Jewish Group Defends 'Merry Christmas' Greeting

July 7, 2008 - 7:05 PM

(CNSNews.com) - A Jewish group that describes its mission as combating anti-Christian bias wants the "politically correct" to know that it's okay to say "Merry Christmas."

The Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation (JAACD) is joining the annual debate over whether retailers should say "Merry Christmas" or switch to the more inclusive "Happy Holidays" to avoid offending consumers who might celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.

According to a 2004 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Tiny percentages said they celebrate Hanukkah or Kawanzaa and an even smaller percentage indicated that they celebrate more than one of the holidays.

Hanukkah is the Jewish holiday celebrating a miracle in which one day's supply of oil burned for 8 days during a victory celebration that followed a battle. Kwanzaa, which was started in 1966 as an African-American alternative to the commercialized Christmas holiday, celebrates the first harvest of Africa.

"Since America is a Christian nation and since we believe that religion is a public good," said JAACD president Don Feder, "we think it's good for Christians to be able to celebrate their holiday -- one of their two most important holidays."

Feder, who said his group does not believe that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah, said he thinks it's "sad [that there is a] politically correct purging of Christmas from our culture."

Feder told Cybercast News Service that his parents, who owned a clothing store during his childhood, would wish customers "Merry Christmas" even though they were Jewish. He said the practice is good business for major retail chains, too.

"These stores derive something like 20 percent of their annual revenue from the Christmas season," Feder said. "I think it's safe to surmise that most of that is from Christians buying Christmas present, so why shouldn't they acknowledge a holiday that's celebrated by 96 percent of Americans."

But Daniel Alter, director of civil rights at the Anti-Defamation League, said it's more appropriate and inclusive for retailers to use a generic holiday greeting instead of "Merry Christmas."

"It seems both from a business ... and a community perspective, that if merchandisers were going to do that (wish consumers a "Merry Christmas") they would try to wish those in the community who may not share in celebrating Christmas a happy holiday as well," Alter told Cybercast News Service.

"Our diversity has made us great and will continue to make us great and ["Merry Christmas"] undermines both the holiday spirit as well as the message I think Americans should be sending to each other," Alter said.

Other Jewish leaders have joined Feder in supporting "Merry Christmas," like Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a radio talk show host and president of Toward Tradition, a group that defends Judeo-Christian values.

Feder said Jewish support of the greeting stems from "a recognition on our part ... that the war on Christmas is part of the overall war on religion in our culture.

"It's an assault on Judeo-Christian values," he added. "If you can remove Christmas or take Christmas out of the holiday season, you've gone a long way toward disestablishing Judeo-Christian values on which this country was founded."

Alter called Feder's justification "hogwash," "baseless [and] ridiculous." He said the United States "is the most religious nation in the West" and "those who would cast this in terms of war on religion are seeking to create division in society."

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