Rabbi’s Tips for Navigating Halloween, courtesy of our friends at CLAL

his week, we’re focusing on “Heaven.”
If you missed our celebrity guest this week—Bishop Jack Spong on “Eternal Life”—click here to read our in-depth interview.
we’re looking ahead to a holiday that once was associated with Heaven ‘n’ Hell …
    Of course, these days, most
Americans have long forgotten the religious origins of Halloween—in
ancient festivals and in All Saints Day on November 1 (and for some
Christians All Souls Day on November 2). The holiday is almost
completely secular now—but its Christian roots still pose annual challenges
for our neighbors of other faiths.
Earlier this week, we published a guide to “Navigating Halloween” for
families of minority faiths, written by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, a
popular author and Jewish activist. We sent out notice of that article
in our Monday-morning newsletter, called the Planner—and almost
immediately a Muslim leader chimed in as well.
    That’s the
important power of ReadTheSpirit. We’re a place where people of many
faiths find a common, civil forum—and often find themselves celebrating
common values.
    So, here is Rabbi Hirschfield’s “Navigating
Halloween,” followed by a short comment from Imam Abdullah El-Amin, an
African-American Muslim leader and activist who also is widely known
for his interfaith work.

Navigating Halloween

By Brad Hirschfield

On October 31, children across America will don their masks and go
door-to-door collecting treats to celebrate Halloween. But for many
traditional Jewish families and even for some Christian ones, Halloween
is a time of unease. Parents may question whether or not to let their
children participate in a ritual which they see as having roots in
Christian and/or Pagan culture. These tips will help families navigate
this issue in ways that respect both their own religious sensibilities
and their kids’ desire to have fun. I know, because they work for me
and my family.

Flexibility is sacred. Blanket permissions and
prohibitions are rarely the best course of action to follow, be it in
parenting or religious education. Start by asking how you might allow
your kids to participate in ways that respect your concerns about the

Context Counts. Does your community generally attach
religious significance to Halloween? If so, you might not want your
kids to participate. But if not, then there’s no point in creating one.

Celebrate difference without becoming divisive.

Ironically, it’s traditional Jews and conservative Christians who’ve
promoted the awareness of Halloween as a Christian and/or Pagan holiday
more than anyone else. Make sure if you say ‘no’ to Halloween you do so
without teaching your kids to be hostile to their neighbors.

Remember, Halloween is about giving. Encourage your
kids to give out candy even if they are not allowed to go out. Use
Halloween to teach the importance of giving to charity, whether it’s
those orange UNICEF boxes, or giving each “Trick or Treat’er” a coin to
give to the needy. What could be more traditionally Jewish or Christian
than sharing and charity?

Consider Halloween as a time to publicly celebrate your own traditions’ heroes.

While Purim provides a costume holiday on the Jewish calendar, in some
communities Halloween might be a time to dress kids up as religious
heroes and let the world see who you admire most.

Whatever you do, Halloween is a great opportunity to remind our kids
that we are all connected to each other, and whether out that night or
not, we can look out for each other and all the kids on the block. We
can help each other celebrate good times and even contribute to the
observance of holidays that are not our own. So whatever we do,
Halloween provides a wonderful opportunity to honor our own religious
particularity and the larger communities to which we all belong.

An American Muslim Viewpoint

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin

As an African-American Muslim convert, I also
appreciate these comments.
When our kids were growing up they—particularly the boys—went Trick or
Treating just to get the candy.
Since the kids were raised as Muslims they already knew that the
religious associations with Halloween were not a part of their
Christmas dinner and the giving of
gifts is something many of us do since most of us
have Christian relatives in this country, especially in
African-American Muslim communities. My kids saw this as having a dual
They got presents on Christmas and Eid.
    Nice to read these thoughts from you Brad. Be
at Peace.

(Rabbi Hirschfield is the author of “You Don’t
Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right” and is President of Clal-The
National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
. Imam El-Amin is based in Michigan and widely known as a leader in interfaith work.)

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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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