The Kosher Bookworm

The first book on Jews and Christmas in America


Christmas may not be universally accepted and observed by many Americans, however, it is America’s only national holiday founded on religious beliefs. Its hold on many, whether through its theological and biblical message or through its musical tradition is overpowering.

Thus, any literary work that seeks to analyze this unique festival from the perspective of those who do not accept its observance should prove to be most interesting. One such work is “A Kosher Christmas” by Joshua Eli Plaut [Rutgers University Press, 2012].

This work presents in a serious and academic format, laced with a good sense of humor, a full presentment of how American Jews came to adjust to either their observance or non-observance of this most glorious of Christian religious festivals.

In any discussion of this topic, the meaning of “assimilation” has to be taken into serious account. In all considerations, the American Jew’s self-image as both a Jew and as a newly minted American comes into serious play. The observance of Christmas by born Jews has to be considered in this perspective and all discussion has to be seen through both secular and religious prisms.

Dr. Plaut attends to this chore with a skill that goes into great historical detail. He defines both the motives and the actions of the many generations of American Jews, dating from the very foundation of the republic to our own times, who were to face this societal challenge. Each immigrant generation’s response was different in their own unique manner.

While it is very detailed, the author’s smooth style immediately places the reader at ease, parsing all facts in clearly understandable form.

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