jewish. But your approach to Israel is not truly liberal. It is primarily based on the ethnic and religious interests of Jews, which necessitates a certain degree of exclusivity toward non-Jews. While you are willing to grant some rights to non-Jewish minorities in Israel, you have made it clear that you are not willing to grant all the rights that Jews in Israel possess. You must admit that given your broad interpretation of minority rights, such as the right not to feel like a minority either religiously or culturally, minorities in Israel will continue to feel excluded to some degree, despite the concessions you are willing to make. But as you said, Israel is not America and you are fortunate to be a Jew in predominantly Christian America as opposed to a Christian in predominantly Jewish Israel.
    Also I would point out that the fact that America is relatively conservative, and to some extent, predominately Christian is not necessarily a bad thing for Jews given the fact that it is pretty much demographically impossible that America will ever be predominately Jewish. Lets be honest, most of the world is hostile to the existence of Israel in any shape or form. Israel is widely condemned in very broad terms in Africa, South and Central America, Europe, the U.N., etc. The United States is an exception in its support of a Jewish state and this is primarily due to its conservative Christian character. But I promise you, if America becomes more liberal and secular, this will change. If you doubt me look at Europe. While you may claim that Europe is inherently anti-Semitic, what Europe truly is, is inherently liberal and secular. And as such, Europeans do not make an exception to their liberal ideals when it comes to Israel, an inherently conservative state founded on Judaism. The E.U has long ago discarded the idea that religion or historical culture matter and has accepted millions of Muslim immigrants into Europe; immigrants who by the way have their own view on the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Personally, if I was a Jewish supporter of Israel I would be favorable toward any group that believes that Jews have a moral right to their own state in Palestine. Remember, its not a given that Israel will continue to exist.
    Finally, please don’t try and tell me that the founding fathers were the ideological forerunners of the ACLU. This is nonsense. I have sat through law school classes taught by professors who were members of the ACLU. They deprecate the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted based on the intent of the founding fathers back in 1789. The last thing the ACLU wants is to have the same relationship between church and state as existed between Christianity and the newly formed American republic. You want to know who does advocate a historical interpretation of the Constitution based on the intent of the founding fathers? Well most prominently Justice Scalia, as well as other conservative judges, lawyers, and legal scholars. This should be a hint that the founding fathers were not as liberal or secular as you seem to believe.

  17. “Who exactly was it who told the press that the rabbi found the trees “offensive?” If it was a Port staff member that person should be reprimanded. Some words and situations are freighted with religious tensions and conflict. And when words are misused that’s when they can do the most damage.”

    While I understand you feel insulted by the statement, and the inquisitive drive behind your question above, my impression is you somehow find the custom “insulting” although you use different words: stifling, annoying, hegemoneous. Exclusive?

    “I find the Christian hegemony exerted on American public life at Christmas time to be stifling. The sheer ignorance which so many display when they wish you a “Merry Christmas” is annoying at best. Why must the soundtrack of our lives in the holiday season be endless Christmas carols reminding us that while the historical events surrounding the holiday involved Jews, we’re certainly neither included nor wanted today.”

    Partly I can understand. Christmas is a very exclusive matter. I hated it during my student days, every place closed down, so if you did not go home to see your family it usually was a very lonely affair. And I hated the constant Christmas soundtrack and family program on TV, or even more the huge commerce surrounding it.

    But the tree is clearly not Christian symbol, it is simply a fashion that developed rather late. Its more related to the economical side of Christmas than to religion. That’s why I am really puzzled about the whole discussion.

    Concerning the “Merry Christmas”, yes that I can understand. I never use Merry Christmas but Happy Holidays. The problem your fellow citizen might have is: They might not know the appropriate expression in your religion or even less what to say before or during the seven day period. What would it feel like to you, if somebody wished you a “Happy Hanukka” the wrong way at the wrong time? So isn’t this much more a problem of education and much less representation? I still feel by choosing the Christmas tree you are fighting windmills. For me they are simply trees with candles and decorations. Why can’t they represent the Feast of light too? They certainly do not represent the religious Christian Christmas.

    Borderline antisemite: Again: while I can understand, you feel insulted by the statement that if you do not like the hegemony of Christmas customs you should move to Israel, I also recognize it as the standard, it seem to be:

    When my generation over here in Germany had problems with postwar Germany’s handling of Nazi crimes or party members we were often considered communists, that was the default assumption. And the standard term was: “If you do not like it over here, you can go to the East.” So it seems to be a standard in how people treat each other, when they have a problem to listen to the Other’s point of view.

