cover image A Kosher Christmas: 
’Tis the Season to Be Jewish

A Kosher Christmas: ’Tis the Season to Be Jewish

Joshua Eli Plaut, foreword by Jonathan D. Sarna. Rutgers Univ, $22.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-8135-5380-1

Christmas is our only national holiday founded on religious beliefs, and Plaut, a rabbi and Jewish studies scholar, describes the multitude of creative rituals, activities, and responses Jews have developed to counteract feelings of marginalization and “transform Christmastime into a holiday season belonging to all Americans.” American Jews have succeeded in getting broad recognition of Hannukah with postage stamps, a White House menorah lighting, and the Empire State Building set alight in blue and white. As individuals, Jews embrace the season’s family focus, but avoid Christmas-related activities, visiting Jewish museums, watching movies, and flock to Chinese restaurants on Christmas—a tradition that has spawned many parodies as well as San Francisco’s Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, a highly popular evening of Jewish standup comedy at a Chinese restaurant. Volunteerism on Christmas has become an established tradition, with Jews distributing food, clothing, and toys to needy non-Jews, filling in for colleagues at work so they can celebrate the holiday, and even donning Santa suits at stores, hospitals, and other venues. Although traditionalists may see this book as a cautionary tale on assimilation, Plaut offers a quirky, provocative, yet solid study of contemporary Jewish behavior and emerging new forms of popular culture. Illus. (Oct.)