This being December 25, I thought it would be appropriate to pen a few words about Christmas. For starters, Christmas is a good time to put aside our diversities and celebrate what we have in common with one another. More than 80 percent of Americans are Christians, while Jews comprise slightly more than 2 percent.
Yet, notwithstanding the disparity in numbers, Christians and Jews are forever joined at the spiritual hip as a result of their commonality. Jesus Christ was born a Jew, practiced and preached Orthodox Judaism throughout his life, and died a Jew. Further, Christians throughout history have always believed in the Old Testament (i.e., the Jewish Bible).
Is it any wonder that we refer to our way of life as being founded on the “Judeo-Christian ethic?” For that matter, all atheists I have known base their lives on the Judeo-Christian ethic as well, though they may refrain from using the actual term.
Geraldo Rivera recently had two guests on his show, Rev. Monsignor Tom Hartman and Rabbi Marc Gellman. The discussion was about the hubbub and bickering over manger scenes in public, Christmas carols, and any references to the words “Christmas Holiday.”
Early in the show, Geraldo (who has a Catholic father and Jewish mother) made reference to the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and asked Rabbi Gellman if he saw anything wrong with such a public display of Christmas. Delightfully, the rabbi responded, “Nothing is wrong with it. It’s gotten crazy.”
He went on to say, “Every attempt to put a religious meaning back into the holiday — like manger scenes — should be applauded and not opposed.” This was a Jewish cleric talking!
Later in the interview, Geraldo asked Rabbi Gellman, “What should Jewish parents tell their kids about Christmas?” Without hesitation, Rabbi Gellman replied, “I think they should tell them that it’s a gloriously wonderful holiday of our neighbors, and that we should rejoice just as we hope they rejoice in our holidays.”
The rabbi concluded his remarks by saying, “I think the truth is that we are just separated from each other far too much, and that if we understood the pain and embarrassment that this causes to our neighbors — for no good reason — that we would, those of us who are not Christians, relent.”
But the main focus of Rabbi Gellman’s and Monsignor Hartman’s remarks was not so much on our diversity, but on what we have in common. And when it comes to our neighbors wanting to celebrate their particular beliefs, we would all do well to follow the wisdom of the old adage “Live and let live.”
My compliments to Rabbi Gellman and Monsignor Hartman for their rational views and willingness to speak out and reach out to everyone. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as voices of sanity and goodwill in a world saturated with insanity and malevolence.
I believe we should use this exhilarating time of the year to ignore the all-too-familiar mischief makers we see on television every night, who labor so hard to fan the flames of diversity. Instead, we should celebrate our commonality. Above all, regardless of one’s spiritual beliefs, it’s a time when we should focus on letting family, friends, and business acquaintances know how much we care about them.
So, political correctness be damned, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and the best of Holiday Seasons. I’m confident that all people of goodwill — whether Christian, Jew, atheist, or other — can clearly understand the intent of my good wishes without getting bogged down in semantics.