    But if it concerns Jewish citizen it is anti-Semitic? What then is it when it concerns everybody else? The way the world works?

  18. May I add a question:

    this is a part of the Wikipedia entry:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_holidays#Hanukkah_.E2.80.93_Festival_of_Lights

    “With the commercialization of Christmas in the twentieth century as a time for exchanging gifts, adding to its position as the biggest holiday in the Western world, as well as the establishment of the modern state of Israel, Hanukkah began to increasingly serve both as a celebration of Israel’s struggle for survival and as a December family gift-giving holiday which could function as a Jewish alternative to Christmas. However, there is a long tradition of Hanukkah as an especially joyous holiday for children.”

    From the Christian child’s point of view the joy of Christmas would be the presents, and yes they are usually beneath the Christmas tree, rarely you will find the “Nativity scene” in a private home, but if so its somewhere beneath the tree too.

    What would be the joy of Hanukkah from a Jewish child’s perspective?

    And sorry for the many spelling errors in the above comment. AND please, no harm meant!

  19. You rebutted my suggestion that Israel have a more religiously inclusive flag

    You’re not understanding the double-edged nature of my response to you. I said very clearly that I personally would welcome an Israeli flag that displayed more inclusiveness & embrace of the ethnic diversity of Israel’s population. However, there is a separate reality that is the wishes of Israeli Jews. I don’t control these. I critique such exclusivist & even racist attitudes here in this blog. I don’t embrace or represent them. I merely told you how difficult it would be to change those attitudes. So don’t confuse the messenger with the message.

    While you are willing to grant some rights to non-Jewish minorities in Israel, you have made it clear that you are not willing to grant all the rights that Jews in Israel possess.

    No, ISRAEL currently grants “some rights” to “non-Jewish minorities.” I, on the other hand, would be willing to grant virtually equal rights to Israel’s minorities. But the one thing that neither I nor the vast majority of Israeli Jews will compromise on is that the State is a Jewish homeland. Being so, does not necessarily mean that other minorities must perforce suffer 2nd class status (though that is currently clearly the case).

    you are fortunate to be a Jew in predominantly Christian America as opposed to a Christian in predominantly Jewish Israel.

    If you are claiming that Christians in Israel are complaining of their status I wish you’d point out a single incidence of such an individual making such a complaint. And if you’re merely seeking to use such Christians to represent all Israeli minorities, you’ve made an unfortunate choice since Israel’s Christian minority is treated far better than its Muslim minority.

    The United States is an exception in its support of a Jewish state and this is primarily due to its conservative Christian character.

    I have no idea what this means. But if you’re saying that conservative Christians are more likely to support Israel because of some affinity with Biblical traditions, there may be some modest amount of truth to that. But keep in mind that the Jewish Bible is a secondary book for Christians compared to the New Testament. Also, keep in mind that there have been plenty of “conservative Christian” countries which have betrayed murderous hatred of Jews. So American support for Israel much be explained by a diversity of causes, religious beliefs or traditions being only one of them.

    Israel is widely condemned in very broad terms in Africa, South and Central America, Europe, the U.N., etc.

    As usual, you’re overstating yr case and also not stating it precisely. Israeli POLICIES are widely condemned. But not the existence of Israel itself. There is a vast diff. bet. the 2. You are the one who deplores Israel’s current form of existence & wish to place yourself in the glow of universal international disapproval of Israel’s nature. But most people in the world don’t share that view of Israel. They want Israel to stop making war against its neighbors. To end the Occupation. To be a peaceful, law-abiding world citizen.

    While you may claim that Europe is inherently anti-Semitic

    Why on earth would you say that?? It completely mischaracterizes my real views on the subject. All you had to do was do a site search here on the term “European anti-Semitism” & you’d find that I do battle practically every month w. some uber-Israel knucklehead or other claiming that Europe is awash w. raving Jew haters. A little research before you assume someone’s views goes a long way.

    Israel, an inherently conservative state founded on Judaism.

    Again, I have no idea what you mean by “inherently conservative.” In any case, it is not true as Israel was founded on socialist ideals, not conservative ones. One could easily argue (as I do) that it never realized those ideals esp. not in its treatment of minorities. But yr interpretation is wholly yr own & those of the anti-Zionist margins.

