Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Jewish Identity as a Protest against Christian Identity. The Annual Christmas Op Ed

Quite often around Christmas time the NYT or other major publication will run an op ed protesting against Christmas and remarking that Christmas is a big imposition on Jewish people. 

The author of this year's NYT contribution to this genre states very clearly that she sees her Jewish identity as a statement of difference from Christianity. For example, she writes, "I have always associated my identity with not having Yule decorations ... Growing up, I considered not having a Christmas tree ... not wearing red and green in December, and not decorating our front lawn in lights as much a part of my Jewish identity as celebrating Passover and going to Hebrew school on Thursdays." 

In other words, she defines herself as not something else. Not Christian, not a celebrator of Christmas, rather than as something. 

That's not the only way to look at being Jewish. Rather than protesting Christmas, she could be celebrating Jewish identity. 

Her stance, that her Jewish identity is defined against Christianity, is described in Bieganski. The Brute Polak is important to some not all Jews as a way to define oneself as Jewish, in an era when many Jews eat pork, intermarry, and do not believe in God. Yes, I'm Jewish. See? I am different from those Bieganskis. You can find examples in the book of this position. 

I attempted to post a comment. I wrote, 

I taught English in a remote village in Nepal. I was encouraged to participate in Hindu, Buddhist, and local Pagan customs. I did so enthusiastically and joyfully. I love dress-up, I love bright colors, I love folklore and traditions. 

People threw red powder on me on Holi. I chewed sugar cane on Shiva Ratri. I worshiped my Nepali "brothers" on Bhai Tika. I was spellbound at a Tibetan Buddhist Mani Rimdu ceremony that lasted several days. 

I could go on and on. 

 I was the only Christian around. Everyone around me spoke a different language and followed different customs and religions. 

It never bothered me. 

Just saying. 

Update: New York Times commenters agree with me. Here's the currently most popular comment: 

I have to admit being very confused with defining yourself by what you don’t do.  You shouldn’t have to apologize for not getting into the Christmas spirit but the disdain for the pleasure others take in it seems misplaced.


  1. It is called the dialectic of negation, and is also very much part of Polonophobia.

  2. Well, this reminds me of a different case that still has some connections to the above,namely the "expulsion" of a radical Haredi sect (their women are wearing burquas. I kid you not) from a Guatemalan Indiginous village.


    Here is what the villagers said:"Meanwhile, the village elders said the Jewish members "wanted to impose their religion" and were undermining the Catholic faith that was predominant in San Juan La Laguna.

    "We act in self-defence and to respect our rights as indigenous people. The (Guatemalan) constitution protects us because we need to conserve and preserve our culture," Miguel Vasquez, a spokesman for the elders council, said."

    What rights, the right to be greeted on the street, to be able to count on the newcomers to chip in with regards to communal festivities/work, to have their culture and religion respected...how dare they?

    But seriously, pride is one of the 7 deadly sins. And what goes around will eventually come around. But I am very glad that other people share your opinion and mine. I always wish my brothers and sisters in humanity happy (add name of specific religious/cultural holiday here).


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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