EACH OCT. 31, families in the U.S. are immersed in a culture of carved pumpkins, sugary sweets, and strange costumes. While many Jewish families partake in Halloween festivities, many others do not.
On the one hand, many Jewish parents take issue with Halloween due to its pagan and Christian roots. On the other hand, many Jewish parents agree with JBooks contributing editor Rebecca E. Kotkin, who writes, “Halloween has taken on a sense of secularism that the ‘national holidays’ of Christmas and Easter never could.”
If your family is one that likes to celebrate Halloween in its own way, you may find some of the ideas below useful. Listed here are ways of incorporating a little Judaism into your Halloween celebrations.
READ ‘THE RABBI AND THE 29 WITCHES’
We at the PJ Library would be remiss if we didn’t recommend a suitable Jewish children’s book for the occasion of Halloween. The Rabbi and the 29 Witches, written and illustrated by Marilyn Hirsch, is a good choice.
Hirsch’s classic The Rabbi and the 29 Witches is a selection in our Falafel (6 to 7 Years) Age Group. It tells the funny story of clever rabbi who is finally able to overcome the witches that frighten the villagers once each month, when the moon is full.
Want to learn more about witches and Judaism? MyJewishLearning.com writer Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis offers an enlightening historical perspective.
WEAR A JEWISH COSTUME
Some Jewish families prefer to see Halloween as being “just like Purim.” As Rabbi Phyllis Sommer points out in her blog, Thoughts from Rabbi Phyllis, however, the holidays couldn’t be more different. She writes:
On Halloween, we send our children out to beg for candy; on Purim, we send our children out with gifts of candy and other food. On Halloween, our costumes glorify death and evil; on Purim, our costumes glorify the struggles and triumphs of our people.Nevertheless, she and other Jewish parents see a benefit in permitting children to “recycle” their Purim costumes for Halloween use.
Rabbi Yoel Oz told MyJewishLearning writer Meredith Kesner Lewis that emphasizing alternative Jewish approaches to holidays may be the way to go. He likens the experience to Purim in Israel, saying “In the modern State of Israel, Purim is widely celebrated by even the non-religious public, simply because it is something which they experience positively and as fun.
TRICK, TREAT, OR TZEDAKAH
From a child’s perspective, “The appeal of dressing in costume and collecting lots of candy cannot be overstated,” as Kotkin says. For parents, though, ‘Trick or Treating’ presents an opportunity to reaffirm the Jewish value, Tzedakah.
As your child goes from door to door collecting candy, consider engaging in a project that collects for those in need. You might have your child carry a UNICEF box along with his or her candy bag. Or, perhaps, follow behind with the box yourself.
Another idea, as Brad Hirschfield points out, might be give out coins along with candy, inviting children to pass the money along to someone in need.
Before your family decides just how (if at all) it will celebrate Halloween, Hirschfield offers this advice: “Start by asking how you might allow your kids to participate in ways that respect your concerns about certain aspects of the holiday.”
Serving up Halloween with squeeze of Judaism may be just the thing to do.