B’nai B’rith Takes Poll Among Jewish Students on Christmas Celebrations

A nationwide poll of Jewish students shows that most of them do not object to Christmas festivities in public high schools “as long as the religious elements are excluded.” Similarly, Jewish youngsters in almost the same proportions, favor Chanukah activities in high school, the survey conducted by the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization discloses.

Only one out of five Jewish students flatly opposed Christmas or Chanukah observances–”because they feel it is improper to hold religious holiday celebrations in public schools.” Many of the objectors expressed the view that “anything pertaining to Christmas and Chanukah is, or should be, religious.”

The sentiment of many Jewish students to Christmas and Chanukah celebrations is that “they are good for intergroup relations,” the survey reports. One-third of the respondents strongly endorsed “the Christmas activities held in their school; one-half voiced the same enthusiasm for Chanukah programs.

Results of the study were announced today by David Blumberg of Knoxville, Tenn., national chairman of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization. The survey was conducted by BBYO in association with the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. Dr. Irving Canter of Washington, D.C., BBYO program director, supervised and analyzed the poll.

Almost every Jewish youngster who was polled–96 percent–said he has encountered some form of Christian activity in his high school. Slightly less than half of the group also reported some form of Chanukah celebration in the classroom or assembly hall. “Despite the heavy exposure to Christmas activity in public school and in the community, the survey indicates that Jewish teenagers do not adopt Christian-oriented activities at the expense of their Jewish loyalties, Dr. Canter reported.

A small number of the respondents, about five percent, reported having “unpleasant experiences” in or around school with non-Jews during the Christmas season. However, a considerably larger number reported “positive experiences” with Christian classmates during this time of the year. A majority of the Jewish students said they enjoyed singing Christmas carols. Others were not “disturbed by it.” But when the songs are Christmas hymns or have strong religious overtones, almost one-half say they object strenuously to such group singing in the classroom.

Dr. Canter emphasized that the study did not take into account the controversial church-state issue of religion in public education, but “dealt with the psychological impact of school-centered observances on Jewish youngsters.”

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