Rabbinical Council Opposes Chanukah Festivities in Public Schools

The Chicago Rabbinical Council has warned that “exploitation of Chanukah as a back-door means of participation in a Christian Festival or as a means of secularizing religious experience, is an insidious evil.”

At the same time, the Council advised a Chicago public school teacher, who had written to it and to Associate Justice Hugo Black of the U. S. Supreme Court, that the answer to her question about staging Christmas and Chanukah festivities for her pupils was that such practices had no place in the public schools.

In its message to the Chicago Jewish community, the rabbinical group said that in recent years, the Chanukah festival had undergone “a significant but questionable change in emphasis and in the character of its popular observance.”

“It has, in one direction, become the vehicle for secular nationalist sentiment,” the rabbis said. “In a different direction, there has been a tendency to assimilate Chanukah to the character of the leading non-Jewish holiday, occurring at the same season. Sometimes these different influences blend and we find Santa Claus holding a menorah in one hand and a martial sword in the other.”

The statement added that the holiday, commemorating the recapture and rededication “of our Holy Temple, and the miracle of the cruse of oil, has inexhaustible richness and meaning of its own. It needs no apology and will sustain no borrowings.”

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