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Twenty-eight years ago me and my horrible hair graduated @sunyplattsburgh, thanks to the mentorship of Professor David Mowry. We lost him yesterday. Read my very emotional tribute to him at www.pqed.org. #philosophy #collegife Hi listeners! Do you want to see our host Jack Russell Weinstein (@diasporajack) in person as he deejays fun and exciting music? Come down to @ojatadogmahal records this Saturday for the fourth installment of Ska and Waffles! Rehearsing for Tuesday night! Want to hear #Klezmer music live? Come to Why? Radio’s 10th anniversary party, Tuesday at 6:30. Details at www.whyradioshow.org @prairiepublic @diasporajack @empireartscenter Above two folds! Thanks @gfherald @prairiepublic ❓📩❓📩❓📩❓📩❓📩
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Award winning Jazz Flutist Mark Weinstein plays World Jazz and Straight-Ahead with world-class musicians rooted in the music of Cuba, Brazil, Africa, Argentina and his Jewish heritage. A Latin Jazz innovator, Mark was among the first jazz musicians to record with traditional Cuban rhythm sections in an epic album, Cuban Roots, released in 1967 with Chick Corea on piano. He also has a Ph.D. in philosophy and is a professor of Education at Montclair State University, in New Jersey. His music is the soundtrack to Why? Radio. You can learn more about him at www.jazzfluteweinstein.com 
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I recognize that I have a visceral and probably overblown reaction to seeing Stars of David on Christmas trees, but I do. I hate it. So, rather than give in to brute emotion, I thought I’d offer a clear philosophical explanation as to why it is wrong to do so. This way, when people ask me why I’m upset about something so trivial, I can show them this post. In doing so, I hope to explain why, in fact, decorating one’s tree with the Jewish symbol is not trivial at all. It is tremendously problematic.

There are, I believe, three reasons why putting a Star of David on a Christmas tree is wrong:

(1) It is offensive to Jews. The history of Christianity is largely supersessionist. For two millennia, its dominant theologies have held that its purpose is to replace (supersede) Judaism. Jesus came to save the Jews, the theologies claim, and in return, Jews should all become Christian. Putting a Star of David on a Christmas tree reinforces this notion. It tells Jews that their only purpose is to convert and become something they are not.

Some might object, claiming instead that people put Stars of David on Christmas trees to celebrate diversity, stores and businesses especially. But all this does is suggest that Jews shouldn’t be welcomed as themselves, that they can only be seen through a Christian lens. Putting a Star of David on a Christmas tree tells Jews that yes, someone will begrudgingly deign to acknowledge them, but they will not admit that Jews are actually real people with a real religion. At best, butting a Star of David on a Christmas tree is lazy, at worst, it is a form of shouting “Are you happy now?!?! Get off my back!” If you want to welcome Jews into your stores, put up a menorah, and if you have a mixed family with people who subscribe to different religions, each member is important enough to warrant his or her own decoration.

(2) It is offensive to Christians. A central tenet of Judaism is that the Messiah has not yet come. This means that as far as Jews are concerned, Jesus was not the Messiah, nor was he the son of God. He is not returning, Jews believe, because he was never here. As a result, if you put a Star of David on a Christmas tree, you are, in fact, denying the divinity of the very figure you claim to celebrate. You are saying, in essence, “Merry Christmas…you know Jesus isn’t real, right?” That’s a pretty awful thing to say to people of faith.

My students sometimes don’t believe that Jews deny the divinity of Jesus, asking, in one form or another, “do Jews really not believe in Jesus?” They really don’t. Some Jews do offer compromises, suggesting that Jesus was a real person, but not the son of God; a prophet, not the Messiah (Islam argues this); or that he was a great rabbi, philosopher, or wonderful role model, but no actual Jew believes he was divine. Each of these possibilities are interesting in-themselves and I recommend taking some religion courses at The University of North Dakota to examine them. Nevertheless, they are all forms of denying the reason for Christmas and they have no place on a Christmas tree.

(3) It makes you look like a moron. It is always possible that the people decorating the tree simply don’t know better. They may not know what the Star of David is or what it stands for. If they are seven-years old, then they can be excused for not knowing and their mistake can become a great teaching moment. If however, they are in high school or older (as anyone who has a job will likely be), and they do not know what a Star of David is or what Jews believe, then something has gone fundamentally wrong with their education. Intervention is required.

We live in a pluralistic society, and we inhabit a world with complex and interesting histories. Everyone should know the basic of all the major religions, even if they don’t believe in any of them. Further, if the tree decorator did know what the Star of David is and simply didn’t put two and two together, then this reveals a disturbing lack of thoughtfulness that also ought to be addressed. The world is a fascinating place, but one has to notice it before it becomes interesting.

There will, no doubt, be people who respond to this post by mentioning Jewish friends who grew up with Chanukah bushes: shorter trees that some families decorate to help their kids get through the anxiety and exclusion that comes from being surrounded by Christmas. (This has come to be known as The December Dilemma.) This is a controversial practice that had its heyday in the late 1970’s and early 1980s, and while it is understandable that some beleaguered Jewish parents resort to it because simply because it’s easier, it does more harm than good. It teaches kids that there is no fun in their own tradition and that other people—the Christians, specifically—have it better. Suck it up. No one said parenting would be easy. Now take the Christmas tree out of your house.

Finally, it is certainly possible that there are people who want to put a Star of David on a Christmas tree because either they don’t care about offending people, or because they want to make trouble. There may also be people who are simply too lazy to bother with propriety or other people’s feelings. To them I can say only this: you are certainly within your rights to have your tree decorated any way you’d like, but don’t be surprised when it causes others to think poorly of you. In order to be respected, you have to respect others. A person’s religion, or their atheism, is a good place to start.

