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Getting the Christmas Spirit

Rabbi Deborah Glanzberg-KraininOur rabbinical college, RRC, launched a new website this week, In addition to a light hearted game exploring Jewish identity, the website also includes a blog with room for more probing explorations. The editor of the blog, Rabbi Deborah Glanzberg-Krainin, launched the conversation with a post on being a Jew at Christmas. A wonderful dialogue has already begun.

One of the rabbinical students, Amy Loewenthal, responded with her reflections on Christmas in light of her recent experience of interfaith learning with Christians as part of her rabbinical training. Here are some of her thoughts (slightly edited.) The whole discussion of Christmas can be read here.

Our Jewish-Christian Hevruta class (RRC and Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia) had a transformative discussion of Christmas.

A number of the Lutheran seminarians commented on their despair over the commercialization of Christmas and the pressure to spend money in non-meaningful ways. Discussion followed about the spiritual meaning of Christmas and the possibility of re-emphasizing the spiritual over the consumerist message.

I heard from them that Christmas is a time of hope for new possibilities. This flows easily into my Jewish symbol system … It is easy to become discouraged and turn cynical, to the point that the terms “peace” and “justice” are only buzz-words. But here is a celebration, with clearly pagan/seasonal foundation, that strives to bring light at the darkest time of the year, to disrupt pessimism and self-absorption.

The specific celebration is clothed in Christian imagery,  but zooming out of this specific frame, it’s a great time of year for people to instill in each other a sense of hope, even a sense of the possibility of something quite unexpected, a profound change for the good.

Coming to this understanding has eased much of my resistance to what has felt like “the onslaught” of Christmas….Knowing that many Christians want to redeem and re-emphasize the spiritual meaning of this holiday is gratifying to me. Finding a common basis of the holiday — a celebration of new, even radically new possibilities for good, and a renewal of our resolve to work to bring good to the world — is delightful to me and makes me want to celebrate too!

I’d say I’m beginning to get the Christmas spirit!

Amy Loewenthal
RRC ‘12

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