    The E.U has long ago discarded the idea that religion or historical culture matter

    A patently wrong-headed statement. Most European countries ARE Christian with many of them having a Christian state religion. To say that Europe has abandoned religion or historical culture is wrong on its face.

    and has accepted millions of Muslim immigrants into Europe

    Why is it that Europe’s “accepting millions of Muslim immigrants” means it has “discarded” it religious or historical culture? This too is a preposterous notion.

    if I was a Jewish supporter of Israel I would be favorable toward any group that believes that Jews have a moral right to their own state in Palestine.

    Including groups whose views you find repugnant? Such as right-wing evangelical Christians? Or the Shah of Iran? Sorry, but I’m favorable toward groups who support Israel whose own religious-moral agendas are consonant with my own. The Israeli government clearly feels differently as it encourages even the most noxious Christian Zionist support. But this is not my view.

    Remember, its not a given that Israel will continue to exist.

    You needn’t remind me. And if views such as yours held sway indeed Israel would not continue to exist.

    please don’t try and tell me that the founding fathers were the ideological forerunners of the ACLU.

    Indeed, I will as it is true.

    I have sat through law school classes taught by professors who were members of the ACLU. They deprecate the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted based on the intent of the founding fathers back in 1789.

    Now you are repurposing my argument for yr own agenda. I did not say the ACLU was founded on an intent to slavishly parrot the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Besides I don’t know how you can interpret the “intent” of individuals living over 200 years ago. What I did say was that the ACLU was founded to protect cherished rights first enunciated by our Founding Fathers in documents like the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    The last thing the ACLU wants is to have the same relationship between church and state as existed between Christianity and the newly formed American republic.

    This too is patently false as the ACLU certainly does wish precisely the same relationship bet. Church & State enunciated by individuals like James Madison.

    This should be a hint that the founding fathers were not as liberal or secular as you seem to believe.

    You really gave me a laugh imagining Fry ‘Em Tony bewigged sitting in the Constitutional sessions or on the bench next to John Marshall. I can’t think of a single idea or value that the Founding Fathers would share w. Big Tony. Would George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or James Madison approve of state murder of the insane or children? Preposterous.

  20. What would be the joy of Hanukkah from a Jewish child’s perspective?

    Hanukah has until relatively recently been a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar. For more on the tension involved in the holiday’s history see this post I wrote on the subject. Historically, there wouldn’t have been any presents. Just lighting of menorahs, songs and blessings and perhaps warm winter foods like potato latkes. The presents came more recently in a slavish imitation of Christian Christmas traditions.

    But today, Jewish children enjoy the holiday by spinning the dreidel, sharing Hanukah gelt (chocolate coins), singing Hanukah songs and opening presents. Thankfully, Hanukah is not the bankrupting, obssessive compulsive holiday Christmas can be for many Christians. It is a more modest affair.

  21. Dear Mr. Silverstein,
    Coming from a liberal perspective, I understand you view most evangelical/fundamentalist Christians and conservative judges as abhorrent. But I don’t need to remind you that that there are equivalents in Israel and the greater Jewish community that can be deemed just as bad or even worse than their Christian counterparts. The state of Israel is proof that Jews can be far less progressive and liberal when they constitute a majority than they claim to be when they constitute a minority. Even you are not willing to be as liberal toward Israel as you are the United States. I would be hard pressed to find a Jewish person who does not believe that the state, any state, should treat all citizens as true equals. However this concept is impossible to apply to Israel if Israel is to be a Jewish Homeland. You can look down your nose all you want to at Christian conservatives as being culturally chauvinistic, religiously self-centered, and intolerant, just don’t be too surprised when people look at Jewish Zionists and Israel with the same disdain.

  22. I don’t need to remind you that that there are equivalents in Israel and the greater Jewish community that can be deemed just as bad or even worse than their Christian counterparts.

    Of course you are absolutely right. There is much religion & ethnic-based hatred in Israeli politics & religious life. One of the main purposes of this blog is to critique aspects of Israeli life that I find objectionable like the racism of Avigdor Lieberman to take but one example.

    don’t be too surprised when people look at Jewish Zionists and Israel with the same disdain.

    I would certainly expect anti-Zionists and Palestinian extreme rejectionists to feel this way about Israel. But I don’t lose any sleep over that. The rest of the world has its concerns regarding Israel in proper perspective & doesn’t reject Israel’s existence. But rather objects to Israeli policy toward its Arab minority or toward the Palestinians, which is an entirely acceptable approach toward Israel.

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