12 comments on “Is it ever okay to put a Star of David on a Christmas tree?

  1. Anonymous says:

    No. Just no.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think that this argument is leaving out “interfaith couple who aren't religious and celebrate both holidays in a secular way (gift giving and latke making but no mention of jesus) trying to tie two cultures together for their kids”
    As a jew – I feel making those families feel engaged in the shared culture of one parent and the children and rolling my eyes is better for the community that isolating them for an eye rolling point.

  3. You don't really offer any “clear philosophical explanation[s]” supporting your claim. Firstly, geometric shapes and other symbols are just that— symbols. Underlying meaning is subjective and contextual (and temporal– what you call the “Star of David” is pretty new). How/why do you believe that the nuanced meaning you bring is the one intended to be sent by the person putting the star on their Christmas tree? You ascribe intent you deem offensive and then purport to take offense. Duh. Secondly, Christmas is largely secular. Many more Americans (>90%) celebrate Christmas than believe in *ANY* god (~75%). Only about half regard Christmas as mostly religious. Do you really think that putting up a Christmas tree and given gifts is some testament to the believe in the Virgin Birth of the messiah and an implicit rejection of Judaism? Get over yourself.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think exception to this could be Messianic Jews, who adhere to Jewish customs, but accept Jesus as their Messiah.

  5. Jews don't consider “Messianic Jews” to be Jews at all. “Jews for Jesus and” as they used to be called, are simply Christians who adopt some Jewish traditions.

    They are, however, an interesting case to think about in this context. Thanks!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have a grandson whose one parent was raised a Christian, the other a Jew. The family is not religious, but do want their son to enjoy the customs and celebrations of both cultures. They do get a Christmas tree every year. I think putting a Star of David on a Christmas tree would be a nice way of acknowledging both cultures. Just proves that beauty (and offense) is in the eyes of the beholder.

  7. Nuno Alexandre Freire da Silva says:

    The so called “christmas tree” has pagan roots way before Christiany. Read about that. Pagans used to decorate trees with a pentacle on top. Familiar?

  8. DT says:

    As a Christian, I actually got kind of excited about the idea of putting a Star of David on my tree (upon seeing this article). I view it as recognizing that Jesus was a Jew, the promises God made to His people came through the Jews, the Scripture was written and preserved by Jews. All of Christians’ spiritual ancestry comes through the Jews, and, through Christ’s redeeming work, we, though gentiles, can be joined as one people in one faith with Jews. It’s a reminder that our faith comes out of the Old Testament too, not just the New Testament. I make a point of recognizing this with each celebration of communion, thinking on the fact that the “Last Supper,” as it’s called, was during Passover. Jesus is the Passover Lamb for Christians, regardless of their ancestry. (I think it’s also worth noting here that “Jew” can mean ethnically/biologically of Jewish descent or practicing the Jewish religion.)

    1. Saby J Carrasquillo says:

      I agree with you totally. We are blessed because God opened the doors for the Jews and Gentiles. In my eyes and in the Scriptures, God makes no acception of persons. He loves us all. He died for us all. He made the ultimate sacrifice and broke the barriers that kept us disconnected from God. He built a bridge way. Amen.

  9. Saby J Carrasquillo says:

    Well, the Star of David is completely significant. I’m not sure what you are by Jews being forced to accept Christianity. Do you know who King David was? Does anyone know, he is a descendant of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. King David was a shepherd and tending to his father’s sheep. Jesse, his father, was visited by the prophet Samuel and it was there that David was chosen and anointed by the prophet Samuel as King of Israel. I find it offensive your explanation and I have respect for others and their faith. I’m Christian and I sing it proudly. I belong to a living God and to a Sovereign Lord.

    Here is concrete evidence, The Bible is a divine artifact that delineates historically what took place before our time like many books tell of other historical events. I never could understand why people discredit the Holy Bible and accept all that is written in history books. If we can believe in historical books we can at least give the Bible the benefit of the doubt. No other book offers what it offers: SALVATION and ETERNAL LIFE. How is putting a star on a tree fixing Jews to convert. Do you know what the star of David stood for? Did you know that King David have his heart to God and was a servant. He too believed there was to come a Savior. He was a follower of God.

    The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.

    Matthew 1:1‭-‬6‭, ‬16‭-‬17 NKJV

    https://bible.com/bible/114/mat.1.1-17.NKJV

    Believe it or not Jesus Christ is royalty twice: in heaven and on Earth. In Jesus, there were royal ancestors.

    Before we write something we should look at things objectively and with facts. I could write my opinions and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean it’s gospel, bit when you add references this changes the reliability and validity of what you have written.

    Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” But the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord .’ Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.” So Samuel did what the Lord said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord . Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice. So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord ’s anointed is before Him!” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

    I Samuel 16:1‭-‬13 NKJV

    https://bible.com/bible/114/1sa.16.1-13.NKJV

    The last argument is the meaning of the Star of David. Here is the thing, it is a symbol. It is more than a symbol. It is symbolic for Revelation 22:16

    “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” What a powerful declaration from Jesus Christ. While people fight over symbols. He is declaring that the value is not in a symbol. He is the Bright and Morning Star. He is the Star of David. Jesus is the ruler of kings on Earth (Revelation 1:1-20).

    With this being said, I leave you to think on all of this. Symbolism is important. It gives this world meaning, but remember that there are symbols for good and others for evil. I. This case the Star of David, the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star is Jesus Christ.

    Be blessed and open your minds, heart, and eyes. Blessed be all on this Christmas Holiday. Amen.

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