Going to Mass on Christmas Eve with the Kids

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It’s the source of jokes and marketing campaigns. From theaters to amusement parks and many venues in between, the age-old question that haunts many devoted Jews this time of year: What should we do Christmas Day? Many plan to eat “Moo Shu Jew”- that is, eat at the best local kosher Chinese restaurant. One thing is for sure, Chanukah is over so there’s no chance we can piggyback on the commercial blow-out that shadows Christmas to exploit Chanukah. A good thing. Well, I haven’t quite figured where I’ll be on December 25 but the good news is I know where I’ll be Christmas Eve- where every good rebbetzin should be- church!

It started with a phone call from a local church asking for help from the rebbetzin of my shul. Christmas eve is the one time of year when everyone wants to go to Mass which makes finding group leaders for children’s groups very difficult. Would the rebbetzin of my shul come and help supervise the church’s youth group? To be clear, there would be no religious overtones with the kids- only games and toys but still, this all takes place on the church’s property and facilitates the members to attend Mass without disruption. This poses at least a couple interesting questions. First, is going to church permissible according to halacha (Torah law)? Second, is this something a Jewish person should do or want to do? The rabbi (her husband) agreed that as long as she doesn’t enter the sanctuary, there would be no problem with going inside the building that hosts youth programs. As for question two? The rebbetzin empathized with a fellow community leader’s struggle to locate reliable people to help with childcare and wanted to help. Additionally, she felt that it was appropriate from the standpoint of derech eretz (acting with consideration for others). Obviously this is an out-of-the-box perspective….which I admire.

I don’t know if I would have stepped up had I received that phone call myself, but last Thursday the rebbetzin told me she had an unusual request. She had just heard the good news that her daughter-in-law gave birth to her second baby and she wanted to book her ticket to Arizona when she realized she had a scheduling conflict. She was supposed to go to church on Christmas Eve here in San Diego. Would I fill in for her? This is a woman who serves the Jewish community of San Diego in a myriad of ways so there’s no way I’m not going to oblige if I’m able. So yes, I said yes. But what came so naturally to her, to help out the church doesn’t come naturally to me and I’ve been turning it over and over in my mind since I was asked. I’m bringing my children with me which adds another layer of complexity as I try to delicately explain Christmas, church, and Jesus to my very young boys who seem to be taking this all rather well. It’s going to feel strange walking into that church tomorrow evening but despite my uneasiness I’m really proud of representing the Jewish people to the Christian community 

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3 responses »

  1. I am fortunate to live in a community in which the local Reform temple helps every Christmas to staff the annual church-sponsored Christmas dinner for those in need. There is no question that this is the right thing to do–on top of fostering a sense of community with neighbors helping neighbors, it also 1. allows people who have a place to go for Christmas to be with their families; 2. gives temple volunteers the opportunity to do chesed by serving those in need to make sure they can have a nice meal for their holiday; 3. it is a beautiful and relevant way to engage in tikkun olam. By helping to supervise the children so their parents can observe their holiday, you are engaging in the same tikkun olam, doing chesed, all while doing a kiddush hashem for jews everywhere. You are helping people’s children in a building where their parents worship. That’s a good thing.

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